Some steps toward disposing of unneeded federal properties have been taken under a 2016 law designed to speed that process, GAO has said, but progress remains slow on that issue, which has been contributed to management of federal real property being on the GAO’s high-risk list since 2003.
GAO reviewed the impact of the Federal Assets Sale and Transfer Act, one of a list of both administrative initiatives and changes in law over that time designed to address issues that hinder closing facilities such as lack of needed up-front funding, historic review processes and more.
That law created a Public Buildings Reform Board to support a new, three-round process for disposing of unneeded federal real property, the first of which was to identify and recommend at least five high-value disposal candidates with a total market value between $500 and $750 million. An initial review of 44 potential candidates narrowed the list to 12 announced in early 2020; the board and GSA have been working since them to prepare them for sale.
However, GAO found that the board’s “rationales for why individual candidates were or were not recommended were vague or incomplete. Full documentation on the decision-making process would better position stakeholders, including members of Congress, to understand the board’s rationales, especially for decisions with financial implications.”
Further, it said the law’s “effect on other long-standing challenges, including funding to prepare properties for disposal, is unclear.” For example, it said that while the law created a dedicated source of funds for up-front costs of disposal, “access to these funds is not automatic and must go through the annual appropriations process, which rarely coincides with the timing of these projects.”
A proposal was made to make proceeds from the sale of assets in fiscal year 2021 available without additional actions but Congress has not acted on it, GAO said.