Implementing the Federal Assets Sale and Transfer Act (FASTA): Maximizing Taxpayer Returns and Reducing Waste in Real Estate
2167 Rayburn House Office Building
This is a hearing of the Subcommittee on Economic Development, Public Buildings, and Emergency Management
July 12, 2017
I called this hearing because I want to ensure Chairman Denham’s bill, the Federal Assets Sale and Transfer Act or “FASTA,” which will cut waste and get rid of properties faster, is a complete success.
During a recent visit to Pittsburgh, I was reminded of the importance of this legislation. The Pittsburgh VA facility is a prime example as to why FASTA was needed. This 160-acre facility was closed back in 2013, but only recently reported as excess by the VA.
The City of Pittsburgh currently has dozens of law enforcement and emergency management functions scattered across the city on valuable properties that could be better used to drive economic growth and jobs. If acquired by the city, the vacant VA facility would encourage economic development by allowing the city to move and consolidate these scattered functions to one location.
I personally toured this facility and know the longer it sits vacant, the more it will deteriorate. So far this fiscal year, the federal taxpayer has spent at least $300,000 to simply maintain this vacant facility.
You would think the federal government would have a procedure in place to quickly dispose of this property. Unfortunately, the federal process is cumbersome and costly – what would take a short time to get done in the private sector takes years in the federal government. As a result, the federal government sits on vacant and underutilized high value assets.
If sold and redeveloped, these properties could spur economic growth and create jobs in the communities where they are located. A recent example is the Volpe (Vol-pee) Transportation Systems Center in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The DOT facility sits on a small portion of a 14-acre site, walking distance from downtown Boston and next to MIT. That property is now going to be redeveloped in a deal benefitting the federal taxpayer by $750 million. The DOT will get a new building, MIT will redevelop the property, and the local community is looking forward to the economic growth it generates.
To facilitate more projects like this, FASTA waives many of the hurdles that prevent the federal government from selling property quickly and provides a funding mechanism to free up even more properties through consolidation.
And, GSA’s role in this is critical.
For this to work, the Board created in FASTA must have resources to identify these opportunities and develop recommendations. To that end – FASTA authorizes the Board to use GSA contracts to hire real estate experts; and FASTA authorizes GSA to detail staff and provide other support to the Board. For FASTA to be successful, these and other resources are critical in helping the Board carry out its duties and develop recommendations to sell and redevelop properties.
I want to recognize and thank Chairman Denham of our Rail Subcommittee for his leadership in getting the Federal Assets Sale and Transfer Act across the finish line last year. I know he worked tirelessly with members on both sides of the aisle to get FASTA enacted into law.
FASTA, if implemented correctly, will cut waste, save taxpayer money, and spur economic development and jobs. I hope today to learn where we are on disposing of the VA property I toured in Pittsburgh and what GSA is doing to support the implementation of FASTA.
Thank you for being here.