T&I Members Introduce Bills to Reduce Waste in Federal Office Space and Improve Building Security
Today, lawmakers from the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee introduced a slate of bills focused on making improvements to the federal government’s inefficient use of office space and providing reforms to the General Services Administration (GSA) and other agencies. Specifically, these measures focus on ensuring that federal agencies are not retaining perpetually unused office space, selling unused or underused properties owned by the federal government, savings taxpayers money, and addressing crime in and around public buildings.
In the Committee’s ongoing efforts to reduce waste in federal office space, a hearing held earlier this year highlighted a Government Accountability Office (GAO) report detailing extreme underutilization of many federal buildings resulting from previously existing challenges and increased remote work.
“Many of our federal agencies have alarmingly low utilization rates of office space, including one agency that used just nine percent of its office capacity over a three-week stretch studied by the GAO. I’m proud that Committee members worked across the aisle on these bills to consolidate space and reduce waste, save taxpayers money when it comes to federal office buildings, and improve building safety and security,” said Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Sam Graves (R-MO).
The following legislation was introduced by T&I Committee members:
H.R. 6277, the FASTA Reform Act of 2023, introduced by Economic Development, Public Buildings, and Emergency Management Subcommittee Chairman Scott Perry (R-PA), reforms the Federal Assets Sale and Transfer Act (FASTA), which was signed into law in 2016 to encourage the federal government to identify and sell unused properties for the benefit of taxpayers. This bipartisan bill extends the termination date of the Public Buildings Reform Board (created under FASTA), requires the Board to submit a report to Congress on federal properties that should be sold, fosters more collaboration with agencies by allowing agencies to receive sale proceeds sooner than that the termination of the Board, and allows the Board access to Federal Real Property Council meetings.
H.R. 6276, the Utilizing Space Efficiently and Improving Technologies (USE IT) Act of 2023, introduced by Rep. Scott Perry (R-PA), requires GSA and the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to implement a standard methodology of measuring occupancy and utilization of public buildings, and requires GSA and OMB to take steps to reduce or consolidate space if utilization rates fall below 60 percent. GSA and OMB must also submit a report to Congress that includes a plan to consolidate department and agency headquarters in the National Capital Region that will result in building utilization rates of 60 percent or more.
H.R. 6278, the Maximizing Office Value and Efficiency (MOVE) Act of 2023, introduced by Rep. Scott Perry (R-PA), requires GSA to submit a report to Congress of its plans to consolidate other agencies into GSA headquarters for a utilization rate of not less than 60 percent. If GSA fails to identify and execute the plan within three years, then it must consolidate into another federally owned public building and prepare the GSA headquarters for sale.
“These three bills are important steps toward reducing the federal real estate holdings and right sizing the federal portfolio,” Perry said. “But much work remains to be done to ensure taxpayer dollars are not being further wasted on buildings that are no longer being utilized as they were intended.”
H.R. 6260, the Federal Oversight of Construction Use and Safety (FOCUS) Act, introduced by Economic Development, Public Buildings, and Emergency Management Subcommittee Vice Chair Lori Chavez-DeRemer (R-OR), requires congressional notification of cost escalations on GSA capital projects at five percent and requires an amended prospectus to be submitted to Congress for approval if cost escalations exceed 10 percent. The bill also requires GSA to collect data on crimes in and around public buildings and submit a report to Congress that includes crime data and any actions taken or planned to address safety concerns. Utilization data and consolidation plans must also be included in prospectuses to reduce waste. Additionally, the bill orders a GAO review of utilization of special use space in federal buildings.
H.R. 6261, the Impact of Crime on Public Building Usage Act of 2023, introduced by Rep. Lori Chavez-DeRemer (R-OR), establishes a GAO study on how crime in and around public buildings affects building usage, commuting methods, and costs of maintaining public buildings. The bill also requires GSA to submit a report to Congress on the impacts and costs associated with building operations related to crime and public safety in and around federal buildings.
“By shining a light on the General Service Administration’s use of office space and requiring congressional approval for rent hikes, we can ensure the federal government isn’t wasting Americans’ hard-earned tax dollars on unused and unnecessary real estate,” Chavez-DeRemer said of her bills. “At the same time, I want to ensure federal employees don’t feel threatened or endangered in or around the workplace. These efforts will help improve safety for our federal workforce while reining in spending.”
H.R. 6266, the Federal Protective Service Reform Act of 2023, introduced by Rep. Mike Ezell (R-MS), allows the Secretary of Homeland Security to authorize Federal Protective Service (FPS) contract guards to carry firearms during their official duties and the authority to detain an individual that is committing or has committed a felony on public building grounds. The bill sets minimum training standards for all contract guards and requires the Secretary to submit a report to Congress that assesses personnel and safety risks to federal buildings.
“As a forty-two year law enforcement officer, I believe we must ensure security contractors are given the proper tools, authority, and training to keep federal buildings safe,” said Rep. Ezell.
H.R. 6241, the Federal Use it or Lose it Leases (FULL) Act, introduced by Rep. Chuck Edwards (R-NC), requires occupancy agreements between GSA and tenant agencies to contain an annual reporting requirement that includes monthly occupancy and actual utilization rates and includes written procedures requiring the agency return space should actual utilization rate fall below 60 percent for six months within any one-year period. The bipartisan bill also requires agencies with independent leasing authorities to report utilization rates of their leases to their oversight committees.
“The FULL Act will help prevent taxpayers from footing the bill for unused federal office space by making sure the federal government only leases the office space it needs and will use,” said Rep. Edwards. “As federal telework levels remain high, agencies’ D.C. HQ offices are sitting mostly empty. This legislation will enable Congress to effectively perform oversight of government spending on office leases by requiring federal agencies to use it or lose it.”
H.R. 6254, the Public Buildings Accountability Act of 2023, introduced by Rep. Derrick Van Orden (R-WI), requires a GAO report that reviews and accounts personnel in the Public Buildings Service, in-person attendance, historical staffing numbers and costs, and an analysis of effectiveness of the organizational structure. The bill also requires an examination of the building operations account of the Federal Building Fund.
“The work-from-home standard for federal employees, which the Biden Administration has empowered, has enabled already over-compensated federal bureaucrats to continue to not show up for work and leave the taxpayer on the hook for empty, unused federal office space across the country,” said Rep. Van Orden. “I introduced the Public Buildings Accountability Act of 2023 to enforce transparency and accountability by requiring the Comptroller General of the United States to review and report all Public Building Service real estate usage. These reports will provide greater clarity to PBS’s funding needs and ensure the responsible use of hardworking Americans’ tax dollars.”