From the REChannel:

It didn’t make the headlines when it was first announced in November 2010 and it didn’t make the headlines this week.

But if President Barack Obama’s proposed 2012 Federal budget cuts involving the sale or disposition of 69,000 government-owned buildings located across the U.S. is passed by Congress, it would be the largest real estate deal of its kind in this country’s 236-year-old history, according to several almanacs and real estate industry sources which track such deals.

Instead of an outright sale, some of the properties could possibly be transferred to other agencies in need of space; or donated to colleges, parks and hospitals, according to Obama’s previous memos to federal agencies.

Peter R. Orszag, former director of the Office of Management and Budget, said in a June 2010 blog post the federal government has 14,000 excess buildings and structures and another 55,000 that are under-used or completely unused.

According to the GOP’s Oct. 6, 2010 White Paper, members of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee claimed the sale of the buildings would save the government $250 billion in maintenance, insurance and other related costs over the next 10 years.

Committee Ranking Minority Member John Mica, R-Fla., noted in October the federal government, as the nation’s largest asset holder, manages 896,000 buildings and structures with a total area of 3.29 billion square feet and more than 41 million acres of land.

The GOP committee’s report was particularly critical of the General Services Administration.

It noted the government’s landlord owns “large numbers of vacant or underutilized federal buildings” and yet “struggles to dispose of its surplus property in a timely fashion and for reasonable rates of return despite its enhanced property disposal authorities.”

The report criticizes GSA’s real property management for its “apparent inability to maximize market opportunities to house federal employees at the lowest long-term cost to taxpayers.”

Beyond GSA, the report cites potential savings by selling off or reconfiguring assets controlled by the Transportation Department, Coast Guard, Federal Emergency Management Agency, Amtrak and the Army Corps of Engineers.

For example:

  • The government would save $2 billion by selling 20 percent of “nonperforming” real estate assets.
  • It would save $1 billion by “reducing or eliminating spending on unneeded courthouses and excessive courthouse space.”
  • It would save up to $180 billion by “encouraging additional investment in infrastructure from the private sector by providing a better definition of public-private partnerships for undertaking highway, transit, port, rail, airport and other infrastructure projects.”

The Obama administration has agreed the federal government has surplus property.

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