Webster Statement from Hearing on GSA’s Priorities
Opening remarks, as prepared, of Subcommittee on Economic Development, Public Buildings, and Emergency Management Ranking Member Daniel Webster (R-FL) from today’s hearing entitled, “The General Services Administration’s Priorities for 2021 and Beyond”:
Thank you, Chair Titus. I want to thank the GSA Administrator and Public Buildings Commissioner for being here today.
Prior to COVID-19, we made significant progress on right-sizing federal office space. Through reductions and consolidations in space approved by the Committee in GSA’s prospectus process, we saved taxpayers over $4 billion dollars. Following COVID, we are facing new opportunities given the shift in workplace needs due to increased remote work, as well as indications that teleworking may continue at higher levels post-pandemic.
But right-sizing the federal real estate portfolio is not only about shrinking space, it’s about ensuring we reduce costs, that agencies have the right space, and that we get rid of unneeded properties as quickly as possible.
The goal, for example, for the Federal Assets Sale and Transfer Act (FASTA) is not just to simply streamline the disposal process, but to get agencies to look more strategically at their assets. This helps produce financially sound and operationally efficient results from sales, redevelopments, outleases, and other activities.
To achieve significant changes, as we saw during the “freeze-and-reduce-the-footprint” efforts, it takes the Administration, including GSA and OMB, working together with Congress to spur agencies to make better decisions about their space.
It also means alternative financing options should be on the table. It makes no sense for the taxpayer to effectively pay for a building, sometimes many times over, through a lease, and then have to pay fair-market value on top of that to purchase it. Although the GSA has the legal authorities to negotiate discounted purchase options and enter into public-private partnerships, it has not been able to take advantage of those authorities. GSA should be free to use these authorities where appropriate to facilitate the right-sizing of the portfolio and reduce costs to the taxpayer. I hope we can work together to ensure we achieve that.
I look forward to hearing from our witnesses today on GSA’s priorities.
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