The WasteWatcher: The Staff Blog of Citizens Against Government Waste

Federal Property: Wretched Excess

The WasteWatcher is the staff blog of Citizens Against Government Waste (CAGW) and the Council for Citizens Against Government Waste (CCAGW). For questions, contact blog@cagw.org.


The United States government is seriously overdue for a garage sale.  While the government is projecting a $205 billion budget deficit for Fiscal 2007 and splurging on tens of billions of dollars in wasteful programs and congressional pork-barrel spending, it also sluggishly attempts to divest itself of billions of dollars worth of derelict or obsolete federal property.

The Federal Real Property Profile (FRPP) was created by the Bush administration in order to help federal agencies manage and dispose of their surfeit property.  So far, the FRPP shows that the government owns and leases 3.87 billion square feet of property, and 55.7 million acres of land.  Real property asset value for all these holdings is estimated to be $1.2 trillion. 

One startling example of the government’s wasteful holdings is Chicago’s Old Main Post Office.  This 2.5 million-square-foot unused structure has been vacant since 1997 and costs $2 million to maintain annually, yet the government continues to hold on to it at taxpayers’ expense.

The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) has identified nearly 22,000 federal superfluous property assets that could be sold, with an estimated replacement value of $17.7 billion.  The OMB wants to winnow the portfolio by 5 percent annually, but is falling short of even that modest goal due to the extensive and property sales system.  Federal agencies cite local interests and historical preservation as the main barriers to disposal.  For example, instead of efficiently streamlining its branches, the United States Postal Service cannot close an office until it has meticulously analyzed the economic impact of its removal on the local community.  Even after that, members of Congress are notorious for meddling in the process and preventing the closure or consolidation of postal facilities all over the country. 

Senators Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) and Tom Carper (D-Del.) have begun a campaign to temporarily relax federal regulations so that agencies can more speedily dispose of surplus properties.  “It is obscene that the value of our government’s vacant or unused properties exceeds the annual gross domestic product (GDP) of half of the nations on earth…something is wrong when Congress asks taxpayers to sacrifice more but does nothing to eliminate an area of waste that is double the size of Afghanistan’s GDP,” said Dr. Coburn.  Taxpayers should welcome the FRPP initiative by OMB and this attempt by members of Congress to get rid of excess and underutilized property and save taxpayers billions of dollars.

- Dashle Gunn Kelley

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