In 2013, the Administration issued the Freeze the Footprint (FTF) policy to freeze the Federal Government’s real estate footprint and restrict the growth of excess or underutilized properties. Freeze the Footprint was the first government-wide policy that established and required federal agencies to identify offsets (i.e., disposals) of existing property to support new property acquisitions, and that set a timeline for agencies to freeze their real property footprint. The policy was a success. Now federal agencies have frozen, reduced, or are on a path to freeze their baseline by the end of FY 2015. Agencies achieved a 21.4 million square foot reduction in office and warehouse space between FY 2012 and FY 2014. And in FY 2014 alone, for all domestic owned building types, the government disposed of 7,350 buildings, 47 million square feet of space, and eliminated $17 million of annual operation and maintenance cost as a result of Freeze the Footprint.
Building on this success, today the Administration has issued the National Strategy for Real Property (National Strategy) and the Reduce the Footprint policy. With the establishment of the National Strategy and OMB’s new Reduce the Footprint (RTF) policy agencies will be required not only to continue to freeze but also reduce their real property footprint over the next several years. The RTF policy will supersede the current FTF requirements by requiring agencies to reduce, rather than freeze, their footprint beginning in FY 2016.
Through the National Strategy, OMB has established a clear strategic framework to guide agencies’ real property management, to increase efficient real property use, control costs, and reduce real property holdings. The National Strategy outlines three key steps to improved real property management:
Over time, application of the National Strategy will improve the utilization of government owned buildings, lower the number of excess and underutilized properties, and improve the cost effectiveness and efficiency of the portfolio. Consolidating properties and collocating agengy office space is not only commonsense, but will provide more convenient access to the public and allow for upgraded facilities to provide more modern work environments for federal employees to conduct their business.
Complementing the National Strategy, the RTF policy requires agencies to:
Under the RTF OMB has, for the first time, established government-wide policy to use property as efficiently as possible and to reduce agency portfolios though annual reduction targets. The policy is an impetus for real property management transformation that will provide value to the taxpayer.
Issuance of the RTF builds upon ongoing success in other key real property program elements. OMB has partnered with GSA and the Federal Real Property Council to implement new and enhanced analytical tools within the Federal Real Property Profile database that support data driven decision-making. These new tools will provide detailed data on properties’ annual cost, location, size, and lease expiration, among other data elements, in a structured format that fully supports agency management’s ability to identify efficiency opportunities and to use data to prioritize and implement them. When fully implemented in the fourth quarter of FY2015, the system will provide agencies with greater management capability to seize the efficiency and cost opportunities that their portfolios present over the next five years.
The National Strategy establishes a new strategic framework through which the government can manage its real property. The framework and the RTF policy build upon and expand the successes the Administration has achieved to date. While we are making progress in reducing space and disposing of unneeded assets using existing authorities, we will need the support of our partners in Congress to identify additional flexibilities and resources to further our efforts. The President’s FY2016 Budget specifically addresses these issue by requesting funding for GSA’s consolidation program through appropriation of $200 million of Federal Building Fund monies to support smart investments in Federal facilities. The budget also re-proposes the Civilian Property Realignment Act, which would create an independent board of private and public sector real estate experts to analyze the real estate portfolio government-wide and recommend to Congress which properties should be disposed, consolidated, co-located or reconfigured.
We look forward to working collaboratively with all stakeholders to achieve a more efficient and effective delivery of government services through improved management and utilization of real property.
David Mader is the Federal Controller at the White House Office of Management and Budget.