H.R. 404



JUNE 3, 1997


Mr. Chairman and Members of the Committee:

I am Gordon S. Creed, Deputy Assistant Commissioner of the Office of Property Disposal, Public Buildings Service, General Services Administration (GSA). I am pleased to have the opportunity to appear before you today to discuss H.R. 404, a bill which would amend the Federal Property and Administrative Services Act of 1949 to authorize the transfer to State and local governments of certain surplus property if used for "law enforcement or public safety" purposes.

Before addressing the issues of this legislation, I will briefly discuss the processes which govern disposal operations.

The Federal Property and Administrative Services Act (the Federal Property Act) is the governing authority for the disposal of most Federal real property. Under the Federal Property Act, GSA is vested with the responsibility for administering an economic and efficient system for the orderly disposition of real property which the Federal Government no longer needs.

Under normal procedures, real property which is no longer needed by a Federal agency is reported to GSA as excess real property, GSA first notifies other landholding Federal agencies that such property is available for further Federal utilization. If we receive a properly justified request for further use of the property for Federal purposes, it is transferred to the requesting agency. Such transfers among Federal agencies fulfill the Congressional objective, stated in the Federal Property Act, to minimize executive agency expenditures for the acquisition of property through efficient and effective utilization of excess property.

If there is no further Federal requirement for a property, it then becomes available for disposal as surplus real property.
Under existing provisions of law, eligible State and local governmental units and certain nonprofit institutions may
acquire surplus real property for restricted public purposes at monetary discounts of up to 1 00 percent where such
purposes reflect the highest and best use of the property. Eligible public uses include public parks and recreation,
historic monuments, public airports, health, education, ports, correctional facilities, highways and wildlife conservation.

In accordance with the requirements of the Stewart B. McKinney Homeless Assistance Act, Federal properties determined
suitable by the Department of Housing and Urban Development are also made available for homeless assistance on a priority
basis by GSA in coordination with the Department of Health and Human Services.

State and local public bodies may purchase surplus real property by negotiated sale at fair market value for unrestricted use.
Property which is not transferred for public purposes to non-Federal public bodies is generally offered for sale to the public by
GSA through competitive bid offerings and public auctions. Such sales benefit the locality by placing the property in productive
use, returning it to the tax rolls, and providing the taxpayer a measure of cost recovery. Proceeds from the sale of surplus real
properties are generally placed in the Land and Water Conservation Fund which is administered by the Department of the
Interior and provides grants for local park and recreational projects.

In every decision involving the disposal of excess property, we are required by law to consider the environment and cultural
impacts resulting from proposed disposition in accordance with the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969, the National
Historic Preservation Act of 1966 and other relevant statutes. Hence, the GSA real property disposition process involves the
full participation of the public, state and local government, and Federal agencies.

GSA has not taken a formal position on H.R. 404 which seeks to amend section 203(p) of the Federal Property Act by
expanding the qualifying public purpose from "correctional facility purposes" to "law enforcement and public safety purposes."
My comments, therefore, are technical in nature. The Federal Property Act was amended in 1984 to add section 203(p) in
response to a recommendation made by the Attorney General's Task Force on Violent Crime. The Task Force concluded at
that time that State and local governments were in need of additional resources to reduce prison overcrowding, and the
conveyance of surplus real property for this purpose was seen as a means to help correct this problem.

In this context, the term "correctional facility purposes" is easily understood as a qualifying public purpose for the acquisition
of facilities under the Federal Property Act. The term "law enforcement", while new terminology, is still directed enough to be
easily defined as a qualifying purpose under the Federal Property Act. However, the term "public safety" could conceivably
include many, if not most municipal functions from trash collection to hazardous substance control.

Therefore, I would recommend that this legislation clearly define the term "public safety" as a qualifying purpose, because as
written the language could result in generating unintended numbers of applications for surplus real property which could
directly compete against equally meritorious applications for other public benefit programs.

Mr. Chairman, this concludes my statement. I will be pleased to respond to any questions you or the other members of the
Subcommittee may wish to ask.

Last Reviewed 2010-08-10