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Thursday
Mar032011

White House Eyes Sale of 14,000 Unused Federal Buildings

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Five office buildings in Fort Worth, Texas, a million-square-foot warehouse, and parking lot in Brooklyn, New York, and thousands of other government-owned properties sit vacant every day, costing taxpayers more than $1 billion a year to maintain.

The Obama Administration says it's now time to shutter them for good and sell them to help trim the federal deficit.

The White House announced Wednesday that it would form an independent board of experts to help the federal government "cut through red tape and politics to sell property it no longer needs."

"The plan will save taxpayers $15 billion over the first three years the Board is fully up and running," said Jeff Zients, the federal chief performance officer and the deputy director for management at the Office of Management and Budget.

Zients said the administration has already identified 14,000 properties that are "excess," or vacant, and ready to be sold.  The full list will be made public within the next month.

"There are unneeded properties throughout the country, from downtown city centers to suburban shopping districts to rural locations," he said.  "When you go property by property, you see the properties range from empty warehouses to underutilized office buildings."

The proposed so-called Civilian Property Realignment Board would formalize their recommended real estate sales and issue a proposal to Congress for an up-or-down vote.

The plan is modeled after the Pentagon's Base Realignment and Closure Commission, which has closed hundreds of military installations since 1989, officials say.  Twenty-four federal agencies, including the Department of Defense, reported more than 45,000 underutilized buildings in fiscal year 2009, according to the Government Accountability Office.  The annual cost to operate them is estimated at $1.66 billion.

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