I mentioned this breaking of below-market leases briefly in the thread on IRS spending conferences ...

Here is more in-depth about this stupidity at GSA.

Two weeks ago I reported on the $250 million real estate boondoggle by the General Services Administration whereby the GSA is moving the Coast Guard out of an existing, below-market lease at the cost to taxpayers of $250 million dollars.

Today I’m reporting on another, MORE EXPENSIVE real estate boondoggle by the GSA, which leads me to believe that if Congress is really serious about making real cuts to federal expenses that they can start with some easy cuts on federal real estate and personnel costs at the GSA.
That’s because according to the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, in collusion with our friends at the GSA, has ignored their “$38 million authorization by the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure to lease 120,000 square feet for NRC projected employee increases, and instead [committed] to a lease for 358,000 square feet that is costing taxpayers $350 million.”

Talk about an increase in allowance.
More disturbing still is that the General Services Administration seems to have no fear that: 1) Misleading Congress, as is the case with the Coast Guard move, will get them in trouble; or 2) Spending a combined $600 million in vacant office space- that we know of so far- at a time when politicians are asking Americans to pay more in taxes, might cause some voters to rebel at the polls.

“The Subcommittee today questioned the NRC and the GSA about their plans to ensure the costs of their previous decisions are minimized,” said a statement released by the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure after both the NRC and the GSA appeared before the committee. “During questioning however, it became clear that neither agency had any specific plan in place to fill the NRC’s empty building space taxpayers are now paying for.”

Well at least that’s better than lying to Congress, which could be the less generous way of describing the testimony of the GSA on the lease that was broken by the agency on behalf of the Coast Guard.

In the best case, it seems, what the GSA is really saying is: “We aren’t liars per se, we’re just really incompetent.”

That’s not surprising, since it’s the standard patter coming from D.C. when anyone wishes to avoid responsibility, solutions, budget cuts or criminal charges.

Fortunately, the acting head of the General Services Administration, Dan Tangherlini, will appear before the Senate on Tuesday for confirmation hearings that one might suppose he hopes will make him the permanent head of the GSA.
Tangherlini, 45, was appointed 14 months ago to help clean up the GSA after a series of embarrassing revelations about mismanagement at the agency, which has seen it’s budget skyrocket from less than a billion dollars to close to $4 billion under Obama.
This will give U.S. Senators some time to separate the wheat from the chaff, so to speak, on reform of the GSA from the very guy now overseeing two notable screw-ups by an agency that influences budget matters for the entire government.
And they should demand some answers to some very tough questions, such as:

  • Was Dorothy Robyn lying to Congress when she said that breaking the Coast Guard lease deal at 2100 2nd Street, SW, Washington D.C. would not cost the taxpayers money – when we all know there is a significant lease exposure?
  • How much taxpayer money will be lost by keeping this building vacant? How much will be lost by paying for more expensive space elsewhere?
  • If you are considering backfilling the space – why not keep workers there while enjoying the below market rates as long as you can? Does it make financial sense to move government workers twice between now and the end of the lease term? Is this about the PR battle, political points, or saving real dollars here?
  • As Administrator of the GSA will you continue ignore leases that were negotiated to provide below market rates, in deference of more expensive ones?
  • Are you troubled by this trend in light of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission recently committing taxpayers to a $350 million building it proposed to walk away from and let taxpayers pick up the tab?