WASHINGTON -- The Obama administration asked Congress on Wednesday to sell off or demolish more than 12,000 government-owned or leased properties, saying they are under-used or no longer needed.
The White House recommended the creation of a seven-person independent commission of property experts that would determine how to get rid of the properties. They include warehouses, office buildings, storage facilities, laboratories and unused roads.
The properties include 329 in Washington, including about three dozen in the Mid-Columbia.
Fifteen are at the McNary National Wildlife Refuge near Burbank. Many of the properties already are gone, including an old warehouse, a former grain silo and old parking lot, said Lamont Glass, manager of the wildlife refuge.
The Department of Energy Hanford Richland Operations Office had two buildings listed, one a 12,000-square-foot warehouse and the other an 8,342-square-foot industrial building.
The Bureau of Reclamation had several structures listed -- most about 800 square feet -- that were called family housing. Most were associated with pumping plants. They include buildings in Kennewick and Prosser.
Other properties are near Walla Walla, Dayton, Mesa, Warden, Othello and Grandview.
The move to sell off government land comes as President Obama and congressional Republicans are debating ways to slash deficits expected to average more than $1 trillion annually over the coming decade. If enacted, the plan would use 60 percent of the savings to pay down the deficit and 40 percent to cover costs for other government-run facilities.
Taking the properties off the federal government's books would save $15 billion over three years, administration officials said. The federal government is the largest land owner in the United States. It owns more than 1 million properties and has an annual operation and maintenance budget running more than $20 billion.
"Most of these properties have little or no market value," said Jeffrey Zients, the deputy director of the Office of Management and Budget. "But the ones that do, we will sell. Disposing of all of the properties, whether they have value or not, is important to do so taxpayers no longer pay for energy and maintenance costs."
There are legal hurdles, including more than 20 federal laws in place that regulate how and when a property can be sold.