Around the General Services Administration, "keeping up with the Joneses" means watching the federal land sales program.
Carroll F. Jones is commissioner of the agency's Federal Property Resources Service. Earl E. Jones is his assistant commissioner for real property.
Together they're in charge of selling or transferring millions of dollars worth of surplus federal properties each year. The careers of the two men, though, couldn't be more different.
Carroll Jones, 44, is a former chairman of the New Hampshire Republican Party, an attorney who chanced into politics in 1978 aboard the successful Senate campaign of Gordon J. Humphrey. He came to Washington in 1981 as a counsel to his acquaintance of a decade, GSA Administrator Gerald P. Carmen.
Earl Jones, 48, has been a federal bureaucrat for 20 years, a man who worked his way up from realty trainee. A highly regarded professional, Earl Jones understands the intricacies of the program and can reel off minutiae about dozens of available properties. Carroll Jones, on the other hand, has the political clout and the perspective, in the words of a colleague, to "cut through to the heart of problems and get things moving."
It hasn't been easy, though, to get the property sales program moving. Despite the Reagan administration's interest in raising revenues by selling off federal real estate, GSA's sales have lagged when compared with the president's original--and ambitious--goals.
The administration first projected selling $1.25 billion worth of GSA-controlled property in fiscal 1983, then, based on six months' experience, scaled that back to $643 million. In the first seven months of the year, however, GSA sold only $26 million worth of buildings, warehouses and unimproved urban lots.
However, Earl Jones says, "We should not be judged by the amount of land we sell, but whether we are selling land that doesn't need to be in federal hands. We've had some successes, and when you make a good sale, you get thrilled about it. But you can't stop there."
Earl Jones hasn't stopped moving since he left Martinsburg, W.Va., 25 years ago for a three-year hitch in the Army. But even with a college degree and captain's bars, the only job he said he could find when he came to Washington was a GS-4 slot at the main U.S. Post Office. In the late 1950s, he said, a black man in this town still encountered "the lingering fact of discrimination."
After two years, a colleague recommended that he apply for a trainee position at the GSA. He got the job, and went on to compile one of the most distinguished records for a civil servant at the agency.
"When I got the job at GSA, I was something of a celebrity," he says, because there were so few black men in professional positions in the federal government in the early 1960s. "It shouldn't have been that a grade-five trainee was a celebrity, but it was. I made it to where I am with a work ethic that came from my large family in West Virginia."
Carroll Jones, on the other hand, has managed over the years to find himself in the right place at the right time. He, too, left the armed forces as a captain, but only after the Marine Corps promoted him to keep him from leaving and going to law school.
A year later, he went to law school anyway, and in 1973 he started a firm in Concord with two partners. It was then that he met Carmen--on the opposite side of a legal dispute. Jones was representing a local Midas Muffler shop against Carmen and his auto repair company.
Jones got involved in politics after a client introduced him to Gordon Humphrey. Jones was impressed with Humphrey's conservative beliefs, and agreed to serve as an adviser to his campaign. After the candidate won, Jones got involved in local politics, and eventually became a vice chairman under his old legal adversary, Carmen. When Carmen resigned in 1980 to serve as New England coordinator for President Reagan's campaign, Jones succeeded him as chairman.
Carmen forgave Jones for supporting Sen. Robert J. Dole (R-Kan.) in the New Hampshire primary and offered him a job in Washington. After a couple of months, Carmen made Jones his chief of staff, and two months later promoted Jones to his current job, with responsibility for disposing of unneeded property and managing the national defense stockpile.
"The toughest problem is getting the inventory of available properties up," he says. And that means getting federal agencies to turn them over.
Although the job of badgering the agencies now belongs to the White House-level Property Review Board, a number of GSA officials think their agency ought to have that authority.
Neither of the Joneses would discuss reports that the relationship between the board and GSA officials has been less than harmonious. Each says "open channels must be maintained" when asked about the problems. But knowledgeable GSA officials repeatedly point to the same big problem: "micro-interference."
"Rather than doing macro-thinking," one GSA official said, "they're constantly trying to get involved in individual properties."
"We're at the critical point in the program this year," says Earl Jones, saying that 13 so-called "high value" properties worth $170 million are about to go on sale. The list includes an old federal building in San Francisco, a military base in Puerto Rico, a military reservation and a Coast Guard transmitter site in Hawaii and the U.S. Assay Building in New York City.
But with an inventory of only 560 properties, worth an estimated $682 million, Jones said, "You can see we need more inventory."