Ray Kline, acting chief of the General Services Administration, has been named chairman of a special "Working Group on Real Property Management" by White House counselor Edwin Meese III. The panel is supposed to figure out the best ways for agencies to manage and account for government property and to sell what isn't needed in what it expects will be a second Reagan administration.
In 1981, President Reagan's crew launched a similar initiative, hoping to use the proceeds to reduce the national debt. Two years later, however, James G. Watt, then Interior secretary, pulled out of the effort, labeling it "stupid," and the U.S. Forest Service failed to obtain congressional approval to sell unneeded land in national forests. In addition, Congress balked at using such income to reduce the debt rather than for the traditional purpose: purchasing federal park land.
In fiscal 1983, the GSA did sell a record $191.3 million worth of unneeded property, but its target had been $1.2 billion. In fiscal 1984, GSA sales fell to $91.6 million compared with its original target of $2 billion.
In a memo to the working group, Meese said the administration wants to "assure that agencies treat federal property as a national asset and use it in the best interest of all taxpayers."
Sources inside the GSA said the group would explore such questions as whether the government should buy office space or lease it and whether the principal objective of the government's property managers should be to generate income. "The agenda is still wide open," one GSA official said.
The group's members include Joseph R. Wright, deputy director of the Office of Management and Budget; Alexander Aldrich, chairman of the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation; undersecretaries Gary L. Jones of Education and Ann McLaughlin of Interior; deputy secretaries Richard E. Lyng of Agriculture, Danny J. Boggs of Energy, James H. Burnley IV of Transportation and William Taft IV of Defense; and NASA administrator James M. Beggs and Veterans Administration chief Harry C. Walters.
The group's final recommendations are due on Meese's desk Jan. 17. Meese is chairman of the Cabinet Council on Management and Administration. COUNTING SPACE . . .
Should the waiting room in a Social Security office be counted as office space? What about a file room containing public records? Or a room for training new employes?
The questions have cropped up as agencies try to follow GSA directions for complying with a March 1983 executive order that told agencies to cut their average workspace from 167 square feet per employe to 135 square feet. To try to answer some of the concerns, some GSA officials drew up a new regulation, which Public Buildings Commissioner Lester L. Mitchell presented to the Real Property Management Council, a high-level GSA panel, in September.
A number of participants attacked the proposal. According to a report of the meeting, Thomas J. Simon, director of the office of program initiatives, said the new plan had "the net result of emasculating" the initiative and would allow agencies to "appear artificially successful" without actually saving any space. The council voted 11 to 1 to recommend shelving it. Mitchell, the lone voter in support of the proposal, is circulating a new version that he hopes will be acceptable. SIGN OF THE TIMES . . .
As banks branch out, only federal credit unions and a few commercial banks have been interested in space in federal office buildings. But the GSA plans to begin allowing banks to install automated teller machines in the lobbies of federal buildings. For starters, the agency will try out the machines at its headquarters building and its regional office here.