Which do you think is easier: convincing Congress to give you $50 million a year indefinitely or $325 million (the cost of constructing the DOT headquarters) in one year?
As the FBI learned by its inability to secure full initial year funding for a new headquarters, the answer is it is always harder to get one big check from Congress than it is a lot of “little” checks.
As a result, the FBI’s story—once GSA figures out a new solution for the crumbling headquarters—could end up being the same as DOT’s: years and years of multi-million dollar lease payments with nothing to show for it at the end of the day. That is why it is time to revisit the government’s budgetary rules for federal property.
If Congress and the administration are not willing to provide the upfront funds for modernizing federal infrastructure, they should at a minimum make sure the rules work to give GSA the flexibility to secure the best deal for taxpayers, including through public-private partnerships. The rules should not disadvantage lease-to-own agreements.
The Trump administration is rightly focused on removing barriers to private investment in public infrastructure. Let’s hope that includes the buildings federal agencies call home.
Eric Cantor served as House Majority Leader during the 112th Congress. He is a member of the Bipartisan Policy Center’s Executive Council on Infrastructure.