When We Organize the Government’s Assets, Arkansas Benefits

September 20, 2019
Weekly Columns

Seasonal change always brings a new round of cleaning and organizing in my house, and the federal government would do well to follow this example. I often talk about bureaucracy and red tape slowing down good governance, and there is perhaps no better example of this than in the way the federal government catalogues its assets. That’s why Wisconsin Congressman Ron Kind and I introduced the Federal Land Asset Inventory Reform (FLAIR) Act earlier this year, and the Natural Resources Committee debated the act this week.

Imagine you go shopping for groceries, but you buy your groceries with 26 different credit cards and store the groceries in 100 different places around the house. In a way, this is how the federal government attempts to keep track of all the land and buildings under its jurisdiction. The Interior Department alone uses 26 different financial systems and more than 100 different property management systems. When we multiply this number by the number of agencies and departments spread across the federal government, we are looking at hundreds – perhaps thousands – of different programs.

This affects Americans like the resident in my district who built a cabin on private land surrounded by the Ouachita National Forest. He wanted to get a power pole strung along the existing Forest Service road that provided access. The Forest Service approved the environmental analysis, the power company agreed drop the poles in, and then he waited for six months. Turns out the Forest Service survey lacked an accurate wilderness boundary, but that information was in a separate system. He then tried to move the poles to the other side of the road, got the appropriate approvals, and waited for another three months. Turns out, the new route skirted a historical burial ground, information which was on yet another separate system. I wish that this was a unique case, but my office receives enough casework of this nature to fill a full-time position.

The FLAIR Act would fix this issue by consolidating all these systems into one comprehensive database. This would benefit Arkansans in two ways: first, by reducing the use of taxpayer dollars, and second, by giving agencies like the Forest Service and Interior Department a better way to manage their resources within the state.

Congress needs more bills like the FLAIR Act, bills that address common problems in a commonsense way, and that do it in a bipartisan fashion. I’m glad to help lead at least one of those commonsense solutions.