Bill Creates Incentive to Get Federal Employees Back in the Office

A recent bill would incentivize federal agencies to bring their employees back to the office or otherwise risk losing their allotted office space.

The House of Representatives recently passed legislation designed to motivate agencies to bring federal employees back to in-person work in greater numbers. It now goes to the Senate for consideration.

The Utilizing Space Efficiently and Improving Technologies (USE IT) Act of 2023 (H.R. 6276) was introduced last fall by Congressman Scott Perry (R-PA).

The bill requires the General Services Administration (GSA) and the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to implement a standard methodology for measuring occupancy and utilization of public buildings and directs the disposal of unused space. By doing so, it incentivizes federal employees to return to the office since failure to do so could mean losing office space.

Additionally, the legislation requires the heads of federal agencies to submit a report to Congress that includes the actual utilization rate of each building in the agencies’ portfolios, along with the methodology for calculating that rate.

GSA and OMB will then be required to ensure that no federal building utilization rate falls below 60% based on the reports. If it does, the agencies must take steps to reduce or consolidate that unused space.

The bill also stipulates that GSA’s Capital Investment Program must prioritize projects in public buildings where actual utilization is higher than 60%.

Finally, the USE IT Act requires that GSA and OMB submit a report to Congress that includes a plan to consolidate department and agency headquarters in the National Capital Region, leading to building utilization rates of 60% or more.

“Right now, American taxpayers are forced to pay $2 billion a year for office space – almost half the size of Disney World – that D.C. bureaucrats refuse to use,” said Perry. “President Biden is grasping onto more than 11,000 acres of old, unused buildings and won’t force federal employees into offices already paid for by the American people. It’s time we end this wasteful use of hardworking Americans’ tax dollars and sell these unused public spaces.”

In remarks he made on the House floor, Perry cited a GAO report that showed that 24 federal agencies were using less than 50% of their available office space. The report was commissioned by Senator Joni Ernst (R-IA). She has been a vocal critic of continued elevated levels of telework among the federal workforce despite the COVID-19 pandemic having long since subsided.

Ernst has also expressed concerns that federal employees may be using telework to get paid at higher locality pay rates despite residing or working in lower-cost-of-living areas. The Senate passed her amendment last fall to the Military Construction, Veterans Affairs, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act (H.R. 4366) to investigate how many federal employees “perform the majority of their working hours in a locality pay area with a lower locality rate than the locality rate for the locality pay area in which the official worksite of the employee is located, but continue to receive the higher locality rate associated with the official worksite of the employee.”

About the Author

Ian Smith is one of the co-founders of He has over 20 years of combined experience in media and government services, having worked at two government contracting firms and an online news and web development company prior to his current role at FedSmith.