Statement on the Transfer of Federal Lands to Houston, Texas

June 16, 1982

Like just about everything else in Houston, aviation activity has grown tremendously in recent years. Despite the major expansion at both Hobby and Intercontinental Airports, this thriving metropolitan area needs additional capacity, especially for general aviation.

I am happy to announce that we are doing something to meet this need today: We have decided to convey to the city of Houston, at no cost, large portions of the land occupied by Ellington Air Force Base.

The continued use of this property as an airport is the most practical and economical way to solve the severe airport capacity problem in the Houston-Galveston metropolitan area. As a civil airport, this property will be put to efficient, practical use for the benefit of the greater Houston community as well as the national transportation system. Houston has made a firm commitment to invest in improvements for the airport property.

Ellington was declared surplus to the Air Force's needs back in 1976. Since then, there has been some competition between Houston and the neighboring city of Pasadena, Texas, both of which requested land for an airport. In selecting Houston, we hope that the airport is one that both cities -- and all the people of this area -- can share.

Two points should be made about the transfer of the property. First, the exact acreage to be transferred for the airport has not been determined, but it will include whatever is necessary for safe, efficient operations, the needs of the community, and the Nation's airspace system. Second, my administration has initiated a policy of seeking fair-market value when we dispose of surplus Federal property. Our Federal property is a capital asset, and we must improve our management of it. Last February, I signed an Executive order that will help meet this goal by establishing a Property Review Board at the White House to oversee Federal property sales. To underscore our commitment, the members of this Board include several of my senior advisers. We intend to take the proceeds from property sales and place them in a special account in the Treasury -- an account that will be used exclusively to offset the national debt. Thus, we will be looking for buyers for the remaining parts of the property that are not needed for the airport.

Houston has a proud past and a bright future. Aviation has long been a part of the growth and development of this great State and this magnificent, dynamic city. The new general aviation airport to be situated here will enable more people to fly to the Houston area for business and for pleasure, and to enjoy all that the area has to offer.