GSA gets an earful

Industry bands together to guide GSA reorg

General Services Administration officials are rushing to finish a draft reorganization plan by May 31, but technology and services companies that sell through GSA are not quietly waiting to see what happens.

Four industry associations have formed a new coalition to advise GSA officials. Called the One GSA Coalition, the group includes representatives from the Coalition for Government Procurement, Contract Services Association, Information Technology Association of America and Professional Services Council. Coalition participants include association officials and industry representatives.

Coalition leaders have created four working groups focused on the same topics as GSA's working groups that are developing a reorganization plan. The coalition's working groups will focus on acquisition, IT management, financial management and fiscal law.

GSA officials are making swift progress on the plan to reorganize the agency. They have written the legislation, which Office of Management and Budget officials have approved and sent to Congress, GSA Administrator Stephen Perry said. Rep. Tom Davis (R-Va.) is likely to make the legislation part of the fiscal 2006 budget package, Perry added.

The reorganization would merge the agency's IT and general funds. And it is likely that two of the agency's three branches, the Federal Supply Service and the Federal Technology Service, will become one, said FSS Commissioner Donna Bennett. GSA's third branch, the Public Buildings Service, is not part of the reorganization.

All four associations involved in the One GSA Coalition joined other industry officials in an industry day meeting that GSA officials held April 21 at the agency's Washington, D.C., headquarters. Bennett and acting FTS Commissioner Barbara Shelton listened to the industry representatives and asked questions.

Although industry leaders' advice was wide-ranging, common themes emerged. For example, industry officials said GSA officials should recognize the importance of bringing them into the planning process, the need to provide consistent policy guidance to employees working in regional offices and the value of staying focused on serving customers.

Valerie Perlowitz, president of Reliable Integration Services, made a pitch on behalf of woman-owned small businesses. Speaking as a representative of the Women Impacting Public Policy, she said such businesses often struggle to get listed on the GSA schedule contracts.

Larry Allen, executive vice president of the Coalition for Government Procurement, suggested blending all the services that vendors can offer through GSA contracts into one vehicle.

Services are now scattered across multiple contracts. If agency officials favor particular vehicles, vendors whose services are not available through those could be shut out.

Ted Buford, a program manager at CACI International and vice chairman of the GSA subcommittee at ITAA, said GSA officials should get more outside advice. The agency's reorganization steering committee is composed solely of GSA employees.

"We are still concerned that GSA is not seeking sufficient input from its agency customers and from industry partners," he said. Industry officials do not want to enter the process near its end to be told what changes have been made, he said.

Shelton told industry representatives attending the meeting that the steering team is expected to submit a draft plan by May 31.

"You may not see all of your suggestions in that first cut," she said. "We are under tremendous time constraints. But it is [only] the first cut."

Free advice

Industry leaders have given Stephen Perry (left), administrator of the General Services Administration, and other officials some advice to ponder as they reorganize the procurement agency. Here are some of their suggestions.

  • Harmonize interpretations of policy so that GSA employees in regional offices understand urgency regulations.
  • Move the Get It Right campaign out of the spotlight and let the principles continue to be a part of general business practice.
  • Fully implement new electronic offerings, such as eMods and eOffers, that enable contractors to conduct their GSA business online.
  • Evaluate services offered through the Federal Supply Schedules to ensure that they are all commercial services. Any that are government-specific should have their own contracting vehicle.
  • Evaluate the nature, scope and design of GSA's services to identify and avoid outmoded business models or delivery mechanisms.
  • — Michael Hardy

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