Wagner to lead GSA reorganization

Change inspires cautious optimism among acquisition experts

Marty Wagner, a longtime General Services Administration official who has labored on the periphery of public view as associate administrator of the Office of Governmentwide Policy, is about to step into the spotlight. He will succeed Barbara Shelton as acting commissioner of the new Federal Acquisition Service.

Shelton came to GSA headquarters from her position as administrator of the Mid-Atlantic Region to serve first as acting Federal Technology Service commissioner and then as acting FAS commissioner. She will return to her regional administrator position Dec. 21.

Bob Woods, president of Topside Consulting and former FTS commissioner, said Wagner is a good choice for the role. But Woods said he is increasingly troubled by the sluggish pace of the reorganization effort and Wagner must step into the job with a sense of urgency.

"This isn't a policy process," Woods said, adding that Wagner will have weeks, not months or years, to get things done. However, Woods agreed with other observers that Wagner brings considerable experience and perspective to the effort.

"Marty has a lot of strengths that I think will benefit the FAS organization," said Neal Fox, former assistant commissioner of GSA's Office of Commercial Acquisition. "He brings a really interesting combination of governmentwide procurement philosophy and down-to-earth principles. He'll be good for FAS."

However, Fox said even Wagner will not be able to make changes that fall far outside the established reorganization framework. "The way out is to redo the reorganization, hard as that would be," Fox said.

Another critic of the reorganization plan said Wagner's institutional memory and policy expertise will improve matters considerably. "He understands where GSA needs to go from a policy perspective, and policy should be driving" the reorganization, said Warren Suss, president of Suss Consulting.

"I don't think it's any secret that morale at GSA has been pretty low for a while now," said Bob Guerra, a partner at Guerra, Kiviat, Flyzik and Associates. "No one knows GSA better than Marty, and while he's not a pure acquisition guy, he is a terrific manager. That's what GSA needs right now."

Woods warned that GSA is in real danger. Its top leaders, including Wagner, have to show that the agency continues to provide necessary services and offers a real advantage over competing alternatives.

"They're at a tipping point at GSA, and they could go over," Woods said. "There's no guarantee GSA survives."

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