Martha Johnson may bring old era back to GSA

Martha Johnson, the nominee for the top job at the General Services Administration, could bring back an old era of good times at GSA that many inside and outside the agency are already bubbling about, several experts said today.

Johnson, who was chief of staff for then-GSA administrator David Barram from 1997 to 2001, is someone agency employees consider to be one of their own, those experts said.

“She knows GSA inside and out, and she knows almost all of the people there,” said Dennis Fischer, who was GSA’s Federal Technology Service (FTS) commissioner 1997 to 2001.

He has received e-mail messages from numerous agency employees who are excited by the news that President Barack Obama picked Johnson as his nominee to lead GSA, said Fischer, who’s now a consultant.

“I think the place is probably electric,” he said.

The White House made its announcement about Johnson's nomination late April 3, and the e-mail messages quickly began arriving in Fischer’s inbox, he said. Bob Woods, former FTS commissioner at GSA from 1994 to 1997 and now president of Topside Consulting, said a large number of retired GSA officials expressed interest in returning to the agency because Johnson could be back. “That says a lot,” he said.

Unlike recent administrators, Johnson has experience inside GSA, which would give her an advantage in improving an agency that has suffered through contracting crises, lost business as customer agencies do their own contracting work, and leaders who lacked a deep understanding of the agency.

“GSA can’t be another place for someone to learn,” Woods said. Johnson's "disposition is great, but it’s her experience that is what’s needed.”

Johnson served as co-lead for the Obama Presidential Transition Agency Review Team for GSA. That work gave her a close look into what had been happening at the agency during the previous administration, several experts said, adding that the information would serve her well.

Johnson has been vice president of culture at Computer Sciences Corp. since 2007. As vice president, she helps direct the change in culture of the 90,000-person corporation.

GSA's Public Building Service (PBS) is likely to grab Johnson's attention as stimulus money pours into making federal buildings more energy efficient, said Larry Allen, president of the Coalition for Government Procurement.

“The congressional and public interest is high in how Public Building Service funds are dispersed,” he said.

Fischer and Woods said GSA's Federal Acquisition Service won't be forgotten. They said PBS has longtime officials who know how the organization operates, which will free Johnson to boost FAS’ reputation. Woods said that when GSA formed FAS by merging the Federal Supply Service and FTS, it lost two brand names that were central purchasing organizations. GSA must continue to rebuild its name, he said.

About the Author

Matthew Weigelt is a freelance journalist who writes about acquisition and procurement.

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Reader comments

Tue, Apr 17, 2012

Het matt - How'd that exciting pick of Martha work out after all? She did bring back an era of good times! HA Ha Ha Ha!

Fri, Feb 5, 2010

Perhaps the new leader will work closer with Small and Disadvantaged businesses from the GSA Global Supply side instead of giving the majority business to large businesses as currently happens. Some consistancy in GSA will be a breath of fresh air.

Wed, Aug 12, 2009 Fernando San Diego

rThe new Administration need to remove the entire Region #9 team starting with Neely & Wirtz. It's a complete nightmare working with region #9 leadership. Small Business in the region is always overlooked and never tap the way it should be. It sad that small business is look at as the problem in the region. Mrs Johnson will be a good fit and the right person to clean up this region....Fernando

Sat, May 16, 2009

Welcome news for the marketplace and GSA employees. Johnson is a known and respected individual who should concentrate first on cleaning GSA of the former WH administration appointees who are now using the current administration good will to play along to further their own agendas. GSA needs a clean slate from the Lureta days. Talent that is already in house should not be discouraged. Johnson needs to vet carefully who she brings on board.

Mon, May 4, 2009

Hopefully the new boss will have enough backbone to stand up to two entities that have been sapping the competitiveness out of FAS (and GSA in general). One is the DoD who tries to dictate acquisition policy to the GSA at the same time they are expecting FAS to clear away their acquisitions backlong. The second is their own IG who think they can dictate acquisition policy to FAS. They have established their own independent relationship with Congress to bolster their political clout, often in direct opposition to changes that will benefit GSA, the taxpayer, and the entire executive branch.

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