Congressman defends call to dismantle GSA

Rep. Jeff Denham's suggestion that GSA should be shut down energized the agency's defenders.

Rep. Jeff Denham (R-Calif.) caused a stir when he advocated abolishing the General Services Administration. But he managed to unite a wide array of GSA defenders in the process.

The agency’s public image has suffered since it was revealed that its Public Buildings Service had spent more than $800,000 on a conference in Las Vegas that featured lavish receptions, a luxury hotel and some apparently blatant violations of contracting rules.

But Denham might have defused some of that anger when he said the agency should be dismantled — and then revealed that he doesn't really understand all that GSA does.

As reported by Federal Computer Week’s Matthew Weigelt, Denham made his proposal at the Coalition for Government Procurement's Spring Conference in April. But many in the audience noticed that his criticisms were almost exclusively about the Public Buildings Service and the spending abuses highlighted in a report by the agency’s inspector general. Denham didn't appear to know much about GSA's other component: the Federal Acquisition Service.

When a member of the audience asked about that, Denham said he didn't have enough information to comment on FAS.

In the next couple of days, Denham appeared on Fox News and CNBC defending his position and criticizing GSA. On Fox Business, host Stuart Varney played into the anti-government sentiment.

“There's obviously a culture of corruption in this one agency, but how many other agencies are doing this?” Denham said.

“Surely, this is a mind-set of people who work for the government," Varney said. "I do believe that that mind-set has gotten worse, but it is common throughout government. Would you agree with that?”

Denham agreed.

Federal procurement experts, however, disputed Denham's position in a follow-up story by Weigelt.

“I think that Rep. Denham was caught by surprise when it was pointed out that GSA consists of more than the Public Buildings Service,” said Larry Allen, president of Allen Federal Business Partners.

And an FCW reader, commenting anonymously, said Denham might be over-reacting.

“A slew of laws in the Federal Acquisition Regulation are there due to the private sector either overcharging or stealing from the taxpayers,” the commenter wrote. “Privatizing everything is not necessarily a better way of dealing with what is essentially a bad apple taking advantage of streamlining from past administrations.”

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