Bates' retirement sparks GSA rumors

As Federal Technology Service Commissioner Sandra Bates prepares to retire Feb. 11, talk is growing about the possibility that FTS and the Federal Supply Service (FSS) could be merged to eliminate redundancies.

FSS and FTS are two of the General Services Administration's three major branches, along with the Public Buildings Service. FSS oversees the GSA schedule contracts, while FTS is responsible for technology procurements, telecommunications and related technology-heavy duties.

Rep. Tom Davis (R-Va.), chairman of the Government Reform Committee, has made reforming GSA a priority this year. In an interview with Federal Computer Week this month, Davis said Bates' departure would provide an opportunity to rethink the agency's structure. However, he is not committed to pursuing a specific course.

"I am not sure that Sandy's leaving would precipitate it, but I think a lot of folks have seen significant overlaps between FSS and FTS for a long time," said Bob Guerra, a partner at Guerra, Kiviat, Flyzik and Associates. "Many think that a merging of the two into a single entity that can support agencies in their information technology, strategic and acquisition needs is appropriate."

Not everyone agrees that such a merging is inevitable, or even desirable, however. Larry Allen, executive vice president of the Coalition for Government Procurement, said he expected the two sides of GSA to work more closely together but remain separate.

"I've been told [such a merger] is a done deal," said Bob Woods, president of Topside Consulting and a former FTS commissioner. "But done deals get undone, so I don't know what comes from that. Those organizations have some distinct functions. If your supply function and your technology function ought to be put together, why don't they do that at other agencies?"

Woods agreed that GSA officials need to reduce duplication between the two.

"I don't think anybody would argue a whole lot with that," he said. "The rumor mill has jumped from that to [a call to] mash these two organizations together and call it something else. That looks weird to me."

Bates ends 36-year career

Sandra Bates will end a 36-year government career when she retires as commissioner of the General Services Administration's Federal Technology Service Feb. 11.

Bates began and ended her career with FTS. She joined the agency in 1969, as a liaison in the governmentwide long-distance services program. She moved to NASA in 1979 and held several leadership positions during her 15 years at the agency. She returned to FTS in 1996, became deputy commissioner in 1997 and commissioner in 2000.

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