GSA policy shop faces cuts

Officials in the General Services Administration's Office of Governmentwide Policy (OGP) are taking steps to cut the equivalent of 92 full-time positions in response to a proposed 15 percent cut in the office's fiscal 2006 budget.

The Bush administration's budget proposal, submitted to lawmakers this month, requests $52.8 million for the office, which is $9.3 million less than it received this year.

There are currently 210 positions at OGP.

Although Congress has yet to act on any of the spending bills, OGP associate administrator G. Martin Wagner said office officials believe Congress will sustain the cuts.

Within months, agency officials plan to transfer 45 employees to other divisions within the agency and eliminate 47 positions entirely, Wagner said. "We're asking for buy-out and early-out authority," he added.

The cuts will force OGP to place a "greater emphasis on policy rather than operations," said Karen Evans, the Office of Management and Budget's administrator for e-government and information technology. OGP, whose scope also includes property management and travel policy, has a history of pilot testing e-government projects before agencies assume large-scale operational duties.

The organization emerging from another GSA reorganization effort to consolidate its two procurement branches will become the operational lead in e-Travel and e-Authentication, two of the five

e-government initiatives GSA sponsors.

Policy must be tailored to meet operational realities to be effective, Wagner said. In the past, OGP made that link by performing some operational-like activities itself "because it's easier to do things ourselves," he said. But "the tendency was to keep the solutions in the hothouse too long."

The office will continue to perform IT policy analysis, Wagner said, although with fewer people. Officials are still determining how many analysts will be let go, he added.

The cuts and other GSA reorganization efforts may affect the transformation going on in the federal government, said Mark Forman, Evans' predecessor. "This is an issue for the Congress to discuss, clearly," he said.

Under the Clinger-Cohen Act of 1996, GSA is supposed to formulate IT management policy, Forman said. "It's analysis that OMB quite frankly doesn't have the staff to do," he added.

Moving analysis duties to the CIO Council would require additional staffing authority, which comes out of the OGP budget, Forman said.

As for policy analysis, the slack will be taken up directly by federal agencies, Wagner said. He rejected an argument that IT transformation analysis is best done at OMB and GSA, centralized agencies that don't have huge stand-alone infrastructures.

"You have an OMB perspective, you have an agency perspective, and you have this in between, which is us, and you need all three to make things work," he said.

About the Author

David Perera is a special contributor to Defense Systems.

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