Senate skeptical of GSA's reorg plan

The effort to reorganize the General Services Administration's acquisition services, pushed by House lawmakers and the Bush administration, is coming under fire from Senate appropriators.

The agency's proposal to combine its two existing acquisition services could result in an overly centralized organization, according to a report accompanying the Transportation, Treasury, the Judiciary, House and Urban Development and Related Agencies Appropriations Act of 2006.

The bill, which was passed by the Senate Appropriations Committee July 21, prohibits GSA from spending funds to reorganize without approval by the appropriations committees.

GSA is due to release a second draft proposal later this month to consolidate the Federal Technology Service and Federal Supply Service into a single Federal Acquisition Service. The effort comes after months of pressure by Rep. Tom Davis (R-Va.) and follows House approval of a more stringent reorganization bill proposed by Davis.

Davis has criticized the GSA plan for not centralizing authority enough. Senators, however, appear to disagree. "Regional authority and decision-making ultimately is necessary to ensure that clients are adequately served," the report states. "Limiting the number of regional executives will limit GSA's flexibility and ability to meet local needs and requirements."

The Senate language was unexpected, said Larry Allen, executive vice president of the Coalition for Government Procurement. It may have come about because GSA staff briefed the Senate Appropriations Committee staff late in the process, in the same week that the markup occurred, he said.

It could create a hurdle for GSA, he said. Directly appropriated funds form only a small part of GSA's budget, but officials said they would still be "hesitant to go forward and thumb their nose at an appropriations committee," Allen said.

The provision will likely face opposition during the conference committee, he added.

In other matters, the Senate bill does not include a measure to eliminate GSA's eTravel budget. The Senate also would not eliminate the Transportation Department's chief information officer. Those provisions were included in the House version of the spending bill, and a conference commmittee will need to resolve the differences.

Legal competition

Cemented into a governmentwide section of a Senate spending bill is language restricting competitive sourcing. A provision of the Transportation, Treasury, the Judiciary, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act of 2006, passed by the Senate Appropriations Committee July 21, would prevent agencies from converting operations of more than 10 positions into private-sector contracts without allowing government workers to compete.

Unlike most efforts to limit competitive sourcing, this Senate version has the support of a powerful Republican, Sen. Christopher "Kit" Bond (R-Mo.), chairman of the subcommittee that passed the bill.

— David Perera

About the Author

David Perera is a special contributor to Defense Systems.

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