GSA defines its challenges

Embattled agency officials maintain that changes will strengthen GSA

The General Services Administration, which has been battered by a barrage of bad news, still has supporters rooting for it. Many officials believe the agency is going through a rough period that will strengthen it.

“To say these are challenging times at GSA is definitely an understatement,” said John Johnson, assistant commissioner of service development and delivery at GSA, who spoke March 22 at a meeting of the American Council for Technology’s Industry Advisory Council.

But GSA has tried to reassure industry officials that change is healthy. “We are forced into the new world order,” said M.J. Pizzella, associate administrator of GSA’s Office of Citizen Services and Communications. GSA will come out better for it, she added. “We are going to be a much stronger GSA.”

Sen. Christopher Bond (R-Mo.), chairman of the Senate appropriations subcommittee that oversees the agency’s reorganization plans, supports those efforts and is ready to send an approval letter to GSA officials, Bond’s spokeswoman said last week. Bond and Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), the subcommittee’s ranking member, also must sign the approval letter.

GSA faces several significant challenges caused by declining fee-based income. The Federal Technology Service’s projected revenue for this fiscal year is only $5.6 billion. The Federal Supply Service’s projected revenue is $3.7 billion.

To offset those declining revenues, GSA is seeking permission from the Office of Management and Budget and the Office of Personnel Management to offer buyout and early-out packages to about 400 employees. GSA officials estimate that a hiring freeze, which began in February, will save about $10 million this fiscal year.

Saving money is a necessity for GSA, said Bill Gormley, president and chief executive officer of the Washington Management Group. But, he added, GSA must spread the word that the agency has made changes.

“It’s a new day at the GSA,” he said, offering a possible slogan for the agency’s comeback. The new day signifies that the controversy surrounding GSA and the Get It Right initiative’s effects is over, he said. “That’s cleaned up, and we’re not looking back.”

Although some parts of GSA are in a slump, others are not. Gormley suggested that the agency tout that fact.

Johnson did just that, telling ACT/IAC members that GSA’s schedule sales increased 5 percent in the first part of the fiscal year.

Pizzella dismissed suggestions that GSA is conducting a marketing campaign. GSA officials have always spoken at industry events, she said, adding, “People are just paying attention now.”

GSA has industry supporters who are advising the agency. Larry Allen, executive vice president of the Coalition for Government Procurement, said the coalition has written a letter in support of Acting Administrator David Bibb and Federal Acquisition Service Acting Administrator Marty Wagner.

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