GSA gets buyout nod

Troubled procurement agency can now offer early-outs to as many as 395 employees

The General Services Administration is now authorized to offer early-out and buyout packages to some of its employees, according to a memo from David Bibb, GSA’s acting administrator.

The Office of Personnel Management and the Office of Management and Budget granted GSA the authority, according to Bibb’s May 5 memo. In it, he called the future bright for GSA.

Many observers, however, do not share that outlook. With falling sales mostly in the Federal Technology Service (FTS), they agree GSA had to do something to curb cost overruns. Nevertheless, according to some observers, the loss of employees could harm the agency as experienced workers leave.

Bibb’s memo states that the packages were approved for parts of the Office of Global Supply in the Federal Supply Service and for parts of FTS.

Gail Lovelace, GSA’s chief people officer, said the agency was authorized to offer packages to 395 employees. She expects about 200 of them to take the offers.

Bibb wrote that the authority “will allow some associates who would like to consider various options for their future to do so and will also allow GSA to move forward with more financial flexibility to address our business challenges.”

Some industry officials agreed that the buyouts are necessary. “When you don’t have work for people to do, you have to get them off the payroll in some manner,” said Larry Allen, executive vice president of the Coalition for Government Procurement. “Hopefully, FTS will restore its operations over time and staff up again.”

Jack Hanley, president of the National Federation of Federal Employees’ Council of GSA Locals, said the result of the buyouts could be the loss of talented professionals from an agency that needs them.

“I think we will lose some experienced and talented people,” Lovelace said in response to Hanley’s concern. “We could have made this a lot larger than it is, but we specifically chose not to.”

The move to offer the packages is part of an effort to save money for GSA, whose business revenue has dropped in the past two fiscal years. GSA officials said the

early-outs and buyouts could save the agency about $10 million this fiscal year.

Lovelace said GSA is not forcing people out through a process called reduction in force. “Buyouts aren’t RIFs,” she said. “We aren’t involuntarily separating anybody. These are opportunities that we are giving people.”

Neal Fox, a former GSA official now working as an independent consultant, said the problem with buyouts is that experienced employees and younger, new talent will find the offers most appealing. GSA won’t be able to specifically target poor performers.

“The end result may improve the bottom line somewhat, but the agency is harmed,” Fox said.

Other analysts said GSA’s problems are too big to be solved so easily.

“I don’t believe the GSA has a clear vision on where it needs to go to show value” to its customer agencies, said Carl DeMaio, president of the Performance Institute.

GSA workers’ ticket to ride

The General Services Administration has been granted authority to offer early buyout packages to some employees in an effort to save money by getting them off the agency’s payroll.

GSA had been seeking the authority for some time, in an effort to reverse its flagging fortunes.

“GSA had to do something to reduce costs,” said Larry Allen (at right), executive vice president of the Coalition for Government Procurement.

The agency’s business revenue has dropped in the past two fiscal years. Its Information Technology Solutions business will fall about 40 percent between fiscal 2004 and fiscal 2006’s projections.

The Office of Personnel Management and the Office of Management and Budget approved the packages for parts of the Federal Supply Service’s Office of Global Supply and parts of the Federal Technology Service.

— Matthew Weigelt

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