What happened while you were away

Away for vacation this summer? Here is what you missed

July and August are popular vacation months. Even in the world of around-the-clock news coverage, people don’t always pay attention to what has been happening. So here is a roundup of some of the important developments this summer.

GSA gets down to business
Folks at the General Services Administration have had little time for summer vacations.

Officials have been working to rebuild GSA’s business after revenues plummeted in recent years. Lurita Doan, the agency’s new administrator, and Jim Williams, the new commissioner of GSA’s Federal Acquisition Service, have been meeting with agencies to affirm GSA’s devotion to customers.

Other GSA-related news involves:

  • GSA and the Defense Department inspector general. In a draft audit, DOD’s IG recommends that the department should continue to conduct business with GSA’s Client Support Centers. DOD is GSA’s largest customer and is essential to the agency’s financial health. Lawmakers questioned whether DOD should use GSA’s centers because they were concerned that GSA might not be complying with procurement rules. The IG’s draft audit found some problems — some of which GSA officials refuted — but the IG recommends that DOD use the centers.

  • Williams’ goals. For his part in GSA’s makeover, Williams said he intends to rebuild GSA’s business by listening more closely to customers and creating new business models. Industry experts and GSA officials agree on those two strategies.
  • GSA’s Science and Engineering Workstation Procurement strategy. GSA officials suggested that they should take over the NASA governmentwide acquisition contract program that specializes in powerful information technology for science and engineering applications. Critics, however, doubt that the agency could effectively manage the SEWP program.
  • Procurement: Assessing changes
    The congressionally chartered Acquisition Advisory Panel is in the final stages of its work. But a coalition of six industry groups already opposes the panel’s recommended changes to federal acquisition rules, which the coalition says could reverse a decade of procurement reforms.

    The panel will send a final report on those proposed changes to Congress and the Office of Federal Procurement Policy this fall.

    Industry groups began a campaign to block many of the changes, which the advisory panel says are necessary to enhance competition.

    The panel’s recommendations include expanding a DOD rule on soliciting competitive bids and imposing additional restrictions on time-and-materials contracting.

    The industry groups have pledged to oppose the panel’s procurement recommendations unless it modifies some of them. However, they also said they do not expect the panel to bend.

    Telework: OPM offers guidance
    The Office of Personnel Management released guidance in August on how agencies can effectively use telework.

    The document provides detailed information on everything from establishing a telework policy to understanding the safety requirements that apply to teleworkers. It also contains separate sections for managers and employees that serve as step-by-step guides to handling telework.

    One employee union, however, said the guidelines fail to address several essential issues. For instance, they do not stress the need for agencies to negotiate with employees when developing telework policies, said Colleen Kelley, president of the National Treasury Employees Union. “The more employee input at the beginning, the more employee enthusiasm for the program, and the more the agency and taxpayers will benefit,” she said.

    Once a telework policy is in place, it will not do much good if employees do not have the technical resources they need to take advantage of it, Kelley said. She added that agencies should pay for some or all high-speed Internet costs for teleworkers. Agencies also must establish secure remote access to appropriate databases.

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