Editorial: Doan's to-do list

Lurita Doan’s relatively short tenure as administrator of the General Services Administration has been a complex one. There was much hope surrounding her arrival because it followed years of inaction at GSA. In fairness, it probably would have been impossible for anyone to satisfy the expectations people had.

Today, there is a thriving debate about whether Doan will — or should — survive. Some publications have even called on Doan to resign.We specifically have not.We believe GSA is better with an effective administrator. Having an acting administrator in place for what could be three years, even someone as worthy as David Bibb, the agency’s deputy administrator, would be problematic.

We continue to believe that it is important for GSA to be successful.We believe that Doan does, too. GSA plays a vital role for most agencies. The administrator’s issues, however, are distracting. So Doan needs to act if she hopes to get anything accomplished in the Bush administration’s remaining months. Here are our recommendations for what she can do.

  • Choose your battles carefully. Of the three allegations swirling around the administrator, the potential Hatch Act violations are the most serious. Clearly, this was not just a Doan issue given that White House political operatives made presentations to scores of agencies. Regardless, this is not a battle worth fighting. The meeting was wrong. Anyone who has seen the slides knows it was. She may not remember the meeting, but that response simply makes her seem untrustworthy. The better response is to say that even though she does not remember the specifics of the meeting, in hindsight, she understands that it was not appropriate and that it will not happen again as long as she is administrator.
  • Work less. Doan is famous for her endless amount of energy and her to-do lists. The high-energy approach can work in a small business where everyone can do everything. GSA, however, is not a small business and, unfortunately, the high-energy approach has resulted in Doan being involved in matters that should not be landing on the administrator’s desk. The $20,000 no-bid contract is one example.Work 50- or 60-hour weeks rather than 80-hour weeks. That would force the administrator to focus on the most important issues.
  • Trust your staff. GSA has really good career employees. They know their stuff.
  •  Reassure your staff. GSA employees feel your pain — and the agency’s. They also understand that the administrator is the face of the agency. Keep GSA employees in the loop.
  • Listen more. In elementary school, we were told that we have two ears and one mouth, and therefore we should listen twice as much as we talk. Trite, but probably also true. There is wisdom out there, but it isn’t always being heard.
  • Make oversight work. Figure out how to make the relationship with the inspector general and lawmakers work. Yes, GSA’s IG has been overbearing, but there would be no better way to set an example for the procurement community than to show how oversight should work.

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    About the Author

    Christopher J. Dorobek is the co-anchor of Federal News Radio’s afternoon drive program, The Daily Debrief with Chris Dorobek and Amy Morris, and the founder, publisher and editor of the DorobekInsider.com, a leading blog for the Federal IT community.

    Dorobek joined Federal News Radio in 2008 with 16 years of experience covering government issues with an emphasis on government information technology. Prior to joining Federal News Radio, Dorobek was editor-in-chief of Federal Computer Week, the leading news magazine for government IT decision-makers and the flagship of the 1105 Government Information Group portfolio of publications. As editor-in-chief, Dorobek served as a member of the senior leadership team at 1105 Government Information Group, providing daily editorial direction and management for FCW magazine, FCW.com, Government Health IT and its other editorial products.

    Dorobek joined FCW in 2001 as a senior reporter and assumed increasing responsibilities, becoming managing editor and executive editor before being named editor-in-chief in 2006. Prior to joining FCW, Dorobek was a technology reporter at PlanetGov.com, one of the first online community centers for current and former government employees. He also spent five years at Government Computer News, another leading industry publication, covering a variety of federal IT-related issues.

    Dorobek is a frequent speaker on issues involving the government IT industry, and has appeared as a frequent contributor to NewsChannel 8’s Federal News Today program. He began his career as a reporter at the Foster’s Daily Democrat, a daily newspaper in Dover, N.H. He is a graduate of the University of Southern California. He lives in Washington, DC.


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