GSA on the road to recovery?

Agency officials announce plans to fix sagging assisted acquisition services

In the past three years, the market for assisted acquisition services moved, but the General Services Administration didn’t. Now the agency is trying to catch up.

In announcing plans for fixing its slumping business, GSA said it will not eliminate the Assisted Acquisition Services Office. But the agency will trim the office and refocus it by moving into new areas of business. By December, officials plan to send almost half of the 600 employees in the Assisted Acquisition Services Office to another part of GSA’s Federal Acquisition Service or to its Public Building Service.

Administrator Lurita Doan and FAS Commissioner Jim Williams announced the transfer at a Sept. 7 press briefing.

GSA is in this situation because, for the past decade, it hasn’t catered to agencies’ requirements as it should have, said a GSA official, who requested anonymity to speak freely.

Williams attributed the need for a new strategy to a change in the way customer agencies do business. Agencies go elsewhere for acquisition services, a development that is leaving GSA in the red. The agency’s assisted acquisition services business has been on a downward slide since fiscal 2004, and GSA sources say they expect it to lose about $50 million in 2007.

To catch up to the market, GSA will cut back on assisted acquisition services offerings to build a more economically viable business line that will break even by 2008, officials said.

“It is not enough to launch new programs,” Doan said. “You also have to have the courage and willingness to modify programs that are not performing successfully or not meeting expectations.”

Doan said FAS must align its assisted acquisition services’ costs with actual and projected revenue. “For us to do nothing was not an option,” she said.

Several plans came to Doan in the past few months that she rejected because they were not bold enough for turning around the service. But the plan released last week was comprehensive, she said.

GSA’s decision to move into new business areas and reduce resources will not mean job losses, officials said. Williams said the agency used a humane approach in dealing with employees who will no longer be needed in the assisted acquisition services business. About 250 employees will likely move to other FAS positions or other parts of GSA, based on their skills.

Layoffs are not part of the plan, Williams said, adding that FAS officials do not expect to submit early-out or buyout request packages to the Office of Personnel Management at this time. FAS is working with employee unions and affected employees to ensure a smooth transition, he said.

Doan said she sees a bright future for GSA’s assisted acquisition services. Information technology is becoming more complex, creating a greater need in the government for assistance in writing statements of work, managing projects and guiding customers, she said. GSA can handle that business.

About the Author

Matthew Weigelt is a freelance journalist who writes about acquisition and procurement.

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