Grkavac: Focus on Doan’s record

We all understand that former General Services Administration Administrator Lurita Doan was a controversial figure, but she was taking the agency in the right direction to bring efficiency and innovation to government. With Doan’s departure, it is time to dispense with the sensational and return the government’s focus to the trail she
helped to blaze.

To understand the contributions Doan made during her tenure, one must consider the state of the agency when she took the reins two years ago. GSA was in the middle of an extensive reorganization. The various GSA services competed with one another over agencies and providers. The lengthy process to get on the GSA schedule contracts often discouraged companies from trying to sell their products and services to the government. The result of those problems was less innovative and more costly solutions.

Doan succeeded in resolving many of those issues. She completed the merger of the Federal Technology Service and Federal Supply Service into the new Federal Acquisition Service (FAS), consolidating 10 offices and a variety of procurement channels into a single organization. The move simplified acquisitions through GSA, reducing senseless intra-agency competition and making the process more efficient. She also made it quicker and easier for companies to get on the GSA schedules, enhancing the variety of solutions available to government.

The ideas were hardly all Doan’s, but much of the blood, sweat and tears were hers. She had inherited the plan from her predecessor. Her task was to complete the last and most difficult mile in the marathon. In addition to completing the plan, she had to shepherd enabling legislation for the reorganization through Congress and was left to assuage the concerns of the government employee unions. Then she had to turn the plan into success. And while it’s still too early to say if that has been accomplished, change is moving in the right direction.

When Doan arrived, GSA was also suffering from serious effects caused by congressional actions designed to keep more contracting in the Defense Department. There were allegations of misuse of funds and subsequent legislation that directed DOD to look to its own acquisition corps. During the past two years, the agency has made some progress in mending its relationship with the Pentagon. Jim Williams,  FAS commissioner, has pointed to deals with the Marine Corps and Defense Logistics Agency as proof of that progress.

Under Doan’s leadership, GSA has also improved financial discipline and earned a clean audit. It has taken a leadership position on telework, which could improve employee morale. 

Yet all of these accomplishments are still important, not because they were Doan’s alone, or even because she played a part, but because they contribute to efficiency, innovation and success for GSA and the agencies it serves. Fortunately, the Bush administration has acted quickly to designate an experienced executive, David Bibb, as the acting administrator. We look to him to keep GSA on the path toward dealing with its many challenges.

Grkavac is executive vice president of the Information Technology Association of America. 

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