FTS leader embraces 'risk'

The Federal Technology Service arm of the General Services Administration is poised to grow, accompanied by "acceptable risk," said its commissioner, Sandra Bates, at a Federal Sources Inc. event this morning.

Bates is taking some chances in new directions, such as adding professional services to FTS' repertoire of assisted acquisition offerings, which she said will debut by early May.

"This is a major step ahead for us," she said. "It's a major step ahead for GSA. I think we're coming into a time where we need to think in terms of acceptable risk. Not to become risk-averse, not to go back to a day when the rule books are stacked so high you can't see over them."

In her remarks, Bates touched on several recent events, including:

* The realignment of FTS and the Federal Supply Service, which manages all of GSA's schedule contracts.

* The Connections telecommunications contract, which the agency awarded in January.

* Networx, a telecom contract that will succeed FTS 2001, which expires in 2006.

* Improvements to FTS information technology systems.

FTS still manages the contracts that pertain to telecommunications, and Bates said that trying to craft new vehicles to take over for expiring ones has become a major activity. Federal telecom regulations are changing, and "the telecom industry is still in turmoil," she said.

She also spoke of GSA's determination to increase competition, helped by the Office of Federal Procurement Policy, the Small Business Administration and other agencies.

Too often, she said, agencies conduct a cursory or even deceptive search before signing on with the contractor they wanted to use all along, she said.

Referring to herself and former FTS Commissioner Dennis Fischer, who was in the audience, Bates said, "If you have a task order to play basketball and you send it to me, Dennis and Michael Jordan, who is going to win? Duh. That's not competition."

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