Industry talks to GSA

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"F Street shuffle"

Industry representatives believe that the General Services Administration's draft plan to reorganize the procurement agency is still vague in some places, but industry organizations are working with GSA officials to refine it. At a sparsely attended industry day event held today at GSA headquarters, representatives from the Information Technology Association of America (ITAA) and the Professional Services Council voiced some of their lingering concerns.

Both organizations are part of One GSA, which was formed in April to provide a single point of contact for industry and GSA to exchange information and ideas regarding the agency's restructuring.

The draft reorganization plan that GSA released May 31 has left many in industry puzzling about the agency’s precise intentions.

"The high-level draft plan presented doesn’t provide the granularity of detail needed" to evaluate all the specific elements, said Ted Buford, co-chairman of ITAA's GSA subcommittee. Although the broad goals are well known -- replacing the Federal Technology Service and the Federal Supply Service with a single Federal Acquisition Service (FAS), and similarly blending the funds that FTS and FSS draw from -- the details are murkier, he and Alan Chvotkin, senior vice president and counsel at the council, told the GSA officials at the industry day meeting.

Chvotkin told the officials that they must first consider the market shifts taking place in the government and the broader business practices in use before undertaking any major restructuring. That was the One GSA message at GSA's first industry day event in April, and it was worthy of reiterating, Chvotkin said.

The coalition's three working groups have a wide range of issues that the draft plan doesn't address, he said. Among them:

* The plan specifies that FAS will operate as a cost-recovery organization, meaning it will charge fees and be funded by its revenues. The plan, however, does not address the checks and balances needed to safeguard against abuse of such a structure.

* The draft plan does not address compliance with contracting rules.

* The plan outlines the creation of five sub-organizations within the FAS, and also for five regional executives, but it does not include many details about the roles, duties and limitations of the new positions.

GSA Administrator Stephen Perry told the industry representatives that the agency is open to hearing their concerns. “We don’t deliver one iota of value to our customers without our industry partners,” he said.

He said that the plan does not discuss compliance because GSA officials assumed that people would understand the need to follow proper procedures is part of the foundation of GSA's ethos. That could be spelled out more explicitly in subsequent versions of the plan, he said.

The five regional executives will serve in roles similar to assistant regional administrators, providing support to the 11 regions nationwide, Perry added. However, where they will fall on the organizational chart -- whether they should report to the regional administrators or to headquarters -- has not yet been decided.

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