Wagner signals GSA direction for 2006

As the General Services Administration moves ahead with its reorganization effort, the agency must turn its attention outward to customers and industry partners in the upcoming year, said the man who will play a crucial role in making that happen.

Marty Wagner, newly appointed acting commissioner of GSA's Federal Acquisition Service, said the agency has turned inward during the past year, reworking its internal structure. Now the agency needs to "get to focusing on delivering our value proposition to agency customers,” he said.

That value proposition is evolving into a greater emphasis on shared services and strategic sourcing, he added. The question that GSA employees will ask in information technology acquisitions is how they help agency chief information officers meet IT needs.

“We’re going to have a lot of strategic dialogue to ask them," Wagner said. "The next step is to do a lot of listening.”

When Wagner's appointment was announced late last month, acquisition experts such as Bob Woods, president of Topside Consulting, urged him to pick up the pace of the reorganization. Wagner said he agrees with that advice.

“We’ve got to move forward," Wagner said. "We’ve got to get a move on. I’m doing some listening so this is a working hypothesis. But as far as I can tell, there are some things we can do quickly and some things we’ll have to do more slowly.”

One stumbling block that GSA encountered this year was Congress' failure to pass legislative authority to blend the agency's IT fund and General Supply Fund. The distinction between IT, telecommunications and other types of purchases is not as clear as it once was, and GSA's reorganization plan incorporates the idea that agency employees should not have to make judgment calls about which fund is appropriate for a particular acquisition.

GSA was able to merge the Federal Supply and Federal Technology services into the new FAS on its own, but the agency needs congressional authorization to combine the two funds.

“My sense from the Hill is that people are accepting the value of merging the funds," Wagner said. However, there is a difference between having members of Congress understand the need and actually passing legislation.

"It’s not a matter of getting them convinced, it’s getting it higher on the priority list," he said.

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