Experts: GSA needs leaders fast

With news of another high-level manager leaving the General Services Administration, the agency needs to bring in bold leaders to right its course immediately, experts say.

Deidre Lee, assistant commissioner for integrated technology services at GSA’s Federal Acquisition Service (FAS), will become acting deputy director of operations at the Federal Emergency Management Agency when she leaves GSA next month.

GSA is embroiled in financial troubles as revenues fall. Information technology services revenue for the Federal Technology Service, which is being merged into FAS with the Federal Supply Service, has fallen from $7.2 billion in fiscal 2004 to a projected $4.3 billion for fiscal 2006, a nearly 40 percent drop.

FTS’ revenue is projected to be $5.6 billion by the end of this fiscal year, and FSS’ revenue is projected to be $3.7 billion by year’s end, according to GSA officials. The agency would not release more detailed financial records.

Hit by those tough circumstances, GSA froze hiring in February and will offer early-outs and buyouts to about 400 employees as it seeks to save money due to decreasing revenues. Officials estimated last week that the hiring freeze would save about $10 million this fiscal year.

“People in the system are losing faith in it,” said Bob Woods, a former FTS commissioner and now president of Topside Consulting Group.

Woods and Larry Allen, executive vice president of the Coalition for Government Procurement, agreed that Lee’s decision to leave GSA shows that she believes she could not make a difference at the agency.

Allen said Lee had no authority to initiate changes at GSA for most of her tenure.

Robert Suda’s decision in January to leave his post as assistant commissioner for IT solutions at FTS to take a position at the Agriculture Department is also telling, Woods said.

“It’s a drip, drip, drip process,” Woods said, adding, “Now more than likely you’ll lose some people you can never get back.”

GSA is adapting to changes in federal procurement, and it may re-emerge as a smaller agency, said Fred Thompson, vice president for management and technology at the Council for Excellence in Government. As leaders leave, GSA’s adjustments may not require replacements for all the positions.

Nevertheless, Lee’s departure is another blow for the embattled agency. GSA has been without a politically appointed administrator and without an FAS commissioner for months, and the agency needs passionate leaders as people continue to leave, Woods said.

But he added, “If they bring in a hack, then they [can] continue to go.”


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