GSA struggling to regain momentum
New administrator nominee, congressional approval of reorganization plan combine to give agency a boost
Lurita Alexis Doan is about to have her hands full.
After she was nominated by President Bush to take over the struggling General Services Administration, government and industry experts said that both restoring the agency’s morale and winning back customers will be chief among several high priorities.
“She’s facing a very tough job,” said consultant Neal Fox, a former Federal Supply Service assistant commissioner. “I think she’s got a lot going for her, and she has to know this is a big challenge. You’ve got to give her credit for her willingness to do this.”
If nothing else, her nomination, coupled with news that Congress officially signed off on GSA’s proposal to merge the Federal Technology and Federal Supply services into the Federal Acquisition Service, provided a sorely needed adrenaline shot for the struggling agency.
“Things had been in such gridlock there—they couldn’t move on the reorganization or fill some of their vacancies because they needed a political appointee,” said Olga Grkavac, executive vice president of the enterprise solutions division of Information Technology Association of America, an industry trade group in Arlington, Va. “This is good news.”
It is unclear how quickly the Senate will act on the nomination because the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee has not received the formal paperwork from the White House, said committee spokeswoman Jen Burita.
“I am just enormously honored, pleased, excited and absolutely elated” to be nominated, Doan said last week.
President Bush nominated Doan, former president and founder of New Technology Management Inc. of Reston, Va., to replace former administrator Stephen Perry, who left GSA last October.
Doan, whose company held more than $200 million in federal contracts when she sold it in July 2005, is relatively unknown inside government circles—which could be her biggest strength.
“From what I’ve read, she’s an out-of-the-box thinker,” said one GSA official, speaking on the condition of anonymity. “That is what we need at GSA, and she is a good business person. You put all those things together and you have a nice combination. It should bode well for GSA.”
Doan founded New Technology in 1990 without much experience running a company or financial assistance to get it started, according to a biography by the Committee of 200 Foundation, a Chicago-based nonprofit organization promoting businesswomen who own and run large corporations.
Over the next several years, New Technology provided secure surveillance technology at more than 85 percent of all land border ports of entry on U.S. borders with Canada and Mexico.
Her experience in starting a company from scratch and turning it into an award-winning success—Doan won the Committee of 200 Foundation’s Technology Innovator award in 2003—should serve her well as she takes on an agency rife with challenges.
But experts also said that Doan may have a steep learning curve running GSA, which has revenues in the billions and a budget of more than $20 billion.
Among her top priorities, GSA watchers say, will be to restore morale and bring back customers the agency has lost over the past few years after internal reports found contracting and spending irregularities.
Changing the culture is a huge challenge for any individual, and in this case, Doan might be short of time, Fox said, given that the Bush administration is in its last two-plus years.
“That’s why it took so long to get someone in this position,” Fox said. “It is probably a two-and-a-half-year job. You’ve got a crisis to solve and by the time you figure out how to solve it, your time will be up.”
And then there is the pending reorganization, which received some momentum in early April when Congress, days after Doan’s nomination, formally signed off on GSA’s planned FTS and FSS merger.
But one key piece of the reorganization—the so-called OneFund—still must be completed under separate legislation.
The House last year approved the creation of OneFund, but the bill has been stuck in the Senate because of concerns over how the reorganization would affect personnel at GSA’s regional offices.
GCN assistant managing editor for news Jason Miller contributed to this story.
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