Davis demands more attention to GSA

Congressman expresses approval of Doan nomination

The Bush administration has neglected the General Services Administration, despite the agency’s struggles with revenue in its information technology sector and its lack of political leadership, Rep. Tom Davis (R-Va.) told an industry group in April.

Davis, chairman of the Government Reform Committee, has long supported GSA and its role as the federal government’s primary procurement agency.

President Bush recently nominated Lurita Doan to be the new GSA administrator, and a Senate committee will hold a hearing on her nomination in the next few weeks.

Davis and Marty Wagner, acting administrator of GSA’s newly reorganized Federal Acquisition Service, said they believe Doan will be a good leader for the troubled agency.

Wagner said he wants the agency to deliver better customer service and drop its preoccupation with its own issues.

“I am going to promise to try to reduce the amount of time GSA people talk to you about internal plumbing and increase the amount of time they talk to you about service, delivery and issues like that,” Wagner said.

Davis and Wagner spoke April 26 at an Industry Advisory Council luncheon in Washington, D.C. Judging by the questions posed to Davis, the audience was concerned about GSA and its struggles to regain its footing. Questions to Davis from industry leaders centered mostly on GSA and its revenue troubles.

“What you’re seeing is a proliferation of schedules out there, so it’s not just GSA,” Davis said. “There are a lot of vehicles. And what concerns me is that in some of these cases you’re not getting the oversight, experience and expertise that you get with GSA.”

Agencies often use contracts held by other agencies, a process called interagency contracting, but there is little data on the scope of such contracting.

To increase understanding, the Office of Management and Budget’s Office of Federal Procurement Policy asked agencies in February to file reports that will fill in those knowledge gaps.

Agencies must report on how many multiple award contracts they have, how many acquisitions they made on behalf of other agencies, and the scope of and rationale for those vehicles, according to an OFPP memo.

House Government Reform Committee spokesman Robert White said the committee supports OFPP’s effort. “We will take a close look at the results,” he said. “At that time, we will be in a better position to see what action, if any, is appropriate.”

In his speech, Davis reiterated the need for experienced contracting officers at agencies to make astute decisions on acquisitions and spending.

“Getting good people in government, keeping good people in government has got to be a priority,” Davis said. “The best asset we have in government is our people. And we don’t always use it rightly.”

Wagner said he soon expects to receive authorization from the Office of Personnel Management to issue early-out and buyout options to about 400 GSA employees. The agency has been waiting for that authority for several months.

The move is part of an effort to save money for GSA, whose business revenue has dropped in the past two fiscal years. According to numbers provided by GSA officials, revenues for its IT Solutions business fell approximately 40 percent between fiscal 2004 and 2006, based on 2006 projections. The early-outs and buyouts are expected to save $10 million this fiscal year, officials said.

None of GSA’s 11 regions met revenue expectations for IT Solutions in January or February, according to GSA reports. “We’ll be doing a lot of work to rebalance and readjust the investment portfolio,” Wagner said.

“When we can trust our managers on the ground, I think we’ll be a better government by far, and that’s been our problem. We like to oversee everything,” Davis said.

As for Doan, Wagner called her “very sharp, very insightful…. We’re really looking forward to having political leadership to help move us forward.”

If the Senate confirms Doan, she will bring knowledge about IT and how GSA works, Davis said.

Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) said she met privately with Doan.

“She has an impressive background as an entrepreneur,” said Collins, who is chairwoman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee.

“She brings a lot of enthusiasm, but obviously we’re at the very beginning of the nomination.”

That committee will hold the upcoming hearing on Doan’s nomination, Collins said.

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