Editorial: Doan’s early mark

Lurita Doan has served as administrator of the General Services Administration for only a few weeks, but there are a number of positive signs, including her refreshing sense of mission and belief in the organization.

cartoon When David Barram served as GSA administrator in the mid-1990s, his mantra — “This isn’t your father’s GSA” — showed he wanted to change things. But in recent years, the agency lost its focus, leaving some to question whether GSA even mattered anymore.

In her recent interview with Federal Computer Week, Doan made it clear that she believes GSA does matter. She seemed keenly aware of the agency’s problems, yet her goal is to make GSA the pre-eminent procurement organization in the federal government.

During her interview, she reiterated four main goals:

  • Improving customer service.
  • Improving employee morale.
  • Re-energizing GSA’s entrepreneurial spirit.
  • Improving the agency’s financial performance.
But clearly, for Doan and GSA to be successful, customer service is job one.

Barram used to say that GSA had to go beyond simply satisfying its customers. It had to wow them, he said. And that is as true today as it was then. GSA used to be an agency where people wanted to work. Long before e-mail was on everybody’s desktop, GSA was a leader among federal agencies in ensuring that every employee had an e-mail account. GSA has been a place where agencies would come for innovative ways of doing business. Doan wants GSA to be that place again.

She has already taken important steps. She is working to rebuild GSA’s dismal morale. She meets with the agency’s chief people officer on a regular basis to become aware of issues so she can take steps to address them. Furthermore, she has halted employee buyouts until Jim Williams, the new administrator of GSA’s Federal Acquisition Service, can make a full assessment of GSA’s freshly merged procurement organization.

FAS has real financial problems that must be addressed, but the buyouts seemed to feed GSA’s malaise. Employees and outsiders have wondered how FAS would ever recover without people in crucial positions. There are clearly tough choices to make if GSA is going to fix its finances, but giving all the options a fresh look seems to be a good move.

Doan has also taken steps to improve GSA’s relationship with industry. Just a few days after she was sworn in, she spoke at an industry event sponsored by the Coalition for Government Procurement, and she has continued to involve industry in important decisions.

She has taken other steps to improve GSA’s image. The fact that she sat down with us as early as she did was refreshing.

Perhaps that is the best word to describe her tenure so far: refreshing. She is passionate about GSA and its mission, a spirit too long missing from the big office.

Success is not guaranteed. Both Doan and GSA face significant challenges. But the early steps, both in words and actions, are…refreshing.

About the Author

Christopher J. Dorobek is the co-anchor of Federal News Radio’s afternoon drive program, The Daily Debrief with Chris Dorobek and Amy Morris, and the founder, publisher and editor of the DorobekInsider.com, a leading blog for the Federal IT community.

Dorobek joined Federal News Radio in 2008 with 16 years of experience covering government issues with an emphasis on government information technology. Prior to joining Federal News Radio, Dorobek was editor-in-chief of Federal Computer Week, the leading news magazine for government IT decision-makers and the flagship of the 1105 Government Information Group portfolio of publications. As editor-in-chief, Dorobek served as a member of the senior leadership team at 1105 Government Information Group, providing daily editorial direction and management for FCW magazine, FCW.com, Government Health IT and its other editorial products.

Dorobek joined FCW in 2001 as a senior reporter and assumed increasing responsibilities, becoming managing editor and executive editor before being named editor-in-chief in 2006. Prior to joining FCW, Dorobek was a technology reporter at PlanetGov.com, one of the first online community centers for current and former government employees. He also spent five years at Government Computer News, another leading industry publication, covering a variety of federal IT-related issues.

Dorobek is a frequent speaker on issues involving the government IT industry, and has appeared as a frequent contributor to NewsChannel 8’s Federal News Today program. He began his career as a reporter at the Foster’s Daily Democrat, a daily newspaper in Dover, N.H. He is a graduate of the University of Southern California. He lives in Washington, DC.


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