Doan whittles away GSA deficit and enjoys it

When Lurita Doan, a former small-business owner, came to the General Services Administration as administrator in May, she said the agency had to avoid budget deficits. In the past three weeks, she has been whittling them away.

She has combed through agency programs looking for ways to trim them, she said at a small-business conference this morning. She wants more efficiency from GSA without cutting the number of employees or their benefits, she said. Nevertheless, GSA officials are considering early-outs and buyouts in targeted sectors of the Federal Acquisition Service.

Doan said her whittling is working.

“I have had the truly rare privilege of cutting the budget,” Doan said with a smile. “We can have a more efficient — but not bigger — government.”

Doan found GSA had a deficit exceeding $100 million. “So getting us to zero was actually a lot of fun,” she said.

Doan asked the agency to make a 9 percent across-the-board cut in funding. Many of those cuts were in areas such as nonessential travel, which she said can get out of control, and office orders, such as an exorbitant number of business cards.

GSA also trimmed its efforts in developing in-house software that was failing to meet needs or falling off track, she said. GSA has to reengineer and retool how it operates.

Doan is tossing aside the philosophy of automatically asking for more money than the previous year. “You don’t need more dollars to be better,” Doan said. She told the agency not to request a funding increase because even that is a cut because the request for a funding increase is expected.

“There’s this belief that the budget is so big that there’s no way the average guy on the street could do anything to fix it,” Doan said.

Speaking at the National Minority Enterprise Development Week Conference, Doan said she has dreamed of proving she could run a federal agency like a business, by being fiscally conservative, investing in tomorrow and doing research and development.

More notably, she said, “You can give the goods that your customers want in a timely manner.”

Doan said she wants GSA to be the premier procurement agency. On her fourth day as administrator, she said she was working so businesses would be able to earn a spot on a basic GSA schedule within 30 days.

Conference attendee C. Kelly Barnes, president and chief executive officer of Integrated Communication Networks in Atlanta, said he was glad that the head of GSA knows the other side of public work.

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