Group to GSA: Be a 'trusted adviser,' 'thought leader'

The General Services Administration must focus on its customers and regain their confidence, an industry working group told GSA officials last week.

GSA needs to be the first place people think of when they start their acquisition process, said Stephanie Ambrose, who led the Northern Virginia Technology Council’s working group that presented recommendations to the officials.

“The recommendations would go directly to helping GSA re-establish itself as a trusted adviser and even a thought leader,” she said in an interview with Federal Computer Week.

GSA must expand its role as a federal acquisition leader by speeding its procurement processes and introducing cutting-edge technology to the government, said Ambrose, who is also vice president of federal operations at CGI.

GSA is last to get the NASA Solution for Enterprisewide Procurement and the National Institute of Health’s contracts in terms of adding new products to contracts quickly, the working group said.

GSA needs to improve its value to customers and rebuild its perception in the community, the group told about 12 top agency officials at the Nov. 28 meeting.

“Agencies do not track the costs of using their internal acquisition staff, but they know what they pay to have GSA run the procurement,” according to the slides.

The agency faced this issue most recently when a Defense Department inspector general report said the department wasted $607,000 when it used GSA for assisted acquisition services.

To be of value, the working group said, GSA must address customer agencies’ perceived loss of control if they turn over their acquisition to GSA. The group said GSA is not considered a thought leader regarding buying technology products and services.

Ambrose said GSA has to change this perception, even though “GSA is on the forefront with the technology contract vehicles, like Networx and Alliant,” she said.

Networx is a major telecommunications governmentwide acquisition contract, and Alliant is an information technology acquisition contract.

Ambrose said GSA Administrator Lurita Doan told officials during the presentation to do some further research on several recommendations.

She said Doan was interested in establishing a Web site with information about procurement regulations and pending legislation. She also was interested in promoting more new technologies and helping agencies adapt to new technology. She was also interested establishing an acquisition center of excellence.

Doan said in a statement that GSA would work on some of the group’s suggestions immediately.

“Adopting best practices from the private sector will help GSA to become more entrepreneurial, more nimble,” she said.

The working group was launched after Doan in an Oct. 19, 2006, speech asked the council for recommendations on how to improve GSA.

About the Author

Matthew Weigelt is a freelance journalist who writes about acquisition and procurement.

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