Editorial: End of the Doan era

GSA Administrator Lurita Doan couldn't overcome her missteps along the path to fighting a good fight

There was a curious reaction to word that Lurita Doan, administrator of the General Services Administration, had been asked to resign: People were shocked, and yet, not shocked.
Assessing the Doan era will take some time. Without a doubt, history’s judgment of her tenure will be mixed.

They often say our weaknesses are our strengths in excess. That is perhaps most true for Doan. Her strength is her incredible focus, her ability to stay on task, and her seemingly unending ability to fight what she believes are good fights. Unfortunately, that ability to fight ended up hurting her — and hurting GSA.

Doan did many things right. GSA has built a respected team and is making progress toward rebuilding its reputation — and balancing its books. And one of her best decisions was hiring Jim Williams to lead GSA’s newly reorganized Federal Acquisition Service. Williams is an honorable public servant who believes in government and GSA, and he has made strides in the daunting and thankless task of unifying disparate acquisition organizations at GSA.

But, in the end, Doan simply didn’t choose her battles carefully. Also, Doan has received some unfair treatment. The worst was the intense focus on a $20,000 contract to a friend that was never even awarded and for which Doan said she made a mistake. But there were so many battles and so many distractions. In the end, Doan simply had too little political capital to weather the storms.

The question for GSA is: What’s next?

The agency still has many problems, and there are more distractions ahead.

With this administration racing to a close and GSA issues unlikely to be a top priority for an incoming administration, GSA’s current leadership will largely be in control of the agency’s destiny. It is time once again to remember that GSA exists to serve its agency customers. If the agencies are satisfied, all other issues become secondary. At times, that could get lost in the clutter. And there will be even more clutter ahead with the elections and transition.

We continue to believe that GSA has a critically important mission. GSA should be helping agencies so they will be more successful than they could be otherwise, by enabling them to buy goods and services better, faster and cheaper.

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