GSA leadership shuffle dominates water-cooler talk

Let’s say this upfront: None of what follows is official, but some stories generate so much water-cooler talk that they become impossible to ignore in this hyper-networked world.

It seems likely that the General Services Administration will soon have a new leader. By the time you read this, many of our questions may have answers. But today, there are more questions than answers.

Former GSA Administrator Lurita Doan resigned April 29, and Deputy Administrator David Bibb was named acting administrator. Bibb’s appointment was almost uniformly praised. For Bibb, this was something akin to déjà vu all over again. He has held this post before, serving as acting administrator late in the Clinton administration and during the tumultuous transition from Clinton to President-elect George W. Bush.

GSA plays an important role in presidential transitions. It controls the transition office. Space is already leased for that purpose. Even before the Electoral College gathers to officially declare a president-elect, GSA officials hand over keys to the new administration’s transition team office. In 2000, weeks after the November election, Bibb handed the keys to the transition team of the president-elect.
It seems likely that Bibb will not perform those duties after the 2008 vote. What we don’t know is why — and who will.

A number of names have been making the rounds, many of whom know GSA well and are well respected. We know the Bush administration approached Renny DiPentima about the job. DiPentima is a former executive of the Social Security Administration who most recently was president and chief executive officer of SRA International.

Unfortunately, we can’t tell you who, when or why. We’ll have to wait for the answer.

Until then, you can join the water-cooler conversation.


#2 Safavian walks — for now

David Safavian, convicted two years ago of four felony counts in connection with the Jack Abramoff scandal, has won the day on appeal. An appellate court reversed his convictions, leaving some open for a possible new trial and shutting the door on others.

Safavian was chief of staff at the General Services Administration when the alleged crimes occurred and Office of Federal Procurement Policy administrator when he was arrested. He has already been ruined by the ordeal, said his attorney, Barbara Van Gelder.

The charges against Safavian stem from a golf trip to Scotland that he took with lobbyist Abramoff and others. Safavian allegedly misled the GSA ethics officer about whether Abramoff had business pending at GSA and allegedly lied to investigtors after the trial.

The appeals court ruled that the trial judge erred in disallowing testimony from an expert witness who would have corroborated Safavian’s understanding of what it means to have business before GSA.
Van Gelder made one point that officials should consider seriously: If government executives fear being prosecuted for voluntarily seeking an opinion from an agency ethics officer without disclosing every bit of information that might possibly be considered relevant, who will ever dare to ask for an opinion?

#3 Senate scuttles DISA nomination
Rear Adm. Elizabeth Hight won’t be taking the helm at the Defense Information Systems Agency after all. The Senate Armed Services Committee blocked her nomination because of a possible conflict of interest based on her marriage to Gary Salisbury, vice president of business development and sales at Northrop Grumman’s mission systems sector.

Hight will stay on as vice director at the agency after Lt. Gen. Charles Croom retires from the post July 22. However,  sources say her chances of becoming the first director from the Navy — and first woman director — are effectively dead.

#4: Spy seeks spy
It must be tough being the person responsible for disseminating highly classified intelligence information to authorized recipients, especially when they start clamoring to be able to get the info from some hookah bar in Cairo. That’s what Geoffrey Fowler, managing editor of the CIA’s daily World Intelligence Review, has to do.

Not to make Fowler nervous, but we can only imagine the stress of being responsible for that degree of highly sensitive information. Suddenly an office job writing the Agriculture Department’s farm reports
doesn’t seem so bad.


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