Poised to lead GSA, Williams answers Congress

Jim Williams, the nominee to be the next administrator of the General Services Administration, shared his views with the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee in a 41-page questionnaire, which addresses a range of issues: energy efficiency, interagency contracts, the Alliant contract and former GSA administrator Lurita Doan.

GSA and its good faith effort
The Senate committee expressed concern about the GSA’s Alliant contract and a recent Federal Court of Claims’ ruling that the agency erred in awarding the contract. The committee wrote that the ruling, upholding protests of the contract and forcing GSA to restart the award process, was “troubling,” particularly in terms of the management and oversight.

Williams emphasized that the court, even while ruling against GSA, acknowledged GSA officials made a good faith effort to distinguish between the 62 companies that bid on the contract.

GSA is reviewing the past performance information in the bids, the area where the judge ruled the agency had been inconsistent.

How many MACs are too many?
Williams wrote that there are too many multiagency contracts, and many of them drain important resources, especially with “the growing scarcity of contracting personnel.”
If agencies would turn to GSA, they could focus on their missions and leave the procurement to experts, he wrote.

“While GSA recognizes the need for agencies to assure access to sources of supply and services sufficient to meet their requirements, there are currently too many duplicative contracts,” Williams wrote.
Procurement officials said agencies had 41 MACs in 2007, down from 51 in 2006.

Ultimately, the duplicative contracts decrease the government’s buying power and may increase prices for agencies as companies have to invest more time and money in bids and proposals, Williams wrote.

“Again, if the products and services an agency requires are available under an existing, accessible contract vehicle at a reasonable price, there is no need to establish a new vehicle,” he said.

Beef up the workforce
Williams wrote that he is an advocate for broadening the GSA acquisition workforce’s individual knowledge.

“In some cases, our acquisition professionals are too narrowly focused because of their concentration on specific areas,” he wrote. He wants the staff to rotate into the various services so that they will have a broader understanding of the different types of contracts.
He also supports restoring GSA’s Acquisition Workforce Steering Committee as a group of workforce leaders that addresses human capital needs.

The workforce’s skills meet federal requirements, but Williams wants to provide more chances to develop their expertise, according to the questionnaire. He supports creating those opportunities through the Federal Acquisition Institute and the Center for Acquisition Excellence.

Let states buy from GSA
Williams said that he wants to allow state and local governments to buy from GSA’s Multiple Award Schedules contracts beyond what the law currently permits. State and local governments can now order from the indefinite-delivery, indefinite-quantity contracts only in declared disasters or buy items such as goods and services related to homeland security and law enforcement.

“This could allow for greater opportunities for leveraging pricing, greater interoperability and improved cross-governmental cooperation,” Williams wrote.

However, Williams wrote that one of his first initiatives is a renewed focus on GSA customers.
“We need to restore the proper weighing of the customer’s inter st in our business model,” Williams wrote.

About the Author

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

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