Bush names Williams acting GSA administrator
- By Matthew Weigelt
- Aug 19, 2008
President Bush today said he will designate Jim Williams as acting administrator of the General Services Administration.
Williams will officially become acting administrator on Aug. 30. He will succeed the current acting administrator David Bibb, who is retiring Aug. 29.
In June, the president nominated Williams, GSA’s current Federal Acquisition Services commissioner, to head the procurement agency. However, Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) blocked the nomination because of Williams’ role in a controversy involving Sun Microsystems and what the company charged the government for its work.
Despite the controversy and Grassley's hold, the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee approved Williams’ nomination July 30 without dissent. Committee Chairman Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) and Ranking Member Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) said they were satisfied with Williams’ answers about his role in the Sun situtation.
The issue regarding Sun stems from a 2004 investigation by GSA’s inspector general, who found that the company didn’t extend discounts it gave to other customers to the government. Sun's Multiple Award Schedule contract included the government's price reduction clause that requires vendors to pass along the discounts equal to the company’s “most favored customer.” The resulting report suggested the government paid millions of dollars more than it should have.
Grassley said Williams should not be rewarded the top position at GSA after he “may have improperly interfered in the ongoing contract negotiations with Sun Microsystems.” As a result, Grassley put a hold on Williams’ nomination, which stopped the Senate from further action.
Experts say designation as acting administrator doesn't grant Williams the benefits of being a political appointee, such as an early retirement.
GSA has had no administrator since April 29, when Lurita Doan resigned from the job.
Williams has been FAS commissioner since 2006. He has dealt with GSA initiatives, including a new program management office to oversee GSA’s Multiple Awards Schedules program. He also has led the reorganization of FAS as its first commissioner.
Matthew Weigelt is a freelance journalist who writes about acquisition and procurement.