Williams gets Bush’s backing

Although Jim Williams will not have a lot of time to serve as the General Services Administration’s acting administrator, he brings some power and authority to the role and could keep the agency on course until the next president takes over in January, according to some observers who know Williams and the agency.

Williams’ leadership will enable GSA to meet many challenges, including the transition to the next presidential administration, said Alan Chvotkin, executive vice president and counsel at the Professional Services Council.

GSA needs “someone with the power to act with the full support of the president,” Chvotkin said. As an added benefit, Williams, who is commissioner of GSA’s Federal Acquisition Service, is well-versed in the agency’s business. “It’s important to have a firm hand on the wheel,” Chvotkin said.

President Bush nominated Williams to be administrator after the departure of Lurita Doan, but Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) put a hold on the nomination. Bush designated Williams acting administrator to sidestep the block.

Grassley said the president’s move was “unfortunate, because I have a lot of outstanding questions that have yet to be answered.”

Grassley objects to Williams’ nomination because of Williams’ actions in a controversy between GSA and Sun Microsystems. A 2004 investigation by GSA’s inspector general found that the company didn’t extend discounts it gave to other customers to the government, as required. The IG and Grassley also said GSA officials, including Williams, pressured contracting officers to sign a contract with Sun despite the discounting issues.

Williams has said he did nothing wrong and didn’t pressure anyone.

Williams will take the helm of GSA Aug. 30. He is unlikely to launch any new initiatives given the brief time remaining. But experts expect him to be a steady hand.

“I think the next few months will be a period of ensuring that the trains simply run on time, so to speak, without any controversy,” said Don Erickson, director of government relations at the Security Industry Association.

About the Author

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

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