GSA gets a renewed mission

Dan Tangherlini at microphone

Acting GSA Administrator Dan Tangherlini has a vision for the agency's future mission, while his own long-term status remains a mystery. (FCW photo)

Dan Tangherlini, acting administrator of the General Services Administration, gave his agency a new mission statement on Jan. 14 to address these austere times.

While it did not mention Tangherlini’s own status, the memo outlines a vision for the future. Tangherlini, however, is only an acting administrator and has been in the role since April 2012. As President Barack Obama begins his second term and addresses a new round of leadership appointments, it remains unclear whether Tangherlini will become the agency’s permanent administrator or be replaced.

“The mission of GSA is to deliver the best value in real estate, acquisition, and technology services to government and the American people,” Tangherlini wrote in a memo to employees. The memo was also posted on GSA's public blog.

“At a time of shrinking budgets, GSA’s role of providing the highest possible value at the lowest possible cost to our partner agencies has never been more important,” he wrote in the memo.

Despite the new memo, uncertainty lingers about GSA’s top positions. In addition to Tangherlini’s uncertain future, the Federal Acquisition Service commissioner position is open.

As for Tangherlini, “Will he or won’t he?” said Larry Allen, president of the Allen Federal Business Partners. “That is a common question both in and outside of GSA these days.”

An agency spokeswoman said GSA does not have an official announcement about Tangherlini’s future. In the memo, however, Tangherlini wrote, “In 2013, working together, we can continue to improve GSA and find ways to offer even better service.”

Tangherlini has cultivated a good reputation for himself as acting administrator, especially after steadying GSA in the midst of conference spending fiascos. He began in April 2012 with a tough top-down review of the agency, temporarily suspending new hires and cutting executive bonuses. And those reform efforts have continued.

“Tangherlini appears to be building a strategic plan on the core capabilities of the agency, instead of prescribing the way ahead with a personal agenda that doesn’t synchronize with the capabilities,” said Ray Bjorklund, vice president and chief knowledge officer at GovWin from Deltek. Nevertheless, the new mission statement “clearly restates the organizational competencies of the agency and almost maps to the organization.”

GSA aids agencies facing tight budgets, and Tangherlini wants GSA to deliver ever more savings and value. He also wants to benefit both the environment with a sustainable government and small businesses with more opportunities for federal work. Furthermore, Tangherlini has said repeatedly that he wants GSA to be a federal innovator and leader.

“With all of these priorities in mind, GSA has a responsibility to the American people to carry out all of our activities, from our biggest purchases to our most routine leases, with integrity and the highest level of performance,” Tangherlini wrote.

To drive forward, GSA officials soon may select their FAS commissioner, a position which has been vacant since July. Mary Davie has been filling that role in an acting capacity, and a source outside GSA said she is a finalist for the permanent job. Yet the lack of permanency in both of these critical leadership roles has been a hindrance to GSA. By staying on, Allen said, Tangherlini could provide GSA with needed continuity and ensure the key initiatives, such as improving travel policies and centralizing agency operations, continue ahead.

“With several changes being announced to the administration so far this year, it would be good if the acting administrator would announce his plans so that GSA can continue to move forward,” Allen said.

Bjorklund said Tangherlini has already traversed the confirmation wickets for his former position at Treasury, and that he does not expect senators to block Tangherlini due to a personal issue. GSA's own record, however, could be another matter.

“I think confirmation depends on whether the Senate wishes to continue punishing GSA for their past indiscretions,” he said.

About the Author

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


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