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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Reader comments

Fri, Apr 26, 2013

Above an employee spoke on the performance of GS-13s and GS-14s. I would go as far as to include GS-15s and SESs on the bases of their integrity to improve the morale and to stop discord in the organization. Remember employees' performance really is the reflection of its first and second level managers and their ability to communicate the organization's mission and what's expected of their employees without disparity in treatment amongst staff, sharing information with only a select group...no transparency.

Wed, Feb 13, 2013

Who are we kidding here? Tangherini appoints his buddy Tom Sharpe from Treasury after the mumbo jumbo dance on who should head the FAS organization. Customer oriented? Heading an acquisition organization in Treasury? Let's think. Who are the most customer organiztions you know? The Imperial Department of the Treasury? Acquisition organizations? Non mission organizations? These are not surgeons you want to do your appendectomy. GSA has regressed to a haven of political hacks and a backwater of competence. For those of you who have worked hard in GSA you have my sympathy. I would wish for these locusts to go away but I fear there are worse to come.

Tue, Jan 22, 2013 Midwest Blues Region 5

Mr. Tangherlini has taken a very prudent and cautious approach to implementing change. By analyzing GSA region by region, hopefully it becomes apparent to him what needs come out of the top to bottom review. Our region is inundated with under performing mid-level managers and personnel in grades 13 and 14. Not only are they under performing, they are a drag on the budget. They also interfere with day to day operations by creating mindless tasks for employees to do to justify their position at GSA. Divsions under performing due to poor leadership should be closely examined. There is little, to no opportunity to advance in grade due to superfluous personnel. Our region would run smoother by elminating the redundancy and over lapping functions of certain divisions, and make way for younger, fresh ideas in order to move GSA into the future. I applaud Mr. Tangherlini's efforts, and I hope he is permanently appointed to lead GSA into the future.

Mon, Jan 21, 2013 SPMayor Summit Point, WV

Mr. Tangherlini has done a creditable job in his current role. Having heard him a number of times and having had the opportunity to questio him I see him as a competent and very capable manager. He represents a steadying presence and should be allowed to continue to serve in his position on a permanent basis.

Fri, Jan 18, 2013 GSA Employee Midwest

I agree that changes were needed but not that they all have been for the better. Please remember that Mr Tangherlini was put in this position because of a small group of people who mismanaged conference funding. GSA is comprised of various services of which only one was involved and within that, only a small number of upper-level employees. Changes are being made throughout GSA and touted in Congress and the media as 'better'. But some appear to exist only to allow political entities to point and say 'changes were made' and 'costs were cut'. Take for one example (limited space for others) the Employee Team Store program. It's purpose was to reward employee work and cooperation by allowing other employees to recognize them. Employees were inspired by and used this program. Last Summer, it was decommissioned as one of several 'sweeping changes'. The reported savings were minimal. The 2012 Employee Viewpoint Survey was administered after Mr Tangherlini came to GSA and started changes. It stated the satisfaction of GSA employees had significantly dropped over previous years. Also the survey analysts noted that the drop indicated an issue that GSA management needed to address quickly. However, subsequent to the survey results, e-mails and memos to GSA employees from Mr Tangherlini, didn't address this. However, he did publicize that GSA was again named as one of the best Federal Government agencies for which to work. What was missing from the announcement is that the designation is based on the 'previous' Employee Viewpoint Survey which was in 2011.

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