Category management will live on at GSA

Mary Davie, GSA

Mary Davie is one of the tech professionals who will carry forward the acquisition reform initiatives begun during Dan Tangherlini's tenure as GSA administrator.

The impending departure of the reform-minded administrator of the General Services Administration has raised questions in the federal IT acquisition arena about the fate of purchasing initiatives promoted during his tenure.

Some GSA watchers said Administrator Dan Tangherlini's Feb. 13 departure could take the urgency out of some of those efforts. Deputy Administrator Denise Turner Roth will serve as acting administrator until a replacement is named, but as exits accelerate in the final two years of the Obama administration, the post could remain unfilled.

Others are more upbeat, saying the top tech managers hired by Tangherlini or appointed to oversee the initiatives would remain to push them forward.

Among Tangherlini's key acquisition and development initiatives are a category management program aimed at providing an overarching look at IT spending and applying that data across government; the Common Acquisition Platform (CAP) for agencies to access tools and expertise that enable data-driven buying decisions; a blanket purchase agreement for centralized, standardized wireless services; and the 18F digital development group.

Officials at GSA's Federal Acquisition Service (FAS), which agencies use to buy equipment, supplies, telecommunications and integrated IT solutions, said in September that they have a three-year strategy to become a more informed and better resourced one-stop shop for federal agencies and their complex IT needs. One piece of that strategy is a "hallway" concept for buying IT gear and developing a team of experts that will offer guidance and best practices to ensure pricing transparency and common standards.

Another component is CAP, which allows customers to electronically meld contracting templates and sources that fit their needs. CAP is both a platform and a strategy, and it will combine technologies and data on purchasing and pricing via a Web portal.One industry source said governmentwide acquisition contracts run by other federal agencies -- such as NASA's Solutions for Enterprise-Wide Procurement and the National Institutes of Health IT Acquisition and Assessment Center's contracts -- will remain "robust alternatives" to GSA's contract offerings as the agency moves ahead without a Senate-confirmed leader.

Another said GSA's focus on getting the lowest prices for goods could soften a bit. That initiative has rankled suppliers who say that always seeking the lowest price can drive down the quality of goods and services.

Despite the cautionary notes, however, most observers agreed with Larry Allen, president of Allen Federal Business Partners, that Tangherlini's departure "won't mean a whole lot" for the agency's strategic sourcing efforts because he brought in others who share his vision.

For instance, Tom Sharpe came to GSA from the Treasury Department to run FAS, which oversees some of the category management efforts at GSA. Sharpe is seen as a career federal manager who isn't likely to leave FAS anytime soon. He has been working closely with another key technology acquisition manager -- Mary Davie, assistant commissioner of the Office of Integrated Technology Services -- to build the new, centralized and electronic acquisition processes for federal agencies. Davie has also been at the heart of consolidating wireless service contracts and other tech efficiency programs.

About the Author

Mark Rockwell is a senior staff writer at FCW, whose beat focuses on acquisition, the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Energy.

Before joining FCW, Rockwell was Washington correspondent for Government Security News, where he covered all aspects of homeland security from IT to detection dogs and border security. Over the last 25 years in Washington as a reporter, editor and correspondent, he has covered an increasingly wide array of high-tech issues for publications like Communications Week, Internet Week, Fiber Optics News, magazine and Wireless Week.

Rockwell received a Jesse H. Neal Award for his work covering telecommunications issues, and is a graduate of James Madison University.

Click here for previous articles by Rockwell. Contact him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter at @MRockwell4.


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