Modernization begins at home, says new FAS chief

Alan Thomas Commissioner Federal Acquisition Service GSA 

Alan Thomas, commissioner of the Federal Acquisition Service, want to streamline and simply internal systems.

The General Services Administration's new Federal Acquisition Service commissioner said he will work to make modernized back office systems his legacy at the agency.

"There are 170 systems at FAS," said FAS Commissioner Alan Thomas at a Nov. 14 FedScoop event. "That's a big number. That's a system for every 20 people" at the agency, he said.

Thomas has been on the job for six months, since the top FAS job was changed from a career post to a political appointment. The previous commissioner and his deputy resigned in the wake of the change.

Thomas came to the post with experience as a contractor and as a program analyst in the office of the undersecretary of defense for acquisition, technology and logistics.

Modernizing back office technology to support FAS employees and allow vendors easier access to contracting and management systems is "a payment back to the workforce," said Thomas.

Thomas said he is nearing completion of a nationwide tour of the GSA's 11 regional offices, along with FAS Deputy Commissioner Mary Davie, to get input on the needs and concerns there. His goal since taking on the new job was to visit all the offices by Thanksgiving. Thomas said his last trip is slated for Philadelphia only days before the holiday.

Modernizing agency systems, he said, was a big topic of discussion in the regions. Personnel in those offices voiced some frustrations with working with some of the aging back-office IT.

Thomas is also watching the Modernizing Government Technology Act heading to passage as part of the final National Defense Authorization Act. The act, if passed and funded, "will be great," Thomas told FCW in an interview after his presentation.

"One of the biggest hurdles for agencies is they have to keep spending to keep their lights on," he said. The MGT Act would "be a real boon" to federal agencies providing actual working capital funds for improving their IT systems.

Thomas said in his presentation that he has also been at work with TTS chief Rob Cook integrating that organization into FAS. Thomas said there wasn't much detail in the initial order to integrate TTS into FAS and it was basically a "lift and shift."

Since the move, Thomas said FAS and TTS have been working with 30-day sprints and several working groups to hammer out recommendations on how to most efficiently integrate the operations, as well as leverage their relative capabilities. Working groups, he said, addressed areas such as procurement, financing and cultural issues.

Those sprints were concluded in August and the agency is developing guidance based on them, he said.

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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