GSA faces busy 2018

Google Maps: General Services Administration. 

GSA headquarters on F St. in downtown Washington, D.C.

The General Services Administration's metamorphosis from a clerical back office to government's digital-age service expert and consultant will accelerate under its new leadership in 2018, experts said.

"It's clearly got a bigger role," said federal IT market analyst Deirdre Murray.

The agency faces complex challenges in the next 12 months from managing the new federal IT mandate under the Modernizing Government Technology Act, to a continuing shift toward shared services, as well as ongoing efficiency efforts such as category management. GSA also faces more prosaic challenges such as transitioning agencies to its giant new telecommunications contract and a congressionally mandated initiative to create an electronic commerce portal.

New administrator Emily Murphy stepped into the job in December, vowing to reduce agency duplication and streamline processes. The path to those goals, she said, includes a focus on shared services and agile, user-centered acquisition efforts.

Experts FCW interviewed described Murphy as a skilled, resourceful manager who gets the job done. She has an "evolutionary, not revolutionary" leadership style, said Alan Chvotkin, executive vice president and counsel at the Professional Services Council. "That's a good thing," he added.

It means, he said, GSA is set to make steady progress on a number of longstanding initiatives, from category management and shared services, to its budding Centers of Excellence and e-commerce efforts.

Initial proposals are due in the coming days for the cloud adoption, infrastructure optimization, customer experience, service delivery analytics and contract centers of excellence announced by the White House's Office of American Innovation on Dec. 14.

GSA's Technology Transformation Service is leading the development of the centers that are to help guide agencies in their IT modernization efforts.

Portal push

GSA is establishing an e-commerce portal that will allow government to buy through existing online marketplaces, like Amazon, Wal-Mart, Staples and Granger, as required in the 2018 National Defense Authorization Act.

The agency is holding a Jan. 9 town hall meeting with industry to get ideas and feedback on what the portals should look like, as well as how to integrate the portal into its complex buying options such as the IT-focused Schedule 70, GSA Advantage, GSA eBuy and GSA Global.

Those efforts, said Chvotkin and Murray, are part of the acquisition agency's accelerating evolution beyond a contracting agency into a consultative entity that offers a variety of acquisition methods, as well ideas on how to implement what is purchased.

The coming year, predicted Murray, will see GSA move closer to a true consultative role, become more than just a contract builder and work more collaboratively with agencies, with an ear to the ground with contractors.

"GSA will work with other agencies and offer best practices so as not to reinvent the wheel," she said in the coming year.

Too many SINs?

The agency's changes to key IT development and contracting divisions, particularly the Federal Acquisition Services' absorbing the agency's Technology Transformation Service, and naming Alan Thomas as new FAS commissioner, are important moves toward making the agency a "thought leader" in the federal government, she said.

Thomas, according to Murray, is listening closely to advice from industry, as well as to federal agencies on how to increase efficiency. For instance, Murray said where FAS had been working to increase the number of Special Item Number for products listed on its IT schedules, GSA is tapping the brakes on the proliferation of SINs.

A GSA source explained that while existing SINs were still in use, the creation of new SIN categories was being examined with a newly critical eye.

Telecom test

Transitioning agencies to the massive 15-year, $50 billion Enterprise Infrastructure Solutions is already moving ahead with GSA now testing the networks of the various contractors that were awarded the contract as the first task orders from agencies brew.

GSA began getting agencies to think through the transition process back in 2015, even before it issued the EIS request for proposals, with an eye to having them complete the process by 2020. The longer transition timeline, it hoped, would avoid the costly delays that plagued Networx.

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 or follow him on Twitter at @MRockwell4.


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