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A peek into GSA's problems

GSA's brain drain

There are times that journalists will take some particular incident and use it to illustrate a larger issue. Some of the best examples come from presidential campaigns – polls show that Gerald Ford is having trouble and he stumbles… and guess what shows up on television. The reason that happens is largely because journalists are in the business of reporting what is going on and when we have something that illustrates a larger point, we will glob right on to that. It may not be completely fair, but… So let me say that I hope that this isn't unfair.

One of GSA's biggest issues is that it has lost its customer-centric view. And this story perhaps demonstrates that more than anything… it comes from the recent retirement party of long-time GSAer Bob Suda, who until recently was assistant commissioner for information technology solutions at the General Services Administration's Federal Technology Service (FTS).

Suda loves golf, so GSA folks were good enough to get him a nice club as a going away gift. Unfortunately it was a right-handed club. Suda golfs left handed.

It is a simple mistake, of course, but this ends up being one of those stories that says so much.

And if you think that is an isolated case in point, here is a note I got after our recent editorial saying that GSA should be saved:

I hesitate to contact you, Mr. Dorobek, but your article about saving GSA touched me. From my perspective of working with GSA for 8 years it is not worth saving. More to the point, the taxpayer can save taxes without it.

Have you ever tried to work with GSA in any services? Have you ever seen the price estimates they provide, when competed with open market vendors the prices, are higher and inflated? Have you ever attempted to install or convert a service with the bureaucratic slowness and lack of management from GSA? We find ourselves without the service and trying to gain effective control over the service GSA was supposed to provide. Open market does provide less expensive products. Why? Often the GSA added percentage only increases the price. Have you ever needed a product and bought off the GSA contract? You never receive it for months.

You never specified what important changes GSA can make. Please identify the changes because I have heard the "propaganda" or "sales pitch" for years, but never any improvement. I am curious if you ever worked with GSA.

These are damning words.

I had asked this reader if there was a change in recent years or whether this had always been the case. My sense covering the agency back in the David J. Barram years was that there was an intense focus on the customer – Barram always used to talk about "wow-ing" the customer. Yes, there were complaints, but…

I was puzzled this week when Marty Wagner, who is the acting administrator of GSA's Federal Acquisition Service, spoke at Input's budget forecast conference this week -- so he was speaking to industry people -- and there were no questions.


Posted by Christopher Dorobek on Mar 31, 2006 at 12:15 PM


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