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FCW Insider: The Doan questions: Why now... and what next?

More on the breaking news that GSA Administrator Lurita Doan was forced to resign on Tuesday.

My phone has been ringing off the hook tonight as the realization sets in: This community doesn't have Lurita Doan to push around any more.

The White House told lawmakers late Tuesday afternoon that Doan was leaving, one insider told me, and a number of people have told me that Doan was totally shocked. I have even heard that Doan initially refused to resign, but was quickly told that it wasn't a choice.

Frankly, people were either surprised -- or not surprised at all. To be honest, I think most people were surprised that she survived last year, but that if she survived last year's body blows, they expected that she would be there on Jan. 19, 2009.

Of course, Doan, the first female GSA administrator, has been very controversial. Early in her GSA tenure, she took on the GSA inspector general, the General Council's Office, Rep. Henry Wasman (D-Calif.), chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee and Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), and even a pair of Washington Post reporters. Waxman even called on Doan to resign.

She also had some high-profile faux pas.

  • Deal or no deal: There have been all sorts of questions about the now infamous $20,000 no-bid contract that the administrator allegedly sought to award to a friend. While Doan called it a mistake and the contract was never awarded, the contract has been a source for critics.

  • Keep your friends close: There have been ongoing questions about whether Doan had used a January 2007 teleconference to ask senior agency officials to help “our candidates” by inviting them to public events such as the opening of federal facilities.

These issues have been hanging out there for months. And Doan has seemed to be been keeping a fairly low profile.

So... The big questions is: Why now?

There is rampant speculation tonight about that right now. I'm going to try and pass as much of it along as I can, and I'll try to give you some sense as to how reliable the information is. I have spoken to all sorts of people in the last six hours, so it comes from a variety of sources.

Why now? One insider tells me that the White House was just sick and tired of dealing with Doan issues. I have no idea how accurate that is, but it would seem to make sense. (One person told me that, candidly, GSA is a third-tier agency that usually doesn't get much White House attention.Doan has managed to get White House attention for GSA -- but not in the way that the agency might want it.)

One person suggests that Doan had become more hassle then it was worth. The White House apparently wanted to wait long enough so the administration didn't look like it was cow-towing to Waxman or Grassley.

Even Doan's supporters will acknowledge that the GSA administrator can be something like a pit bull -- tenacious and exceedingly self-confident bordering on stubborn. Some call her arrogant. But she is a firm believer in what she believes -- and she isn't easilydissuaded from accomplishing her goals. As I mentioned yesterday, just last week at the GSA Expo, Doan came donned with arrows having survived the slings and arrows of Beltway politics.

Doan's arrows -- I need a photo

OK -- who was down at GSA Expo last week? Well, apparently GSA Administrator Lurita Doan showed up at Expo's award ceremony covered in arrows.

One person reported that she had arrows all over her body. She even picked up her leg to show an arrow through her knee. The text of the speech even includes stage directions.

So there are a few scenarios stories floating around.

One of the other stories floating around is that the White House wanted political appointees in the roles of general counsel, currently filled in an acting capacity by Lennard Loewentritt, and the office of the chief acquisition officer, currently filled in an acting capacity by David Drabkin.

There is another story that Doan pushed the White House for an invitation to the President's recent trip to New Orleans, Doan's home town, and that she continued to push for an invite even after she was told that she was not invited.

Finally, there is also a story about a recent Doan trip to San Diego. Again, there aren't many details.

It will be interesting to see what the White House offers up tomorrow. I understand that they were working on the statement late Tuesday.

The other big question is: What now?

Most people suggest that GSA's Deputy Administrator David Bibb, a very capable and well respected career public servant, will serve the remainder of the administration. Doan's message didn't say anything about it.

Even if Bibb does take over, it means that GSA will be without an administrator for some time. (GSA is generally not a high-priority vacancy for a new administration.) And an acting administrator oftencan't do as much as a permanent administrator can.

I'm sure we'll be learning much more as the days and weeks go on.

Posted by Christopher J. Dorobek on Apr 30, 2008 at 12:17 PM


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