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FCW Insider: For GSA, there are answers...and more questions

Following Wednesday's announcements that GSA acting Administrator David Bibb will retire -- on September 1, mind you -- there seems to be a misconception that Jim Williams, who is currently the commissioner of GSA's Federal Acquisition Service, has been named the acting GSA administrator. That isn't what they have done. Williams has been nominated for the job, not appointed as acting. (More here.) Even late in the administration, it was a move that was more significant then most people expected -- naming a career fed to head GSA.

It is an interesting move because the Bush administration has often been accused to making political determinations paramount. The White House reportedly pressed for political appointees in the GSA general counsel and chief acquisition officer posts... and both of those posts now have political appointees. So the fact that the White House would nominate a career fed is interesting in and of itself.

Although we have some answers, there are still some questions.

So the well-respected Bibb leaves in September. Can the Senate get its confirmation act together before by the end of August? Would White House officials just name Williams as the acting administrator at that point? Would Williams want that? What does this do to his retirement? Who might take the helm of GSA's Federal Acquisition Service, which just seems to be coming together.

And there are questions about what Williams will be questioned about during confirmation hearings. Williams has experience leading some big government programs. He did a tour of duty at IRS and led the Homeland Security Department's US-VISIT program. I have already received a number of e-mail messages from people questioning what Williams did at US-VISIT. Having spoken to people knowledgeable about the program is that there certainly are problems with US-VISIT, but they say that Williams managed to get things done despite the systemic problems both DHS and US-VISIT faced. But there will be questions.

There will also undoubtedly be questions about Sun Microsystems and its late GSA schedule contract.

If confirmed, Williams will face some other systemic issues -- the clock is ticking on the Bush administration. Even with with Williams' talents and knowledge, what can one get done in about six months? What would be the priorities of an Administrator Williams?

With answers come more questions.

I'm going back to my vacation now. With any luck, my BlackBerry will be quiet on this Friday.

Posted by Christopher J. Dorobek on Jun 27, 2008 at 12:17 PM


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