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Blogging live: Confirmation hearing of GSA's Martha Johnson

Martha Johnson, the president's nominee for the top job at the General Services Administration, is testifying before the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee. We're live at the hearing, bringing the latest information on what's happening. Stay tuned.

* In less than a page and a half of testimony with size 14 font, Johnson is making her opening statement short and to the point. It's laying out who she is and what's important to her if she gets the position.

* People are saying she is very likely to get the job, especially with her experience as the former chief of staff at GSA in the 1990s. She understands the workforce and morale issues at GSA.
 
* If the opening statement is any indication, she may have a major focus on the Public Building Service.
 
* She says, "It would be thrilling to return to GSA. ...The agency is a special place and offers a fascinating range of challenges. Where else do the executive, judicial and legislative branches converge but in the complex task of designing, funding and constructing courthouses? Where else is one expected to champion historic preservation on the one hand and edge innovative technologies on the other?"
 
* In the second to last paragraph of her opening statement, she finally mentions contracts specifically. "And it is through the contract vehicles and procurement schedules that industry can offer its services and products to the government. GSA is the concierge, introducing, shaping, structuring and facilitating ways for government to interact with itself, with citizens and with industry."
 
* But she's interested in improving GSA's efficiency and getting customers timely invoices. GSA isn't just about customer satisfaction, although it's the main idea, she says in the statement. When she was chief of staff, GSA's leadership "was aiming for a full circle of service which included three things which are classic parlance in industry. They are operational efficiency, customer intimacy and innovative solutions. With all three in our sites, we could aim to thrill — not just satisfy — a customer."
 
* Johnson's highest priorities are:
1. Demand, model and secure an uncompromising demonstration of ethical behavior and an organizational culture of values and trust.
2. Guarantee consistent, prompt and high-value performance for GSA's customers.
3. Attend to the demands of the Recovery Act.
4. Support the Obama administration's promise of a more transparent government.
5. Build and nurture a strong leadership cadre.
 
* Looking ahead, she wants to leave GSA "in an upward spiral of excellence."
 
* And the hearing begins ...
 
* Only two senators were at the start of the hearing: Sen. Joe Lieberman, the chairman, and the ranking member, Susan Collins.
 
*Lieberman said Johnson seems ready to handle the major tasks of handling GSA's many challenges, including the cybersecurity threats since it deals with a lot of e-government initiatives.
 
Sen. Lieberman said President Barack Obama made a "very wise choice" in nominating Johnson. Johnson has experience in the non-profit and the private sectors, and federal government, paricularly at GSA in the 1990s.
 
* Sen. Collins told Johnson that she needs to pay particular attention to "the over-extended and under-appreciated acquisition workforce." While the number of employees is  far too low in proportion to the amount of work, Collions said it's more than a numbers game. The aquisition workforce needs the right mix of people with expertise in various areas to make the acquisition workforce work best.
 
* How Johnson will deal with the "explosive growth" of interagency contracts?
1. Work closely with the Office of Federal Procurement Policy. OFPP needs to be strong leaders.
2. Deal with the need for greater acquisition workforce and the skills of the employees.
3. Getting GSA's leadership to stick around for a little bit. Johnson pointed out that, if confirmed, she would be the fifth administrator in 14 months.
 
10:50 a.m. Nearly 45 minutes into the hearing, Sens. Tester and McCaskill arrived at the hearing.
 
* Sen. McCaskill said there are too many problems in understanding if the government is getting the best value for what it's buying. "The right hand doesn't know what the left hand is doing," she said.
 
* Responding to Lieberman's question on cybersecurity, Johnson said she would use GSA as the concierge for agencies swamped by the compexitites of securing their IT systems.
 
* Besides Lieberman's quick question on cybersecurity, there was only one round of questions and the hearing was done. It lasted about an hour.
 
* Johnson's nomination seems to be a shoo-in. Lieberman said his committee would work quickly to get her approved and then to the full Senate for confirmation. "Because GSA, the president and the government need you at your desk,” Lieberman said as he ended the hearing.

Posted by Matthew Weigelt on Jun 03, 2009 at 12:14 PM


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