After serving as Mr. Fix-it in the wake of a scandal, the GSA administrator is talking 10-year goals and preparing to drop the 'acting' from his title.
The last thing the White House needs at this point is another agency controversy. And that's undoubtedly one of the reasons Dan Tangherlini has been tapped to permanently lead the General Services Administration. Tangherlini, a veteran of managing agencies with many moving parts, would be the first permanent leader since the scandal that saw GSA employees spending hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars on frivolous gewgaws, gourmet food and performance artists at agency conferences, which toppled then-Administrator Martha Johnson in April 2012.
Tangherlini’s initial handling of the scandal’s aftermath impressed Congress and the White House. When he was appointed interim administrator, he immediately began a tough top-down review of the agency, cut executive bonuses and temporarily suspended hiring. He even recast the agency’s mission statement, cutting it down to a single clear, spare sentence that vows to serve government customers.
He has a substantial résumé in government management, having worked in the Treasury Department as assistant secretary for management, chief financial officer and chief performance officer. Before that, Tangherlini served as city administrator and deputy mayor of Washington, D.C., where he managed day-to-day operations, budget development and performance management.
“He certainly brings stability to an agency that has lacked it for quite a while,” said Larry Allen, president of Allen Federal Business Partners.
Tangherlini has also worked to restore the agency from the inside because the excesses and investigations have frustrated many GSA employees. “Some of the people most angry about those difficulties are GSA people,” he said June 4 at a Professional Services Council luncheon in Arlington, Va. He told FCW he wants the agency to be a place “people run to” instead of away from.
As Tangherlini awaits his confirmation in the Senate -- which Republican and Democratic committee staffers agree will likely happen -- he is looking beyond remedial efforts to the larger challenges of helping GSA evolve. Government acquisition and contracting needs are changing rapidly and forcing agencies to craft new approaches -- and forcing GSA to get ahead of them and provide the services to meet those new needs.
“Revenue and expenditures are now historically misaligned,” he said. “That will force agencies to rethink their mission. We underwent that process last year.”
According to Allen, Tangherlini is implementing important changes inside and outside the agency. For instance, Allen pointed to the recent consolidation of functions involving the Federal Acquisition Service and Public Buildings Service and the implementation of a wider telework policy as key organizational successes. “That’s something that any manager could hang a hat on,” Allen said.
But along with those efforts, he added, GSA faces fundamental challenges in how to deal with other agencies -- such as the Department of Homeland Security, the Army and the Navy -- that already have built-in contract programs.
“Copier paper is pretty standard, but there are some fundamentally different IT needs” among agencies, Allen said.
And Tangherlini is ambitious to do more. He wants to work closely with vendors to offer services and products that are easier on agencies’ tightening budgets and address their changing needs. Lower-priced, centralized buying programs -- such as GSA's recently announced agreement with the four major wireless carriers that lets agencies choose from standardized bundles of voice and data services -- can capitalize on the government's vast pool of potential buyers. Those programs are the key to future efforts, he said.
Such value-driven packages will help the agency gain market share, he added. GSA wants to have 15 percent to 17 percent market share among government customers by the end of the fiscal year, Tangherlini said. In 10 years, he said, the agency aims to have 90 percent.
Editor's note: This article was modified after its original publication to clarify information about Tangherlini's consolidation of functions within GSA.