Lawmakers concerned GSA reorganization will cause confusion

A key congressional committee remains skeptical over the General Services Administration's recent moves to reorganize.

GSA in September began merging its two procurement organizations into a single new entity called the Federal Acquisition Service.

But the results are confusing, said John Brosnan, procurement counsel for the House Government Reform Committee. Area regional administrators may have to report to regional administrators as well as to the service's commissioner. The committee is "not exactly clear on how those reporting lines are going to work," he said last week during a Northern Virginia Technology Council event.

The GSA plan also preserves more regional autonomy than the committee would like, Brosnan said. The House in May approved legislation sponsored by committee Chairman Rep. Tom Davis, R-Va., that would further strengthen headquarters' control.

GSA is still "working out where those direct reporting relationships are and where those dotted line relationships are," said Barbara Shelton, acting Federal Acquisition Service commissioner, also speaking at the event. Differences between the House committee and the agency will be openly resolved, both Brosnan and Shelton said.

The House bill (H.R. 2066) would also combine the funds for the two old procurement organizations -- the Federal Supply Service and the Federal Technology Service. This cannot be done without legislative approval.

"The melding of the funds is key," Brosnan said, taking a position GSA officials and others in the procurement community also have stressed. Reorganization without combining the funds is like "expecting Babe Ruth to hit all the homers he hit, while giving him a toothpick to do it," said Larry Allen, executive vice president of the Coalition for Government Procurement.

Davis' bill remains under consideration by the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee. A spokeswoman said the bill will come up for consideration the next time the committee holds a markup session.

Brosnan said he is cautiously optimistic that the Senate will pass the bill by the end of the year, but some senators have decried what they see as a move to overly centralize the agency. A provision in the Senate version of the fiscal 2006 Transportation-Treasury spending bill blocks GSA from using appropriated funds to change its organization without approval from both chambers' appropriations committees.

Included in the accompanying report is a warning that the Senate Appropriations Committee believes eliminating some of the regional organization could result in too much headquarters power. "Regional authority and decision-making ultimately is necessary to ensure that clients are adequately served," the report said.

"Limiting the number of regional executives will limit GSA's flexibility and ability to meet local needs and requirements," it stated.

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