New acting GSA acquisition chief plans to wrap up reorganization

The soon-to-be acting head of acquisition at the General Services Administration on Monday pledged to complete ongoing reorganization efforts as soon as possible, although he did not provide a timetable.

GSA began in September to merge its two previously separate acquisition services into the Federal Acquisition Service. The House Government Reform Committee encouraged changes following revelations of procurement abuses in regional offices.

The reorganization will remain incomplete unless the Senate and President Bush approve a House-passed bill that combines funds still allocated separately to the former acquisition services into a single account. But Marty Wagner, who will replace Barbara Shelton as acting head of the merged services on Dec. 21, said he will do as much as possible internally to complete the reorganization.

"I can't sit on my hands waiting for that to get resolved," Wagner told Government Executive.

Wagner said GSA needs to build strategic relationships with its customers. The agency doesn't just sell services, it facilitates "better management of that service," he said. "If you look at companies, they don't just worry about getting good deals, they worry about using the right services at the right time."

In the area of information technology, GSA should talk more with agency chief information officers about their asset management needs, Wagner said. Strategic sourcing, in which the government uses its buying power to negotiate better deals on bulk purchases, also will remain a priority, he added.

But Wagner emphasized that right now he mostly is listening to GSA associates, members of Congress and industry officials. "It's important to be on receive mode as well as on send mode," he said.

GSA has suffered from too heavy of a focus on internal activities, according to some observers. Critics have said they are eager for GSA to assert itself as the federal government's primary acquisition agency. The agency faces increased competition from other departments with their own procurement shops.

Wagner said he will remain acting commissioner "as long as requested." His acting status will not hinder work at the agency, he said. "We have a period of time when, for whatever reason, there is not a political appointee in place," he said, adding that when one does come along, he or she is unlikely to "come in and undo all the good work that people have done."

Until Dec. 21, Wagner will continue to fulfill his responsibilities as the associate administrator for GSA's Office of Governmentwide Policy, and will take some time to learn more about his new duties. The transition process will include visits to GSA regional offices, he said.

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