No MBA Required
"No Running Room" (May 1) critically highlights the General Services Administration's recent woes and poor strategy in its attempt to redefine itself. The agency's plan to consolidate its two contracting services is filled with lessons straight from a college textbook.
GSA's Federal Supply Service has long served as the government's purveyor of commercial products and services. Its multiple award schedules program has blossomed from a $3 billion sleeper in the 1990s to a $40 billion enterprise in 2006. It's the program most favored by contractors and easiest to use for buyers. Compliance is generally well-documented and supported by industry.
By contrast, the agency's Federal Technology Service has suffered steep declines in revenues since 2005. After years of rapid growth, incoming user fees from its IT assisted services have dwindled to nearly half of what they were just two years earlier. While officials cite poor customer service and changes in the Defense Department's buying habits, others refer to GSA's micromanagement and overzealous rules and processes as reasons for the drop.
What would any corporate executive recommend for the troubled agency? The $40 billion schedules program offers use of established contracts for "everyday" items and commercial services, including professional project management, and is recognized as one of the most successful programs in all of government. The assisted services program focuses on the use of in-house government specialists for the assessment and coordination of major IT projects and is quickly declining. Basically, both programs offer similar access to IT planners and managers.
Why not simply integrate all IT services under the schedules program? Any imaginable need and assistance can be met through use of the more than 5,000 IT contractors already participating. The skilled contracting specialists of FTS would migrate easily to their new roles within the schedules program, and with an ever-shrinking workforce at FSS, the transfer of workers would certainly be welcome. GSA would further its goal of partnering with industry in offering enhanced strategic solutions to its customers and improve overall perception that the agency is truly merging the best of two organizations into one. Politics aside, the two groups have too much in common not to succeed.Richard Powell
Upon reading Col. Buck Walker's letter to the editor ("Lessons Spurned," May 1) about the unintended consequences of Gen. Merrill McPeak's transformational arrogance, I am reminded that he was the Air Force leader who single-handedly kept Darleen Druyun immune from tough disciplinary action during the C-17 acquisition scandal of his tenure. Who knows? If Druyun had been correctly shown the door during McPeak's reign as the Air Force's chief of staff, then the recent acquisition scandals of which she was a part of might never have happened. Druyun's ability to survive this earlier ignominy by virtue of McPeak's intervention on her behalf merely emboldened her to higher levels of deceit and moral lapses.Ed Slana
Army Corps of Engineers
It was more than a little disappointing to read Katherine McIntire Peters' article on the Marine Corps' think tank study about counterinsurgency ("Lethal Business," May 1). The highlighted lesson learned was: "Many of the worst practices were counterproductive because they alienated local populations."
Exactly two years earlier, another article by Peters suggested exactly the opposite ("Fighting Words," May 1, 2004). It was noted therein that the hearts-and-minds approach announced by the Marines for their tour in Fallujah had turned out to be a roaring failure.
The ground rule of avoiding "collateral" casualties at all costs in Iraq should have been placed in the dangerous nonsense file. Yet it seems to have become a fetish among even military professionals, who should know better. The enemy has been allowed to conduct a home-for-supper-honey insurgency for more than three years. A considerable price in American soldiers' lives has been paid, and a large political price will be paid in November.Frank Hurley
A graphic accompanying the May 15 feature "Chief Concerns" should not have indicated that aircraft carriers typically carry a squadron of F-14s. The last of the Navy's F-14 Tomcat fighters were retired this spring.
In the May 1 issue, "The Money Trail" incorrectly reported that the Project on Government Oversight provided material support to the newly formed nonprofit Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America. The Project on Government Oversight was IAVA's fiscal sponsor, but did not directly fund the group. POGO held charitable contributions designated by donors for the IAVA while it registered with the Internal Revenue Service.