New GSA chief promises ‘actions, not words’
In her first public address as administrator of the General Services Administration, Lurita Doan on Tuesday laid out her priorities for the agency, saying it needs to be more responsive to the needs of companies seeking federal business.
Stepping from behind the podium before an overflow crowd of industry representatives at a conference hosted by the Coalition for Government Procurement, Doan asked for a show of hands of those listed on one of GSA's schedules. Almost every hand in the room went up, and Doan leapt down from the stage to grasp the ones nearest her, rushing around the table with fast hand shakes and "thank yous" for several people before jumping back to the stage to continue.
Doan, a former small business owner whose information technology startup had millions of dollars in contracts with the government and appeared on the GSA schedule before she sold it in 2005, exuded energy as she promised to move quickly to address some of the problems facing the agency.
"I will not rest until a business can get [on] a basic GSA schedule within 30 days," Doan said, drawing expressions of surprise from a crowd accustomed to time frames commonly ranging from four months to a year. She indicated that she intends to be a champion of the agency's private sector clients, promising "facta, non verba," or "actions, not words," in improving agency responsiveness.
Doan acknowledged that as an outsider, she has a short window during which she will be relatively free of criticism to make changes at the agency. Briefly acknowledging some complaints that have arisen from the agencies for which GSA performs acquisitions -- including bad blood with the Defense Department, which lost much of the more than $1 billion in funds it had "parked" at the agency -- she also said GSA needs to retool its abilities to respond to national emergencies, and promised announcements on that would be forthcoming "within the next few days."
But Doan reserved most of her comments for the industry side of GSA's relationship-building.
Laying out her priorities for the 30 months remaining in the Bush administration, Doan said she intends to make GSA a center for best practices in government procurement, using quantitative performance metrics to set a baseline on which to improve and show the agency can perform "better, faster, cheaper."
She said she would rely on such data to advocate for GSA within the government, presenting the case that GSA acquisitions save taxpayer dollars over individual agencies' procurements, and said she would make GSA "one of the very best places in government" to work.
Doan's zeal to move quickly -- she said her two favorite words are "yes" and "now" -- will be tested as she faces the task of reorganizing the agency while simultaneously rebuilding its revenue stream. Legislators have approved a merger of the agency's Federal Technology Service and Federal Supply Service into a new Federal Acquisition Service, to be headed by Jim Williams, formerly of the Homeland Security Department. But Congress has yet to combine the funds for the two services.
Meanwhile, some government customers have grown frustrated with the time and red tape involved in getting procurement help from an agency whose Get It Right program, launched in 2004, reflects fallout from previous, looser policies that resulted in discrepancies between funds' designated uses and what agencies were able to purchase with them.
Doan, who has a master's degree in renaissance literature, said in turning around the agency she will draw on her personal motto, Carpe momentum, meaning "Seize the moment."