GSA Chief Sees ‘New Vista’ for Federal Government

Caitlin Fairchild/GovExec.com

The General Service Administration is on the hunt for great ideas.

The acquisition and facilities management arm of the federal government is looking for ways to become leaner, said Dan Tangherlini, GSA’s acting administrator, and it is enlisting the help of its entire workforce.

The Great Ideas Hunt, which spawned 600 new concepts and more than 20,000 comments, is just one way GSA is looking to improve efficiency. All agencies should more fully embrace crowdsourcing, Tangherlini told attendees of Government Executive’s Excellence in Government conference.

Crowdsourcing means “giving up on the notion that you know the nature of the solution you’re seeking,” Tangherlini said.

GSA has adopted a wide range of innovative solutions to improve its operations, from reducing workspace to expanding federal use of the cloud.  Tangherlini -- who works in an open space among co-workers -- said the 600 square foot office should become a thing of the past. The average GSA workspace is 86 square feet, he added.

During Superstorm Sandy, GSA employees who were unable to get into their office buildings relied on cloud technologies to access information they could not get off their hard drives. The resource is critical because it allows for transparency and for sharing more information with more people.

“The cloud is very democratizing for data,” Tangherlini said.

He has ushered in these changes since taking over as acting administrator, after Administrator Martha Johnson resigned amid a scandal of overspending at a training conference in Las Vegas. Overall, these new ideas -- from the ground-up and from the top-down -- have led to a period of extraordinary change.

“We are going through an amazing transition and an amazing transformation,” he said.

Another part of this transformation involves better leveraging the federal government’s purchasing power. GSA currently owns and operates only one-third of the federal automotive fleet. If it took control of half the cars it does not currently maintain, it could save the federal government $250 million, according to Tangherlini.

He added that making these types of changes would lead to “building the new vista that we all want to see.” 

CORRECTION: The original version of this story misstated the possible savings from GSA controlling more of the federal automotive fleet. 

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