GSA Administrator Dan Tangherlini.

GSA Administrator Dan Tangherlini. Caitlin Fairchild/ file photo

GSA Chief Tangherlini to Step Down in February

Agenda included stabilizing agency rocked by conference spending scandal.

This story has been updated. 

General Services Administration head Dan Tangherlini will step down from his post in February, he announced in a memo to staff Thursday, after serving three years in the Obama administration. 

Tangherlini -- a Mr. Fix-It known for short stints in a variety of agencies -- has attempted to reform and modernize GSA, which provides transportation, real estate and contracting support to all of federal government. He took office after former Administrator Martha Johnson resigned in the wake of the conference scandal that embroiled the agency in 2012.

Deputy GSA Administrator Denise Turner Roth will fill in as the agency’s interim chief Feb. 13 -- when Tangherlini officially steps down -- and stay until President Obama’s chosen successor is confirmed. Tangherlini's plans for the future are not set, according to a GSA spokesman

Tangherlini was forced to transform GSA after details of waste at the 2010 Las Vegas conference were made public in an inspector general’s report. In his staff memo, he highlighted his ability to “restore the trust of the American people” in the agency, realign its mission and streamline its functions in a way that led to significant savings. He also touted his data-driven approach for smarter acquisition and other services on the behalf of federal agencies.

“Today, GSA is stronger, more efficient, and better able to serve our partner agencies and the American people,” Tangherlini wrote. “I am proud to have played some role in these changes, but I am honored to have had the opportunity to serve alongside all of you. The women and men of GSA are among the most dedicated, hardworking public servants I have ever had the pleasure to meet. You are a credit to this agency and our country.”

Under Tangherlini’s leadership, GSA has launched a new Web portal for category-based acquisition, the 18F program to improve digital services in federal government and many other efficiency initiatives. 

The former Treasury Department chief financial officer moved to reduce GSA spending on travel and conferences by 68 percent. He also continued implementing the open-workspace office design launched by Johnson.

“This transformation has enabled us to increase the number of employees who can be supported in our headquarters from 2,500 to up to 4,000,” resulting in $24.4 million in savings, he wrote.

Other accomplishments Tangherlini highlighted included “a comprehensive modernization of land ports of entry that will improve the safety and efficiency of our vital border crossings."

His tenure included a simplified mission statement, solicitation of reform ideas from staff and the public, as well as a top-to-bottom review that led to consolidation and streamlining of administrative functions that has not just eliminated duplication of functions. “GSA also created a hiring approval process that has led to a 9.1 percent decrease in full time employees since April 2012,” he said.

Tangherlini is leaving with “an extraordinary record of accomplishment,” President Obama said.

“Over the past six years, Dan has worked to help make sure government serves citizens more effectively,” Obama said. “His leadership of the General Services Administration at a critical moment helped make the agency more efficient, transparent, and accountable to the American people. I am deeply grateful for his service, and I wish him all the best in his future endeavors.”

The contracting community offered more tepid praise of Tangherlini’s tenure.

“Dan deserves a lot of credit for pushing new ideas and new thinking,” said Stan Soloway, president of the Professional Services Council. “We didn’t always agree, but he was always open to dialogue and focused on delivering quality for the government.”

Charles S. Clark contributed to this story.