House panel chief questions GSA on contracts

Rep. Tom Davis, R-Va., questions whether agency has the capacity to manage huge initiatives in the midst of a restructuring effort.

The chairman of the House Government Reform Committee is questioning the General Services Administration's ability to manage several large procurements at once.

In a letter sent Wednesday to GSA Administrator Stephen Perry, Rep. Tom Davis, R-Va., noted that the agency is planning a major telecommunications procurement at the same time it is readying two large contracts for information technology. Cumulatively, the contracts are worth tens of billions of dollars and could serve as significant means of acquisition for federal agencies over the next decade.

Davis said he was concerned that GSA has taken on these major initiatives at the same time it is restructuring the agency by merging two business units.

"I am concerned that GSA appears to be undertaking a number of initiatives that have the potential to drain GSA's limited resources," Davis said. The lawmaker asked Perry to "conduct a comprehensive review of these acquisitions to determine whether GSA has the capacity to manage them concurrently."

Davis long has been a strong overseer of GSA, and has held hearings in recent months on the telecom procurement and the restructuring. But his letter signals a new level of concern that heretofore had not been expressed publicly.

While applauding Perry for his work on the restructuring, as well as efforts to correct past procurement abuses at GSA, Davis questioned whether the agency had exerted enough control over its regional offices. Historically, those offices exercise significant managerial autonomy and take mostly policy guidance from Washington.

In his letter, Davis pointed to some of the regions' plans to conduct local telecom acquisitions, which he said may "impinge upon the requirements to be solicited through the Networx program." Networx is the multiyear telecom contract GSA hopes to award next year, and which Davis said he wants to serve as the "acquisition infrastructure for telecommunications for the next decade."

"I do not believe there is a pressing need for these local telecommunications acquisitions," Davis said, adding that allowing them to go forward could "send the wrong signal that it is acceptable for the GSA regions to go off on their own." Davis noted that an earlier round of local acquisitions conducted by the regions was "roundly criticized" by government auditors.

Of the two information technology contacts GSA wants to manage, Alliant and Alliant Small Business, Davis noted that the current plan is to run them out of separate regional offices. He also said he was concerned that agencies would be confused as to which of the two programs provides "the best solution" for their telecom and technology needs.

"My concern here is the apparent lack of management coordination among these disparate but related programs," Davis continued.

A GSA spokeswoman, Eleni Martin, said that Perry "is in the process of responding" to Davis' letter.