GSA’s pick to manage new acquisition service draws congressional fire

Senior official Barbara L. Shelton will head the Federal Acquisition Service, but the choice is called "disappointing."

The General Services Administration's selection Wednesday of senior GSA official Barbara L. Shelton as the acting commissioner of the new Federal Acquisition Service was "disappointing," according to a senior congressional source familiar with the agency.

But GSA Administrator Stephen A. Perry, in a statement released Wednesday, said Shelton's leadership will enable the new organization to meet its objectives.

Shelton will assume the role at FAS, an acquisition management organization and customer service unit, in the Office of the Administrator until the organization is fully established "in the near future." FAS will oversee a number of business units and purchase a majority of the government's information technology needs, including office supplies, motor vehicle maintenance and travel services.

The acting administrator will be responsible for completing the organizational design of the FAS, establishing the organization and providing oversight for managing the day-to-day operations of the Federal Technology Service and the Federal Supply Service.

On Wednesday, the senior congressional source, who asked not to be identified, said Shelton has "virtually no federal acquisition experience and no standing whatsoever in the federal acquisition community."

The source also criticized Shelton's background as GSA's Mid-Atlantic regional administrator, a political position where she managed operations of FTS, FSS and the Public Buildings Service for a seven-state region.

"Shelton comes from GSA's troubled regional management structure," the source said. "Don't they realize that it was the pervasive acquisition mismanagement by GSA's regions that motivated House passage of the GSA Modernization Act?"

A GSA spokeswoman defended the selection, stating that Shelton has extensive experience in the procurement and acquisition fields, handling about $2.5 billion in contracting for FTS, FSS and PBS in her role as regional administrator.

"When we look to fill this position on a permanent basis, Ms. Shelton and others will be considered," the spokeswoman said. "Her work in all facets of leadership and management of acquisition at GSA has been, and continues to be, exemplary."

The spokesman said that the agency appreciated the support of the administration, and Rep. Tom Davis, R-Va., chairman of the House Government Reform Committee and sponsor of the modernization bill.

Shelton said in the statement that she looks forward to continuing her work with Perry, GSA's management personnel, and "our many talented associates."

"We are focused on completing the design of the new FAS organization, and we are strongly committed to developing competent and engaged FAS professionals who deliver consistently positive and compliant acquisition experiences for our customers," Shelton said.

Before joining GSA, Shelton was the deputy secretary for administration in Pennsylvania's Department of Labor and Industry, and the deputy secretary for procurement in Pennsylvania's General Services Department. Prior to her government work, she was an information technology consultant at Philip Morris.