Pugliese will leave GSA after 24 years

Pugliese will leave GSA after 24 years

'It's better to be in control of your own destiny. It's time to move on,' FSS commissioner Frank P. Pugliese says.

Federal Supply Service's longest-serving commissioner accepts job as president of Virginia company

By Shruti Dat'

GCN Staff

With his job possibly on the line under a new presidential administration, Federal Supply Service commissioner Frank P. Pugliese Jr. says he decided to take charge of his future. So after 28 years in government service, he will retire this month.

Pugliese climbed the federal ladder, from the GS-5 level as a Defense Department auditor''as low as you can get,' he said'to commissioner of the General Services Administration service in 1994.

As a political appointee, Pugliese noted that in his current position he is vulnerable to the whims of the changing administration. He ranks, however, as the longest-serving commissioner of FSS.

'It's better to be in control of your own destiny. It's time to move on,' Pugliese said.

Donna D. Bennett, Pugliese's deputy, will take over as FSS commissioner next month. She has been deputy commissioner since 1994. Bennett joined GSA in 1983. She began her government career in 1969 as an economist at the Civil Aeronautics Board.

On Sept. 5, Pugliese will become president and chief executive officer of Star Mountain of Alexandria, Va., a unit of Provant Inc. of Boston, without a day of vacation between careers. Star Mountain provides agencies with business training, human resources management and information technology services.

Although he has only been FSS commissioner for six years, Pugliese has spent the bulk of his federal career at the agency. He spent only four years at Defense.

'I have worked in every single part of GSA,' he said. Most of the positions were in the financial area, but others ranged from jobs in the Public Buildings Service to stints in the offices of Budget, Audit and Administration. But, Pugliese said, it is in his work at FSS where he has left his mark.

Sink or swim

During his tenure, FSS reinvented itself. Often, Pugliese said, he found himself just trying to keep FSS above water as technology revolutionized business practices in the private and public sectors. Efficiency changed from a goal to a demand, he said.

GSA shrank from 40,000 employees in the 1980s to 14,000 today'and the figure is still dropping, Pugliese said.

'We are much smaller, but we do five times more business,' he noted. 'It was a total transformation. That's the most difficult because you have to shift to a new way of doing business.'

Over the last decade, FSS also had to learn to fund itself. Congress stopped appropriating money for FSS in fiscal 1988. The service had to figure out how survive on fees it received for the sales of good and services to other government agencies.

Pugliese said Congress' halting the service's appropriations was the best thing that could have happened to FSS because it forced the service to act like a business.

'Our customers make a decision every day whether they want to use us. If we are not successful, we are out of business,' he said.

In the 1980s and 1990s, FSS dealt with a tremendous growth in its schedule programs. Just three years ago, the schedule contracts reported sales near $1 billion a year. Now, sales through the Information Technology Schedule contracts alone account for $12 billion annually.

The service also has faced intense competition from the private sector.

'Once you saw that the landscape had a lot of acquisition and procurement changes, you had to decide how you could best serve your customers,' he said.

For example, FSS began holding expositions to help vendors build relationships with federal customers'a taboo just a decade earlier.

Pugliese's efforts were recognized in 1995 with a Meritorious Presidential Rank Award. The following year, he received the Common Sense Government Award, and FSS won the Computerworld Smithsonian Award for Innovative Technology in the Workplace.

This year, CIO Magazine gave the agency its Web Business 50/50 Award for running one of the top 50 Web sites in the country.

'I am at the top of my game. I have had reward, happiness and challenge from this job,' he said.

Pugliese's new em-ployer recognizes his expertise.

'His extensive experience provides him with an ideal background to understand the issues facing government agencies today and to build bridges to the federal government for Provant's products and services,' said Curt Uehlein, Provant's president and chief executive officer.

Pugliese said that his track record led to the job.

'It's not for my good looks because I am a little, short guy with a balding head,' he said. Pugliese said a headhunter pitched him on the Star Mountain job.

He said his goal will be to dramatically increase Star Mountain's sales: 'It is a company, in my opinion, that ought to be three or four times its current sales level.'

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