Senate puts a hold on GSA's reorganization

The General Services Administration may have finalized its plan to reorganize the Federal Technology and the Federal Supply services, but Congress isn't quite ready to give its blessing.

The Senate, in particular, is standing in the way of GSA's merging the two services into the Federal Acquisition Service, which eventually will have five national program units and six regional zones.

The final plan comes a little more than two months after the agency issued a draft plan that received criticism from Capitol Hill, the administration and industry. But GSA administrator Stephen Perry said Aug. 4 the agency has ad-dressed those concerns.

'We focused on strengthening things to make sure we have management controls that are consistent and people who are accountable,' Perry said. 'We also made sure the duties of both the national and regional organizations are clear.'

The Senate has yet to consider the GSA Modernization Act of 2005, which the House passed May 23. GSA needs Congress to authorize the merger of the IT Fund and the General Supply Fund before the FTS and FSS consolidation moves forward, Perry said.

'It would be administratively burdensome if we can't merge those two funds,' Perry said. 'It's not that we couldn't move forward, but a lot hinges on these funds.'

GSA wants to merge the funds because agencies have changed the way they buy goods and services. They no longer buy IT separately from other services, such as construction or consulting. The agency's in- spector general in 2003 found that GSA regional offices abused the IT Fund by buying construction and other non-IT services through the fund.

The bill was referred to the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Af- fairs, which has not acted on it. The committee's Federal Financial Management, Government Information and International Security subcommittee held a hearing on GSA's procurement process late last month but did not mark up the bill.

The Senate also placed a provision in GSA's appropriations bill requiring approval of the House and Senate appropriations committees before any money is used to reorganize the agency.

'The Senate wants to make sure GSA and others involved in the federal acquisition process are improving it,' Perry said. 'Their understanding was, if we centralize too much, we might diminish our ability to have effective customer interaction. We've had conversations with the appropriations committee and Senate oversight committee and believe they are accepting of our effort.'

Rep. Tom Davis (R-Va.) has been the most vocal critic of GSA's reorganization plan. But the chairman of the House Government Reform Committee reacted to the final strategy with optimism and concern.

'The new organizational units within FAS are a positive step forward in reducing much of the overlap and redundancy,' Davis said. 'However, we do have some questions about the implementation of the concept of local activities versus centralized ac- quisition activities.'

Davis still is worried about whether the approach has the appropriate management controls over the various regions.

Under the final plan, Perry said, GSA's project team tried to instill the right balance of management controls and customer-service needs.

He said that because there is no way to know when lawmakers will pass the modernization bill or attach it to another piece of legislation, the timetable to combine the agencies is unclear.

'There is active work being done to get the bill passed,' he said. 'Some items will be implemented relatively quickly, and we have already taken steps in those areas, such as establishing the FAS commissioner. Other parts will take longer to implement.'

The national program managers will focus on such agencywide issues as strategic sourcing, making sure processes are consistent and developing large, governmentwide contracts, including the Networx and Allliant contracts. GSA will have national leaders in five areas:
  • Customer Accounts and Research

  • Acquisition Management

  • General Supplies and Services

  • Integrated Technology Solutions

  • Travel, Motor Vehicle and Card services.

Deidre Lee will lead Integrated Technology Solutions, which includes telecommunications contracts, governmentwide ac-quisition contracts, professional-services schedules, IT schedules, and program, planning and development.

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