GSA reorganization shifts IT duties

"This new office will help us change the way we serve our customers." -- GSA's Mary Joy Jameson

Olivier Douliery

The General Services Administration didn't wait for Congress to approve funding for its reorganization.

The agency late last month merged the FirstGov Office, the Intergovernmental Solutions Office and parts of the IT Office into the new Citizen Services Office, GSA administrator Stephen Perry said.

The agency made the move even though it has no direct funding for the new office. Perry said GSA sought to eliminate redundant operations and simplify its services.

Agency officials had wanted to make the improvements even before Congress gave its budgetary stamp of approval, he said.

GSA proposed the new office and asked for $13 million to fund it in its fiscal 2003 budget request, which Congress is still considering.

The agency also transferred its Communications Office and the Federal Consumer Information Center into the new office.

'This is part of the president's effort to be more citizen-centered,' Perry said. 'There were a lot of duplicated efforts among these offices, and we wanted to simplify how citizens interact with us.'

In the offing

GSA officials said they have been discussing the reorganization since December.

M.J. Jameson, whom GSA hired that month to head the Communications Office, is associate administrator of the new office. She said the heads of the other offices have moved to new divisions within Citizen Services.

'There were a lot of things going on in a fragmented way,' Jameson said. 'The government is behind the curve in how it delivers information to its customers. This new office will help us change the way we serve our customers.'

Perry said he is confident that Congress will approve funding for the new office.

'The sentiment we have heard is that there is strong support for this initiative,' he said. 'There is no way of knowing what Congress will do, especially with the new priorities, but I think Congress understands the need to enhance the way the government communicates with citizens.'

The reorganization did not result in any layoffs. It will be funded for the remainder of this year by pulling money from the budgets of the Consumer Center, Communications Office and FirstGov-- including some of the $2 million GSA received from the Office of Management and Budget's $5 million e-government fund.

In a separate change, GSA realigned the Electronic Government Office and the remaining parts of the IT Office into a new E-government and Technology Office. Mary Mitchell, the former head of the E-government Office, is the interim director.

The E-government and Technology Office remains under the aegis of GSA's Governmentwide Policy Office, led by G. Martin Wagner.

'The skill sets that have come together from the two offices are complementary,' said Emory Miller, director of professional development for GSA. 'They will give us greater depth and breadth in addressing issues of e-government.'

Miller said the new office likely will continue to focus on governmentwide IT policy and programs as well as working with public and private IT communities.

The reorganization will have a profound impact on how GSA works, especially in regard to the FirstGov team.

The FirstGov Office duties have been split between the new office of E-government Solutions Support and the Federal Citizen Information Center.

Deborah Diaz, former deputy associate administrator for the FirstGov Office, is now the head of the E-government Solutions office. The office will develop requirements and new capabilities for Citizen Services, including enhancements to Diaz's office also will work on cross-agency projects, such as USA Services, one of the Office of Management and Budget's 24 e-government initiatives.

Portal gatekeepers

The Federal Citizen Information Center will handle the operation of the FirstGov portal, such as content management and day-to-day maintenance, Perry said.

'We never intended FirstGov to be a permanent office,' Perry said. 'Once the search engine was fully developed, we wanted to find it a permanent home so it could expand with transactional services and facilitate communications.'

Jameson said FirstGov outgrew the office GSA formed to run it and requires numerous employees to continue its development.

'FirstGov spreads across a lot of different parts of the agency,' she said. 'A lot of the duties will be bumped up to the associate administrator's level. FirstGov was a silo and now has expanded.'

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