GSA moving forward with reorganization

Despite uncertainty surrounding the agency's leadership, the General Services Administration plans to continue moving forward with its reorganization.

One top official said that a little help from Congress would go a long way toward making that transition easier.

G. Martin Wagner, associate administrator for GSA's Office of Governmentwide Policy and soon-to-be acting Federal Acquisition Service commissioner, said his agency will keep the pace as it restructures its acquisition forces despite losing key officers in recent weeks.

Over the past two months, a pair of key officers associated with the reorganization'former GSA administrator Stephen Perry and acting FAS commissioner Barbara Shelton'resigned. David Bibb was tapped to fill Perry's spot on an acting basis. Wagner will officially take over for Shelton Dec. 21.

Although GSA does not have permanent leadership in place, and next year is critical for the agency's reorganization plans, Wagner said he does not anticipate GSA missing a beat. 'The government can't function based on waiting around,' Wagner added.

The reorganization was officially launched in September when Perry combined the Federal Supply and Federal Technology services into FAS. The new acquisition shop will help streamline the buying process for GSA's customers and, officials hope, present a more nimble and responsive agency.

The process is far from complete, though, as Congress needs to sign off on a corresponding proposal to merge the separate General Supply and IT acquisition funds into the OneFund for government procurement needs. The House approved legislation allowing the funds to merge earlier this year, but the Senate won't move ahead until a permanent replacement for Perry is found.

Wagner believes the reorganization can still move forward without Senate action, although it will certainly be more difficult. 'Having one fund would make the job here much less difficult,' Wagner said.

GSA wants to merge the funds because the difference between business and IT acquisitions has blurred in recent years as technology has changed, according to Wagner. Consolidating them makes business and economic sense, he added. 'There is a significant administrative burden to managing two funds.'

Meanwhile, although the political wrangling surrounding GSA's planned reorganization gathers most of the headlines, the agency is putting the finishing touches on solving some internal problems that could complicate the process.

Casey Coleman, acting CIO of the new FAS, said today that GSA is close to an agreement among the several different offices'including the Federal Technology, Federal Supply and Public Building services'that would consolidate their IT functions at GSA's Washington headquarters.

'There is an agreement in principle to do the consolidation, [but] the final memorandum of understanding between the different offices and executives hasn't been signed,' said Coleman, speaking after a breakfast meeting in Falls Church, Va., sponsored by the American Council for Technology and the Industry Advisory Council.

The agreement would change how the separate GSA divisions operate and maintain their IT systems, Coleman said. She estimates that a deal could be finalized over the next two quarters.

Currently, each office has its own standalone technology office that provides IT functions, which include e-mail, network support and desktop management. The help desks in the separate offices had different response times, Coleman said, all of which have complicated the reorganization.

'With the creation of FAS, people are moving between facilities, occupying FSS space or FTS space,' Coleman said. 'So for that reason, as well as for economies, efficiencies and best practices, we're consolidating those functions under the GSA CIO's office.'

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