Senate panel okays GSA reorg

The General Services Administration's pending reorganization inched closer to reality today after a key Senate committee cleared legislation that formally blesses the merger of the agency's Federal Supply and Technology services and corresponding spending funds.

In a unanimous vote, the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee approved a slightly amended reorganization bill, H.R. 2066, advancing the legislation to the full Senate for consideration, although it is unclear when the chamber will take action.

'My hope is we can get it through the Senate very quickly,' said Committee Chairwoman Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) after the vote. 'It would bring more efficiencies to the system, and I think it makes a lot of sense.'

The bill was passed by the House last year and officially establishes the Federal Acquisition Service as well as the OneFund, a combination of the Supply and IT funds. Although GSA has already launched the FAS, it cannot combine the two funds without congressional approval.

The bill had been stuck in the Senate since Sen. Christopher Bond (R-Mo.) grew concerned that the legislation would reduce the numbers of GSA regional offices and close an office in his district. Bond withdrew his opposition after the agency briefed his staff on the reorganization plan.

During the markup, Collins amended the legislation by striking language that lets GSA appoint 'up to five' regional executives. Instead, the legislation does not specify a number. The committee also struck language on when GSA can offer retention bonuses to procurement personnel.

Committee staff said the changes are minor and have the approval of the bill's author, House Government Reform Committee Chairman Rep. Tom Davis (R-Va.).

A spokesman for Davis said the House committee has no objection to the amendment that allows for more regional executives, but questions the need for the limitation on retention bonuses.

"We think the measured use of such bonuses would help stabilize our shrinking acquisition workforce until recruitment efforts can fill the depleted ranks of these sorely needed professionals," said Robert White.

GSA officials welcomed the committee's action. 'The new fund will provide the agency with greater business flexibility for IT solutions, as well as increased data transparency and improved money management, as we work to establish FAS,' the agency said in a statement.

Meanwhile, Collins said her committee will hold a hearing 'in the next few weeks' to consider the nomination of Lorita Alexis Doan to be GSA administrator.

Collins said she has met with Doan and is impressed with her background. 'She brings a lot of enthusiasm, but obviously we're at the very beginning of the nomination process,' Collins added.

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