Tom Temin | Editor's Desk: Brave New World

Thomas R. Temin

One thing about Lurita Doan: She doesn't mince her words. Or actions.

The new administrator of the General Services Administration, it is plain, has clear marching orders. Get the schedule contracts program back on track, make a go of the mashed-together supply services and restore what some see as loose ethics stemming from misused contracts.

Whereas her predecessor presided mildly over the status quo, Doan's every action so far hollers, 'New sheriff in town!'

She's ruffled feathers, such as by denying what senior career staff used to consider routine travel and attendance at functions. If you want an organization to change, I guess one way to do it is to slap 'em upside the head to get their attention.

More significant, she has cut GSA's operating budgets andcancelled some late or underperforming projects.

Still more interesting is Doan's gambit to restore GSA as the sole source of governmentwide commodity contracting. As GCN's Rob Thormeyer reported [GCN, Oct. 10, Page 16], she has taken on a two-front war: her own agency and other agencies' governmentwide acquisition vehicles.

Doan has suggested NASA abandon its long-running SEWP GWAC, and stepped up efforts to get Treasury to forego its enterprise communications contract in favor of GSA's yet-to-be-awarded Networx. It takes chutzpah to publicly take on other agencies as a new political appointee.

Back in the Brooks Act era, when GSA really did have governmentwide buying authority, at least in theory, that bark could have had some bite. But now it's not so clear Doan can roll back the proliferation of contract vehicles. Some of them charge lower fees than GSA. Plus, merely boasting about a 'new' GSA isn't going to convince anyone.

You have to admire Doan's nerve and clarity. She joins a long line of colorful GSA administrators. The ranks of the successful are much smaller. With two years and one budget cycle left in the administration, Doan has her work cut out.


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