Doan takes GSA back to basics

Slowing down GWACs, cleaning up bottom among top priorities

Lurita Doan is making it clear: This is not your father's General Services Administration ? but it could be your grandfather's.

Doan hopes that by the time she leaves the agency when President Bush leaves the White House in 2009, GSA will resemble the vision former President Harry Truman had when he created it in the late 1940s: the government's first and only choice for commodities procurement.

"When President Bush chose me as the new administrator, he wanted someone who might be willing to take a fresh look at some old problems," Doan said in a recent speech in Washington. "That's exactly what he got."

Industry observers have noticed a difference, if not in the agency's appearance then at least in its attitude and ambition.

Doan has "a very compelling message, and she has a clear focus of what she wants to accomplish," said Alan Chvotkin, senior vice president of the Professional Services Council, an industry association in Arlington, Va.

But Chvotkin said that Doan could be trying to do too much, too quickly. He said she is taking on a twin set of challenges: those of GSA, such as the agency's recently approved reorganization; and interagency challenges, such as fighting the proliferation of governmentwide acquisition contracts outside GSA.

"To her credit, she is setting the bar high, but you need to do it one day at a time," Chvotkin said.

In terms of policy, Doan is making the reduction of governmentwide acquisition contracts offered by other agencies her biggest priority. She has delivered this message before, but it has become more urgent; Doan has formally taken her case to the White House's Office of Federal Procurement Policy.

Aiming at NASA's Scientific and Engineering Workstation Procurement, Doan said she has held meetings and sent letters to Paul Denett, the new head of the Office of Federal Procurement Policy. She is urging him to reject the space agency's request to authorize the fourth generation of the contract, which is already in the advanced planning stages, as a GWAC when the third version expires in 2007.

Having an agency such as NASA, whose primary mission is space exploration, acting as a purchasing agent of IT commodities increases industry costs and, in turn, wastes taxpayers' money, Doan said.

"Do we want NASA putting computers in a VA hospital, when they need to be sending people to the moon?" she said.

Officials of the Office of Federal Procurement Policy said they could not comment.

Also on Doan's hit list: the Treasury Department's 10-year, $1 billion Treasury Communications Enterprise telecommunications contract. She wants the agency to sign onto GSA's Networx telecommunications GWAC instead, claiming GSA can provide those services better and cheaper.

Consolidating GWACs and increasing opportunities for businesses to get on all GSA schedules should build efficiencies into government procurement and enhance competition, she said. This should result in lower costs for vendors to get on a contract, which could lower prices for agencies.

"If we reduce the time for [getting on] the schedules and eliminate some of the bureaucracy, we're expecting the contracting community to reduce the costs of goods and services you provide," she said.

Rob Thormeyer is a staff writer with Government Computer News. He can be reached at rthormeyer@postnewsweektech.com.

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