Senate holds up completion of GSA reorganization

As recently as early May, the General Services Administration's long-standing reorganization seemed well on its way to completion.

The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee had just passed legislation that would officially recognize the Federal Acquisition Service?which GSA had already launched?and, more important, merge the General Supply and IT funds into the OneFund.

Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), chairwoman of the committee, said at the time she expected the full Senate to act on the bill quickly and that she anticipated no problems.

But an unexpected hurdle appeared this month when independent Vermont Sen. Jim Jeffords placed a hold on the bill as part of an effort to promote the government's use of energy-efficient buildings.

The hold surprised the bill's advocates, who expected the legislation to sail through the Senate and finally give the reorganization Congress' official seal of approval.

"We are obviously disappointed that this important and sorely needed reform measure is being held up over an apparently unrelated issue, after passing the House and Senate committee of jurisdiction with ease," said David Marin, staff director for the House Government Reform Committee. The House passed the bill last year.

Despite the hold, though, GSA administrator Lurita Doan said the reorganization is moving forward and will not be held up as the congressional debate continues.

"I'm concerned that someone would feel the need to put a hold on the bill, but I'm not concerned about GSA's ability to function," she said.

FAS, which resulted from the merger of the Federal Supply and Federal Technology services?conducted under former administrator Stephen Perry?already is operating. In fact, one of Doan's first significant actions as administrator was naming Jim Williams, formerly of the Homeland Security Department, to be the new FAS commissioner.

"We had FAS stood up, that happened," Doan said. "People are already beginning to share workloads and contracting."

But Part II of the reorganization included the creation of the OneFund, which is an important accounting tool that, GSA officials hope, will improve the agency's audits. For one thing, the fund will give GSA greater business flexibility for spending. It also will let FAS workers get paid from the same pot.

GSA cannot merge the funds without congressional approval.

But while OneFund is important, Doan said, the delay will not slow the development of FAS.

"Ideally, as we move toward trying to get our clean audit, we'd like to start our fiscal year 2007 with one single fund ? but if it doesn't happen, we will continue to move forward," she said.

Doan said she will work with Jeffords and other lawmakers, including Government Reform Committee chairman Tom Davis (R-Va.)?who authored the reorganization bill?to clarify any concerns.

Repeated calls to Jeffords' office were not returned, and officials at the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee were unable to be reached.

Rob Thormeyer is a staff writer for Washington Technology's sister publication, Government Computer News.

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