Given committee’s nod, GSA nominee warns of issues ahead

Procurement agency faces several problems, panel told

The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee has approved Martha Johnson’s nomination to be the administrator of the General Services Administration.

After panel's approval June 8, Johnson must be confirmed by the Senate. During Johnson's confirmation hearing June 3, Committee Chairman Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) said President Barack Obama made a good choice in nominating her.

“Johnson has a deep firsthand knowledge of GSA and brings a wealth of experience from her time in the private, nonprofit and government sectors,” Lieberman said.

GSA has struggled during recent years to keep an administrator in place; Johnson would be the fifth administrator in 14 months. She told the committee that she would bring much-needed stability in the agency’s top office.

“I hope to be a steadfast and creative leader of this tremendous organization, deepening GSA’s impact, confidence and reputation,” she said.

The most recent nominee for the job was Jim Williams, currently the Federal Acquisition Service commissioner. However his nomination was held up by Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa), who questioned his involvement in controversial contract negotiations between Sun Microsystems contract and GSA.

A spokeswoman said Grassley isn’t involved in Johnson’s nomination.

Johnson told the committee that GSA is confronting a changing market and shifting customer demands. The Defense Department is adjusting its needs for services and supplies based on its conflicts overseas. Based on money from the economic stimulus law, GSA is required to make federal buildings "green," putting pressure on GSA internally to fine-tune itself through innovation, efficient services, and developing a strong pool of talented employees.

Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), the committee’s ranking member, said federal procurement requires better stewardship of taxpayer dollars. Total federal procurement spending is more than $500 billion a year

Contract spending continues to increase dramatically, and the size of the contracting workforce isn’t keeping up at the same pace, Collins said. It's straining the acquisition workforce and greatly increasing the risk of acquisition failures, she added.

About the Author

Matthew Weigelt is a freelance journalist who writes about acquisition and procurement.

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