Lieberman urges confirmation of nominee to lead GSA

Lieberman said the General Services Administration needs strong leadership because it has big responsibilities.

Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) has urged his colleagues to end debate on the nomination of Martha Johnson to be the General Services Administration’s administrator and confirm her.


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“It’s been very frustrating for members of [the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs] Committee to see such a qualified nominee held up for more than half a year because of something that has nothing to do with the nominee’s qualifications,” said Lieberman, chairman of the committee, which  unanimously approved Johnson’s nomination five days after she testified last June.

“She is extremely well qualified and very much needed at the General Services Administration,” Lieberman said on the Senate floor.

Johnson’s nomination has been held up for eight months because of a hold placed against it by Sen. Kit Bond (R-Mo.). The hold was meant to pressure the government to approve a proposed federal office building in downtown Kansas City.

However, on Jan. 28, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) filed for cloture on Johnson’s nomination. Cloture would limit consideration of Johnson’s nomination to 30 additional hours of debate, which ultimately leads to a vote.

Lieberman said GSA needs strong leadership as it has big and important responsibilities.

GSA manages $30 billion in federal assets, including 8,600 government-owned or leased buildings. Federal agencies purchased approximately $53 billion of goods and services from GSA’s Multiple Award Schedules and other contracts. GSA also lets agencies deal with their mission and avoid the back and forth details of contract negotiations, Lieberman said.

Lieberman noted a major problem though.

“Some agencies, if I may speak directly, have lost confidence of the ability of GSA to provide the best products at the best prices and have begun to negotiate their own contracts or interagency contracts,” he said. The government is wasting federal money by doing so “and effectively defeats the purpose of GSA.”

During her hearing before Lieberman’s committee in June Johnson said the government duplicates its work when many agencies launch their contracts. However, GSA needs to win its customers’ business through its good work.

“And that would be my attitude moving forward and where I would put my energy. So performance is certainly the proper response,” she told Lieberman.

About the Author

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

Reader Comments

Wed, Feb 3, 2010

Of course it is another deficiency in our governmental system that a nominee's confirmation can be held up for a reason not related to the nominee's qualifications. But in this case it is also a reflection on how little respect GSA commands throughout the government. GSA's bad reputation is well-deserved. Look what it did to completely screw up the Alliant contract awards, and, yet, no heads rolled. And there was no obvious congressional interest in investigating the lengthy, very costly, inexcusable Alliant fiasco. "Oh, it's just GSA doing its thing, very slowly, very badly." At bottom, there is no reason for other agencies not to develop their own contract vehicles; you can't count on GSA. Further evidence that GSA is (deservedly) below the radar is that it took Sen. Lieberman so long to speak out so clearly on the fate of this nominee, and Sen Reid so long to move for cloture. GSA is about the last thing folks think about when it comes to getting the procurement system right.

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