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DorobekINSIDER: What SHOULD happen with GSA?

We have all been watching the bruhaha about the General Services Administration Public Building Service's Western Regions Conference with a certain sense of forboding -- I think we all understand that this is going to have ramifications far beyond one single conference in one part of one agency. And my big concern was that lawmakers -- and the Obama administration -- would do something akin to the 2004 "Get It Right" campaign, which sought to correct what were, in the end, a few contracting problems. In hindsight, everybody agrees that "Get It Right" got it wrong -- and it was a clumsy attempt to use a hammer to fix a problems that required a scalpel.

One has a similar feeling today, and the over-the-top rhetoric during the hearings on Capitol Hill certainly feeds the theory -- unproven by actual evidence, in my mind -- that there is a systemic problem.

That being said, the Washington Post today has a story headlined, GSA under the microscope, about growing  discussions about fundamentally changing the General Services Administration:

Congress may restructure the Public Buildings Service following the scandal over spending on conferences that brought down the agency’s commissioner, Robert A. Peck, and General Services Administration chief Martha N. Johnson. Some House Republicans, including Rep. Jeff Denham (R-Calif.), said they may consider trying to do away with GSA altogether. District Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D) hasn’t gone that far, but she said the GSA’s dual missions of signing real estate deals and managing contracts are largely unrelated and might require separating.
I am not ready to argue that there GSA needs to be fundamentally restructured. But IF that decision is made, could there be opportunities to do things in a different way that might be better? GSA was created as a result of the Hoover Commission more than 50 y.... Can things be done in a different way today? Is there a better way?
So... a few questions...
  1. Does GSA need to be fundamentally changed? If so, why? If not, why not?
  2. How should the Obama administration and Congress handle the GSA situation?
  3. If you did decide to fundamentally change the was general services were administered across government, how should that be done?

I'm going to be doing some research... looking at governments around the world and among states... yes, even the private sector. If you have thoughts or ideas, I'd love to hear them...

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Comment by Christopher Dorobek on April 23, 2012 at 5:26pm

A comment from a former GSAer:

There can be some fundatmental simple changes.  Go to four hub around the country,centralize all Financial operations under the agency CFO, all IT under the CIO, all Personnel under the CPO.  You have 2 outlyers, OGP and OCS.  OCS is mostly the administrative functions under of OMB issues and OGP can probably go to another agency like Treasury.

Comment by Christopher Dorobek on April 23, 2012 at 3:02pm

This from the link off my Facebook page:

Nicholas Economou 

Restructuring GSA without restructuring the government is like taking botox for pneumonia. The problem at GSA is a symptom of a large,bloated, undisciplined government with a lack of effective, strong leadership at all levels of government. Other examples: Solyndra which cost the taxpayer 500 times more than the Vegas fiasco; dozens of federal programs which duplicate each other at a cost of billions; an executive branch that failed to move ahead on a bipartisan committee to reduce costs and eliminate duplication; a legislative branch that hasn't passed a budget in over 3 years; countless agencies with no effective oversight. GSA is the scapegoat for the inept, cowardly, and corrupt leadership that exists at the very top of government. GSA has a seasoned, professional and talented staff that can take on the most complex and difficult assignments. But GSA and the rest of Government need strong, courageous and skilled leadership.

Comment by Christopher Dorobek on April 23, 2012 at 10:05am

Here is one interesting highlight from the WP piece:

Some House Republicans, including Rep. Jeff Denham (R-Calif.), said they may consider trying to do away with GSA altogether. District Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D) hasn’t gone that far, but she said the GSA’s dual missions of signing real estate deals and managing contracts are largely unrelated and might require separating.

The scandal, Norton said, also exposed how little accountability and oversight was centered at the top of the GSA, giving too much leeway to managers around the country. “I think there are huge structural problems in the way this agency is structured,” she said.

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