Looking past November to chart GSA's future


Start: 2012-10-11, Publication: 2012-10-15


The government needs one organization to be an early adopter of the opportunities presented by the macro trends and transitions occurring in American society. With re-energized leadership after the election, GSA could set an example for the rest of government -- and for other governments around the world.


Name:Owen Ambur


Name:Frank A. McDonough


About the Author: Consultant Frank A. McDonough is former deputy associate administrator of the General Services Administration’s Office of Intergovernmental Solutions.


  • General Services AdministrationThe General Services Administration has a treasure trove of special skills and knowledge not available elsewhere in the government. But in many ways, GSA has been treading water. After the upcoming presidential election, it will be time for the agency to position itself for the next decade. GSA is not immune to broader societal changes, and it has reorganized and consolidated many times since Congress created it in 1949. Its workforce has declined 70 percent in 31 years -- from 42,000 employees in 1980 to 12,600 in 2011 -- and yet GSA still allows agencies to acquire the goods, services and office space they need quickly and at a good price. However, the conditions that led to its formation 63 years ago are much different today. For example, there are few negotiated contracts in the government now. Ninety-five percent of contracting is simply order taking due to schedules and indefinite-delivery, indefinite-quantity contracts. As a result, the government as a whole might no longer need its army of 30,000 contract specialists and 3,000 purchasing agents and should consider reversing the balance between contract specialists and purchasing agents at all agencies. And for all its changes, GSA’s workforce is highly compartmentalized and too often frustrated and unhappy.