GSA nominee Roth sets her highest priorities

One day after her nomination, acting General Services Administration chief Denise Turner Roth spelled out her three key priorities should she be confirmed  to lead the government’s “landlord” in its quest for greater internal and governmentwide efficiency, and weighed in on workforce issues including employee morale and open office layouts.
On May 21, 2015, President Barack Obama announced his intent to nominate Denise Turner Roth as GSA Administrator.
On May 21, 2015, President Barack Obama announced his intent to nominate Denise Turner Roth as GSA Administrator.

In an interview with Government Executive last week, Roth, a former congressional staffer and city manager in North Carolina, said her No. 1 priority is “reform of the agency reporting structure, the consolidation effort at operational efficiency and the sustainability of those activities.”

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Departing PBS chief intends to write about government inefficiencies

Sixteen months after being named to the post, Dorothy Robyn is leaving as head of the Public Buildings Service for the General Services Administration, a job in which she inked a deal with Donald Trump for a luxury hotel and led the search for a new FBI headquarters.

Her replacement is expected to be Norman Dong, who has been serving as acting controller at the Office of Management and Budget, Robyn said.

Robyn came from the Defense Department in September of 2012 to help right the ship after a scandal over convention-related expenses brought down the GSA’s previous leadership. She oversaw public buildings during a time of tightening budgets, prompting her to press agencies to occupy less space and forgo real estate that they did not need.

She and GSA administrator Dan Tangherlini teamed to take better advantage of under-performing government buildings, completing a deal to lease the Old Post Office Pavilion to Trump’s real estate firm and selling the West Heating Plant in Georgetown to a developer affiliated with the Four Seasons.

In an interview she said she was frustrated at the resistance of Congress to invest in cost-saving infrastructure improvements, as well as the accounting policies “ that make it difficult for us to follow best practices in the private sector.”

Rather than take a new job immediately ,Robyn said she would take time off to write about some of the government inefficiencies that she said were strangling the country’s infrastructure improvements and failing to reduce energy usage.

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GSA needs more transparency over high-valued leases, report says

The Government Services Administration’s capital-planning approach lacks  transparency and strategic focus when it comes to evaluating its most high-value  leases. This hinders the agency’s ability to make informed decisions when in comes  to making those evaluations and, thereby, could result in greater costs to the  federal government.

That’s one of the conclusions of a new Government Accountability Office (GAO) report entitled “Federal Real Property: Greater Transparency and Strategic Focus Needed  for High-Value GSA Leases.”

The Obama administration has directed agencies to reduce real property costs. GAO  found that GSA has made strides in reducing its high-value lease costs, but it  also found that building ownership often is more cost-effective than leasing. This  is especially true when it comes to long-term leasing.

“GSA officials stated that for most high-value leases, federal ownership would be  more cost effective over the long term, but GSA did not have the funding available  to purchase, renovate, or construct a building,” the GAO report stated.

According to GSA’s State of the Portfolio publication, which covered fiscal year  2011, GSA had 374.6 million rental square feet in its inventory. Of that, slightly  more than half — 192.7 million square feet — was leased.

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GSA to merge operations, back off new construction

Congressional budget cuts and a recent scandal are forcing the General Services Administration to change how it does business, acting GSA Administrator Dan Tangherlini said in an interview Wednesday (May 16, 2012).

Specifically, the agency will likely merge portions of its two main divisions — the Public Buildings Service, which manages federal buildings and building leases, and the Federal Acquisition Service, which oversees many federal contracting programs.

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GSA acting administrator to review travel policies

Just a few days after General Services Administration chief Martha Johnson stepped down amid a scandal that rocked the agency and ousted two other officials, her new replacement vowed to examine the agency’s conference and travel policies.

In an April 3 letter addressed GSA employees, Acting Administrator Dan Tangherlini underlined the importance of staying focused on promoting efficiency and cost-savings following an inspector general report that revealed the agency’s lavish spending at a 2010 training event.

According to the IG, the conference cost more than $822,000, with expenses that included several “planning trips” and “test runs” in which GSA employees stayed at the luxury hotel where the event was held.

In addition to Johnson, Robert Peck, commissioner of the Public Buildings Service, and Johnson’s senior adviser Stephen Leeds were fired. In her resignation letter, Johnson acknowledged the agency had made a “significant misstep” and said she was stepping down to allow GSA to move forward with a new leadership team.

“We cannot allow mistakes or misjudgments of a small number of individuals to slow our progress or take our focus from our goals,” Tangherlini wrote in his letter. “GSA’s business is to solve customers’ problems; we are acting quickly to address them.”

Tangherlini, a former Treasury Department official, said GSA is taking immediate measures to maintain customers’ confidence in the agency. Some of those steps include reviewing upcoming conferences that involve travel and spending of taxpayers’ funds, and canceling events that pertain only to internal staff. GSA will also assess how its current policies around conference and travel policies, and improve risk management, Tangherlini said.

About the Author: Camille Tuutti is a staff writer covering the federal workforce for Federal Computer Week.  This article appeared Apr. 4, 2012 at