THREE CHALLENGES FACING GSA-ADMINISTRATOR NOMINEE ROBIN CARNAHAN

President Biden nominated Missourian Robin Carnahan last week to be the next Administrator of the General Services Administration.  Carnahan comes to the position from Georgetown University where she co-founded the State Software Collaborative.  Carnahan also founded and led GSA’s 18F state and local consulting practice from 2018-2020.  The new Administrator-designee will face several challenges upon Senate confirmation.  Here are three that may become a focus, whether or not they’re part of the original plan: 

1.  Coordinating GSA’s technology and service portfolios:  GSA’s technology operation is a booming business.  The Schedules program, Alliant, StAR’s and other current programs are popular.  Right behind them are ASTRO and Polaris.  At the same time, the service portfolio is experiencing solid growth with the Professional Services Schedule and OASIS.  Coming soon will be the OASIS follow-on.  Keeping those programs growing without running into each other will be an increasing challenge.  So, too, will ensuring that new contracts are as popular and easy to use as existing vehicles. 

2.  Managing all of GSA’s seemingly competing acquisition methods:  The Federal Acquisition Service has the Schedules program, GWAC’s, the commercial E-Marketplace pilot, its own in-house requisition channel, and more.  Each serves a specific constituency and each has its detractors, as well.  Keeping the lines clear of how each portfolio can serve a specific customer type will be critical in terms of outward facing actions.  Ensuring that all GSA professionals work toward a positive strategic outcome at the agency level will be especially important internally. 

3.  Dealing with expiring commercial leases and a down-sizing federal office footprint:  No GSA Administrator can avoid Public Building Service issues.  Carnahan’s tenure would be no exception as 60% of the agency’s leases will expire between 2019-2023.  Figuring out how much space will continue to be required in the wake of a now decentralized workforce could make rocket science look easy by comparison. 

One area NOT to focus on?:  In our 30 plus years of federal acquisition experience, state and local governments have been very, very wary about “solutions” coming from their federal counterparts.  While coordinating federal, state, and local acquisitions may seem like a good strategic goal, it is fraught with political landmines, rice bowls, and other potential snares.  A substantial amount of capital could be expended on this front with little or nothing to show for it.  Resist the urge to make integrated acquisition across government lines an initial focus.