CIO Briefing

GSA's Martha Johnson, teleconference proponent, is undone by live event

In October 2010, right around the time General Services Administration officials were attending the lavish training conference in Las Vegas that forced the resignation of administrator Martha Johnson on Monday, GSA was encouraging agencies to conduct more virtual meetings to save money and cut greenhouse gas emissions.

"As the federal government's workplace solutions expert, GSA is exploring new ways to create a more efficient, cost-effective and sustainable government for the American people," Johnson said at the time. "This includes incorporating innovative and collaborative technologies like virtual meeting centers to create seamless connections around the world. Availability of virtual meeting technology will help launch our government to the next level of productivity."

Johnson was a strong proponent of telework and cloud technologies, and promoted them, in part, to create more sustainable operations. The agency currently is reviewing bids for a $44.5M videoconferencing contract.

In April 2010, soon after taking over GSA's top spot, Johnson tasked Casey Coleman, the agency's chief information officer, with completing five high-priority IT projects to set the stage for technology modernization. That summer, she challenged the agency to achieve a "zero environmental footprint" by greening its operations.

Two months later, GSA employees spent $835,000 on the Las Vegas conference that proved Johnson's undoing. Among other problems associated with the conference, according to the report by GSA's inspector general, agency personnel rigged the contract for audio-visual services at the training event when it awarded the deal to vendor Royal Productions.

In her resignation letter, Johnson said: "I leave a GSA deeply committed to its mission of helping government organizations deliver on their missions to the nation. I have been privileged to be able to translate the president's agenda into effective strategies that range from more energy-efficient buildings and vehicle fleets to innovative use of cloud technologies and much more. I am proud of our progress and believe it has been a catalyst for important change to affect government operations."

Aliya Sternstein contributed to this report.

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