Martha Johnson, President Obama's choice to head the General Services Administration, criticized the agency's transition to a massive telecommunications contract on Wednesday and vowed to consider sweeping reforms to the procurement process if confirmed.
Johnson told lawmakers at her confirmation hearing that she believes the transition to Networx is moving too slowly and at the current rate, the government will not complete the shift before the contracts expire.
Networx is the largest government telecommunications program in history, extending 10 years with a ceiling of more than $68 billion. It replaces the expiring FTS2001 contract and offers more advanced telecom technologies and services than its predecessor. GSA awarded the contract in 2007, but it has taken some time for agencies to move to the new vehicle.
In her written remarks, Johnson promised to work with senior agency officials to make them aware of the importance of completing the transition to Networx by the June 2011 deadline. She noted that agencies have disconnected only 15.6 percent of FTS2001 services, which translates to $15.2 million per month in lost savings across the government.
Johnson, who previously served as GSA chief of staff from 1996 to 2001, is currently a vice president at Falls Church, Va.-based Computer Sciences Corp. CSC was part of the Verizon business team that won one of three Networx Universal contracts. Johnson, however, denied any conflict of interest that could influence her job performance. None of the lawmakers on the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee questioned Johnson on her employer's relationship with GSA during the hearing.
"Ms. Johnson has a deep firsthand knowledge of GSA and brings a wealth of experience from her time in the private, nonprofit and government sectors," said Chairman Joseph Lieberman, I-Conn. "President Obama has made a wise choice in nominating her as GSA administrator."
Ranking member Susan Collins, R-Maine, asked Johnson how she would stanch the flow of new agency contracting vehicles that compete with GSA's offerings.
"It demonstrates GSA is not meeting the needs of client agencies," Collins said. "How do you plan to deal with the explosive growth that cuts GSA out of the process?"
Johnson said she plans to work closely with the Office of Federal Procurement Policy to understand where the government can improve, but the shortage of qualified acquisition personnel and frequent changes in the agency's leadership has hampered GSA's productivity and effectiveness.
"I believe we do have a challenge around talent and the acquisition skills available," Johnson said, pointing out that, if confirmed, she would be the fifth GSA administrator in only the last 14 months. "It's time for GSA to have its leadership settled and then attack procurement....I haven't been able to get under the hood and kick the tires."
Lieberman brought up one of the action items from the White House's recently released cybersecurity report, asking Johnson how GSA could use its buying power to pressure the market into incorporating cybersecurity into its products upfront.
Johnson essentially punted on the issue, telling lawmakers that if confirmed, she will be in a position to learn more about the issue. She acknowledged that myriad cybersecurity requirements -- such as antivirus software, safe Internet connections and encryption -- can leave agencies feeling "swamped" and that GSA can provide useful information to them on the topic.