Lawmaker proposes strict transparency regime for GSA’s tech service

Texas Republican Pete Sessions, shown here at a House hearing in 2022, is looking to rein in certain tech funding programs at the General Services Administration.

Texas Republican Pete Sessions, shown here at a House hearing in 2022, is looking to rein in certain tech funding programs at the General Services Administration. JASON ANDREW/AFP via Getty Images

The new legislation comes in response to an ongoing House Oversight and Accountability Committee investigation into what Rep. Pete Sessions, R-Texas, described as an “unaccountable organization.”

Congress needs more visibility into the General Services Administration’s Technology Transformation Services, according to Rep. Pete Sessions, R-Texas, who introduced legislation Tuesday with the goal of establishing just that. 

The GSA Technology Accountability Act is a reaction to an ongoing, bipartisan House Oversight and Accountability Committee investigation into, a shared single sign-on run by GSA, said Sessions, who chairs the panel's Subcommittee on Government Operations and the Federal Workforce. was the subject of an inspector general report last year that found the agency had misrepresented the digital identity standards met by the service to other agencies. 

“Our work is ongoing, but one thing was clear: there is insufficient transparency into TTS operations,” Sessions said in a statement. “This legislation is aimed at providing answers to basic questions: what projects is TTS working on, how much do they cost, how much revenue do they bring in, and are agencies getting what they paid for when working with TTS?”

The proposal, which the committee’s majority staff shared with Nextgov/FCW, would require GSA’s administrator to report to Congress annually on every project funded by the agency’s Federal Citizen Services Fund and some funded by its Acquisition Services Fund. The report would have to provide details about each project that include its projected completion date and cost. 

“This legislation will allow the Oversight Committee to conduct appropriate oversight, rein in what for too long has been an unaccountable organization that seemingly thought it could play by its own rules, and protect both GSA agency customers and American taxpayers,” said Sessions. 

This isn’t Sessions’ first legislative response to the inspector general report. He has also backed a proposal to defund GSA’s tech team 18F — which is part of GSA’s Technology Transformation Services and helped develop — alleging that the sign-on service’s problems are one symptom of larger dysfunction.

The Office of the Inspector General at GSA also appears to still have its eye on TTS, as it included the management controls and financial management at the service as a top challenge for the agency in an annual report last year, citing the report and cost recovery problems at TTS. 

Rep. Gerry Connolly, D-Va., called GSA a “frequent flier with this committee, in the worst kind of way,” at a recent oversight hearing focused on a different GSA inspector general report regarding the purchase of Chinese-manufactured video conferencing cameras. 

Connolly  said that “GSA has repeatedly made misrepresentations to this Congress, sidestepped agency policy and the Constitution itself and disregarded both the letter and spirit of the law,” citing back-and-forth over the new location of the FBI headquarters, GSA’s delayed presidential transition process in 2020 and more.

The committee is scheduled to mark up Sessions' bill on Thursday.