Editorial: Doan's to-do list

Our recommendations for how the GSA administrator can get things accomplished.

Lurita Doan’s relatively short tenure as administrator of the General Services Administration has been a complex one. There was much hope surrounding her arrival because it followed years of inaction at GSA. In fairness, it probably would have been impossible for anyone to satisfy the expectations people had.

Today, there is a thriving debate about whether Doan will — or should — survive. Some publications have even called on Doan to resign.We specifically have not.We believe GSA is better with an effective administrator. Having an acting administrator in place for what could be three years, even someone as worthy as David Bibb, the agency’s deputy administrator, would be problematic.

We continue to believe that it is important for GSA to be successful.We believe that Doan does, too. GSA plays a vital role for most agencies. The administrator’s issues, however, are distracting. So Doan needs to act if she hopes to get anything accomplished in the Bush administration’s remaining months. Here are our recommendations for what she can do.

  • Choose your battles carefully. Of the three allegations swirling around the administrator, the potential Hatch Act violations are the most serious. Clearly, this was not just a Doan issue given that White House political operatives made presentations to scores of agencies. Regardless, this is not a battle worth fighting. The meeting was wrong. Anyone who has seen the slides knows it was. She may not remember the meeting, but that response simply makes her seem untrustworthy. The better response is to say that even though she does not remember the specifics of the meeting, in hindsight, she understands that it was not appropriate and that it will not happen again as long as she is administrator.
  • Work less. Doan is famous for her endless amount of energy and her to-do lists. The high-energy approach can work in a small business where everyone can do everything. GSA, however, is not a small business and, unfortunately, the high-energy approach has resulted in Doan being involved in matters that should not be landing on the administrator’s desk. The $20,000 no-bid contract is one example.Work 50- or 60-hour weeks rather than 80-hour weeks. That would force the administrator to focus on the most important issues.
  • Trust your staff. GSA has really good career employees. They know their stuff.
  •  Reassure your staff. GSA employees feel your pain — and the agency’s. They also understand that the administrator is the face of the agency. Keep GSA employees in the loop.
  • Listen more. In elementary school, we were told that we have two ears and one mouth, and therefore we should listen twice as much as we talk. Trite, but probably also true. There is wisdom out there, but it isn’t always being heard.
  • Make oversight work. Figure out how to make the relationship with the inspector general and lawmakers work. Yes, GSA’s IG has been overbearing, but there would be no better way to set an example for the procurement community than to show how oversight should work.

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