Dan Tangherlini, who turned the General Services Administration around after the Western Regions Conference scandal, announced he’s leaving government Feb. 13.
In an email sent to employees provided by GSA, Tangherlini said the agency is a much different and better place than when he arrived in April 2012. “Today, GSA is stronger, more efficient, and better able to serve our partner agencies and the American people,” he wrote. “I am proud to have played some role in these changes, but I am honored to have had the opportunity to serve alongside all of you. The women and men of GSA are among the most dedicated, hard working public servants I have ever had the pleasure to meet.”
Deputy Administrator Denise Turner Roth, who came to the agency from local government in March 2014, will become the acting administrator.
Tangherlini is widely credited in changing the culture of GSA after the conference spending scandal forced the resignation of the former administrator and other key executives.
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He came to GSA from the Treasury Department and immediately sought to win back the confidence of Congress and other agencies.
Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.), the ranking member of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, said Tangherlini saw that the crisis afforded an opportunity to improve GSA.
“Dan’s leadership and knack for finding ways to make government work smarter and better steered an impressive turnaround for the agency,” Carper said in a release. “In just a few years, he helped reduce the federal government’s real estate footprint, implemented measures to save money in federal contracting, and expanded the agency’s ability to offer innovative information technology solutions. He also kept the Department of Homeland Security headquarters consolidation project at St. Elizabeths on track despite budget uncertainty due to Congress while looking for ways to generate additional savings as the project moves forward. In fact, the approach he takes to his work and the results that work has generated have rightfully earned him the reputation across the federal government as ‘Mr. Fix- It.'”
Among Tangherlini’s biggest accomplishments include centralizing GSA’s management structure, including creating one chief information officer and the human resource functions. He conducted a top-to-bottom review to come up with these changes, which were heralded by lawmakers on both sides of the aisle.
Along with the centralization, Tangherlini demanded accountability from his staff. And while there is evidence that he may have gone too far on occasion with the wrongful termination of two senior executives — the Merit Systems Protection Board rejected GSA’s appeal in December — GSA’s culture change is significant.
Tangherlini revamped GSA’s mission statement in 2013 and detailed six priorities to capture the agency’s mission.
GSA says the changes from the top-to-bottom review will reduce its financial management and IT functions by more than 25 percent in 2015 as compared to 2012. The agency says its new hiring approval process has led to a 9.1 percent decrease in full-time employees since April 2012.
“He accomplished the administration’s objectives, stabilized the agency and guided it through an extremely challenging time in the post western conference scandal environment,” said Roger Waldron, the president of the Coalition for Government Procurement. “His legacy is stabilizing the agency that was in one of the toughest spots I’d ever seen it be in. He brought legitimacy to the organization again and credibility, and that’s a huge deal.”
Waldron also praised Tangherlini for addressing some of the internal duplication of functions. He said in the long run the changes should streamline operations and reduce costs, while providing the same level of service or better.
Tangherlini also refocused GSA’s Federal Acquisition Service and the Public Buildings Service. He brought in Tom Sharpe from the Treasury Department to run FAS, and Norman Dong to run PBS.
Tangherlini and Sharpe set FAS on a new path with the Common Acquisition Platform, category management and improved customer service. Tangherlini also envisioned the innovation lab known as 18F to help improve federal IT projects and expand the concept of agile development.
“Dan deserves a lot of credit for pushing new ideas and new thinking,” said Stan Soloway, president and CEO of the Professional Services Council in a statement. “We didn’t always agree, but he was always open to dialogue and focused on delivering quality for the government.”
Larry Allen, a long-time GSA observer and president of Allen Federal Business Partners, said the fact that Tangherlini stayed at GSA almost three years is part of the reason for his significant impact.
“While most of what he will be remembered for is in the real estate area, he also has had a significant impact on GSA’s contracting in terms of trying to reduce pricing disparity among companies selling the same or similar items, implementation of the Federal Strategic Sourcing Initiative, and Category Management,” Allen said. “While not all GSA contractors may support all of these moves, it is undeniable that Tangherlini had a plan and a playbook and set about to implement it. No one can say they didn’t know where they stood with him or that he was vague about what he wanted to do.”
On the federal facilities side, Tangherlini pushed for innovation with how GSA disposes of under or unutilized federal property.
GSA is trying to trade the FBI headquarters building in Washington for a new, larger building and construction services somewhere else. Tangherlini also is leading the effort to redevelop Federal Triangle South.
Tangherlini didn’t say what his next move would be.
“I want everyone in this agency to know that it has been a pleasure to do such important work with committed public servants such as you,” he wrote. “We have made a real difference and I want thank all of you for making that possible.”