Agency reorganizations tend not to make a lot of news. They tend to impact only that agency or bureau or office, but rarely do the changes matter to a wide audience. But the General Services Administration’s Federal Acquisition Service (FAS) turns both of these conventional thoughts on their head.
For one, every agency uses FAS to spend more than $35 billion through GSA’s schedules, governmentwide acquisition contracts and assisted acquisition services programs. Second, FAS’ shuffle is directly related to the Obama administration’s category management initiative, which it’s codifying in a new circular — comments on the draft are due Nov. 7.
Both of these reasons make it important for federal employees and contractors to take notice.
While GSA still is working out all the specific details, here is what we do know. There are four “orders” that are mainly focused on improving FAS’ key business processes.
GSA says the overall changes to the FAS structure are minimal, with the majority of FAS organizational units remaining unchanged and employees will not be moving duty stations or changing functions. GSA says the majority of current FAS organizational units will remain as they are, and those that are moving are primarily “lifts and shifts,” with the teams remaining intact.
“Realigning FAS to the principles of category management is a critical step in fully integrating a more strategic and customer-focused business model across the agency,” a GSA spokeswoman said in a statement to Federal News Radio. “To accomplish this, FAS undertook a strategic organizational realignment of our workforce and processes. The realignment plan supports FAS efforts to adopt the principles and vision of category management — helping the government to act as one — but also improves organizational efficiencies and effectiveness in the delivery of acquisition solutions and services.”
Here is what I’ve learned about each of the orders:
Order One — This order establishes a new office, the Office of Professional Services and Human Capital Categories, which is responsible for oversight and program direction of GSA’s professional services and human capital categories. This order also realigns and organizes the personal property functions into a zonal structure, and realigns Card Services as a subcategory of Professional Services. This order currently is being implemented.
Order Two — This effort standardizes naming and structure across all FAS offices to streamline the organization and to better align to category management. The order represents the bulk of realignment changes, although there is minimal employee impact. Order Two, approved by Administrator Denise Turner Roth, is awaiting labor relations obligations and implementation.
Order Three — Order Three focuses on internal movements within the Office of Integrated Technology Services (ITS), and realigns functions to effectively manage the six IT categories under their purview. ITS is renamed the Office of Information Technology Category (ITC). A new deputy assistant commissioner for acquisition will oversee both the multiple award schedules and non-MAS acquisition operations in a single organization. GSA named Bill Zielinski to be the new deputy assistant commissioner for Category Management. He will oversee all category operations and lines of business for IT services, products, security and telecommunications. GSA says FAS currently is implementing these changes.
Order Four — This order focuses solely on the Industrial Operations Analysts (IOAs), moving IOAs into the business lines and FAS’s new category structure. GSA says aligning IOAs more closely to acquisition functions lets FAS better maximize internal resources and to function more efficiently. Roth approved this order and it’s awaiting labor relations obligations and implementation.
Along with Zielinski moving to a new role, GSA recently hired Rob Coen in August. The former director of the National Institutes of Health’s IT Acquisition and Assessment Center (NITAAC) will lead one of the new sectors created by this reorganization.
Larry Allen, president of Allen Federal Business Partners, said FAS’ reorganization seems to make sense on paper.
“If this move ends up making FAS more efficient, that would be a positive outcome. I think that’s the intent,” he said. “I’m not sure why a new level of management has to be created, but maybe it’s something they need to have to placate the unions and ensure people don’t get crowded out.”
He said one initial concern is around having two MAS offices because one part of the office could be managed differently than the other.
“On that line, why not have a ‘MAS Category ‘ so that we have some consistent management and knowledge throughout,” Allen said. “It’s FAS’ largest program.”
Allen also said the changes to IOA makes sense because this could harmonize efforts and give more accurate assessments of contractors.
FAS deserves credit for rethinking how it delivers its services, especially for what’s arguably its most popular office, ITS, now ITC. While the jury still is out around all aspects of category management, most would agree that understanding what agencies are buying and how they are buying it is beneficial to everyone.