As it has many times over the past decade, the General Services Administration has an acting administrator. This time, unlike several previous situations, the transition was without drama and scandal.
Denise Turner Roth joined the GSA a year ago as deputy administrator and, now that Dan Tangherlini has departed for the private sector, Roth has been just named acting administrator. “GSA is stronger than it’s ever been before,” she told Federal Drive with Tom Temin. “We’ve done a lot of work internally to both rightsize, in terms of how our reporting structure works as well as streamlining the work internally. And so, we’re in a very strong position to continue to support our partner agencies.”
Before coming to GSA as deputy administrator and chief operating officer a year ago, Roth’s background was working in local government. She most recently served as the city manager for Greensboro, North Carolina. Prior to that, she worked on Capitol Hill and in the D.C. government during the administration of Mayor Anthony Williams.
Roth recently rolled out the Total Workforce Initiative as a way for GSA to continue to focus on talent development.
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“When we look at our GS-7s through 11s in our organization, we’ve gone down from that representing 11 percent of the population to 7 percent,” she said. “I think we need to focus on how we bring the individuals into the organization and making them ready to be our future leaders. So, we are being deliberate about recruiting and bringing individuals in and not just hiring at the high level of the organization. Because of the strength of our organization, it’s really about its future.”
Attracting potential hires to an organization can be tough, especially for an agency like the GSA which may not appear initially as attractive or as easy a sell as other agencies like NASA or the FBI.
Roth takes a different view of the agency.
“GSA is at the fundamental core of making other agencies stronger,” Roth said. “So, we have the opportunity to see across agencies. We understand how they operate. We understand the data behind how they operate and we look to make it better. And that’s what we’re able to do from all of our facets. Be it building services, acquisitions, technology, we are at the ground level of ‘Here’s where the best opportunity is to move into a 21st century government,’ and we’re helping them do that.”
She added that any recent college graduates who want to train in that way and be able to see across agencies should consider GSA as a great first step in their careers.
To help in its recruiting efforts, GSA has instituted staffing plans that provide a picture of hiring through this year and beyond.
“We’re targeting a certain number of positions for this first pass,” Roth said. “It’ll be about 200 positions in which we’re looking for a more entry-level individual to bring into the system and into the organization. We will have a wraparound program that will support them through the transition, help them get a sense of what’s available in the organization and the best fit for their skills.”
She said GSA would be proactive in its recruiting effort and use some of the Officer of Personnel Management’s tools to help with its hiring assessment.
Over the next several months, GSA will also be focusing its foundational efforts.
“GSA has had quite a few transitions in recent years that continue to make the organization stronger,” Roth said. “I want to ensure that those are fundamental pieces of how we operate. So, the efficiency and effectiveness efforts that we’ve put in place, we will continue.”
Roth said GSA will continue to leverage its past successes as it moves forward.
“That’s why I look at things such as workforce preparedness as well as for our partner agencies, how are we helping them think about co-location and relocation and shrinking their footprint,” she said. “I think that all of those pieces that are already in play are fundamental pieces we need to focus on and make a regular part of how we operate.”
GSA has a number of significant building and renovation projects in the President’s proposed Fiscal Year 2016 budget, such as the FBI headquarters relocation and the St. Elizabeths project. Roth said her agency would continue to focus on those key projects going forward.
“We want to see those programs through,” she said. “They’re important efforts in our building program as well, in that FBI will represent our first exchange effort and I think that we’re excited through as well.”
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