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DorobekINSIDER: Martha Johnson’s last words to GSA… and Dan Tangherlini first

with 2 comments

Despite everything else, the big story of the week is The Conference — GSA Public Building Service’s now infamous 2010 Western Regions Conference, as highlighted by the GSA Inspector General report.

This week, Martha Johnson, the GSA Administrator, decided to fall on the sword, despite the fact that by every account, she had nothing to do with the planning of this conference. Johnson was finally confirmed by the Senate in February, 2010 — a mere eight months before the Western Regions Conference took place in October 2010. It is sometimes remarkable to me that people who claim government is incompetent somehow now somehow contend that Johnson crafted this conference — or that it somehow blights her view of government ethics. Those of us who know Johnson — now and through the years — know that, regardless of how they feel about her decisions within the agency, she would never do anything to blight GSA’s reputation. Many of us would argue she hasn’t. (Kudos to Gartner analyst Andrea Di Maio, for his truly fair and balanced assessment: Why it’s chief’s resignation should make GSA proud.)

Personally, I continue to believe the situation is terrible. Without taking anything away from the new acting administrator, I believe it was a bad decision to get rid of Johnson… and it will hinder good government. Mistakes were made. Nobody questions that. Personally, I would argue that any event that involves clowns is a bad idea. But if we want good government — if we really want good government and value our empoyees — it is time to stop the scapegoating and drive-by judgements.

That being said, the DorobekINSIDER has obtained Johnson’s final words to the agency… and acting administrator Dan Tangherlini first words.

First, Johnson’s parting remarks to the agency:

Martha Johnson

On April 2, 2012, I submitted my resignation as the Administrator of the U.S. General Services Administration to President Obama and he has accepted it.

I take this action with great sorrow. GSA holds a special place in my heart. It has been a singular honor to lead you as Administrator and I am enormously proud of everything this innovative and agile agency has been able to do.

I leave a GSA deeply committed to its mission of helping government organizations deliver on their missions to the nation. I have been privileged to be able to translate the President’s agenda into effective strategies that range from more energy efficient buildings and vehicle fleets to innovative use of cloud technologies, and much more. I am proud of our progress and believe it has been a catalyst for important change to affect government operations.

The Agency, however, has made a significant mis-step. Reports of an internal conference in which taxpayer dollars were squandered led me to launch internal reviews, take disciplinary personnel action, and institute tough new controls to ensure this incident is not repeated. In addition, I feel I must step aside as Administrator so that the Agency can move forward at this time with a fresh leadership team.

Collectively, the people of GSA now must review, repair, and rebuild. I am absolutely confident that this work of renewal can be done by the hard working people of GSA and that our creative abilities will continue to find true value for our government and nation.

With the deepest regard,

Martha

After the break, read Tangherlini’s first words to GSA…

Dear GSA:

Daniel Tangherlini

Today, I am joining your team to serve as your Acting Administrator. I recognize that this is not easy, but I am confident that you will not allow circumstances to slow your momentum or progress in the many important areas of the federal government where GSA plays a vital role.

As the Assistant Secretary for Management and CFO of the Treasury Department and GSA customer for the last three years, I am impressed by the progress of this agency, as both a service provider and a business partner.  Over the course of the last several years, GSA has made tremendous strides to promote efficiency and cost savings throughout the federal government.  This is a mission we remain committed to through programs such as the Green Proving Grounds, our efforts to increase sustainable buildings in our government portfolio, and effectively executing the President’s Executive Order around fleet efficiency.  We cannot allow mistakes or misjudgments of a small number of individuals to slow our progress or take our focus from our goals.  GSA’s business is to solve customers’ problems; we are acting quickly to address them.

We are making immediate actions to ensure that our customers maintain their faith in our services and their basic value proposition.  Some immediate steps that we are undertaking include:

·         Reviewing all planned and proposed conferences and meetings that involve travel or substantial expenditures of public funds.
·         Canceling a number of conferences that only or primarily involve internal staff.
·         Launching an evaluation of our GSA conference and travel policies and business justification.
·         Enhancing our focus on oversight by improving our management of risk.

As the provider of services and solutions to the federal government and its agencies, we have a special responsibility to ensure that we conduct our business at the highest level of efficiency, delivering the best value to the American people and in a way that is beyond reproach or question.  We need to redouble our efforts to those core values and ensure they are reflected in every action we take.  We will continue to demonstrate our value proposition to our customer agencies through our own improved internal efficiency and cost-effectiveness.

Every step of the way I will work with you, the talented, committed members of the GSA team to leverage the challenges we face today as an opportunity to build an even stronger GSA.  I look forward to meeting you, talking to you, and hearing your ideas for improving our agency.  We’ll be exploring ways to more formally engage you in the discussion, but until then, if you have an idea, suggestion, or concern, please do not hesitate to contact me at Dan.Tangherlini@gsa.gov.

The success of federal agencies is determined by their workforce.  I am confident that the excellent women and men of GSA can continue to deliver service excellence and integrity.

Dan Tangherlini
Acting Administrator

Good luck, Mr. Tangherlini… and I deeply hope the workers at GSA, most of whom have started to show true innovation over the past three years, demonstrate the courage that comes with true public service.

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Written by cdorobek

April 5, 2012 at 9:31 PM

Posted in Circuit, GSA, Workforce

2 Responses

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  1. I don’t doubt that the now former administrator was a dedicated public servant and was doing a good job at GSA. You have good insights on the people and policies at the agency and your judgments have always been sound. That said, from the perspective of a citizen sitting many miles from DC, and not having access to all the “inside” information, it appears this is a case of a chief executive who should have known what was going on in this instance. She was either very badly served by her senior staff, or didn’t ask the questions that should have been asked in senior staff meetings. And I imagine there were weekly — or at least frequent senior staff meetings — where the administrator went around the table and asked for updates on current projects, planned events, etc. Didn’t the subject of a major regional convention come up? Didn’t anyone question its being held in Las Vegas, a venue the president had criticized early in his presidency? What information as provided? What information as requested? Perhaps, the consequences suffered by Johnson are not entirely fair, but they are not surprising.

    David Bethel

    April 6, 2012 at 8:04 AM

  2. I think there are some good points here, but I’m afraid that the overall impression is that chief executives can’t be responsible for making their bureaucracies work properly. If that’s the case, why do we spend time having Congress approve these folks? Why do businesses spend so much on CEOs? I’ll bet there are a lot of agency leaders currently checking on whatever conferences their minions have been planning.

    Thad Juszczak

    April 9, 2012 at 7:28 AM


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