Federal Times Blogs

GSA administrator appoints new agency CFO

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Dan Tangherlini, acting administrator of the General Services Administration, has appointed Michael Casella as the agency’s new chief financial officer, according to a Feb. 13 blog post.

Casella managed the development and humanitarian assistance budget at USAID and has worked at the Office of Management and Budget and the Treasury Department.

“This experience promises to provide us with significant insights into the needs of our customers,” Tangherlini said.

The General Services Administration saw the resignation or firing of top leadership in April after an inspector general report detailed nearly $823,000 in wasteful spending at a 2010 conference in Las Vegas.

Tangherlini said Casella is part of a new team that will help the agency refocus on customer service and saving agencies money.

GSA needs more time to decide which green building system to use

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The General Services Administration announced another 60-day round of public comment Tuesday on which green building certifications the federal government should use.

GSA is required every five years to evaluate green building certifications for government use and make recommendations to the Energy Department about which systems to use. The Energy Department will then choose any combination of standards that best fit the government’s needs.

The Energy Department has avoided picking one certification standard so far. In 2010, the agency proposed a rule that would allow agencies to use any third-party standard that met Energy Department criteria.

GSA has been under fire from lawmakers, industry groups and advocacy organizations with a stake in which certification system is used.

“GSA would like to hear more from the public, stakeholders, and experts before we develop a formal recommendation on the government’s use of green building certification systems,” said Dan Tangherlini, GSA Acting Administrator.

Today, the government’s primary measuring stick is the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) system, which scores how green a building is based on everything from its construction materials to its proximity to mass transit. Buildings can be LEED certified or achieve even higher degrees of greenness at the LEED Silver, Gold or Platinum levels.

The General Services Administration, which manages most of the government’s non-defense building projects, requires that all buildings it builds be LEED Gold certified. Other federal agencies occasionally use another standard: the Green Building Initiative’s “Green Globes” system.

GSA is currently evaluating LEED, Green Globes and the International Living Future Institutes Living Building Challenge and can recommend one system, multiple systems or none, according to the agency.

“This review has been open to an extensive public process, and an additional comment period will assist us in making a final recommendation for the next five years,” Tangherlini said.

GSA administrator outlines agency priorities for 2013

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The top official at the General Services Administration said in a blog post Monday that the agency’s priorities in 2013 will be to save agencies money, become more environmentally friendly and expand opportunities for small businesses.

Acting administrator Dan Tangherlini took over the post on April 2 after the publication of a GSA inspector general report detailing wasteful spending at a $823,000 conference in Las Vegas and the ouster of the agency’s leadership.

Tangherlini said in a blog post published Monday that the agency will focus on six areas in 2013, including:

Saving agencies money by expanding its strategic sourcing initiative — where agencies are required to purchase categories of goods together — and by cutting real estate costs.

Simplifying its processes and procedures to make it easier for agencies to use GSA services.

Encouraging the use of small businesses at GSA and across the government.

Stepping up its sustainability efforts to make the agency more environmentally friendly.

Promoting a flexible and open workplace that will shrink the federal real estate footprint and save agencies on leasing costs.

Providing GSA employees with training and the resources they need and emphasize greater cooperation across the agency.

Tangherlini said he hoped to make GSA a model for integrity and efficiency.

“GSA has a responsibility to the American people to carry out all of our activities, from our biggest purchases to our most routine leases, with integrity and the highest level of performance,” Tangherlini said.

Federal cloud program certifies first vendor

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North Carolina-based Autonomic Resources last week became the only firm to complete a new security review process for all federal cloud products and services.

The Federal Risk and Authorization Management Program (FedRAMP) was launched in June to standardize security reviews of commercial cloud products. The program is housed within the General Services Administration.

As part of FedRAMP, a joint board of chief information officers from the Homeland Security and Defense departments and GSA reviewed Autonomic’s cloud offering and whether it met federal security standards. The company had to verify that it met some 300 security requirements, including proof that its systems operators, who have access to systems that provide government services, use two-factor authentication. This requires users to provide two forms of evidence to verify who they are before accessing the systems.

Autonomic is the first cloud vendor to receive a so-called provisional authority to operate (ATO) from the joint board of CIOs. The provisional ATO proves a vendor’s cloud services not only meet federal baseline standards, but also are secure enough for use by DHS, DOD and GSA.

The provisional ATOs are expected to speed adoption of cloud services throughout government because other agencies can accept the FedRAMP reviews and assess only their unique security requirements, as opposed to starting from scratch. “By using FedRAMP and eliminating redundant security assessments, agencies can save an estimated $200,000 per authorization,” GSA’s Dave McClure said in a statement.

By now, the administration had hoped to complete at least three FedRAMP reviews. In September, McClure said one challenge is that many vendors don’t understand federal security requirements.

The joint board expects to issue additional ATOs early this year, according to GSA.  

By June 2014, all cloud services and products in use at federal agencies or in an active acquisition process must meet FedRAMP requirements. Agencies can use FedRAMP guidelines to vet the security of their own contractors, or wait for FedRAMP reviews to be completed.

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GSA awards commodity IT contracts for government agencies

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The General Services Administration has awarded contracts to 43 small businesses for tablet computers, mobile devices and other common information technology products and services, the agency announced Thursday.

The blanket purchase agreements were awarded through GSA’s National Information Technology Commodity Program and are available to federal, state and local agencies. GSA’s Office of Integrated Technology Services launched the program last year in an effort to procure IT commodities and supplement services for government agencies. The contracts will provide agencies with deeper discounts than those offered on GSA’s Multiple Award Schedules, according to an agency new release.

Other products offered on the contracts include monitors, video teleconference equipment, laptops, desktops, netbooks and data center equipment. Vendors will be able to add new products to the contracts within 24 hours, GSA said.


GSA dashboard consolidates contract spending data

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The General Services Administration has launched an online dashboard to provide agencies and industry with greater access to its contract spending data for planning and budgeting purposes.

The Governmentwide Acquisition Contract (GWAC) Dashboards  aggregate  non-classified data on federal information technology spending from 2004 to present through GSA’s five GWACs: 8(a) STARS, 8(a) STARS II, Alliant, Alliant Small Business and VETS contracts, GSA announced on Tuesday.

“This tool is especially valuable to small businesses as it provides access to business intelligence they can use to assess market opportunity, decide how best to allocate resources, and identify potential teaming partners for future projects,” GSA Federal Acquisition Service Acting Commissioner Mary Davie, said in a statement.

The dashboard is updated daily and can also help agencies monitor their use of GSA GWACs. It allows users to create customized reports with contracting data sorted by year, contract, federal agency or company.

For example, a quick search of spending data by fiscal year showed that total obligated sales on GSA’s governmentwide contracts has exceeded $218 million, with Alliant sales accounting for nearly half that number.

The website, however, has a disclaimer: “The data contained within may not be fully accurate.”

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Energy Dept. wins SmartPay innovation award

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The General Service Administration awarded this year’s SmartPay 2 Innovation award to the Energy Department for its use of an electronic payment system that will better track individual purchase orders, J.P. Morgan bank announced Thursday.

The Energy Department was the first agency to use J.P. Morgan’s Single-Use Account for SmartPay charge card purchases with CH2M-WG Idaho, one of its major contractors, according to a news release.

Instead of CH2M-WG Idaho using a general account number for all of  its charges, the Single-Use Account issued a unique, 16-digit account number for each payment that CH2M-WG made to its vendors. This allowed the contractor to pay its vendors faster, better track where payments are going and increase payment security, according to J.P. Morgan’s global commercial card division.

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GSA center in search of digital government experts

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A new virtual hub is searching for federal experts to help agencies with source code sharing tools, web hosting challenges and related issues.

As part of the Digital Government Strategy released in May, the General Services Administration stood up the Digital Services Innovation Center. GSA’s Gwynne Kostin is leading the center’s efforts.

“The center will work with agencies to establish shared solutions and training to support infrastructure and content needs across the federal government,” including video captioning and language translation, according to a blog post by federal chief information officer Steven VanRoekel.  ”The Innovation Center will support agencies lacking these capabilities, not supersede agencies’ existing capabilities, and function as a cooperative enterprise that draws on resources from across government and leverages the expertise of forward-leaning agencies.”

On its website, the center describes four ways  interested feds can support its mission:

- Agency reps: The center will host agency employees for assignments from one to three weeks to three to nine months depending on projects.

-Co-Los: Work with agencies to develop their governance structure for developing and delivering digital services. 

-20 Percenters: Work on center initiatives, such as code development and blogging, for one day a week. Employees will gain new experiences, skills and networks while working in place at their agencies.

- Tapas: Complete burst assignments for  the center for one to five hours, such as copy editing, software testing, proofing, code review and captioning.

GSA is advertising the opportunities as a way to ”solve the problems in your agencies and to engage your high-performing staff with cutting-edge projects across agency bounds.”


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Cloud security program officially launches

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A program intended to standardize the government’s security certification of cloud products and services is now accepting vendor applications.

Starting Wednesday, cloud service providers and agencies can apply to have products and services vetted under the Federal Risk and Authorization program (FedRAMP). The program is managed by the General Services Administration.

Companies that already provide cloud technology to agencies under GSA’s Infrastructure-as-a-Service contract will be among the first to have their technology vetted through FedRAMP. Companies on existing government contracts that provide popular cloud services, such as email services, will get priority vetting early on.

By June 2014, all cloud services and products in use at federal agencies or in an active acqusition process must meet FedRAMP requirements. Click here for more information about the FedRAMP process.

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Senators to GSA: Focus on structural reforms to Public Buildings Service

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The General Services Administration should focus on structural changes to its Public Buildings Service, a group of senators from both parties said in a May 21 letter to GSA’s acting administrator Dan Tangherlini.

Senators Tom Carper, D-Del., Rob Portman, R-Ohio, Tom Coburn, R-Okla., and Mark Pryor, D-Ark., said in the letter that GSA should also address “long-standing property management problems” in order to minimize wasteful spending.

GSA is conducting an agencywide review after an embarrassing scandal that centered on a lavish 2010 conference in Las Vegas that cost $822,000 for 300 employees. The scandal forced out the agency’s top leaders, and the White House quickly installed Tangherlini to clean house.

“In an era of shrinking budgets and scarce resources, it is critical that the federal government becomes a better steward of the land and property it owns,” the senators said in the letter.

GSA should also work with Congress to develop legislation to help with any structural and management changes at the agency, the letter said.

Since taking the top job April 2, Tangherlini has ushered in quick and noticeable reforms, including:

• An immediate clampdown on employee travel and conferences, with the exception of last week’s GSA Expo event here.

• A new chain of command for finance officers at the GSA regional offices, who now report directly to headquarters instead of to their regional administrators.

• The consolidation of conference management at the new Office of Administrative Services, which is responsible for contracting, and approving and reviewing spending, for conferences.

In an interview, Tangherlini said he is looking at other possible reforms, such as consolidating some operations — such as information technology, finance and contracting — at its two main divisions: the Public Buildings Service, which manages federal buildings and building leases, and the Federal Acquisition Service, which oversees many federal contracting programs.

“Not having multiple organizations within our organization doing the same thing is going to allow us to be more efficient ourselves, deliver our services more effectively and reduce costs,” he said.