June 16, 2012 – 12:33 p.m.

GSA Touts New Savings Efforts

The General Services Administration was shamed earlier this year when the agency’s inspector general reported on its lavish spending at a training conference in Las Vegas. The report, which detailed expensive parties and outlandish training exercises — one involved a mind reader — cost the agency’s administrator, Martha Johnson, her job. So it makes sense that the agency, which among other duties is charged with setting up a list of recommended contractors for government agencies to use, is now touting the ways in which it is working hard to save the government money.

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Earlier this month, the acting administrator, Dan Tangherlini, announced that the GSA would cease to manage lists of contractors who provide outdated products or ones that relatively few federal agencies use, such as those for typewriters, photographic equipment and trophies.

The GSA maintains lists of companies that have agreed to provide products and services to agencies at a preferred price, and agencies are encouraged, but not required, to use the lists. But the GSA says that about 8,000 contracts don’t generate significant sales, with many generating no sales at all. Still, keeping each of them up to date costs about $3,000. By eliminating the little-used product lines, the GSA figures it will save $24 million. “This helps us streamline the way we do business,” Tangherlini says.

The GSA contends that with the savings it will generate, it can focus more on the contracting services that agencies actually want. The agency, for example, is beginning a process of signing off on the security protocols of companies offering cloud-computing services, which will allow agencies to move away from software-based products for services, such as email and word processing.

The GSA says that since it became the first federal agency to move its email to a cloud provider last year, it’s saved $2 million and expects the savings to reach $15 million over five years, cutting its IT costs for email in half.