Tangherlini's two words for GSA: Zeit. Geist.


Pity the administrators of the General Services Administration. Politically appointed and at the apex of their career, they seem almost uniformly…disappointed. Having crept up from the swampy undergrowth of D.C. ambition, they are now in charge of an agency the very epitome of bureaucracy.

No offense, dedicated civil servants (and there are many!) who work at GSA. Somebody needs to do what you do, but while the Defense Department goes off to foreign lands and the intelligence community spies on stuff and even the staid-sounding National Institute of Standards and Technology turns out to be a hotbed of cutting-edge physics research, GSA manages federal buildings and lets contracts.

It's very important work – more important than most people realize. But it's not sexy. As a result, administrators tend to look for ways to liven things up. The fundamentals of GSA – schedules management, fleet management, etc. – get ignored in favor of "innovation" or "crowdsourcing," "building a dialogue," or whatever else the current zeitgeist calls for. Not coincidentally, GSA has suffered greatly as an agency over the past decade.

Rather than a new administrator, or acting administrator as the case may be, harping on about how he or she will bring innovation to the agency, or that a new bullpen-style headquarters office will make everything better, GSA is in real need of an administrator who accepts the agency mission for what it is (important but not flashy), and promises in public to concentrate on improving its delivery. Otherwise, all that talk about innovation looks like another administrator changing the topic from what he is really in charge to what he wishes he were in charge of – another agency.  - Dave