Embattled Doan Cuts Waste | Citizens Against Government Waste

Embattled Doan Cuts Waste

The WasteWatcher

The General Services Administration (GSA) is often called “the government’s landlord.”  It is responsible for the upkeep of the government’s 8,600 buildings.  The agency has a $66 billion budget and 12,000 employees, and its current administrator is Lurita Doan. 

While she has been making progress in reducing wasteful spending at GSA, Doan has dealt with several scandals.  Soon after taking over GSA in May, 2006, she gave a no-bid contract to a company owned by a longtime friend.  According to a January 19, 2007 article in The Washington Post, the $20,000 contract signed by Doan was cancelled in the summer of 2006, after senior GSA officials determined that it violated procurement rules.

In August 2007, Doan came under fire from U.S. Office of Special Counsel (OSC), which claimed she had violated the Hatch Act, a law designed to keep executive branch employees from involving themselves in political activity in the workplace.  The allegations stemmed from a meeting at GSA hosted by Doan in January 2007 to discuss Republican strategies in the 2008 elections.  According to an OSC report, it was attended by over 30 GSA employees, and Doan allegedly made comments about working hard to elect Republicans.  The Wall Street Journal reported on November 28, 2007 that the White House has yet to act on the OSC’s recommendation to reprimand Doan.

Despite the adversity, Doan is sticking to her plan to have each GSA division identify wasteful programs with the goal of cutting spending by 9 percent.  She said of the process, “There was a lot of resistance at first, but after a while, it was like a bonfire.  Everyone was tossing obsolete government programs into the flames.”  Doan estimates savings of $1 billion to date, with plans for more savings next year.

Part of her strategy to reduce wasteful spending at GSA is to eliminate what she calls “phantom employees” – positions that are unfilled within the GSA, but for which the agency still receives money in order to pay an employee.  Administrator Doan discovered 50 such “phantom employees,” and said that many of the positions have been open for more than three years without being filled.  By eliminating these positions, the savings are estimated at $6 million for the first year and a total of $170 million, when factoring in the employee’s lifetime salary as well as costs such as retirement benefits.

Doan also plans to use a “Zero Based Budget” for departmental travel.  This entails division heads listing all anticipated travel in an upcoming year, which is then calculated to arrive at a basic cost.  Trips are also scrutinized to see if they are necessary.  The same principles are used by businesses.

Doan, after all, should know how to right a financial ship.  Until July, 2005 she was president, CEO, and sole owner of a small business that dealt with surveillance technology, which she founded in 1990.  Speaking of her mindset when accepting the position of GSA Administrator, Doan said, “I viewed this job as a chance to do a turnaround operation.” 

While at times Administrator Doan’s judgment has been questioned, her budget savings methods are sound.  By reducing waste in GSA by $1 billion, Ms. Doan has proven yet again that while not popular, cutting spending in government is possible, despite politicians’ claims to the contrary.