Lagging database project could cost GSA’s Roth a confirmation vote

Denise Turner Roth testified before the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee Thursday. (Committee webcast)

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Denise Turner Roth, acting administrator of the General Services Administration, received a mostly welcoming round of questioning Thursday during the first hearing in her path toward confirmation.

That is, until Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., arrived at the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee hearing with a familiar air of reproach toward GSA and some of its long-running inefficiencies. McCaskill, who said she has “worked combatively” with Roth’s predecessors — with the exception of Roth’s former boss Dan Tangherlini — took issue with the Federal Acquisition Database, a project in the works since 2009 that’s meant to consolidate a dozen federal acquisition databases managed by several agencies.

Six years later, the senator said, there’s no evidence of that project being close to finished, and it’s nearly doubled in price from $96 million for the original work to at least $181 million.

“Unsurprisingly, like IT projects everywhere and especially in the federal government, cost estimates have doubled and deadlines fall by the wayside,” she said. “We’re six years into this project. If this was the private sector, this would be ‘fail.'”

Roth took over as acting administrator in February when Tangherlini stepped down. Prior to that, she served as deputy administrator.

Handed the consolidation project when she moved into her new post, Roth told McCaskill the completion date was set for sometime in 2018. But that wasn’t good enough for McCaskill, who wanted a more specific date and said until she gets one, she would not vote in favor of Roth’s confirmation.

“Eight-and-a-half years to integrate databases?” McCaskill scoffed.

She added, “Contractors are making a lot of money off of this deal, and I just don’t sense that there’s urgency … I
think I got to just get downright mean to get a date and to get a price and to hold people to it. This just wouldn’t happen in the private
sector.”

Roth conceded, “It’s obviously been very inefficient.”

Outside of McCaskill’s questioning, the hearing ran smoothly for Roth. Several senators spoke of her confirmation as if it were certain. Roth mostly discussed the challenges GSA faces as a real estate provider, like reducing the federal buildings’ footprint. A few times, however, she did mention GSA’s commitment to making federal acquisition more effective with the Common Acquisition Platform and category management, which she spoke of in her opening statement, and better serving other agencies by using data.

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Congress, Denise Turner Roth, Government IT News, oversight, Regulations & Oversight, Senate
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