Could it be smooth sailing for Dan Tangherlini to become the permanent head at the General Services Administration? Judging from today’s confirmation hearing, the answer is yes.
The Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs held the hearing June 18 for the nomination of Tangherlini as GSA administrator. He has been serving in acting capacity since April 2012.
“GSA deserves a leader who understands the complexity of these challenges,” committee Chairman Thomas Carper, D-Del., said in his opening remarks. “He is the logical choice to be confirmed as administrator.”
Tangherlini has extensive experience serving the public, a commitment he says is inspired by his father, and his dedication to public service. Tangherlini’s career began at the Office of Management and Budget, and from there he went on to work at the Transportation Department, the D.C. government, Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, and most recently prior to GSA, the Treasury Department.
GSA came under scrutiny this past year when a report from the inspector general revealed the agency spent more than $800,000 on a 2010 conference in Las Vegas.
During his 15 months at GSA, Tangherlini has eliminated 50 conferences, saving $28 million.
“We sat here eight years ago talking about the GSA, and it doesn’t seem like we’ve made any progress since then,” Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., said. “Some of the pains we’ve felt from the sequester wouldn’t be here if we had already solved some of the issues with the GSA.”
GSA has struggled in large part due to the lack of leadership, as pointed out by several committee members. In the last eight years, GSA has had eight different leaders; the last two resigned after scandals in their administration were made public.
In Tangherlini’s short time at GSA, he has worked to cultivate a culture of continuous evaluation and improvement, according to his opening statement. In the past fiscal year, GSA reduced its spending on travel, IT devices and printing, ending the year’s expenses 43 percent lower than the previous fiscal years. In cutting travel alone, GSA saved $28 million. In addition, Tangherlini slashed bonuses throughout GSA by 64 percent, and eliminated them completely in the administrator’s office.
Sen. Kelly Ayotte, D-N.H, called on a drastic need for a change of culture in GSA, highlighting the corruption found in the June inspector general report.
In response to that report, Tangherlini sent out a joint letter to the organization, urging employees who witnesses misconduct to report it to their coworkers, superiors and most important, the attorney general.
Another measure Tangherlini took was launching the “Great Ideas Hunt” program. The program encouraged employees at GSA to suggest ideas, and more than 600 ideas and 20,000 comments resulted from it. Implementing these in the past 14 months has resulted in $5 million in savings.
Tangherlini expressed optimism about the work his agency has done in the last year, and his plans if confirmed as GSA administrator.
“I hope the information presented to you today is suggestive of what we can do to make GSA a fantastic agency, better than it already is,” he said.
The chairman said he was “very confident” Tangherlini would be confirmed.