General Services Administrator Resigns over Wasteful Spending: Who is Martha Johnson?
Tuesday, April 03, 2012
When President Barack Obama announced his intention to nominate Martha Johnson to be the next Administrator of the General Services Administration (GSA), an independent agency that provides procurement services to federal agencies, manages contracts, and maintains federal buildings through its Public Buildings Service, he had hoped that it would raise morale at the GSA, which had been rocked by the scandal-plagued tenure of Lurita Doan. Doan was asked by the Bush White House to resign in April 2008 because of serious allegations of conflicts of interest and use of federal properties for partisan purposes, which is prohibited by the Hatch Act.
Johnson was supposed to be the anti-waste alternative to Doan. Oops.
On Monday it was Martha Johnson’s turn to resign as administrator of GSA after the release of an inspector general’s report that bluntly detailed wasteful and spending for a training conference held in Henderson, Nevada. The conference for 300 attendees cost $822,751. Among the findings in the report:
· “To select a venue and plan the conference, GSA employees conducted two ‘scouting trips,’ five off-site planning meetings, and a ‘dry run.’”
· GSA awarded a $58,000 contract to a large business in violation of small-business set-asides.
· GSA disclosed “to the team-building contractor the agency’s maximum budget for one day of training,” and then agreed to pay the contractor that amount ($75,000).
· “Expenses included mementos for attendees, purchases of clothing for GSA employees, and tuxedo rentals.”
· The “Acting Regional Administrator instructed those planning the conference to make it ‘over the top’ and to make it bigger and better than previous conferences. Several suggestions to minimize expenses were ignored.”
Born in 1953, Johnson earned her BA in economics and history from Oberlin College in 1974 and an MBA from Yale Business School in 1979. She pursued a varied private sector career, including a two-year stint teaching economics at Tunghai University in Taiwan from 1974 to 1976, after which she relocated to New Haven, Connecticut, to pursue her MBA at Yale. Johnson’s first job after graduate school was at Cummins Engine Company in Indianapolis, Indiana, where she worked as a manager from 1979 to 1985. After six years with the same company, Johnson then held a series of five private sector positions for less than two years each, including Vice President of Finance and Administration at Ellenzweig, Moore, a small architectural and planning firm in Cambridge, Massachusetts (1985 to 1987); Recruiter at staffing companies Isaacson Miller (also 1985 to 1987) and the Boulware Group (1988 to 1990) – both of which specialize in helping nonprofit clients; Director at management consulting firm Kaleel Jamison Consulting Group – which was a pioneer in addressing diversity in the work place, (1990 to 1992); and Consultant at Ben & Jerry’s, the avowedly leftist ice cream maker for several months during 1992. It is worth noting that Johnson apparently pursued a left-leaning career path, for after 1985 all of her personnel-related work was accomplished at explicitly progressive firms.
Johnson Worked on the Clinton-Gore transition team and then, when Bill Clinton took over the White House, Johnson was named Director of the White House Office of Presidential Personnel, a position she held until October of the same year. She then served as Associate Deputy Secretary of Commerce from October 1993 to March 1996. She began her career at GSA in March 1996, when she was appointed Chief of Staff, a position she held until late 2001.
Returning to the private sector in November 2001, Johnson was named Vice President of the Council for Excellence in Government, a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization in Washington, DC, initiated in the 1980s to improve the effectiveness of federal, state, and local government in the United States. In January 2003, she moved on to become Director at Touchstone Consulting Group, a senior leadership strategy support firm purchased in March 2005 by SRA International, which in turn employed Johnson as a Vice President from March 2005 to November 2007. Both Touchstone and SRA performed a lot of work for the federal government, and Johnson herself did consulting work for such clients as the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Labor.
Johnson left SRA to become Vice President of Culture at Computer Sciences Corporation (CSC), a major government contractor in the field of information technology consulting services located in Falls Church, Virginia. In fact, during fiscal year 2007, CSC won nearly $4.2 billion in federal contracts, which constituted nearly 3 percent of all federal contracts awarded that year, including $146 million from GSA, making CSC the ninth-largest recipient of GSA contracts for 2007. In late 2008, Johnson became co-leader of the Obama transition team evaluating GSA.
President Obama nominated Johnson to be GSA administrator on April 3, 2009, and she was approved by the Senate Committee on Environmental and Public Works in June. But it would be another nine months before she was confirmed by the full Senate because Sen. Kit Bond (R-Missouri) put a hold on Johnson’s confirmation as part of a battle in which he wanted a new federal office building built in Kansas City.
-Matt Bewig, David Wallechinsky
To Learn More:
Management Deficiency Report: General Services Administration Public Buildings Service 2010 Western Regions Conference (Office of Inspector General U.S. General Services Administration (pdf)
GSA Chief Resigns amid Reports of Excessive Spending (by Lisa Rein and Joe Davidson, Washington Post)
- Top Stories
- Unusual News
- Where is the Money Going?
- U.S. and the World
- Appointments and Resignations
- Latest News
- Fracking Industry Wins Weak Ingredient Disclosure Rule
- Widely Used Polygraph Test Proves Faulty
- Study Demonstrates Election Official Bias against Latinos
- Since Killing 13, Fort Hood Shooter Has Earned $278,000 in Salary as Army Psychiatrist
- Tightened Arizona Border Security Pushes Migrants to Dangerous Routes, More Deaths