The Long Wait: Who is Obama GSA Nominee Martha Johnson?

Saturday, January 09, 2010

On April 3, 2009, President 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. The appointment of GSA insider Johnson was expected to raise morale at the GSA, which was rocked by the scandal-plagued tenure of Lurita Doan, who 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. However, the position of administrator has remained unfilled ever since.

Johnson was approved by the Senate Committee on Environmental and Public Works in June. But Sen. Kit Bond (R-Missouri) put a hold on Johnson’s confirmation as part of a battle in which he wants a new federal office building built in Kansas City.
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. 
- Matt Bewig
Martha Johnson May Bring Old Era Back to GSA (by Matthew Weigelt, Federal Computer Week)
Here’s How GSA Changed Its Ways (by Curtis Sittenfeld, Fast Company)


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