GSA’s John Johnson to announce his retirement

Monday - 3/30/2009, 8:05am EDT

The rumor has been buzzing for days, but it is seeming increasingly true: GSA’s John Johnson may just retire from government service. I have all-but confirmation coming from both industry and government sources.

Johnson is GSA’s Assistant Commissioner for the Federal Acquisition Service’s Integrated Technology Services, which oversees some of the government’s biggest and most important contracts including the GSA schedule contracts, GSA’s governmentwide telecommunications contracts such as Networx , and GSA’s governmentwide acquisition vehicles , including the just announced Alliant, which Jason Miller broke first on Federal News Radio 1500 AM’s Daily Debrief with Chris Dorobek and Amy Morris on Friday.

I’m hearing that Johnson’s last day will be May 1. No word on where he might be going. The official announcement is expected during the GSA press briefing this afternoon about the Alliant contract award.

Johnson has played a powerful role at GSA in recent years — and not only because ITS oversees some of GSA’s biggest contracts. Having worked at the Defense Department’s procurement organization for 24 years — not so coincidentally DOD is GSA’s biggest customer — so Johnson had a keen awareness about what its customers were looking for.

That being said, Johnson has had to overcome some significant hurdles in recent years. The creation of the GSA’s Federal Acquisition Service — the combination of the former Federal Technology Service and the Federal Supply Service — has been difficult at times. And there have also been issues with some ofGSA’s big contracts: Networx, while seemingly on a roll now, took much longer to get rolling then expected and was delayed several times, and Alliant was famously protested before being awarded this week.

That being said, Johnson is credited with making security a significant part of the Networx telecommunications contract, in particular, creating Networx contracts for the Trusted Internet Connection initiative.

Johnson has undoubtedly had an enormous influence on government IT and government contracting specifically. In 2007, Government Computer News named Johnson the civilian Executive of the Year.

“What constantly strikes me about John is that he is always out to do the right thing,” said Steve Kempf, deputy assistant commissioner at ITS. “Once we decide on what exactly the right thing is, we all become thoroughly committed to getting that done. “

Part of the focus for Johnson and his staff is keeping the customer experience in mind. “This reorganization has allowed us to offer our customers a wide array of solutions to meet their needs,” said Johnson, who recalls his days as a frustrated GSA customer, when the agency was unable to present a holistic set of offerings. “We can offer agencies several different channels to reach the market, and we can be more objective in the recommendations we make. We are now able to determine best how we can satisfy our customers’ needs.”

Johnson’s experience has paid off for agency customers who look for GSA’s help in making megapurchases, said John Grimes, DOD’s chief information officer. “John understands both sides ” DOD and GSA. He listens and remains customer-focused. He realizes that he is not buying this stuff for his own internal operations. “

I couldn’t find Johnson’s bio on GSA’s Web site anywhere, so… here is his bio as published by AFFIRM when he spoke there last year:

As the first official Assistant Commissioner for the Federal Acquisition Service’s Integrated Technology Services (ITS) organization, Mr. Johnson manages the largest “Fee for Service” IT procurement and services operation in the United States Government.

Mr. Johnson leads a highly skilled and diverse workforce that manages more than five thousand contracts providing products, services, and solutions to nearly 135 federal agencies and departments in approximately 190 countries. ITS is responsible for development, planning, management and operations of all GSA customer-facing Information Technology and Telecommunications contracts. The organization’s portfolio consists of the IT Schedule 70 program, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) -chartered ITGovernmentwide Acquisition Contracts (GWACs) Program, the Office of Network Services Programs, and several strategic Governmentwide initiatives such as Homeland Security Presidential Directive-12 (HSPD-12), E-Authentication, the Smart-Buy software program, and the Information Technology Line of Business (ITLOB) initiative. ITS actively works with GSA’s customers and industry partners to ensure that its array of Information Technology and Telecommunications offerings are relevant and timely in support of the broad-ranging missions of federal, state and local customers.