Canton Repository

May 18, 2001

Confirmation hearings begin for Canton native 

Copley News Service

WASHINGTON — A Senate committee considering Stephen A. Perry’s nomination to head the General Services Administration gave the Canton native a warm reception as his confirmation proceedings
opened Thursday.

If confirmed, Perry would become, in effect, the federal government’s chief landlord and purchasing agent.

“I know that achieving and sustaining high performance and a continuous improvement culture at GSA will be a very big job,” the longtime Timken Co. executive said as he appeared before the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee. “I know it will have its hardships and frustrations. I know it will require long hours and some sacrifices by me and others at GSA.”

Sen. George Voinovich, R-Ohio, who as governor hired Perry to run Ohio’s Department of Administrative Services in the early 1990s, predicted that if Perry is confirmed by the Senate he will turn
GSA into a model for other agencies.

Perry, 55, faces no apparent opposition.

While announcing he will vote against a nominee for another post, Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., said of Perry, “I don’t think Sen. Voinovich’s projection of your success is exaggerated.” Durbin was impressed that
Perry’s start at Timken in 1964 was as a stock clerk.

As administrator of GSA, Perry would head up a $16 billion a year operation with 14,000 employees, which provides buildings, equipment, maintenance, supplies and services to federal agencies. The job pays from $115,000 to $160,000.

Perry told the committee the performance of GSA has a “direct and significant impact” on the ability of other federal agencies to serve the public.

Filling the role “can be a daunting task,” Voinovich said. But he added that Perry’s experience in government and industry “will be a tremendous asset. I have seen many skilled private sector managers stumble when given high-level government positions because they are unfamiliar with how government works. This will not be a problem for Mr. Perry.”

Rep. Ralph Regula, R-Bethlehem Township and Perry’s congressman, introduced him to the panel. Perry’s “experience in Ohio fits very well with the responsibilities of GSA,” he said. Regula added that Perry is a “great citizen of our community, highly respected, involved in a great number of community activities.” Noting that Perry serves as a trustee on the Canton-based National Professional Football Hall of Fame, Regula quipped, “So if you need tickets ...”

During Perry’s examination, committee chairman Sen. Fred Thompson, R-Tenn., asked whether the GSA is performing tasks in-house that could be contracted out.

Perry said the agency should “carefully consider those (private sector) opportunities.” But sometimes, he added, private companies bid on the more lucrative parts of a project, but not the more difficult parts.

“That would argue in favor of keeping the package together (within the agency) so you get economies of scale,” Perry said.

Thompson replied that Perry was “obviously up on that issue.” He said Perry “seems to be very qualified.”

Voinovich, believing the federal government is facing a human capital crisis because large numbers of experienced federal employees are set to retire, urged Perry to examine that issue in GSA.

He added that it will be “interesting” to see how Perry handles apparent problems between management and labor at the agency. When Perry served under him in Ohio, Voinovich said, Perry worked closely with unionized state employees. Improvement of federal operations requires making sure “unionized employees are involved in the process as well,” Voinovich said.

Voinovich urged Perry to examine the qualifications of security guards at federal buildings. 

“Providing a safe workplace for federal employees is paramount,” Perry said.

A potential criticism of Perry arose at the end of a long series of questions from the committee that he answered prior to the hearing. The panel asked him about a newspaper article referring to a medical
supply company that was convicted of submitting $31,000 in false billings to the state for the delivery of adult diapers to recipients of government-paid medical care. Perry was head of the Department of
Administrative Services at the time.

“I did not have any direct involvement in this particular case,” Perry wrote. He said the agency he headed “may have entered into the contract for these purchases on behalf of one of the state agencies.” He added, “It is good that the Division of State Purchasing was able to detect the fraud and take appropriate corrective action.”

The committee could vote as early as Wednesday on Perry. The committee also questioned Angela B. Styles, tapped to head the Office of Federal Procurement Policy, and John D. Graham, nominated to lead the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs in the president’s budget office. Durbin opposes Graham, who he said has “trivialized environmental problems that face our nation.”

Perry felt the hearing went “quite well.”

“I thought the questions were thoughtful and I thought the responses hopefully will be found useful by the committee.”

Nominees who win the committee’s OK will then go to the full Senate for review.