October 4, 2005
Ex-Timken exec Perry quits GSA post, will return to Canton
By Paul M. Krawzak
Copley News Service
WASHINGTON Stephen A. Perry, head of the General Services Administration, announced his resignation Monday, saying he had largely accomplished his goals and looked forward to returning to his hometown of Canton to spend more time with his children and grandchildren.
The former Timken Co. vice president has served as administrator of the federal procurement agency during a period of turbulence, controversy and restructuring.
Since his appointment by President Bush in May 2001, Perry has contended with a widespread procurement scandal unearthed during his watch, begun the consolidation of two huge divisions into a single Federal Acquisition Service and implemented a performance improvement process throughout the agency.
With almost 4½ years on the job, Perry is one of the longest serving administrators in the agency’s 56-year history.
The agency has 13,000 employees and a $24 billion budget, and manages more than 8,000 public buildings and secures billions of dollars’ worth of equipment and supplies for other government organizations.
“I wanted to stay until things were complete or near complete, or in some other cases stay until some of the initiatives at least had enough momentum and staffing that they would continue on a path of success,” Perry said. “And I think that’s where we are now.”
The resignation takes effect Oct. 31.
Perry and his wife Sondra plan to move back to Canton but are uncertain of the timing, he said.
Perry, 60, said he hasn’t made any plans for what he’ll do next. But he said community service remains alluring.
“I don’t know what that (would be) exactly,” he said. “I’m not sure I would do more government public service. But I’ve always had an interest in community types of things and so we’ll see what that yields. But at this point I’m just looking at a blank sheet of paper. I don’t have anything ruled in or ruled out.”
Some GSA observers expect Perry to have a mixed legacy.
“I knew Stephen Perry as a fine gentleman who tried to make GSA a higher performing organization,” said Neal Fox, who served as the agency’s assistant commissioner for commercial acquisition until he left in July. “He had the right ideas of what needs to be accomplished.”
But Fox added that Perry’s legacy “will be clouded by the procurement scandals in the Federal Technology Service.”
Beginning in 2003, the GSA inspector general discovered a pattern of contracting violations, including improper awards, misuse of contracts and failure to enforce contract provisions, involving the procurement of information technology at several of the agency’s regional offices.
Perry implemented a “Get it Right” campaign in 2004 to eliminate the abuses.
Larry Allen, executive vice president of the Coalition for Government Procurement, which represents government contractors, also sees a mixed record.
“Undeniably, the GSA internally needed more benchmarks and internal measurements and they also needed to be reinvented,” Allen said. Perry “gets high marks for having accomplished a lot in those areas.”
But in the process, Allen argues, the agency neglected its customers — federal agencies that rely on the GSA for procurement.
“The agency as a whole must, simply must, go out and talk with their customers,” he said.
Asked what he considers his most significant accomplishment, Perry said he has strived to make sure every employee understands the impact the agency’s procurement work has on other federal organizations and ultimately the nation.
“As we do a really good job of meeting the needs of our customer agencies, we are through them helping to improve the quality of life of people who live in this country,” he said. “We enable them to do their jobs well and that translates into an improved quality of life for people in this country.”