Dorothy Robyn is GSA’s pick as Public Buildings Service commissioner

The General Services Administration on Tuesday named Dorothy Robyn as its new commissioner of the Public Buildings Service, the unit that oversees the federal government’s real estate portfolio.

The agency is trying to remake the unit after a convention scandal that brought down the agency’s top administrator, and it hopes Robyn, a Defense Department official who oversaw the Defense Base Closure and Realignment (BRAC) process, will help right the ship.

Robyn served as the Pentagon’s deputy undersecretary for installations and environment for the past three years.

Dan Tangherlini , acting GSA administrator, issued a memo to agency employees announcing the selection and saying he would abolish the Public Buildings Service board of directors, a little-known oversight unit.

At the Pentagon, Robyn (pronounced “Row-bine”) completed the controversial BRAC process, which began in 2005 and included major local personnel shifts such as the relocation of Walter Reed Army Medical Center activities, the expansion of the Mark Center in Alexandria and the transformation of Fort Meade.

She also oversaw a massive collection of bases and properties, including more than 29 million acres of land, 300,000 buildings and 2.2 billion square feet of building space. The Public Buildings Service oversees 374.6 million square feet of federal workspace.

Robyn is Tangherlini’s first hire of a senior official since he took over for Martha Johnson in April after a $835,000 Las Vegas meeting that prompted her resignation and the ouster of previous PBS commissioner Robert A. Peck. She will begin the job later this month.

Tangherlini said Robyn’s defense work often required coordinating with the GSA. “During this time, Dorothy has gained valuable experience working with GSA to identify ways that this agency and DOD can encourage greater innovation and cost efficiency from construction firms and make federal buildings more energy efficient and sustainable,” he wrote to employees.

The PBS board of directors was composed of senior staff members and played a major role in strategic planning, but Tangherlini said he was doing away with it to more clearly establish Robyn’s authority and responsibility.

“As we move forward, I believe that this change is essential if PBS, and the entire GSA, is to give the American people the effective, efficient service that they deserve,” he said.

Tangherlini quickly cut travel and meeting expenses when he took over, at a projected savings of $11 million between April and August. The GSA also plans to review newspaper and magazine subscriptions and expenditures to conduct paper-based satisfaction surveys in a search for further savings.

Jonathan O'Connell has covered land use and development in the Washington area for more than five years.
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