U.S. Navy Rear Adm. Rowland G. Freeman III, a defense procurement expert, has been selected by President Carter as the new administrator of the General Services Administration, it was learned last night.
Freeman has been commandant of the Defense Systems Management College at Fort Belvoir, Va., for two years. At Fort Belvoir, where he lives, he is in charge of teaching other military experts the most efficient methods of how to buy goods and services for the government.
Freeman's nomination, which is expected to be announced within a week, must be confirmed by the Senate before he can succeed outgoing GSA Administrator Jay Solomon as head of the troubled agency.
A White House spokesman had no immediate comment last night.
Rep. Jack Brooks (D-Tex.), chairman of the House Government Operations Committee which has primary legislative and oversight responsibility for GSA, said last night that he had not been informed by the White House of Freeman's selection.
But Brooks had some questions about the reported choice of the 57-year-old admiral.
"They (Defense Department officials) like negotiated contracts and sole source (no competition) contracts instead of sealed, competitive bidding," he said.
"That," Brooks said, "increases costs to the government and creates monopolies."
Rep. John Burton (D-Calif.), who heads the committee's subcommittee on government activities, which has direct responsibility over GSA, said he also had not been informed of the selection.
"It would have been nice for them to have told me," he said. "I've never been impressed by the Pentagon's procurement record. They seem to waste a lot of money and run up cost overruns."
Use of competitive bidding has been an issue at GSA since news accounts reported GSA had been buying calculators and typewriters without competitive bidding at prices higher than those available at retail. Solomon had made known his desire to purchase goods as much as possible through competitive bids but encountered opposition from industry groups.
The White House announced Wednesday that Solomon had submitted his resignation effective March 31. Solomon has told aides that he felt he was being pressured by the White House to resign.
Freeman attended the University of Massachusetts and received a master's degree in business administration from Harvard University. He has been in naval procurement for most of his career and became a rear admiral in 1971.
During World War II, Freeman was a combat pilot and was shot down in the Pacific.
Dale R. Babione, who worked with Freeman in defense procurement, described him last night as a "very capable administrator. He knows the (procurement) business."
After being told last night of the selection, Dale Church, deputy undersecretary of defense for research and engineering, praised Freeman for his "energy and zeal" and said that he "gives his all to his contry."
"He is an outstanding program manager," Church said.
Reached by phone last night, Freeman said he had been told to refer all inquiries to the White House. He declined further comment.
Freeman this year turned down a procurement policy post that had been offered to him by GSA. He had been recommended for the position by Lester Fettig, a former aide to Sen. Lawton Chiles (D.-Fla), and now the head of the Office of Management and Budget's procurement policy office.
If confirmed, Freeman will be taking over a scandal-ridden agency. So far, 41 persons have been indicted in ongoing federal probes of GSA contracts, and 38 of them have been convicted or pleaded guilty.