Tough challenges await Dorothy Robyn when she takes over as the General Services Administration's Public Buildings Service commissioner in a few weeks.

The Dept. of Defense deputy undersecretary for installations and environment moves to PBS at a time when the White House and Capitol Hill critics want to trim the agency's vast real estate portfolio. Robyn also inherits a sharply reduced construction budget. Further, she joins GSA after a regional PBS office was tarnished by scandal in the spring for sponsoring a lavish conference.


Announcing Robyn's appointment on Sept. 4, GSA acting Administrator Daniel Tangherlini said that, while at the DOD, she worked with GSA to find ways its agencies could "encourage greater innovation and cost efficiency from construction firms and make federal buildings more energy-efficient and sustainable." Jeffrey Harris, Alliance to Save Energy senior vice president for programs, says, "The armed services have a whole lot to be proud of in what they've been doing in [energy-efficient] construction and renovation."

Robyn oversaw DOD's Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) program. The White House seeks to shrink the federal facilities inventory. A recent House-passed bill calls for a BRAC-like plan to shed surplus GSA properties.

Andrew Goldberg, American Institute of Architects managing director for government relations, says Robyn's DOD work makes her "well suited for [what] GSA is going to have to deal with over the next few years." But he adds, "The biggest challenge really is money." Congress cut PBS construction funds to $50 million in 2012. The 2010 budget was $894 million.

The conference scandal led to a shake-up at GSA. When the news broke in April, then-GSA head Martha Johnson dismissed PBS chief Robert Peck and another GSA official. She then resigned, and Tangherlini was brought in. Peck has said he was not involved in planning or approving the conference.