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Doan Addresses Greater Los Angeles Federal Executive Board

Remarks by
Lurita A. Doan
Administrator
U.S. General Services Administration
Greater Los Angeles Federal Executive Board
Anaheim, California
April 23, 2008


Thank you, Casey Kelley. Good afternoon, everyone.

When President Kennedy established the Federal Executive Boards in 1961, his goal was to improve coordination and collaboration among federal employees outside Washington. Today the 28 federal executive boards are known as “laboratories of innovation” that also focus heavily on how to continue essential government functions during times of national emergency.

These are themes we know well at GSA. First, collaboration is key for an agency whose mission is to provide goods, services and workspace at best value to the rest of the government. As I approach my two-year anniversary as Administrator, I’m very proud that we’ve been able to improve relations with our customer agencies and industry partners. Close collaboration, certain facets of our new strategic plan – including a commitment to speak as One GSA, with One Voice -- and a reenergized workforce have led to success on projects ranging from new land ports of entry at our northern and southern borders, to equipping U.S. Forest Service firefighters with portable shelters that saved lives during last summer’s terrible wildfires. By the way, tomorrow we will honor two small businesses that provide those shelters, plus a firefighter who saved himself by deploying the device.

Those who follow GSA know we have made a significant turnaround the past 23 months. At the same time we were completing a major reorganization, we also:

  • Reclaimed a clean audit;
  • Eliminated or revamped many non-performing programs;
  • Brought out something they said couldn’t be done – a program that reduced the time to award contracts by three months;
  • We intensified efforts to increase federal contracting opportunities for small business owners;
  • And we launched our new Office of Emergency Response and Recovery.

Without coordination, collaboration, and a lot of get-up-and-go, none of this would have been possible. And we wouldn’t have been prepared to begin a new partnership with FEMA – as we did late last month – aimed at speeding the delivery of essential supplies and services after communities are struck by disaster.

I am not, incidentally, someone who believes we own the franchise on good ideas.  I value expert, outside, impartial advice, and I’m certainly not shy about collaborating with experts outside government. Last week we announced a new panel that will review our GSA Schedules negotiation procedures and pricing policies to ensure we’re offering the best possible prices to our client agencies. We’ve assembled some of the best, brightest and most experienced procurement experts in the U.S. with several hundred years of collective procurement experience among them. The chairman is Elliott Branch, Executive Director of Contracts with Navy Sea Systems Command.

Now, let me mention something about all these products and services I’ve been talking about. If you take a walk around our 2008 GSA Expo, you’ll notice the predominant color is green. That’s no accident. We have a major push on to steer customers to environment-friendly goods, from alternative fuel vehicles to recycled paint. GSA is also a leader and key proponent of telework in the federal workforce. We operate 14, fully-equipped telework centers in the DC. Metro Region that each year save hundreds of thousands of gallons of gas, to say nothing of the headaches and lost production that go with sitting for hours each day in beltway traffic. Since I strongly believe in leading by example, I challenged our GSA managers last September to get 20 percent of eligible employees teleworking at least one day a week by the end of 2008. I’m proud to report we’ve already gotten to 18 percent, and will hit 20 percent by the end of this month.

I’ll give you one more example. The Federal Executive Boards are catalysts for developing partnerships to coordinate cooperation to advance local and national initiatives. Similarly, I have made GSA a catalyst to develop partnerships with many public and private entities so we can alleviate the dreadful congestion at our Land Ports of Entry. As you know, these land ports control the flow of legitimate trade and travel and provide foreign visitors their first glimpse of our nation. But the gateways have become choke points.  Over the past 23 months, GSA has significantly shortened the time it takes to design and build a land port, cutting years from the old process. We’ve made the process more transparent and sought innovative and more dynamic ideas from all interested parties, including state and local leaders. We’ve encouraged greater private sector participation, since infrastructure projects are also perfect opportunities for public-private partnerships. And I made sure the GSA Port of Entry Program reports became one of GSA highest priorities with direct reports to the administrator each month on progress. 

In moving forward, we’ve learned some valuable lessons. Those lessons will be part of the agenda next month, when GSA sponsors a unique land ports conference in San Diego. The event will bring together experts on many issues, like:

  • How sister cities can improve commerce and security;
  • Developing public-private partnerships to stimulate new border projects;
  • Potential opportunities for local, small businesses to participate in the building boom at our land ports; and
  • Coming full circle, how to best prepare for a catastrophic event at our borders.

I’d like to thank Kathrene Hansen, Executive Director of the Greater Los Angeles Federal Executive Board, and all of you for this opportunity and for your attention today.

When people think about the federal workforce, they think Washington. But most federal employees work well beyond the beltway. Thus, the value of coordination and collaboration cannot be over-stated, since the success of federal programs – at GSA and throughout our government – hinges on successful execution of the gameplan by those in the field. The function you perform is extremely valuable; and the core concept is one we believe in and apply everyday at GSA.

Thank you very much…