Skip to main content

Kempf Details GSA's Effort to Achieve Zero Environmental Footprint

As Prepared for delivery

Remarks by
Steven J. Kempf
Acting Commissioner
Federal Acquisition Service
U.S. General Services Administration
Security Industry Association’s Government Summit
Washington, DC
June 8, 2010

Good morning.  Thank you, Kathleen, for that kind introduction. I have been with GSA for over 18 years, much of it in our IT acquisition programs. I have always appreciated the insight SIA offered to GSA and the partnership with your association and members.

Let me begin by saying it has been a whirlwind couple of months. I became the FAS deputy commissioner this past January and a few months later was named the acting commissioner when the previous commissioner retired. In between, Martha Johnson was confirmed as our new administrator and the agency as a whole has been moving at lightening speed ever since.

The one common theme from the past several months is that change is constant, continuous and will remain a major component of the way we do business. That’s a good thing because without change we get complacent and complacency is not a suitable option in the business of government.

One of the changes is GSA’s new mission statement. It says that GSA:

Uses its expertise to provide innovative solutions for our customers in support of their missions and by so doing foster an effective, sustainable, and transparent government for the American people.

Now, when you initially look at or hear those words, at face value it seems like business as usual. But here is what is different. In the past, GSA was known as the government’s landlord and chief procurement agent; those are two critical and very important roles. However, our new mission statement says we are now much more than that. It says that by leveraging our expertise we can become the government’s change agent.

There is no government agency, program or initiative we do not touch. GSA influences the management of federal assets valuing nearly $500 billion including more than 9,600 government-owned or leased buildings, an interagency fleet of 208,000 vehicles and technology programs and products ranging from laptop computers to complex network systems.

The Federal Acquisition Service is responsible for over $50 billion in annual sales of products, services and solutions to every government agency. To put this into perspective, if we were a private company we would rank in the top half of global Fortune 500 companies. The Multiple Award Schedules Program remains the largest acquisition program within the government, reaching $46 billion in sales in fiscal year 2009, or approximately 10 percent of overall federal spending. We also do business with over 18,000 business partners.  

So when you consider this, GSA has the responsibility and obligation to do whatever we can to help our government run as efficiently and effectively as possible. It is what our citizens demand of us, and we have every intention of meeting and exceeding their expectations.  

So how are we becoming the government’s change agent? We’re focusing on three priorities: innovation, customer intimacy and operational excellence. Using these priorities as our guiding framework, I am focusing FAS on three areas. First, we will be the government’s environmental sustainability leader. Second, we are ensuring operational excellence in everything we do, including setting our workforce up for success. Finally, we are increasing our outreach and communications to all of our customers, vendor partners and stakeholders so you know where we want to go and how you can help us get there. As you will see, you have a critical role in ensuring the government’s success.

GSA’s “Moon Shot” – Environmental Sustainability

Let’s begin with sustainability. President Obama started the government on its journey to improve its environmental footprint last October when he signed Executive Order 13514. He set in motion activities to establish some very ambitious goals related to sustainability for the federal government, and GSA’s mission is to help agencies meet these goals and lead by example by pushing for a zero environmental footprint.

Administrator Johnson calls this initiative “GSA’s moon shot,” and she does so for good reason. GSA in collaboration with the Department of Energy and the Council on Environmental Quality, is leading several sustainability efforts. I can tell you from firsthand experience that undertaking such a massive effort is incredibly exciting, if a bit daunting, to know we are creating GSA history.

Critical to our efforts is ensuring that our customers have the tools they need to meet the president’s aggressive goals. We are identifying and will offer a multitude of resources to help our customers and industry partners, especially small businesses, engage in more sustainable practices. For example, FAS is building a carbon footprint tool that customers can use to create a comprehensive inventory of their own greenhouse gas emissions. This tool, which will be free to all federal agencies, will use a bottom-up methodology to calculate greenhouse gas emissions at the facility level.

As part of a partnership with the World Resources Institute, FAS is mapping our own supply chain in order to understand our Scope 3 emissions. This is a first for any government agency. We also led an effort under Section 13 of the executive order to study the feasibility of measuring Scope 3 emissions in the supply chain and to make recommendations as to how or if the government could use that that data in procurements. The results are being reviewed and we expect CEQ to release them shortly.

Many companies, large and small, have recently undertaken sustainable supply chain initiatives. Many have determined it is good for both the environment and for the bottom line. As part of this process, one company, when asked if they disclosed greenhouse gas emissions, asked coyly, “Should I?” The answer of course is, “Yes.” I am hoping that through our interactions, more of our industry partners will see how important it is and adapt to this new way of doing business.

Multiple Award Schedules Program: It Works

Another program that is incredibly important to me, as I know it is to you as well, is the Multiple Award Schedules Program. Prior to joining the Commissioner’s Office, I was the assistant commissioner for the Office of Acquisition Management, where I was responsible for the overall operation and success of the MAS Program. I know that the schedules, especially Schedule 84, are a vital source of business for many of you here, and I am committed to ensuring it remains the best acquisition vehicle possible for both you and our customers to use.

Since Tricia Reid from my office will be discussing government procurement trends with you at tomorrow’s morning panel session, I will only give you a brief overview of MAS Program trends.

Right now, the MAS Program overall is achieving a modest 3 percent increase from the same time last year. However, state and local government sales are growing at an amazing pace. Compared to this time last year, cooperative purchasing sales are up 11 percent and disaster recovery sales are up 21 percent. This is incredible growth, and I expect it to continue as we move through hurricane season because state and local governments know that by using GSA’s acquisition expertise, they can make their limited taxpayer dollars stretch to the very last cent.

What does this say about the MAS Program? That it works. Maybe even more importantly, the program works for America’s small businesses. As I mentioned earlier, in FY09 the MAS Program did almost $46 billion in sales. Of that, 35 percent of the revenue went to small businesses. That is 12 percent higher than the governmentwide goal of 23 percent. Additionally, approximately $1 billion in business went to service-disabled, veteran-owned businesses.  

Small businesses held 80 percent of the schedule contracts in place last year. They have long been the lifeblood of the American economy, and that needs to continue. That is why I have always considered the MAS Program to be the government acquisition’s farm team. It is the low-cost point of entry where companies, mostly small businesses, learn the ropes, figure out the dos and don’ts, and demonstrate how they can stand out from their competition. Like any good coach, GSA explains the rules, advises on how to improve performance, and encourages success through lots and lots of practice.

Making It Easy to Do Business with GSA

Good coaches, in collaboration with their team managers, also recognize when improvements need to be made. At GSA, we know that we need to make it easier for both customers and vendors to do business with us. So we are making some changes.

The most visible change will be to GSA Advantage!®. Every day, GSA Advantage! receives 500,000 hits from approximately 600,000 registered users. That is an incredible volume, and it needs to be easier to use. Believe it or not, GSA Advantage! was publicly available before Amazon.com, but we have not kept pace with technical advances and usability features. So now we are “amazonning” this site. Within the calendar year, GSA Advantage! will have Web 2.0 features, Google-like search capabilities and new product recommendations based on customers’ buying patterns. We are creating a virtual store specifically for state and local governments, and enhancing product information with better descriptions, including high quality pictures and videos. There will also be an advanced search option where customers can search for and identify your companies by name. All of this will make it easier for customers to find and purchase your products and services.

We are also working to substantially improve the Vendor Support Center. The new site will be more streamlined and take advantage of the interactive nature of Web 2.0 technologies. It will be more visually appealing, making it easier for us to present, and you to understand, how to do business with FAS and the federal government as a whole. As the site evolves, it will become a full-service clearinghouse for our vendor partners, serving a comprehensive set of needs to establish, develop and improve the government-industry relationship.

What excites me the most about these changes to both GSA Advantage! and the Vendor Support Center is the opportunity to increase our outreach and engagement with you. For many years, other people and organizations have been the voice of FAS. That served a purpose but is another thing that is changing. It is time for us to be more communication oriented and talk with our customers, stakeholders and, of course, you, our vendor partners. I encourage you to help us make this happen. I look forward to your suggestions and ideas, either during today’s question-and-answer session or in another forum in the near future.  

We are also working on several internal e-initiatives that will ultimately make it easier to do business with GSA while simultaneously increasing transparency in government acquisition. We are streamlining our processes for adding products and fixed price services to the schedules when there are no changes to a contract’s terms and conditions. We are digitizing contract files and developing processes that will ultimately allow GSA to work in a completely e-contracting environment. We have also instituted changes that drastically reduce the amount of time contracting officers need to make administrative contract modifications. This then allows them to focus on the complex acquisition issues that only someone with their expertise can address.

These e-initiatives serve multiple purposes. They make it easier, FASter and cheaper to do business with us. They enhance transparency and give our acquisition work force some much needed support. While these efforts may take some time to fully implement, they are incredibly important and serve as the foundation for the future of GSA’s Federal Acquisition Service.  

Building the Acquisition Work Force’s Capacity

Before I go much further, let me take a moment to talk about the government’s acquisition work force. I truly believe that these professionals are the backbone of the entire federal government. Every day, we ask them to wisely spend taxpayer dollars, and they do so extremely well despite impossible workloads and limited resources. I personally know how difficult this is and am excited to be one of the people bringing them some much needed support.

First, in case any of you missed the job announcement on USAJOBS.gov, we are hiring, both at the entry and mid-career levels. To help hire younger civil servants, FAS is in the second year of a successful program that recruits and hires exceptional recent college graduates for both the 1102 (Contracting) and 343 (Program Analyst) fields. We hired 30 new graduates last summer and just completed hiring another 30 this year. To ensure they are set up for success early in their careers, they receive two years of training with a series of courses such as Contracting 101, Contract Negotiations and Business Analytics, and complete developmental assignments throughout various offices and business lines throughout the Federal Acquisition Service.

Second, we are very focused on training. GSA recently signed a memorandum of agreement with the Federal Acquisition Institute to collaboratively develop and update its training programs. The first training will focus on the MAS Program and future classes will focus on governmentwide acquisition contracts and sustainable acquisition practices. All of the courses will be offered as part of FAI’s curriculum. This will include a variety of formats, including social media technology, to best reach all generations in the acquisition work force.

Additionally, to complement the Office of Federal Procurement Policy’s Federal Acquisition certification in contracting program, FAS will develop and offer a Level 4 certification program focused on critical project management issues such as IT skills, leadership and team-building.

Finally, FAS will be increasing acquisition professionals’ awareness of the variety of tools and services we offer to make their jobs easier. In addition to GSA Advantage!, we want to ensure that they know that tools like e-Library and e-Buy are available to help them conduct market research and receive requests for information and quotes. Our governmentwide acquisition contracts like Alliant can help them quickly, and in full compliance, access cutting-edge IT technologies and services, while our Assisted Acquisition Services can manage almost all aspects of the procurement process for customer agencies. As their awareness of our offerings grows, I anticipate an increase in all of our contract vehicles, including Schedules 70 and 84.

GSA and Homeland Security Presidential Directive Number 12

As many of you know, Homeland Security Presidential Directive No. 12, or HSPD-12, was a watershed moment in GSA’s history because it charged us with developing a single, standardized credentialing system for both government employees and contractors. Having been personally involved in this issue, I can tell you that we had our work cut out for us. At the time, there were a wide variety of federal employee and contractor identifications, most of which were not recognized by other agencies, increasing the potential for both physical and cyber security breaches.

To meet this challenge, GSA created the USAccess program. An end-to-end shared service solution, USAccess simplifies the procurement and maintenance of PKI-compliant credentials. Over 80 agencies representing 490,000 enrolled personnel are part of this cost-effective program that provides government agencies with a key foundational component uniting its logical and physical access control system implementation strategies.

HSPD-12’s requirements put GSA in a unique position. On the one hand, we provide government agencies with the tools and contract vehicles necessary to secure their buildings and IT systems. On the other, we work closely with the electronic physical security industry to ensure our customers have the most creative and cutting-edge technology possible to address their unique needs. This approach leverages the best of GSA’s skills – acquisition expertise tied to a deep understanding of customer requirements – ultimately keeping America safe by developing sound solutions to critical and constantly changing security needs.

Helping Customers Achieve Their Missions – A Call to Action

As you can tell, GSA and FAS has set an aggressive agenda for the coming months and years ahead, and we fully recognize that we are doing this in a difficult economy and challenging budget projections. However, this is probably the best time to move forward on these changes because challenges often yield innovative and unexpected solutions. All of you here today have an important role in helping us, and more importantly helping our customers, achieve their missions.

First, more than ever, we need your business expertise and cutting-edge technological resources to help us work more efficiently, more effectively and, yes, more sustainably. Time and time again, your innovativeness and creativity have helped us solve government’s most difficult problems, and we depend on you to continue doing this into the future.

Second, help us achieve a zero environmental footprint. Both Administrator Johnson and I recognize that this is new territory, and, therefore, it involves an unknown degree of risk. Do it anyway. We will help you.

Third, once it goes live, help us make GSA Advantage! the government’s Amazon.com. In our role as a trusted adviser to our customers, we want to publicize your products, services and solutions. We can only do that with the information you provide us.  

Fourth, continue to give us ideas on how we can streamline and improve our processes. What do we need to do to make it easier for you to do business with both GSA and our mutual customers? We are willing to make the changes, but we need to know what will work best for all of us.

Finally, thank you for your service to our country. All of us, from Administrator Johnson down to my colleagues in both the Federal Acquisition and Public Buildings Services know that without your expertise and knowledge, it would be much more difficult to secure our country, keep civil servants safe, and support our warfighters in Afghanistan and Iraq. Thank you for work.