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5.1 Flagship Initiatives

Business Breakthrough. The White House and GSA launched a program to give companies a leg up in Federal contracting. Business Breakthrough is a new GSA program to arm businesses with information that will help them compete for Federal purchases that flow through GSA each year. Business Breakthrough will offer companies a robust workshop agenda full of up-to-date information on how to navigate government contracting. The program is a vital next step in our efforts to maintain an open dialogue with the business community and provide innovative companies with the tools to grow and create new jobs. We envision the program being particularly useful to companies that are too large to qualify for small-business procurement advantages but not large enough to compete with the nation’s largest corporations.

Business Breakthrough

We leverage the government’s buying power through responsible acquisition of products and services, making up about 14 percent of the government’s total procurement dollars. Business Breakthrough will offer workshops for companies with varying levels of experience with Federal contracting. Workshops will give them access to information on how to succeed in Federal contracting through our contracting vehicles. Representatives from GSA, industry and other Federal agencies will provide information and guidance including real-world case studies from across industries.

GSA is positioned at the crossroads of business and government. Our work includes over $50 billion worth of business each year. Business Breakthrough will help companies maximize their competitiveness to tap into this market. Business Breakthrough toured each of GSA's 11 regional cities in 2011 and educated more than 600 business owners striving to grow their Federal past performance and identify new strategies for competing in the large business arena. The final regional workshop was set for March 27-29, 2012, in New York City. Firms that missed the regional workshops can find the Business Breakthrough content online in the new webinar training course to be released in May 2012. Visit GSA Business Breakthrough Program for more information.

Federal Citizen Information Center, Google Books and Government Priinting Office.

ePubs (Google) U.S. Government Bookstore. One of GSA’s longest-running publication programs providing consumers important information on health, government benefits, managing finances and more is now available for free electronic download through a program with Google Books. Since 1970, our Federal Citizen Information Center in the Office of Citizen Services and Innovative Technologies has been distributing government consumer publications on topics such as staying healthy, understanding government benefits, managing finances and saving money, and avoiding scams and identity theft. We entered into the partnership with the Government Printing Office and Google Books to distribute these consumer-related publications free of charge. The Federal Government publications are being distributed electronically from Google, as well as in hard copy by the Federal Citizen Information Center print distribution facility in Pueblo, Colo., which is operated by GPO for the FCIC. The publications are available by searching Google or Google Books. The public can freely view and download PDF copies of the publications to desktops, laptops, e-readers and mobile devices.

Generic electronic screen reader.

This program was a result of FCIC’s spring 2010 focus groups with Federal agency partners and citizen market research conducted with Forrester Research Inc. and The Polling Co. Inc. Findings indicated a strong consumer interest in acquiring electronic copies of publications for their e-readers and laptops. About 8 percent of the public already downloads e-books, 4 percent to e-readers and 4 percent to laptop computers. Our Federal Citizen Information Center market research further confirms that 74 percent of the public wants government information online and in printed form. In addition, 47 percent of consumers indicated they would browse a website or shop around for government publications and 63 percent of consumers would view or download publications if they were free.

GSA has completed this flagship initiative. To date, we have more than 100 publications available in Google Books. However, because of the huge volume of publications on Google Books and subsequent competition with retail publications via the site, we pursued expanding USA.gov to include a publications section to allow consumers to order print copies from the Pueblo distribution center, as well as download PDF, .EPUB, .HTML and mobile files to their device of choice. The new Publications.USA.gov website is highly successful, providing copies of consumer publications in English and Spanish. To date, we provide more than 700 titles to consumers from Publications.USA.gov. The website has been available for six months and over that time, we have distributed hundreds of thousands more publications through our website than through Google Books. As a result, FCIC is devoting our resources to Publications.USA.gov, adding more publications, expanding our search feature and improving on our already robust shopping cart.

Publications.USA.gov Web page.

Publications.USA.gov expands the reach of Federal consumer information by leveraging new digital technology. The public will be able to view and download PDF copies of the publications on Apple’s iPad, Sony’s Reader, the Barnes & Noble Nook and Android-based phones. GSA is embracing the changing environment and building on the successful USA.gov brand, thereby placing important consumer-related government information into the hands of those who want and need it. We're happy to help our partner agencies take advantage of this exciting opportunity to participate in the distribution of print and electronic copy publications through Publications.USA.gov and take advantage of FCIC’s successful promotional opportunities. Visit Publications.USA.gov for more information.

Federal Buildings Personnel Training Act – FMI.gov. The Open Government Directive is rooted in three principles: transparency, participation and collaboration. The creation of the Facilities Management Institute (FMI) as a public facing “cloud institute” to implement the requirements of the Federal Buildings Personnel Training Act has been structured to embody those same three principles. FMI.gov will be an open site where the public, Federal agencies, professional societies, industry associations, apprenticeship training providers and academic institutions can collaborate on every aspect of reducing the cost of the Federal Government building operations while increasing its productivity and sustainability.

The site will provide users with updates on the program milestones and the road ahead for future development. The public can use this information along with the data provided on sites such as energy.Data.gov and from the Energy Information Administration (eia.gov) to monitor the effectiveness of the training mandated by the Federal Buildings Personnel Training Act – providing complete transparency between the goals and the achievement of those goals. Further, there will be opportunities to participate in blogs and forums as part of shifting the current facilities management paradigms from “set it and forget it” and “crisis response” to the strategic application of alignment, integration and innovation.

The public will also have access to the knowledge portal aspects of the site that will quickly connect them to state-of-the-art applied research at the Federal Government’s national labs, major research universities and industry nonprofits. The site will also be a resource for anyone with expertise in or a desire for knowledge of:

  • facilities management and building operations,
  • resource management,
  • waste management and sustainability,
  • energy management,
  • applied research technologies,
  • process improvement, or
  • performance metrics.

It is also useful for those with an innovative idea for how to save the government money through the business, technical, behavioral or enterprise knowledge, aspects of our facilities to learn about the program and collaborate across government, industry and academia to apply their expertise or give visibility to their ideas.

Screenshot of Facilities Management Institute web page that has a headline about implementing the Federal Buildings Personnel Training Act (FBPTA). This screenshot is next to an image of a renovated federal building.

The Federal Buildings Personnel Training Act sets up a strategic partnership between GSA and the Department of Energy to implement the requirements under the Act. FMI.gov takes that partnership and collaboration with other agencies – such as the Departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs, Federal Aviation Administration and Environmental Protection Agency – to the next level by highlighting the training offered by each agency. A Web tool is being developed in collaboration with OPM to allow members of the Federal facilities workforce to see the newly OPM developed career path corresponding to their position and level within their organization. The career path will come with a matrix of courses, certifications, licenses, degrees and registrations that represent the core competencies reflected in their career path. These courses, certifications, licenses, degrees and registrations will be provided through a combination of Federal agency, private industry training, and Academic/University training.

Following the development of the methodology for modifying our facilities management service contracts governmentwide, our private sector contractors will be required to possess and demonstrate the same core competencies as our Federal employees. Much of the in-house Federal agency training is not available to contractors, and thus, the training will need to come from industry and academic training providers. This represents a big opportunity for growth in the training industry but will also require new levels of transparency, collaboration and participation to implement this program under the significant and ever increasing Federal budgetary constraints. Collaborating with state and local governments represents an opportunity to pursue an economies of scale model based on them adopting the Federal Buildings Personnel Training Act developed core competencies and the courses, certifications, licenses, degrees and registrations. FMI.gov will enable this collaboration at any scale by making the core competencies and methods to gain them public for review and adoption. We have already begun conversations with New York City regarding this effort.

From the program’s inception, we have fostered collaboration and participation by all public and private stakeholders. To date, two Federal agency forums and one public industry symposium have been held, and the comments, plus the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats analysis, have been used to inform the creation and structure of the Facilities Management Institute. Additionally, the job task analysis conducted by a contracted psychometric firm produced recommended core competencies for these job functions: facilities manager, building operator/technician and energy/sustainability manager.

These job task analyses were released through the Federal Register for public comment. The public comments came from Federal agencies, industry training providers, academics and the public with subject-matter expertise and interest. These comments have been invaluable as GSA completes the identification of the core competencies for the act, which directs that these core competencies be indentified “in consultation with professional societies, industry associations and apprenticeship training providers.” And the consultation and collaboration will continue transparently through the FMI to inform the structure of the institute. This input has informed the structure of the FMI.

Old computer parts ready for recycling at a certified electronics waste disposal facility.

Electronics waste disposal (eWaste disposal). The eWaste initiative encourages Federal agencies to take a leadership role in efforts to stop and reverse the trend of inappropriate disposal of electronics across the U.S.A. The initiative followed publication of the National Strategy for Electronics Stewardship, which was created by the Interagency Task Force on Electronic Stewardship. This task force was co-chaired by the White House's Council on Environmental Quality, the Environmental Protection Agency and GSA.

The Interagency Task Force on Electronic Stewardship saw the leadership role that the Federal Government can play in improving public health and our environment, as well as the health and environment of those living in foreign nations.

As the world’s largest purchaser and consumer of electronic assets, we have a great opportunity to influence how these devices are managed. According to the National Strategy for Electronics Stewardship report, “From computers and cellphones, to portable communication and music devices – the United States of America is, and will continue to be, a global leader in designing and developing new and improved electronic technologies. These technologies have become critical to our way of life and to our growing economy. With these technologies, however, comes the increasing challenge of protecting human health and the environment from the harmful effects associated with the unsafe handling and disposal of these products. Meeting this challenge will require a new strategy for electronics stewardship – one that is innovative, flexible and pragmatic – that allows Americans to manage the electronics we use today more sustainably, and simultaneously promotes the new and innovative technologies of the future. Innovation is woven throughout America’s history and culture and is an asset we must employ to find solutions to the challenges we face today to sustainability manage our electronics.”

Cover of the National Strategy for Electronics Stewardship report, dated July 20, 2011.

The new strategy creates a roadmap of how the Federal Government can use its authority and leverage resources to meet the increasing challenge of protecting human health and the environment from harmful effects of unsafe handling and disposal of computers, cellphones, music devices and other electronics products. The strategy provides an innovative, flexible, pragmatic approach that allows Americans to manage the electronics we use today more sustainably and simultaneously promotes the new and innovative technologies of the future. Electronic devices are being disposed of in landfills, where the heavy metals and hazardous compounds could seep into the groundwater; or are being recycled inappropriately in the U.S. and abroad, where there is a danger to the people and the environment.

Young women and children sifting through garbage at waste disposal area

The Federal Government is the largest entity using such electronic assets and must take a leadership role in efforts to stop and reverse the trend of inappropriate disposal of electronics. The e-waste initiative is comprised of two main activities: policy and reporting. The policy of how Federal agencies dispose of their electronics is being rewritten. A guidance Bulletin (Federal Management Regulation (FMR) Bulletin B-34) was published February 29, 2012.  The FMR regulation itself will be published in 2012.  All along the process, we've engaged the public as much as possible, and as the regulation is being developed, it is proceeding in accordance with the formal rulemaking process to include a period of public comment.  To obtain public comment on the Bulletin, GSA used an innovative approach to inform our customers on the provisions of the bulletin and regulation. We’re engaging Broadnet to discuss how we can conduct a virtual town hall meeting to provide this information, as well as to gather feedback. This forum will be in addition to the normal public comment opportunities during the formal rulemaking process. The policy will direct agencies to only dispose of their electronics to recyclers or refurbishers who meet one of two certification programs, the Responsible Recycling Program or the e-Stewards Program. 

The second part of the initiative, reporting, focuses on gathering information to understand how electronics are being disposed of and to ensure agency compliance with the policy revisions. We developed an automated tool to collect this information and intend to publish the data on Data.gov to make our activities more transparent to the public.

Recycling symbol superimposed over the Earth.

Electronics Waste Disposal in Operation. GSA and EPA employees recently toured a local e-waste recycling facility in Islip, N.Y. The group saw demonstrations of how computers are broken down, part by part, with hard drives and data tapes being shredded. Our recycling efforts at our New York City office buildings during this past year have already kept 1,330 tons of office and building waste out of landfills. The group discussed the Federal role in leading by example in promoting electronics recycling, which is also creating new economic opportunities and jobs in this emerging growth industry. Federal agencies in GSA-managed facilities can learn more about how to recycle used electronic equipment by contacting their local GSA Building Management Office. In addition, many computer or computer-related items (such as printers and copiers) can be reused and are eligible for donation to qualifying educational institutions.

During another visit to Georgetown, Ky., our staff toured a facility and discussed new opportunities created by the Obama administration’s National Strategy for Electronics Stewardship. Electronics contain large quantities of rare, valuable and hazardous materials. Certified electronics recycling facilities divert hazardous materials from landfills so that the hazardous and reusable materials can be reclaimed to prevent hazard to human health and the environment. At the Kentucky company, we saw promising prospects for growth in the electronics recycling business because the national strategy directs Federal e-waste stream to certified electronic recyclers.

The overarching goal of the national strategy is to turn the Federal Government, the largest consumer of electronics in the country, into the most responsible consumer through a series of changes to how we purchase electronics and how we dispose of them. This initiative will foster growing recycling industries and create green jobs, while reducing our landfill disposal of materials that go into everyday electronics. Electronics waste disposal is an interagency effort to address responsible design, purchasing, management and recycling of electronics. We will use our purchasing power to drive design changes to reduce product impacts across their lifecycles by removing products that don’t meet energy efficiency and environmental standards from our information technology purchase contacts. Certified electronics recycling facilities will help us achieve this goal and will add jobs to their payroll in the process. We have issued a bulletin to ensure that all electronics used by the Federal Government are reused and then recycled properly by certified electronic recyclers. We will also ban used Federally owned electronics from landfills.

In partnership with a certified electronic waste recycler, Seattle Federal Government employees brought in their electronics to make sure they ended up at a recycler skilled at disposing of electronic waste. GSA’s Northwest Arctic Region and EPA’s Region 10 kicked off an event where employees recycled old laptops they brought from home. On America Recycles Day, employees saved more than 4,800 pounds of old computers, monitors, printers, cellphones and batteries from the landfill, at the electronic waste recycling event.