What is the value of a centralized provider, like GSA, and its Federal Acquisition Service? How does the Federal Acquisition Service foster government operations that are effective, sustainable, and transparent? How is the Federal Acquisition Service managing in an era of fiscal constraint?
Steven Kempf, Commissioner of GSA’s Federal Acquisition Service joins me this week on The Business of Government Hour to explore these questions and so much more.
FAS Commissioner Steve Kempf on the value of a centralized provider as GSA:
Challenges facing GSA’s Federal Acquisition Service
Modernizing Business Systems - I think, first, right now is really modernizing our systems. We’re in the process of really revamping our entire suite of business systems. We’re looking at our enterprise acquisition system and supply chain modernization. These are two major systems that really will help us deliver services more efficiently and effectively to our customers, and support our own employees in doing their job. It’s really about bringing our systems up to speed, so that we can be a little bit more nimble in our operations.
Being Innovative - I think the second thing that we’re really looking at right now is, and I think every customer service organization is doing this, really looking at how we deliver our services. Being a little bit more innovative, customer centric, and in our case industry centric to make sure that we’re doing the right kinds of things to support what’s happening. And that’s a big job. I mean we’re working on some quality standards and a lot of innovation work.
Budget – The last challenge that’s really consuming us this year is the budget. This is a really big issue throughout government. For us over the last couple of years this has not been such a big issue as the government has been spending more each year. For us, it was keep doing the same thing. We just keep capturing a little bit more of the market share. This year it’s trickier for us. We have 20 some business lines. Some of them are probably going to go up; some of them may be going down. What kinds of things do we want to invest in as an organization, put more resources behind? What things do we need to pull back on? It’s a trickier conversation this year on how best to manage our business and what we’re going to be doing to support our customers.
FAS on Saving Money and Trimming Fat - Recently the administration issued an Executive Order promoting efficient spending by directing agencies to cut spend on items, such as travel and devices. Here’s Kempf on how his agency is assisting federal customers to meet the requirements of the Executive Order and offers tips for trimming fat:
Opportunities to Trim Costs - We’ve been talking about trimming cost to allocate more resources to meeting mission. We can provide agencies with supplies and services that can help them cut cost using that savings to do the things important to their mission.
Fed Rooms program: When we look at savings around travel there is our Fed Rooms program, which often provides up to 11% or more savings toward hotel room rentals when on travel.
Airline City Pair program: The airfares offered under this program are discounted considerably off comparable commercial fares--saving the federal government billions of dollars annually. In addition to the tremendous price savings, the Airline City Pair Program has many features which allow government travelers all the flexibility possible in planning official travel.
Print Management program: This is a recent Federal Strategic Sourcing Initiatives (FSSI) that enables agencies to better manage their print operations. It’s not about just getting rid of devices. It’s the life cycle cost of an agency’s entire print operations, and how they manage those operations. How do we cut the paper usage down? How do we stop using personal printers around the office and get the print fleet to where we’re competing with the best in the industry? We’ve seen in some agencies that there are more devices than there are people. We’re looking to getting down to best in class or 15 to one, or even eight to one in terms of devices to people.
These are the kinds of ways we can assist federal agencies in trimming their costs and enable them to use those savings toward program and mission purposes. Some agencies are further along than others.
Learning from the Federal Strategic Sourcing Initiative (FSSI)
I think there are two things to be learned. Lesson one is the value of the government working together and collaborating to leverage its purchase power across the entire enterprise. This is important for a couple of reasons. One, when we work together we get better pricing. Secondly, it’s a better use of resources. Let’s buy this once and leverage that actual procurement, so we don’t have 400 transactions instead of one. Lesson two gives us the opportunity to take advantage of where the market is going, buying the way industry is selling. It allows us to change the way the government operates providing agencies with better choices.
Focus on the Future
Budget is key -- First, the budget, of course, is key. There’s going to be need for us to do new things as well as possibly stop doing others. The budget pressures will require us to streamline and improve performance. I think that’s really an important challenge coming up for us.
Data and analytics -- Secondly, I think important focus will be on the use of data and analytics. We’re looking at our government travel management system. How do we really transform travel in the federal government to take advantage of what we know about how the government spends? How do we improve the City Pairs program? How do we leverage the buying of hotels and rental cars as part of that? How do we take advantage of opportunities to really change what’s happening so that the Government can still do the travel it needs to do, but spend a whole lot less money on it and get better results?
Innovation – For FAS, I talk about innovation in terms of above and below the line. Above the line encompasses new offerings, new products: how do we understand what the government needs and be there for them with what they need? Below the line innovation focuses on how we improve our current operations, so that our services are easier to buy, easier to understand, and that the government has better data in order to make choices that will reduce the risk, improve the performance, the price, and the value for each transaction?
Managing to budget realities, leveraging data and analytics, and pursuing innovation are all very important to our success. GSA and FAS are only successful if we help federal agencies to be better at what they do and drive better value for the taxpayer.