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Originally Broadcast December 22, 2007
Welcome to The Business of Government Hour, a conversation about management with a government executive who is changing the way government does business.
The Business of Government Hour is produced by The IBM Center for The Business of Government, which was created in 1998 to encourage discussion and research into new approaches to improving government effectiveness.
You can find out more about The Center by visiting us on the web at businessofgovernment.org.
And now, The Business of Government Hour.
Mr. Morales: Good morning. I'm Albert Morales, your host, and managing partner of The IBM Center for The Business of Government.
Challenged by the administration, federal agencies have sought to identify new and smarter ways to do business and move toward a government that is citizen-centered and results-oriented. To be successful in this area, federal agencies require support and assistance, and the U.S. General Services Administration, or GSA, through its Federal Acquisition Service, works to provide that support. It's taking a leadership role in reducing wasteful government spending.
With us this morning to discuss his organization's leadership in this effort is our special guest, Jim Williams, commissioner of the Federal Acquisition Service within GSA.
Good morning, Jim.
Mr. Williams: Good morning, Albert.
Mr. Morales: Also joining us in our conversation is John Nyland, managing partner for IBM's Public-Sector Global Business Services.
Good morning, John.
Mr. Nyland: Good morning, Al.
Mr. Morales: Jim, before we get started, could you set some context for our listeners by providing us a sense of the history and mission of the U.S. General Services Administration, or GSA? Can you tell us when it was created and what its mission is today?
Mr. Williams: I would be glad to, Al. GSA was created on July 1, 1949, and it was an act signed by Pres. Harry Truman, the Federal Property and Administrative Services Act. It was really a result of the Hoover Commission. The Hoover Commission looked at what do we need in government to make government more effective, more efficient, stop all the duplicative waste that was going on. So GSA was created as a central procurement agency, and really created to help dispose of wartime goods and things like that.
Mr. Morales: Jim, perhaps you can give us some more particulars about the organization in terms of how GSA is organized, the size of the budget, number of employees, and the geographic footprint that you cover.
Mr. Williams: I'd be glad to. GSA has about 12,000 employees, and we have 11 regional offices in places like Boston, New York, Atlanta, Fort Worth, Chicago, Kansas City, San Francisco, Seattle, and the National Capital Region, and I think I named them all. We have a $17 billion budget, and that's pretty much the way we're set up with two different services. The Public Building Service, and think of the nation's landlord, an organization that controls about 8,300 either owned or leased federal office buildings. That accounts for about $500 billion in assets. And then the other half of that, the other service, is the Federal Acquisition Service, which I'm the head of, and that is a service which is the first service in the history of GSA established in law -- last October 2006 actually, in the GSA Modernization Act. And that's a combination of two prior services: the Federal Technology Service and the Federal Supply Service.
Mr. Nyland: So Jim, now that you've provided us with a sense of the larger organization, perhaps you could spend a few minutes and just tell us about your specific area and roles as the commissioner of the Federal Acquisition Service within GSA. So kind of what are your specific responsibilities and duties? And can you tell us about the areas under your purview and how you support GSA's overall mission?
Mr. Williams: Sure, I'd be glad to, John. GSA is a central acquisition agency. We like to think of ourselves as the premier acquisition agency in government. And the way it's set up under the Federal Acquisition Service, my organization, we have four business lines. First, we have one called Travel, Motor Vehicle, and Card Services, headed by Assistant Commissioner Bill Webster. And that looks at many of the things that we do in those arenas, such as charge card services. Three million users spend about $27 billion a year with about 92 million transactions.
We also have our Fleet Program is under that, and our Fleet Program leases about 200,000+ vehicles per year; very proud of the work they do around the world. We have over 1,000 vehicles in Iraq right now.
We also have our Automotive Program, that we are the federal government's buyer of vehicles, and we buy about 65,000 vehicles a year in addition to those 200,000 that we lease.
Our next one is our General Supplies and Services, and under that, we have three different parts. We have our Global Supply Program, which is really an integrated supply chain that provides support to the warfighter, the firefighter, and the everyday government office worker around the world. We also have property disposal, which we do a lot of, hundreds of millions of dollars of property that agencies no longer need, like the commercial trailers that we've helped to dispose of. And we have a guy heading that up, Dave Robbins does a great job there. Our overall assistant commissioner is Joe Jeu, who is just a fantastic leader for GSA. We also have our Integrated Technology Services organization headed by Assistant Commissioner John Johnson. And this is an area where they enter into large contracts such as Networx, Alliant, SATCOM-II, Fed Relay, and they also have all of the other GWACs plus the IT 70 Schedules, and we're very proud of John for that.
Our fourth business area is Assisted Acquisition Services, headed by Assistant Commissioner Mary Davie. And that's an area where agencies actually come to GSA for assisted services, where we actually help them throughout the life cycle, whether it's doing an acquisition strategy or requirements development, doing the acquisition. And we know every agency is struggling in their acquisition mission today. We're there as a force multiplier, as a workload balancer. If your budget is shooting up for next year, do you want to hire all those people permanently? Instead, come to GSA, and these people really take a lot of pride in the assisting work that they do.
Mr. Nyland: So regarding your specific responsibilities and duties, what do you currently see as kind of your top three challenges that you face in your position, and how are you going after these challenges?
Mr. Williams: Well, I would say my top three challenges are, first of all, we're a service organization, and our first commitment is to our customers. And when I talk about our customers to our people, I always say that we have two customers: the agencies that we support, whether that be federal, state, or local, trying to make them more effective and efficient in their missions; and our second customer is the American people. There used to be in our global supply organization that when something was shipped that GSA bought, it used to say, "When you use GSA, America saves money." That customer challenge is always in front of us to do a better and better job for the customer.
Secondly, I would say it's to our people to make sure we're a great place to work. I talk to our people all the time, that my philosophy is I believe in people and results in that order; that if you create the right environment for people with the right leadership, give them the right training, the right tools, the right processes, get out of their way and they will produce results every single time.
I think the third challenge, John, beyond the customers and the people, is our financial challenge. We are an organization that does not get appropriations. We exist based upon the fees we collect for the services we provide. Our customers almost always can vote with their feet, so we have to prove ourselves every single day. And in doing that, we have to manage all of our internal costs very, very judiciously.
Mr. Morales: Jim, now, you talk about 28 years in government. And last time we spoke to you on the air, I believe you were over at DHS, and you've also spent some time over at IRS. Could you describe for our listeners, refresh them, on sort of your career path? How did you get started?
Mr. Williams: I got started in procurement, which I learned to love. And having a business background, business undergraduate and later an MBA, it's something that I just thought used all my business training. I've been in government, as I said, Al, 28 years. And I've been in, I think, depending upon how you count, 10 federal agencies. My wife says I'm a migrant worker, and I think people follow different paths in their career. Many people at GSA have been there their whole lives. I like the challenge of going to new places and reinvigorating myself in every place.
I was lucky to work at places like Department of Commerce, which I loved. The Internal Revenue Service, I spent 12 years there in a place that believes in integrity above all things, which I loved. I was literally yanked over to Department of Homeland Security. And I know people talk about it as being chaotic and dysfunctional, and I think, you know, you can say, yes, it is, but I will tell you the people there are so incredibly dedicated, I loved working at Department of Homeland Security. I loved the people I worked with, I loved the mission, and I loved coming back to GSA. So I've been very fortunate in my career.
And I guess I've moved around partly by choice and partly not by choice, but I've been happy every time. I always reflect back on a deputy commissioner we had at IRS. When he was retiring, they asked him about his career and he said, well, simply put, I've done important work with good people and that was enough for me. And that's what I always say, too. I really believe we are the greatest country in the history of the world, and I love being a part of keeping this country strong.
Mr. Morales: Well, that's certainly a great set of broad experiences. So as you kind of reflect back on that career, how have these experiences prepared you for your current leadership role and perhaps shaped your management approach and informed your style?
Mr. Williams: Well, I've had some just absolutely outstanding bosses, and I think you learn a lot from those great bosses. I think you learn a lot from the really bad ones, too, and I've had a couple of those I guess along the way. But in terms of what I've done in my career, I spent the first 20 years or so in the procurement community. And then when I was at IRS, one of the great, great leaders I worked for, Charles Rossotti, the commissioner of the IRS, asked me to get involved in the IRS modernization and program management. And I went to see him one night saying, look, I really have a great job for you now, and it's about 7:00 at night, and he said have a seat and let's talk about it. About 8:20 that night, I said where's the hill, sir? I'll take it for you. And he's just, you know, one of the greatest guys, brilliant, and just an incredible leader, and I got involved in program management.
And then I went over to DHS, where I was kind of pulled in to head up the US-VISIT Program as the program director there. But there, I used GSA as a customer of GSA.
When I was called, I didn't know Lurita Doan at all, never met her before, before somebody called and said would you be interested in meeting her, talking about this job? And I said at the time, that was the only job I could think of that would cause me to leave Department of Homeland Security. Being the commissioner of Federal Acquisition Service, I felt like the stars aligned and this you know, being involved in program management, having worked for GSA twice before, being involved in acquisition, I jumped at the chance. And the first time Lurita and I talked, we quickly agreed how much we liked GSA, what we thought GSA's role should be. So I was very happy that I came back to GSA.
Mr. Morales: That's great.
What is the value of a central provider like GSA and its Federal Acquisition Service?
We will ask Jim Williams, commissioner of the Federal Acquisition Service, to share with us when the conversation about management continues on The Business of Government Hour.
Mr. Morales: Welcome back to The Business of Government Hour. I'm your host, Albert Morales, and this morning's conversation is with Jim Williams, commissioner of the Federal Acquisition Service.
Also joining us in our conversation from IBM is John Nyland.
Jim, could you talk to us about the value of a central provider such as GSA? What are some of the benefits of having this type of an organization?
Mr. Williams: Well, first, Al, I think the Hoover Commission got it right a long time ago when they saw the need for a centralized procurement agency. And really, you want to leverage the government's buying power, you want to leverage the government's expertise in particular areas, and really take the burden away from all of those agencies to have to set up their own centers of expertise, use their own scarce resources to buy those common supply services and solutions that GSA can buy for them. And leveraging that buying power is one of the advantages. Leveraging the acquisition expertise is another. But let me give you another one that I don't think people thing about enough, and that is leveraging a single interface between the government and the private sector.
I think what GSA does, particularly in its GWACs and schedules, the government-wide acquisition contracts and the Schedules Program, is we create an interface for entry into the federal marketplace. And I think it's the lowest cost entry into the federal marketplace, meaning a company that gets a GSA Schedule under a GWAC can then sell to everybody else in the federal government. And by keeping that low-cost entryway into the federal marketplace, we make it easier for large, small, small disadvantaged, service-disabled vets, all of those companies, woman-owned business, to gain entry into the federal marketplace, creating a broader industrial base.
Secondly, what we try to do, also is by optimizing that interface through standardized processes and electronic tools, we lower the transaction cost. So if a federal agency needs to buy something, first of all, they have a source or an interface to that private-sector provider where they can get something. We actually believe using things like our electronic tools, like GSA Advantage or combined with GSA e-Buy, more and more I think we're trying to move towards the government acting as one, the need for interoperability and information sharing. And by making things more into a common infrastructure, a common set of platforms that allows for similar standards and similar platforms across government, we facilitate that information sharing, that response to manmade or natural threats. And GSA can buy all of those common things and take that burden off agencies.
Mr. Morales: Now, Jim, you used terms such as "schedules," "contracts," and "GWACs." Could you give us a sense of the kinds of contracting vehicles and approaches that are available? And what business needs and approaches best fit these types of vehicles?
Mr. Williams: Well, I think we try to do things that meet all of our federal customer needs. I mean, GSA Schedules just reached an all-time high last year of 34.9 billion, up slightly from the year before. And then that is such a tremendous way to do business with the private sector. Again, with the 15,000 contractors we have on schedules, with 11 million products, I think agencies can get almost anything they need through those. But if there's more than that they need, we have things like our Alliant, which is for IT support services. And I think our people have done a great job with that, which, different from schedules, allows you to use any type of contract cost reimbursement or anything. And again, we're verifying the suppliers. We did a great job of scrutinizing, making sure we picked companies who we knew would deliver for our customers.
Mr. Nyland: So Jim, help us out a little bit with some of the terminology. What are the specific differences between the GSA Multiple Award Schedule contracts versus Government-Wide Acquisition Contracts, or the GWACs, and then the multi-agency contracts? And more specifically, kind of what's your sense of their overall effectiveness?
Mr. Williams: Well, the difference between a GWAC, Government-Wide Acquisitions Contract, and a MAC, a Multiple Award Contract, is the GWAC was set up in law as something under the Clinger-Cohen Act, where you get a specific delegation of authority for a GWAC. A MAC can be for something other than information technology that, again, is available government-wide. And we have all three. And as we've come together as the Federal Acquisition Service, we want to make sure we eliminate any unnecessary overlaps. There may still be overlaps because of different needs.
And generally with all of those, the GWACs, the MACs, and the Schedules, those are things where agencies go directly to those vehicles for support and then they pay us a fee. And those are kind of our direct channels where you don't go through GSA. You go directly to those sources of supply.
You can also come to us, our Assisted Acquisition Services, where you need that help, project management, financial management, and program management, to actually help you do the buying against either those particular contracts, the GWACs, MACs, and Schedules, or even we help people using their own internal contracts, as we've helped out agencies like Department of Defense and Department of Homeland Security.
Mr. Nyland: Now, GSA and the Federal Acquisition Service have made some significant management and financial changes to kind of the procurement operations over the last five years. Can you elaborate on some of these efforts? And how have these changes enhanced accountability, transparency, and delivery of services to customers?
Mr. Williams: GSA's Federal Acquisition Service is a result of a merging, or reorganization as some people call it, of the Federal Technology Service, which think of Networx and Alliant, and the Federal Supply Service, think of GSA Schedules. I call this something that is the creation or the establishment of a new service. It's an opportunity and an obligation to do something I think new and great for this country. And I look at it as how do we make GSA that strategic sourcer that can help federal agencies be more effective and efficient in spending their taxpayer dollars and making those taxpayer dollars go a lot farther. And certainly with the money we're spending to spread freedom and democracy around the world, we're going to have budget challenges for years to come, and every taxpayer dollar is precious. And I'm trying to create a system that is -- not only involves competition, it involves all those things that you care about in the private sector in terms of public accountability.
But the first and foremost goal of procurement is to meet the mission and meet it in an effective and efficient way. And that's what I'm trying to create, a foundational system that'll facilitate that.
Mr. Nyland: Given your organization's mission, what has the Federal Acquisition Service done to enhance and transform its customer service capabilities? So -- you know, does one GSA, one voice capture the intent of your integrated approach seeking to produce greater value for customers? And has it brought your organization closer to realizing its vision of one face to the customer?
Mr. Williams: Well, I think we're working towards that. When you look at trying to create something new, you know, I'd like to push a button and have it happen tomorrow. But in terms of being focused on the customer, I think a few years ago, GSA -- unfortunately, we were in some turmoil trying to create the Federal Acquisition Service, looking inward at some problems we had, and maybe back then we lost the focus on the customer. When we talk about what our principles are, they are service innovation and value, and that's what we live and breathe, and that first thing is service. And there's a reason why it's called the General Services Administration and the Federal Acquisition Service.
I love doing work for customers, and we have a customer accounts and research organization headed by Gary Feit. But that organization does a great job in understanding our customers' needs and giving us that feedback loop that tells us where we should be going to better serve the customer. And it is something where we have to come together continually as an organization.
We're not a large organization. I think the Federal Acquisition Service is just under 4,000 people, but we're spread around the world, nationwide in our 11 regions. And my job is to really get the right people together to make sure that we set out the right vision as a team, we work as a team, we focus on the customer to make sure we know what they need and we can provide it and always keep ourselves on edge. So, you know, mostly, John, I would say it's around getting the focus straight, the focus being service innovation and value, and doing those things that, first of all, get the right people. Start with people and then focus on a system gets -- the people, the processes, the technologies, get those all working together.
We have four business lines, but we also have these other organizations: our customer accounts and research, our controller, our chief information officer, our acquisition management, and our administration. Those are the people I kind of termed "our integrators" as we're trying to come together. They're going to optimize what we have to do, and they're going to make sure that everything they do supports coming together to better serve that customer, because we have to keep our fees as low as possible and we have to keep our processes and tools on the forefront. I mean, that's critical for agencies who make the decision whether to use us or not.
Mr. Morales: Now, Jim, earlier you mentioned the President's Management Agenda, and certainly here on the radio show and at the Center, we spend a lot of time analyzing the effects and results of the PMA. Can you tell us about the PMA objectives for e-government and the results that have been achieved to date? And specifically, what role does your agency play in the success of this initiative?
Mr. Williams: Well, first of all, I have to say I am a huge fan of the President's Management Agenda. I think it is exactly where this government needs to go for all the reasons I said before in terms of bringing together one government. Being a better manager in the President's Management Agenda has five key elements, e-government being one of them. And in the e government arena, I think GSA plays a particularly large role.
First of all, we have an Office of Governmentwide Policy who works very closely with OMB to help implement the President's Management Agenda, especially in the e-government area. My particular organization, we do things like e travel, where we now have 100 percent of all of the agencies signed up, all of the civilian agencies, on the same e-travel system. And again, that's one of those common platforms. We are involved in the financial management line of business, the HR line of business, and all these things are about, again, to me, trying to make the government a better manager of the taxpayer dollars, putting out those common platforms.
And one of the things they don't talk about as we try and make financial systems more common and HR systems more common and an e-travel system something common across government, as somebody who's worked in, as I said, maybe multi- or as much as 10 different federal agencies, when I go from agency to agency and I see a different system every time I go someplace, frankly, that doesn't facilitate a robust 21st century workforce. I mean, so many of our issues are now enterprise-wide across boundaries. We ought to have a more flexible workforce so people can move around.
I'm a big supporter of the President's Management Agenda through our e-travel, our federal assets sales. We're one of the four key organizations that have been designated by OMB to be a property disposal agency for personal property. We're the only ones that do it for all facets of federal asset disposal. As I said, the lines of business, we're involved in all of them.
The Infrastructure Technology Initiative, trying to look at consolidating and saving money in infrastructure, we're getting very involved in that and very proud to do so.
Mr. Morales: That's fantastic.
What about GSA's recent Alliant Government-Wide Acquisition Contract?
We will ask Jim Williams, commissioner of the Federal Acquisition Service, to share with us when the conversation about management continues on The Business of Government Hour.
Mr. Morales: Welcome back to The Business of Government Hour. I'm your host, Albert Morales, and this morning's conversation is with Jim Williams, commissioner of the Federal Acquisition Service.
Also joining us in our conversation is John Nyland, managing partner for IBM's Public Sector Global Business Services.
Jim, with having more than 10,000 contract holders on your GSA Schedule contracts, how has the organization streamlined its e-procurement program and eased the administrative burden on your employees?
Mr. Williams: I would say through several ways, Al. First of all, when our administrator came in, immediately, she gave me a 30-day challenge. How do you look at taking particularly small business companies who want to get on a Schedule and how do you reengineer your processes to get it down so that it didn't take what it was at the time, 120 days or so, get it down to 30 days or less to get a GSA Schedule contract. And we've looked at not sacrificing quality, but how do we look at our processes.
We're doing the same thing with Mike Sade, our assistant commissioner for acquisition, is looking at our modifications process. We want to be able to -- for companies to be able to add products and services quickly to their existing Schedules, again without sacrificing the job that we have to do to verify it's still a good company, still great pricing.
He's also combining it with our CIO, Ed O'Hare. There, we're trying to merge the changes in the process to the advances in the enabling technology. And Ed is looking at further taking GSA Advantage, which we've already taken GSA Advantage, and it's customized for our agency customers. There's Air Force Advantage, afadvantage.gov, vaadvantage.gov. And something else that Ed is doing is combining that with e-Buy and e-Library. E-Buy is where you can go on and electronically post request for quotations and get back electronically the offers and bids and then award it. E Library is a research tool. And Ed's trying to bring all three of those together. And he actually just did this not too long ago with the VA, with VA e-Connect, where he put out e Buy with this e-Connect with a service-oriented architecture that allowed agencies to be able to embed part of that e-Buy capability into their existing system. Again, making that transactional cost not only quick, but being able to lower the transaction costs that agencies always have pressure to do something quick and to spend those taxpayer dollars wisely and to make sure it's good quality. And we do all of those things.
Mr. Morales: Jim, now, in the last segment you touched upon GWACs and Alliant. Could you elaborate a little bit more on the benefits that you expect to provide your customer agencies with the establishment of the Alliant GWAC?
Mr. Williams: Sure. I'm very proud of the job that our people did on Alliant, mostly because they went out and really listened to the customers out there. And Alliant is really a replacement vehicle, in a way, for previous vehicles like Answer and Millennia, but it's different. Again, as I talked about earlier, Alliant was structured around both the federal enterprise architecture and the DOD enterprise architecture, so you can look at buying things that are consistent with different segments of those enterprise architectures.
I think the other thing they did was maintain very high standards with Alliant. Even with GSA Schedules, we go out and verify those suppliers. We don't just award a contract and turn our head. We have people go out and check to make sure that these contractors are delivering the way they're supposed to.
On Alliant, we set very high standards for -- we wanted established companies. We wanted cost accounting systems that were established, because if they're going to be doing cost reimbursement, time and materials, or any type of contract, we want them to have a solid performance record, solid accounting systems.
those out there, because we find that an agency, in talking to customers, when doing their job may want to start with a company that maybe designs a system. Do they want that company to also develop it? And that doesn't necessarily involve a conflict of interest if the agency is managing that. But if they want to go to one company for the whole thing, they're not constrained by other agency vehicles that might have domain restrictions or functional area restrictions. We eliminated that to make sure we did what our customers wanted. So we're very proud of what Alliant is and what it can do for agencies.
More than that, as I said, we have I think done a great job in choosing great industry partners. And we know that we really want to get this program growing, you know, that OMB wants us to do this. Because, again, it tells agencies here's a vehicle that allows you to do things consistent with the federal enterprise architecture and the DoD enterprise architecture. I think it's a super Government-Wide Acquisition Contract, or GWAC, for agencies to use.
Mr. Morales: Now, do you expect the civilian agencies and the DoD to be equal users?
Mr. Williams: Well, I think, you know, a lot of the civilian and DoD agencies have spent time creating their own vehicles. And I wish they hadn't, because they have scarce acquisition resources. For them to do that, they have created yet another interface to the private sector. And when you look at what GSA does, if you can get it through GSA, why would you do it anywhere else? And I love the words of people like Lt. Gen. Charlie Croom, who says, look, I don't want to create something if I can buy it elsewhere, the head of Defense Information Systems Agency. And I think all agencies should think in a statesperson-like way, like Gen. Croom, to say why should I recreate this? Because when you create it, you're taking scarce acquisition resources and putting them into something that is duplicative.
Mr. Nyland: So Jim, GSA and its customer agencies are preparing to transition to a new government-wide telecommunications contract known as Networx. Could you elaborate on the Networx program? And how do the advanced technologies and services that are defined in this program serve as a platform to transform the government's telecommunications infrastructure to a more seamless and secure environment?
Mr. Williams: Well, John, first of all, I would say Networx is something I believe is a transformational vehicle, and I'm really repeating what Assistant Commissioner Johnson says all the time. If you look back in time, when this started as FTS 2000, it was really a replacement for a dedicated network. It talked a lot about the convergence of voice data and video. But frankly, it was really a lot about lowering that price of the voice calls at that time.
I think going from FTS 2000 to FTS 2001 to Networx -- and surprisingly Networx is not an acronym, it is N-e-t-w-o-r-x, but it is really a unique vehicle, the largest telecommunications award in the history of the federal government as far as we know. But it is something, if you look at the services that are underneath that, as I said earlier, this is the ability to not just look at your buying carrier services, you're looking at a transformational vehicle and you look at the ability to take advantage of Internet Protocol Verion 6, IPv6, or a voiceover IP. I mean, that's where agencies are going, and the ability to use even the managed services that are under Networx.
All agencies are facing challenges in having the right kind of people to manage a conglomerate of different network services. What we look at Networx is eventually is a capability to deliver broadband to the desktop and really to provide the transformational vehicle where agencies can look at how can I accomplish my mission differently and how can I do that through a common platform of networks? And again, agencies can either manage their own networks or choose the network services portion of Networx. I think it's a tremendous vehicle.
Mr. Nyland: So of late, there's been a lot of effort towards a government-wide standard for a secure and reliable form of identification for employees and contractors. Can you elaborate a little bit on the Homeland Security Presidential Directive 12, commonly referred to as HSPD-12? What are some of the key requirements, and could you tell us about the services your organization offers in this area to agencies?
Mr. Williams: Sure, John, I'd be glad to. I mean, looking at Networx as trying to have everything be seamless, secure, and electronic communications, you then look at how do you identify people. And HSPD-12, Homeland Security Presidential Directive 12, is really looking at how do you establish a common credential as well as a common vetting system, something if you look across the federal government probably should have been done 50 years ago. And certainly the President in 2004 signed this as a result of September 11th, but it's critical that we do this.
And at the Department of Homeland Security, Deputy Secretary Admiral Loy used to hold up a truck driver's 17 different ID cards. Well, I think you've actually seen people walking around with multiple federal credentials and that's not good for security and it's inefficient. And somebody, as I said, who's moved around in my career, to have to go get myself re-vetted when I step somewhere on a Friday to a new location, or a Monday, and they tell me my security clearance has to be redone, it really doesn't make any sense. And I think the ultimate dream of HSPD-12 is, first of all, have a common vetting system that is secure, so that when you get a credential, it is based upon a secure supply chain of source documents, not built, frankly, on a potential house of cards, then to get that credential that eventually could be used in an interoperable manner for both physical access and logical access. I mean, that's really where we should be going.
Again, that creates a common platform for a more interoperable set of credentials across government. Our role in that, we're very proud of the PMO, the Program Management Office, we now have about 67 agencies that we're supplying that credential to. I think it encompasses about 850,000 credentials. And we're proud of the very first deadline back in 2006, where we were the only organization, our Program Management Offices, to produce NIST FIPS 201 compliant cards. We're very proud of that, but we know we have to continue to deliver because we have another deadline coming up in October of 2008. We worked very closely with Karen Evans at OMB on this to make sure that we are in sync with where they want to go.
But this is something beyond just making good economic sense in terms of, you know, the common vetting system, the common credentials. It's important to the security of the nation. So we're proud of the work we're doing in HSPD-12.
Mr. Nyland: Let me switch gears a little bit and now talk about IT infrastructure. You know, in a period of static or even decreasing federal IT budgets, the cost of maintaining existing federal IT infrastructure is rising at a faster pace than information technology as a whole. As a way of seeking to realize cost savings by optimizing IT infrastructure, can you elaborate on the IT infrastructure line of business? And how will it lead to IT infrastructure consolidation and optimization and assist us in the development of a government-wide common solution?
Mr. Williams: Well, again, John, I think this is a great OMB presidential initiative. And if you look at where Karen Evans is trying to go, and she works with our Office of Governmentwide Policy on this, and a leader named Von Harrison, who does a great job on this for GSA, and we're working with that interagency committee from the Federal Acquisition Service to make this a reality.
And if you look at that, as you talked about, that infrastructure initiative, I think they've broken down infrastructure into three parts: the end-user systems and support, the mainframes and servers systems and support, and the telecommunications systems and support. All of those are common platforms. All of those are opportunities where we could save as much as 25 or more percent off that growing percentage of our IT budget. And I think the fact that it's growing, in a way, may not be a bad thing. Because, again, moving more and more things into a common infrastructure is a good thing, because it means you're optimizing by using something that's common, a common infrastructure, versus everybody doing their own thing. That's not a good thing.
But if you look at just things like our data centers, I heard recently our data centers consume 1.5 percent of the total power in the United States. And I think there's an opportunity to put everybody on this common platform. If you think about a common platform from the end user to the mainframe servers to the telecommunications, again, that will facilitate information sharing and interoperability. And the savings in terms of going green and energy efficiency, the things that we can do with that infrastructure at the same time can just save a ton of money with tremendous benefits.
And I think what we're looking at, the initiative that's there right now, is to put everybody on a common set of metrics. And take those metrics and compare them to common industry of private-sector metrics. And then look at how do you -- you know, where you are in terms of your metrics of performance and cost efficiencies today. Where do you have to be? And then how do you get there? And I think, you know, one way to get there is through consolidation. All agencies have different legacy systems, different challenges, but trying to get them -- to give them the goal of you need to save money and improve performance. And then how do they get there? What GSA, my organization, wants to do as we're partnering with the Office of Governmentwide Policy and OMB, is be ready with those kinds of offerings that can provide the opportunity for agencies to get there.
We just recently added on a Schedule A company that offers data center services at the Top Secret/SCI, sensitive compartmented information, TS/SCI level. And I think where agencies are moving is looking at they want security. Absolutely, security is paramount. But they don't want to own everything anymore. They want to look at how do I buy services? And how do I get myself moving up that scale to meet the metrics of the private sector or better? And how do I save money? Consolidation is one way. Changing the mindset of what you're buying, not buying the bricks and mortar, but buying the service and making sure the service is going to be there when you need it. And it's going to get you in terms of the cost efficiency that we want to get to the private sector or better.
So I think the first goal is get them on a common set of metrics, measure them against the private sector as a benchmark, and then look at ways to give people the goals of saving money. I want my organization to be there to help out with those offerings that help out with the environmental, the energy initiative, and just provide those services that the agencies need and across the spectrum of the infrastructure of end user to mainframes and servers up to the telecommunications. And I think with the telecommunications, Networx is a key component of that today, SATCOM-II, and there are other pieces that we do in that area.
Mr. Morales: Now, Jim, in this area of services, we're seeing an increasing mix between government employees and contract employees. I only have a minute left, but from your perspective, could you tell us how federal managers can effectively manage this ever-increasing blended workforce composed of both contractors and federal workers?
Mr. Williams: Well, I think that is a tough challenge, Al. And being a former program manager, I experienced that challenge. First of all, the government's always the customer. And the government has to be able to know -- be a smart buyer and they know their mission better than anybody.
I think that partnering with the private sector, I think, is -- there's been wonderful successes in partnering with the private sector. And those successes come about when you work as a team. And it's often a challenge because you have a contract in the middle of it and you want to have the private sector have accountability. But frankly, when you get into some of these larger programs, it's joint accountability. You succeed together or you go down in flames together. So I think you want to find a way to structure the role of the contractor as a partner with the government. But, at the same time, the government is 51 percent of the vote always and the government has to be smart about what their mission needs are.
And I like partnership with the private sector. It brings what I hope is the blend of best practices from the private sector. Because certainly they service a lot of other customers besides the government, and it brings that mission knowledge of the government agencies. When you it's like anything else in life. If you can bring a team of people together, get them focused on a common goal, the results are just tremendous.
Mr. Morales: That's fantastic.
What does the future hold for GSA and its Federal Acquisition Service? We will ask Jim Williams, commissioner of the Federal Acquisition Service, to share with us when the conversation about management continues on The Business of Government Hour.
Mr. Morales: Welcome back to The Business of Government Hour. I'm your host, Albert Morales, and this morning's conversation is with Jim Williams, commissioner of the Federal Acquisition Service.
Also joining us in our conversation from IBM is John Nyland.
Jim, you finished the last segment by talking about how some of the best programs are accomplished by teams of employees. Could you elaborate a little bit more on your approach to empowering your employees? How do you lead change and enable your staff and those within the organization to accept the inevitability of change and make the most of it?
Mr. Williams: I think I was lucky to have some experience with change at the Internal Revenue Service under Charles Rossotti when he really undertook a massive change there at IRS. And then joining from there Department of Homeland Security, which I can't think of a bigger change in government in the past 50 years than the creation of the Department of Homeland Security. And I think change is -- it's a cliche, but it is constant.
When I came into GSA, again, they were a little bit, I think, trying to finalize the establishment of the Federal Acquisition Service. What I first tried to do is articulate, I think, a vision for where I think GSA ought to be going. And that vision involves focusing on the customer, being that provider of the common supply services and solutions that help the warfighter, the firefighter, the government office work, meet their needs, providing that foundational acquisition system all the way through from helping agencies with setting up vehicles for them to use or helping agencies actually buy, to helping them dispose of property or manage their fleets, programs, things like that. And then getting the right set of stable leaders in place.
And then, frankly, the change is something, as I see it, as a refocusing. Again, focusing on the customer. Focusing on being internally efficient. Focusing on creating a great workplace.
Mr. Morales: So along similar lines, Jim, we get to ask most of our guests about collaboration. And so I'm curious, what kind of partnerships are you developing now to improve your operations and outcomes at GSA? And how do you envision these partnerships perhaps evolving over time?
Mr. Williams: Well, Al, I love partnerships. And I think I had great partnerships at Homeland Security with my friends at the FBI, Tom Bush, and my friends at State Department, Ambassador Maura Hardy. And I just like, as I said before, getting good people together and getting them working together. I think at GSA, we started with a Department of Defense Memorandum of Agreement, how we can improve together. And I think I talked about recently we signed -- I signed a Memorandum of Agreement with Gen. Usher, the deputy commandant of the Marine Corps for installation logistics, for us to be his 4-PL, fourth party logistical supplier. We're very proud of that. And the agreement we have with TRANSCOM, Gen. Norton Schwartz, head of U.S. Transportation Command, and Lt. Gen. Dail of Defense Logistics Agency, trying to be that strategic partner and how do we optimize things with our customer agencies. Strategic partnerships are great for us because we can improve our delivery of service and at better pricing.
I think internally, you know, I have a group of people who are the leaders underneath Barney Brasseux and me, and I like to say that, you know, I'm the type of person, I don't like to lead by committee, but I like the best advice of smart people. And certainly, there are people at GSA who know their job so much better than I will ever know, and I like to get them together.
We have something that our Assistant Commissioner Jack Williams, and I'm sorry if I didn't mention him before, for strategic business planning process improvement, he runs our Management Council. And our Management Council is composed of our assistant commissioners, who work directly for Barney and me, and our assistant regional administrators around the country. We get together as a team, and that team were the ones that came up with our principles of service, innovation, and value. And as I've said before, I care about getting good people together and getting the work as a team. So I'm not sure if that's directly responsive to your question, but collaboration is what it's all about. That's how you get things done in government today.
Mr. Nyland: Jim, I'd like to transition now to the future. Can you give us a sense of some of the key issues that are going to affect the Federal Acquisition Service and government-wide procurements over the next year or two?
Mr. Williams: Well, I think there's changes coming with some recent laws that are being passed looking at changing the federal acquisition system, and I think we have to make sure that we provide the proper training and things like that. I think where we're going, GSA, first of all, going green is I think an important initiative for us. And our deputy administrator, David Bibb, is heading that up as one of the key senior federal officials in government on going green. That, combined with energy efficiency.
I think we're also looking at where our customers want one-stop shopping. Another initiative we have within GSA is One GSA. And our latest strategic plan really emphasizes coming together between the Public Building Service and the Federal Acquisition Service. If some agency is making a major move, how do we really provide one-stop shopping in terms of the move and the furniture that we provide and the telecommunications capabilities, and everything so that agency can come to us and have us take care of their needs. And I think that's something we're trying to be better at, to provide that one-stop shopping for our customers.
I'm also looking at how do we better integrate across GSA? There's a great part of GSA, the Office of Communication and Citizen Services, and there's a person there, Martha Dorris, who really is the creator of usa.gov. And they provide services directly to the citizens. They deal with the states all the time. What we're also trying to do is be a better provider to state and local government. When you talk about, you know, the threats or the challenges, whether it's acquisition resources or responding to natural disasters, those exist across federal, state, and local.
We partnered with FEMA to put in place contingency contracting to help them respond to those kinds of disasters. Our Schedules Program is now open for state and local governments for response and recovery purposes. And we did this with the Department of Homeland Security to open up all of our Schedules so that whatever states, if they have a need, they can feel they can come to us.
And I think we saw the benefits of this kind of partnership with FEMA in the recent, not-too-long-ago California wildfires, where we not only had the things to help the firefighter, the supplies they needed to fight the fires, but we were ready with things like meals ready to eat and water. Then we put in place contingency contracts with FEMA to be better able to respond to those kinds of disasters.
So strategic partnerships are where it's all about. And our future is about GSA doing more of those strategic partnerships and really providing those common platforms across government and often being either a provider of services or a provider of the contracting expertise.
Mr. Nyland: Now, Jim, staying on the future, kind of on a broader basis, what are some of the major opportunities and challenges that your organization will encounter in the future? And how do you envision your office will evolve over the next five years or so?
Mr. Williams: I'm not sure. First of all, I hope we'll continue to be customer-focused. I hope we will be there on the forefront of what our agencies need to get them those products and services they need. Hopefully, we'll build better partnerships with our customers and within GSA. Where we'll be five years from now, I think that's pretty hard for any agency or any entity even to predict. But certainly I think you look at where we are in the history of this country right now, where the need to really protect our children and our grandchildren from putting them in great debt really should be a compelling burning platform to say we need to do everything we can to save money. And I think GSA's in the best position to either provide that common service, that common solution, that allows to all of those win-win goals of information sharing, interoperability, and taking the burden off agencies.
Agencies who manage their own fleets today, I don't know why they do it. I don't know why they don't just let GSA do that for them, because we measure customer satisfaction and we get very, very high marks in that area. So I hope that we can become somebody that is relied upon for all of those common things that the agencies need.
And believe me, I am not trying to build an empire. I just believe this is good government. And what I also believe is that we have to be constantly on our toes. And I think we have to look at these opportunities to provide that acquisition system and those services across federal, state, and local. Because, you know, there's not right now a very high level of confidence in the government. I mean, there's -- if you look at some of the ratings, for whatever reason they're not where they should be, you know, down in the teens.
And I do believe, again, we are the greatest country in the history of the world, but that's a very precarious thing. I really believe that. And I believe that GSA as a support agency in the middle of supporting these 100+ agencies in 100 countries around the world, we are critical to the nation's future. And I think we have the right people to do that. Our challenge will be keeping the right people and keeping the right edge in terms of process improvements in technology and processes so people don't have to duplicate what we do. So certainly we're always going to have challenges, and maintaining the financial discipline is something that's a challenge every day.
Mr. Morales: Jim, you've had a very successful 28 years of federal service. As you sort of reflect on your career, what advice would you give to a person who perhaps is considering a career in public service or in the federal government?
Mr. Williams: Well, first of all, I would say do it. I often talk to people in the private sector and say, you know, once you've made all the money you need, come in and work for the federal government. Do something you'll be proud of for the rest of your life. And I've seen that so many times. People have come into government and, first of all, they say, well, I've never worked harder in my whole life, but they've never been more ennobled in what they do because it's such a -- just something that is inside you that feels good about being a public servant. It feels good about helping the United States of America stay strong. I guess the advice I would give, you know, keep up your education. As somebody once said, volunteer for things. Always -- you know, I'm somebody who likes to take on the big challenges. Anything less than that, I'm bored. I probably have only two speeds, which is full speed and dead asleep, and I like multiple challenges at once.
But I think the advice I would give people is the advice I've often -- repeatedly give to young Air Force officers, which is don't think about the next promotion. Just think about the job you have in front of you and do it well. And at the end of the day, you've done it well and that's a good thing. It's a feel-good thing. And usually if you've done it well, somewhere somebody will say, hey, there's somebody who we ought to bring along. Never shirk from responsibility.
And, you know, the government is somewhat different from other institutions where they put a little bit higher premium on integrity and public accountability. I know everybody else does and certainly that's happening in the private sector, but you always want to operate with integrity because it's not your money. It's somebody else's money, and do the best thing for the taxpayer. If you do the right thing and stick to your principles and work hard and give an honest day's work for an honest day's pay, you'll be successful in your career and you will love it. And I've enjoyed it.
I mean, I just -- I always tell people if I couldn't, you know, play for the Boston Red Sox or if I couldn't play in the NBA, this is what I'd choose to do, having been through what I've been through. I love it.
Mr. Morales: That's wonderful advice, thank you. Unfortunately, we have reached the end of our time.
I do want to thank you for fitting us into your busy schedule. But more importantly, John and I would like to thank you for your dedicated service to our country across the many roles that you've served in nearly the past 30 years.
Mr. Williams: Well, thank you very much, Al and John. It's a pleasure being here today, and I hope people will look at GSA and the Federal Acquisition Service as something that is there for them. We try.
Mr. Morales: Great. This has been The Business of Government Hour, featuring a conversation with Jim Williams, commissioner of the Federal Acquisition Service within the U.S. General Services Administration.
My co-host has been John Nyland, managing partner for IBM's Public-Sector Global Business Services.
As you enjoy the rest of your day, please take time to remember the men and women of our armed and civil services abroad who can't hear this morning's show on how we're improving their government, but who deserve our unconditional respect and support.
For The Business of Government Hour, I'm Albert Morales. Thank you for listening. Announcer: This has been The Business of Government Hour.
Be sure to join us every Saturday at 9:00 a.m., and visit us on the web at businessofgovernment.org. There, you can learn more about our programs and get a transcript of today's conversation.
Until next week, it's businessofgovernment.org.
Friday, February 25, 2005
Mr. Lawrence: Good morning, and welcome to The Business Of Government Hour. I am Paul Lawrence, partner in charge of the IBM Center for The Business of Government. We created the Center in 1998 to encourage discussion and research into new approaches to improving government effectiveness.
You can find out more by visiting us on the web at www.businessofgovernment.org.
The Business of Government Radio Hour features a conversation about management with a government executive who is changing the way government does business. Our special guest this morning is Jim Williams, director of the US-VISIT program in the Department of Homeland Security.
Good morning, Jim.
Mr. Williams: Good morning, Paul.
Mr. Lawrence: Also joining us in our conversation from IBM is Todd Wiseman.
Good morning, Todd.
Mr. Wiseman: Good morning.
Mr. Lawrence: Well, Jim, let�s jump right into it. Could you tell us about the United States Visitor and Immigrant Status Indicator Technology program, or US-VISIT, as it�s better known?
Mr. Williams: Yes, US-VISIT is a program from the Department of Homeland Security, and we really have four goals. One is enhancing security for citizens and visitors, and we always include visitors because we want people to feel safe in coming to United States; facilitating legitimate trade and travel. We know that 99.99 percent of the people coming to the United States come here for legitimate reasons: to study, to travel, to do business, see family, seek medical help, and we want those people to come.
The third goal is to ensure integrity in our immigration system. As the President recently said in his State of the Union address, we want to know when people are coming, and we also want to know when they are leaving. And I often talk about this as, it�s our house. We want people to visit; we want to know why they are coming; we want to know when they are coming; and we want to know did they leave.
And the fourth goal, that's as equally as important as the first three goals, is to protect the privacy of our visitors. As we collect additional information from visitors, we want them to feel safe in terms of giving us that information, that it will be adequately protected.
Mr. Lawrence: When you describe the goals so distinctly, it seems also clear and obvious, but could you tell us the history of the program; what was the business problem that this was designed to -- and how that all came about?
Mr. Williams: Sure, it is a program that was mandated by Congress first in 1996, that�s pre-9/11, aimed at really curbing illegal immigration. It was called in the law the �entry/exit system,� and it was a program under the legacy INS organization, Immigration and Naturalization Service, that really somewhat languished due to a lack of resources. Post-9/11, there were other laws passed by Congress mandating this entry-exit system, really aimed at combating terrorism post-9/11.
Secretary Tom Ridge, on April 29, 2003, as part of his 100-day speech of Homeland Security, grabbed hold of this program. He renamed it US-VISIT, and he chose that name to reflect the fact the United States is a welcoming nation. He also did a couple of other things on that day as part of his 100-day speech.
Number two, after renaming it, he elevated it to report to an Undersecretary, Asa Hutchinson, who is my boss, who unfortunately is leaving government service; an absolutely great leader. He elevated that to reflect the fact that it�s a horizontal program, and it has to deal with many different entities of DHS, and other parts of government.
The third thing that Tom Ridge did on that day was on top of saying we�ll meet the Congressional requirements to be at airports and seaports by the end of 2003, he said we�ll also start to collect biometrics. And biometrics means, for those visitors who are included in US-VISIT, we collect an electronic digital finger scan, which you can see if you go out to Dulles Airport, the international terminal; people come in, we are taking an electronic finger scan, electronic photographs of those people. It takes only a few seconds; it�s easy, but by doing that, we are enhancing security for this country.
Mr. Wiseman: How do you describe, or how do you think about the size of US-VISIT?
Mr. Williams: Well, the size of US-VISIT can be defined in many different ways. One is, if you look at the visitors who cross our air, land and sea borders, it�s about half a billion people a year that come into our country across any one of our over 300 air, land, or sea ports of entry.
And also, you can define it by size. As I said, it�s a horizontal program. You look at the government agencies that are involved in either, travel, trade or immigration, and you look at those different aspects of government, and that includes, just within DHS, it includes Customs and Border Protection, Immigration and Customs Enforcement. It includes Citizenship and Immigration Services. It also includes Department of State, and in fact, we work closely with the Department of Justice, Department of Commerce, Department of Transportation, and that�s just at the federal level.
If we define how far it can go beyond that, we also work very closely with the private sector, and have had great partnerships with people like the Air Transport Association, the Chamber of Commerce, Travel Industry of America, Border Trade Alliance, as well as working closely with other countries. Because what we are really trying to do in the end is trying to improve travel for good people, and make it harder for bad people to travel.
As the 9/11 Commission said, travel documents are weapons in the hands of terrorists, and we need to find a way to take those away from them.
Mr. Wiseman: Can you tell us a little more about your roles and responsibilities as the director, Jim?
Mr. Williams: My role is to direct the program in terms of preparing the budgets, in terms of making sure we can meet the commitments of Congress on time, and making sure that we can deliver things that provide all the necessary benefits. The benefits being in line with our goals, benefits of enhancing security by giving the men and women who use US-VISIT, whether it�s a visa-issuing post in all of the 207 visa-issuing posts around the world, or in all of those ports of entry where we have customs and border protection officers, whose job it is to in a few seconds make a decision whether to admit somebody in the country or whether to deny them entry.
And what we are trying to do is give them a tool in their tool belt that they can use. At the same time, the role is to deliver on the benefits of facilitating legitimate trade and travel. We want to be able to provide for good people to be able to cross our borders a lot easier, and the goal is really to keep people motivated, which, frankly, is not a hard job.
I�m very, very fortunate to work with some incredibly dedicated and super-intelligent and just phenomenal people. Frankly, I never think of this as anywhere near a one-person job. It�s not even within my organization because we work so closely with other organizations. It�s everybody involved in this, a rallying around these external goals. And it�s really just making sure those people have the resources they need. And as we implement this system, make sure we can work with our policy folks; make sure as we implement new business processes and new technologies, they�ll harmonize with the right policies.
Mr. Wiseman: What were your previous positions before becoming the director for US-VISIT?
Mr. Williams: Well, my last job was working at the Internal Revenue Service, for about 12 years, where my last job there I was a Deputy Associate Commissioner, program management for the IRS modernization, which I am happy to say has had some great successes, even last year, rolling out some of the toughest programs in government. And I�m glad that I played a small part in that. Prior to that, much of my career was spent in Federal Procurement, in the acquisition arena, where I was director of IRS procurement. I also worked on major telecommunications procurements at GSA. Actually, it was pretty exciting times when we worked there, because it was right around the time of the AT&T break-up. I worked on FTS 2000 as a first contracting officer in that.
Also, I�ve worked for Department of Commerce on three separate occasions. Sometimes I refer to myself as somewhat of a migrant worker, because I�ve deliberately moved around. I like big challenges, and I like to have to prove myself all over again, and anything�s big and tough, you know, let me at it. So I�ve tried to deliberately move around; not to advance my career, just because I like challenges. I�ve never really planned where I want to be next; it�s just whatever seems to come up. Also, I�ve been involved in procurement of supercomputers, and negotiations with the government of Japan on some trade agreements, which was pretty exciting.
Mr. Wiseman: You mentioned an extensive background in procurement acquisition; how has that experience prepared you for this position, and how do you apply a lot of those experiences, because many folks in your role don�t have nearly the procurement acquisition experience you�ve had?
Mr. Williams: Well, when I look at heading one of these major programs in government, somebody asked me one time, �What�re you looking for?� And I said I really see four legs of the store if you want to define the perfect program manager, which I am certainly not. But number one is, you want to have knowledge of the business; you want to have knowledge of what you�re trying to provide in terms of this service to your eventual customers.
Secondly, I think you want to have knowledge of Information Technology, some basic knowledge of that, because all of these programs are about technology, as I see them. Third is about program management disciplines, which I�ve had some recent experience in. And the third is really acquisition in contracting management. And most of my background is in procurement and contracting, some program management. I�ve been around Information Technology my whole career involved in some major programs. But part of my philosophy is, I don�t have all the skills necessary, all of those of that perfect leader.
And fortunately, I have, again, great people, great leaders who work for me and work with me, and my style is, maybe it�s a little bit of Gestalt Theory, but it is to work with them in a collegial fashion, to let them manage their organizations, but at the same time at the top, get them to put on their corporate hats, and help me manage the program together.
And I also work very closely with my deputy, Bob Mocny, who has extensive background in the business and really complements me as well as other skills that he has.
Mr. Lawrence: You mentioned your management approach and style. Has it changed over your career in the sense that when you were doing procurements, to now leading major programs?
Mr. Williams: I�ll be honest, Paul, I don�t really go back and examine my leadership style. When people ask me what is it, I had never really given it much thought until somebody asked me that recently. I kind of think you hire the best people you can; you get them focused on the task and that�s how teams come together, really get people focused on the task, and you kind of follow the Golden Rule, where you treat people the way they want to be treated, and I�ve always found that things pretty much fall into place after that.
I think in this particular job, what may be a little bit different is coming in there in a post-9/11 mode, there was so many people who were so dedicated, and 9/11 is mentioned every day in our world. Always believing that there is a threat out there, and that we need to protect America, and I think that motivates people enough. I try to give them all the resources and the support, and also try to create an organization that has the right values.
Frankly, we would like to have one, because we work hard. People spend a large part of their time there. We�re an organization that likes to say "thank you� to people, because so many people help us in partnership. That�s, I guess, one of my philosophies, probably came out of my parents; try to have simply good manners around people.
Mr. Lawrence: That�s an interesting point, especially about values.
What are the details behind US-VISIT; what kind of information is collected; and how is it used? We�ll ask Jim Williams, director of the US-VISIT program, to take us through this when our conversation about management continues on The Business of Government Hour.
Mr. Lawrence: Welcome back to The Business of Government Hour. I�m Paul Lawrence, and this morning�s conversation is with Jim Williams, the director of the US-VISIT program at the Department of Homeland Security.
Joining us in our conversation is Todd Wiseman.
Mr. Wiseman: Jim, how does US-VISIT work, and what is the procedure, and what can a visitor expect when he or she is entering and exiting the U.S.?
Mr. Williams: Well, first of all, it can start when people first apply for a visa overseas, and when they apply for that visa, it�s the same procedure that you�ll see at any airport, or seaport, or even in our land border crossings. The visitor, if they are a non-immigrant visa person, or a visa waiver person, those people are currently included in US-VISIT. They�re asked to take a few extra seconds to put their first left index finger scan, right index finger scan, and again, it�s an electronic fingerprint, and also takes a digital photograph. That goes on during the normal inspection when the people are coming in to the country.
We�ve estimated that it takes about 10 to 12 seconds to do that. After they put down their finger scans and they�re recorded, the inspector continues the interview and they press �Send,� and those fingerprints are checked against our watch list. Our watch list is updated daily with additional fingerprints from the FBI, and within five seconds, the inspector has his computer screen, either blinks green, no hit; or it blinks red, meaning it looks like it�s a match against a fingerprint that we have on our watch list.
And it�s really that simple, but we also enroll people so that we record their fingerprints and attach them to their identity. So if Jim Williams comes in to Dulles Airport one week, and we take the fingerprints and enroll those as Jim Williams' fingerprints, and the next time the person comes around, we just do a one-to-one match against the fingerprints we already have.
We also take those fingerprints that are in our database, what I would call the �Good guy database,� the people who have been enrolled, and we run them continuously against our �Bad guy database.� And in fact, we have instances where we�ve gotten hits of people who�ve come in to the country legitimately, but then we�ve had an update of fingerprints from the FBI, or from other sources that are in our watch list that then indicate the person is a hit, and we alert our Immigration and Customs Enforcement people who go out, and find the person.
Mr. Wiseman: You�ve described the biometric capabilities and the system around that. How accurate is that technology today?
Mr. Williams: Fingerprints are very accurate. Our accuracy rate today is 96 percent, and that means when -- say we already have somebody�s fingerprints either in our database and we get a fingerprint, we could match it 96 percent of the time. There are certain people who fall out of that; people, frankly, who don�t have fingers. But where we do have a false positive, that�s where the screen blinks red, because it looks like a match. Those fingerprints are immediately, within a second or so, sent to a human fingerprint examiner who can tell whether it really is a match, or whether it�s a false positive; meaning it�s a good person, it wasn�t the bad person we were looking for. They can clear this up within about three minutes.
Mr. Wiseman: Is there other kind of information captured in addition to the biometrics, and if so, how is that information used?
Mr. Williams: Well, prior to US-VISIT, biographic information was collected as, for example, if you�re flying here from Heathrow in London, the airlines are, most of them, are sending us electronic manifests of who�s on the plane, and those electronic manifests that are usually sent 15 minutes after wheels-up are checked against a biographical set of watch lists. That�s about 26 different watch lists combined into one that will then tell us is there a biographic, or date of birth, or passport number hit on that particular information.
And if there is, when the person arrives at, say, Dulles Airport, and their passport or visa is read, it will then identify has that record been flagged as being a biographic hit, combining with the biometrics, though. Biometrics helps do a better job of confirming identity.
We had a person who had come into the country who was a convicted rapist, and we were looking for this person, and realized after catching him that he�d come into the country using nine different aliases, four different dates of birth.
And another hit we had about the same time was a person from Jamaica wanted for drug smuggling -- clearly, an aggravated drug trafficker. And that person we found out had come into the country 60 times in the previous four years. And we know that people can buy fake passports, and false identities, and what our Chief Privacy Officer, Nuala O�Connor Kelly says, when you use biometrics, it doesn�t take away your privacy; it protects your privacy. It protects you from identity theft because nobody else can use your fingerprints.
Mr. Wiseman: You touched upon it, but if you could just repeat, about who exactly is required to enroll in the program?
Mr. Williams: Today, it�s anybody from any country that requires a visa to come to the United States, or anybody who comes in what�s called the visa waiver program. That�s a program where people from 27 countries, like England, France, Germany, Japan, Australia, can travel to the United States for business or pleasure for up to three months, and they do not need to go to the State Department to get a visa.
But we did, starting last September 30th, include those people in the program, because it�s so easy, it�s quick and it enhances security. And in fact, we've surveyed many travelers, and the vast, vast majority of them say they don�t mind. In fact, they tell us they feel safer. We�re hoping that part of what we see in the recent upswing in travel and tourism is due to the fact that people feel safer in traveling. And as one Customs and Border Protection Officer at Dulles told me, when people ask him, �Why am I doing this?� he says, �It�s to protect you.� And in fact, it does.
Mr. Lawrence: Could you tell us about the deployment schedule, where you are and what the plans are?
Mr. Williams: Sure, Paul. We first deployed according to this -- the number one Congressional Mandate to be at the airports and seaports, and we did that at 115 airports and 14 seaports for entry. And that started January 5, 2004. And we met the date; we were ready to go at the end of 2003, but there was a request from the private sector to delay the live implementation until we get over the nearest holiday weekend, which we did, even though we were ready to go. So we met that date on time. We also began pilot testing exit at the airports, and I�ll talk about that in a minute.
Our next goal was to be at the 50 busiest land ports of entry, and this is a congressionally mandated goal by the end of 2004. We actually met that ahead of schedule, and we started implementing November 15th and we finished December 29th, so we were ahead of schedule, and I�m pleased to say we�ve met all of our dates set by Congress, and I think that�s important to maintain credibility.
We�ve also begun pilot testing exit at airports, and what that means is, if you�re leaving out of, say, Dulles Airport or National, you�re taking an international flight, today, you go to the ticket counter, the e-ticket booth, you go to the TSA screening, and you go to the gate, there is no check-out of this country, and that�s different from other countries. If you leave through, say, Tokyo, or Poland or somewhere, you actually check out; you actually go into a separate physical part of the airport and you�d go through a check-out procedure. The United States doesn�t have that.
But in order to have integrity in our immigration system, as the President said, we want to know when people are leaving, and that�s how you ensure integrity of the people, follow the rule of the law in terms of their admission. So we�ve been trying to pilot test the biometric collection for people when they leave the country, and we do that through using two different pieces of equipment that we�re pilot testing.
One is a kiosk; it looks like an ATM machine. You can actually see one in BWI Airport right now. And the other is through a mobile handheld device, and we use that in two different ways. But generally it�s a device that was built for us that takes fingerprints, takes photographs, and also can read the machine-readable part of your passport, and that�s the letters that are at the bottom. They�re in a special font so that it can be machine-read.
I will tell you another thing we did as part of this, and this is something that we did in conjunction with The Department of State: was when we first deployed this, we wanted to better link databases. What Congress said was better link databases so that people have the best information they can at their fingertips.
And we put in for the first time a capability, when that machine-readable zone of the passport or visa is read, for the first time, the picture that was taken overseas by the State Department pops up on the screen, the picture of that traveler. And that allows us to see when people have photo-subbed passports. Meaning they�ve taken the photo of the legitimate person off and they've substituted their passport. And in fact, in one case the photo popped up -- a woman appeared on the screen; and in front of the inspector was a man. So there was clearly a photo-sub-passport.
And our eventual goal is to improve upon that capability, and we�re like any other information system, where our goal is to get the right information to the right people at the right time to make the right decision. And we�re trying to build in our next implementations a capability to build a database that has that information that is necessary for either a visa-issuing officer at State, a Citizenship and Immigrations Services Adjudication Officer, Customs and Border Protection, or Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agent, anybody who encounters that traveler should have all the information about that traveler.
That helps good people get processed easier, and it also stops bad people, because everybody who has to make a decision about that traveler should have all of that information at their fingertips. And we link together databases, but we really want to build a composite of all of the information that should be available to those people for the future.
Mr. Lawrence: You talked about leaving the country and how other countries have an exit system. Where will VISIT put us in terms of the ways other countries think about this problem?
Mr. Williams: Well, we�ve been pleased to see that other countries have followed us in some sense and have been building up their Immigration and Border Management System. We are pleased to see that the EU announced for their visitor information system that they will also be taking fingerprints, digital index finger scans and digital photographs.
The Japanese recently announced for their visitor system that they were going to model it after US-VISIT. I believe England recently announced that they will also be taking fingerprints and photographs of the people coming in. And we think it�s important that all countries do what we do, and we follow their lead in many cases, which is strengthen our Immigration and Border Management Systems, but do it in a way that follows standards.
And that�s what we have done is followed international standards as we�ve implemented this program, and we think that�s important, because the way you can start to harmonize global travel is to follow standards. So we�ve been very pleased that other countries have come to us many times and wanted to find out more about our program, and in fact, wanted to replicate it in their countries.
And, again, that is something that can only help good people travel easier, and our ultimate goal is to be able to expedite those legitimate people. But it also helps for us in the collective war against terrorism. It is really a war that every country has to fight. And the best thing we can do is fight it together.
Mr. Lawrence: That�s powerful about standards.
What other agencies are working with DHS on US-VISIT, and how are they collaborating? We�ll ask Jim Williams, director of US-VISIT to take us through this when The Business of Government Hour continues.
Mr. Lawrence: Welcome back to The Business of Government Hour. I�m Paul Lawrence, and this morning�s conversation is with Jim Williams, director of the US-VISIT program in the Department of Homeland Security.
And joining us in our conversation is Todd Wiseman.
Jim, earlier, you�ve talked about the other organizations that you�re collaborating with, and so I�m curious, how have you collaborated? That�s often the challenge in sort of cross-government activities, is getting organizations to work together. How has that come about?
Mr. Williams: Well, part of collaboration is heavily dependent upon, I would say, constant communication, and enforcing mechanisms to get people together. We have an integrated project or product team that meets once a week; about 50 people in a room. And that�s people from different parts of DHS, including those ones I mentioned before: Customs and Border Protection, Immigration Customs Enforcement, including people like Coast Guard, Citizenship and Immigration Services, as well as people from the Department of State, Department of Transportation, Department of Justice who attend every time.
And that�s really a working-level broad meeting to communicate about some of the things that are going on. And then we have several other working groups that work on specific issues in which people from those different agencies are involved. We also have a US-VISIT advisory board chaired by the Under Secretary for Border and Transportation Security, and that includes senior leaders like Janice Jacobs, the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Visa Services, Department of State; people from Department of Transportation; Doug Baker from the Department of Commerce; two individuals from Department of Justice, and that�s just a collaboration, again, at the federal level.
We also have a bi-national working group with the government of Mexico that works very well. We are starting a group with Canada, and, again, that�s just sort of government. We also work very closely with the private sector, because what we really want to do is -- if you look at going through an airport, we want to be able to meld that experience, enhancing that security as part of the airline travel experience. And the airlines have been fantastic to deal with.
I can�t say enough good about the partnership from the airlines, the airports, the cruise lines, all of them have recognized the need to enhance security. They know we care very much about what they care about, which is facilitation of travel and facilitation of trade. We know, when dealing with the land border, that $650 million a day goes over the border between U.S. and Mexico, and it�s double that with Canada.
And if we do something that builds Fortress America by just doing it as a federal government mandate to enhance security, the terrorists win. And so we know we have to protect our economic security, and that means that�s about partnership. So we need to have collaboration, communication, and partnerships with just about everybody: other countries, our government, even eventually dealing with the state and local, but also the private sector.
I often give a very futuristic example, which is probably not a good one in our lifetime, that someday, you may walk into an airport and all you need is your digital finger scan, because that is your credit card, and that is your boarding pass; it determines your screening level. And that does verify that you�ve left the country, and it provides you all the benefits you need, because when it comes down to it, it�s about identity verification and identity management; making sure you know who that person is, and attribute to them the right either benefit or the right level of screening.
Mr. Wiseman: How are you training the employees, both within DHS and any related cross-agency, to use the new functions and technologies as well as the biometric capabilities of US-VISIT?
Mr. Williams: Well, as we begin to roll out a particular increment, or a next phase of US-VISIT, we always look to develop a team together who would decide what the best way to train is. And we also want to try and fit that training within what is a reasonable schedule. And we test the training too, because ultimately when we are delivering technology, or delivering business process change, it�s something new, it�s a change. And it has to be accepted by the users. And our change, and our training about that change is about both how to use the technology, if you happen to be a government official, but it�s also in a way training our passengers.
We put out videos to tell people what the procedure�s going to be like; show them in airports, on airplanes, so that people could assist themselves in terms of getting through the process. And I think that kind of outreach and the training and awareness really helped everybody, because it made the learning curve not steep in terms of being able to smoothly implement this change. So whenever you�re talking about a change, training is critical, and training in the way that people want to hear it.
Mr. Wiseman: You talked a little bit about privacy earlier, but how do you address the privacy concerns of people coming through the US-VISIT system?
Mr. Williams: We�ve been very pleased with the kudos we�ve received about privacy, because we pay special attention to it. It is one of our four primary goals. The U.S. Privacy Act, and the e-Government Act, which contains privacy protection provisions, doesn�t apply to foreign visitors today.
Working with, again, Nuala O�Connor Kelly and the rest of DHS, we made the policy decision to apply it anyway, because we wanted people to feel safe in terms of giving us that information. What that means is that we publish systems of records notice in the Federal Register. We publish our privacy principles. And we operate in the very bright sunshine of day, answering all those basic privacy questions that anybody would want to hear.
And those questions are: what information are you collecting; how long are you keeping it; who are you sharing it with and what�re they doing with it; and how do you have privacy protections in there. And I think this is important. I�ve often said, in talking to groups, if you�ve ever been through the Spy Museum, they have a survey upon the wall, how many Americans think the U.S. government is keeping a secret database on them? What percentage of Americans? And the answer is 67 percent.
So I assume that if 67 percent of Americans feel that way, think about what our foreign visitors feel about what we�re doing. And so we have tried to operate extremely openly about privacy, and we�re vigilant about it. We have a privacy officer who works for me, Steve Jonkers, who does a great job. He�s been a little bit like the Maytag repairman waiting for the onslaught that really hasn�t come. We�ve had very few letters, mostly people feel like -- the husband and wife fingerprints gotten mismatched or mixed up in the system, or people writing to us for other things.
I think what CBP, Customs and Border Protection, has done in terms of their professionalism initiative, and in terms of what we�ve done to convince people they�ll be treated with respect, their information will be treated with respect, has really helped to lower those types of complaints.
Mr. Wiseman: You mentioned earlier that US-VISIT is really designed to positively affect trade and tourism. Are you seeing any evidence of that through the recent efforts that have occurred?
Mr. Williams: Well, actually yes, Todd, I think we have. At the land border, where we implemented this, we only implement it for those people going to what�s called secondary processing. That�s a small percentage of people coming through land borders. But as we did this, there was very, very much concern that we were going to slow down trade and travel at the land borders. And in fact, at all of the top 50 land borders, which covers about 90, 94 percent of the people coming across the land borders, which out of that about 450 million, maybe half a billion people, that�s probably 350 million people a year.
So everybody was concerned about what we�re going to do there. But in fact, what we�ve done in every one of those 50, we�ve accelerated the processing of people. One of our best examples is Laredo, Texas, where prior to US-VISIT being put into secondary processing, somebody who had to come in and get a visa, it was taking about 12 minutes per person.
Well, we put in some other procedures to print out a 994 in a pre-populated way; whereas before, the person, either the officer or the visitor, had to handwrite it and fill it out. Now that we�re printing it out automatically, that 12 minutes has gone down to about two minutes. So we�re very proud of that, that we have enhanced security and expedited people.
And that�s our ultimate goal. We�re actually building a strategic plan that Congress wants us to build, and then that is to look at what is a comprehensive view of what a 21st Century Immigration Border Management Enterprise should like. Looking across all of the different agencies across the different constituencies, and say, what should this look like in the 21st Century? How can we expedite all of these good people who want to come to America, and at the same time enhance security? And that�s what we�re developing right now.
And we think the benefits of investing in the borders are enormous. When you look at the competitiveness issues that are necessary in terms of efficient travel and trade, what we can deliver by just thinking about some of these busy ports of entry. If we could cut the lines in half, just imagine what it does in terms of the economic benefits and also the benefits of the intangibles. We want people to come to America to learn about America and explore America�s values, and in order to do that, we have to be something where it's easy to get here. And that�s really what we�re focusing on.
Mr. Wiseman: Can you tell us about the plans underway to centralize the management of screening and credentialing programs across DHS, and specifically within border and transportation security?
Mr. Williams: Yes, that�s in the President�s FY�06 budget that he delivered to Congress on February 7th, and he�s proposed an Office of Screening Coordination and Operations. And it�s really something that gets at the reason why DHS was created, which is really to integrate functions, and operate more effectively and more efficiently.
And where we had different screening going on, right now, across DHS, we need to be able to leverage that capability, and leverage that capability for efficiency purposes. So we don�t have many different institutions, whether they are Coast Guard or Citizenship and Immigration Services, TSA or Customs and Border Protection, building duplicate facilities unnecessarily. And we are also doing it in a way that it will leverage it across DHS so that we can effectively share information.
As the 9/11 Commission said, �Connect the dots.� We want to be able to do screening in a consistent manner, and not screen that same individual with one set of screening tools, say, and then do it a different way for a different individual who�s there for a similar purpose.
I think we also look at the opportunity of the Screening Coordination and Operations Office, and I think Secretary Michael Chertoff completely agrees with this, as I�ve heard him already speak, that this is part of the reason why DHS was created is to look for this integration, where you can start to leverage common capabilities. And when bringing these programs together in a centralized mode, the key to this is to be able to make the missions in the field more efficient.
I don�t believe in centralization for centralization's sake. I believe you do it so that you can enhance the mission of all of those field officers who have a job to do, and we can deliver them operational support services more efficiently and be more effective in terms of information sharing. So I think that�s part of the promise that's in the President�s Fiscal year �06 budget, and it also has other things in there about combining registered traveler programs.
And from the standpoint of a traveler, we look forward to the day when if you want to be an international registered traveler and a domestic registered traveler, you can be screened once. If you�re flying from Charles de Gaulle Airport, again, into Dulles Airport and you want to come in and you want to be an international registered traveler, which becomes something where you could register for that. But if you want to just spend a day in D.C., and then fly up to New York, you�re also a domestic registered traveler; one enrollment, one screening.
And you start to leverage that capability. And people who are travelers will appreciate that, because it really goes to the government trying to act in the view of how a person wants you to act. They want the government to act based upon who they are, not how the government is constructed. In the �90s, there was a lot of focus on customer service and focusing on the customer, and I think that�s a great thing. I had the opportunity to serve under Charles Rossotti, Todd, as you know, at IRS; a man who frankly is one of the smartest people I�ve ever met and really knew how to focus on this.
And I think focusing on delivering government services so that it looks like one government, and not separate stovepipes to the traveler was important. I think what happened on 9/11 then took us into the mode where we had to act as one government for security reasons. As Secretary Ridge used to say, �We�re no longer in a need to know, we�re in a need to share now.� So we need to be able to share with adequate privacy protections, but share in order to have effective security. And at the same time as we�re doing this, we�re meeting that goal of being able to act as one government from the customer standpoint.
So acting as one government for security against the bad people; acting as one government, that horizontal government, to really act the way the citizens would expect that one government would operate.
Mr. Lawrence: That�s an interesting point about one government.
How will US-VISIT be affected by advances in technology? We�ll ask Program Director Jim Williams for his thoughts when our conversation about management continues on The Business of Government Hour.
Mr. Lawrence: Welcome back to The Business of Government Hour. I�m Paul Lawrence, and this morning�s conversation is with Jim Williams, director of the US-VISIT program, the Department of Homeland Security.
And joining us in our conversation is Todd Wiseman.
Mr. Wiseman: Jim, fingerprint scanning is probably just the beginning of new technologies that are rapidly being deployed within the US-VISIT system. What other technologies are in development, or do you view as key to the future?
Mr. Williams: I think the biometric technologies are important; whether it�s finger scans or even using digital photographs and looking at facial recognition. In the future, potentially, even iris scans. And we track all of these things. We work very closely with our Science and Technology, and also with NIST, part of Department of Commerce, the National Institute of Standards and Technology.
Beyond that, as I talked about earlier, we want to be able to develop a database that has all of that right information, and that can also present it in a way that the different users want to see it. And that goes to a services-oriented architecture. Scott Hastings is our CIO; he�s been leading that effort and doing a fantastic job to make sure we can help develop what we need for US-VISIT, but also do it in conjunction with the DHS and the Federal Enterprise Architecture.
We�re also looking at pilot testing radio frequency, or some type of automatic identifier technology for the land borders at primary processing this summer. And then just looking at a way to do this so that we can electronically, for the first time, know who�s coming in, and electronically verify that people are leaving.
And we will do that in a way that protects privacy, because the information that would be collected is just a serial number that then links to a database; that allows us to protect privacy; meaning if you had a radio frequency card as a regular traveler across the border and somebody could read the card, all they�d read would be a number like 234589, they wouldn�t read any personal information that would be in the database.
So I think we�re always being tested from a technology standpoint to look at biometrics, look at automatic identifiers like radio frequency, but also just to continue to develop the information technology platforms that we need to really modernize what�s behind all of these missions, and make sure we can help unite the missions around the unifying technology.
We also have to look for more mobile devices, because we want to be there where the people are; where we have, for example working with the Coast Guard, we�re not going to be able to put a kiosk out there on a small boat for the Coast Guard. So we want to be able to work with them on a mobile device that can collect the biometrics of people, and have it done in a wireless manner, so that where they want to check against our watch list, they can collect those biometrics on a mobile device and check in a wireless way. So that we provide people the tools that they need to get their job done better.
Mr. Wiseman: How do you envision the US-VISIT program 5 to 10 years from now?
Mr. Williams: Well, hopefully we will have made significant progress in achieving a critical mass of what I think is a dream of -- not the dream, but the mandate from Congress and from the administration, to build out this biometric entry and exit system. And I would see some key components there. One is that we have the capability to biometrically confirm people�s entry when they come in through legitimate ports of entry, and when they leave, through a legitimate port of entry.
We also built that system in the middle that allows for the encounters with that person. For example, if you're somebody coming in under a tourist visa and you want to enroll as a student, you want to change your student visa, that�s Citizenship and Immigration Services doing their adjudication job. Or if somebody comes in as a tourist and you get sick and you�re in the hospital, and you have to extend your stay; again, we want to build an information system that is flexible, redundant, but it provides all of that right information to all of those decision-makers instantly, so that good people are not harmed by all the officials not having access to that particular information.
The US-VISIT system, that it is something that, again, works together well with the travel experiences and with the private sector to become something that people don�t even think about; it�s just something that makes them safer, and expedites what they need expedited, whether it�s dealing with the immigration system -- and in fact one of the things we�d like to do, we use paper I94s. Our goals eliminate that paper I94, and eliminate those parts of the Immigration Border Management System that frankly, when you look at them, they look like the 19th Century, not even the 20th Century, and take this into a 21st Century that serves the needs of legitimate trade and travel.
Things move very quickly around the globe. And we -- we the government have to be able to have systems and business processes to be able to keep up with that. And I often talk about our strategic plan and what we want to have, and I look at it as calling it an enterprise, or call it a system, or call it a community, where you have for the 21st Century the right business processes and the right enabling technologies and the right people, and the right infrastructure or facilities harmonized with the right policies that then make for a 21st Century border that meets all of those goals that I talked about, and looks like the 21st Century. That�s really where we�d like to be in 5 or 10 years.
Mr. Wiseman: You mentioned the international or global harmony with both trade and tourism. How much of your focus today has been on the international relationships, and knowing the future in 5 to 10 years will even be more globally interdependent?
Mr. Williams: Well, I would say with our partners and neighbors, Canada and Mexico, we spend a lot of time, but also with other countries we do, because as we�re trying to build our systems, first of all, we want them to be aware of what we�re doing so that their citizens are accepting of what we�re doing. So we work very closely on education, outreach with them in terms of those type of things.
In terms of other countries, there�s a lot of different work being done at different levels. We work very closely with the State Department. Maura Harty, the Assistant Secretary for Consular Affairs Worldwide, has been an absolutely fantastic partner and her two Deputy Assistant Secretaries, Frank Moss for passports, Janice Jacobs for visa services.
And, in fact, Frank and I are probably going to head down to Australia to talk to the Australians and other countries about -- as we look at the challenge of biometric passports, which is another mandate of Congress, we would actually have a chip in your passport that would include your digital photograph and your other biographic information. This is new, and in future, it will no longer be just a paper document; it�ll have electronics inside of it -- and talk to the Australians who�re developing this about how do we make sure -- as they develop this technology, and the other visa waiver countries develop this, that it meets all the standards so that one reader could read any passport from anywhere in the world.
So what we�re doing is joint testing with them to make sure that our readers can read their passports; it can read a Japanese passport, a British passport, all of those things. And then how do we build those into what might be a new process that again might facilitate legitimate people�s travel. So we have constant communications around the world, and it�s important. And frankly, it�s enjoyable, because so many people are focused on the same things we are, which is combat terrorism, and expediting the movement of good people around the world.
Mr. Lawrence: Jim we have time for one last question. So I�d ask you to be reflective. You've spent your whole career working on some of the most important programs and problems we have. What advice would you give to a person, perhaps a young person, interested in a career in public service?
Mr. Williams: Well, first of all, Paul, I guess I would say I�m a shameless recruiter. I recruit anywhere I can: elevators -- I was -- I�ll tell you a funny story. I was once being audited by the IRS when I worked there, and I was really impressed by the young woman, and I said, �You know, you really ought to come work for me rather than working on this,� and she got up and left, and my wife said, �Jim, are you trying to bribe this one with a job?� And frankly, I wasn�t. I�m always looking for good people and -- I�ve been in government over 25 years, and I�ve never had a dull day.
I find it incredibly rewarding; I enjoy it. I love the job I have right now, and I would say join public service; that you will find satisfaction in your life, because you�re making a difference. And also, I think the difference in public service is, often, you get a much higher level of responsibility at an earlier age than you ever would in other places, just because there�s so many important, enormous endeavors that are critical to the nation, that you find yourself at a young age being thrust upon with these heavy responsibilities, and they�re exciting.
And you�re involved in huge change, and anybody who wants to come in to government, I would say, �Come on in, the water�s fine; jump in.� Frankly, it�s a lot of fun. It�s something that -- it�s interesting issues. You get to work with great people. And some of the people that I�ve worked in government -- most of the people -- vast majority, whether I�ve worked with them, for them, under them, are incredibly intelligent, dedicated people. They�re not people who work 9:00 to 5:00, trust me. They�re people who work practically around the clock, and it�s because they enjoy it.
They care about their families and loved ones, but they also care very deeply about this country and care about the work that we do. I happen to think that we are the greatest nation on earth, but I think that America is something that we always have to treat as something as very precarious; it�s something there we have to always make sure that, as John F. Kennedy said, �We have the best and brightest.�
And I always think it�s so neat when I see people like, you know, a Charles Rossotti, a Tom Ridge, or a Asa Hutchinson, Michael Chertoff, Michael Jackson, those people who you know could be making 10 times as much money, or whatever, and they care about this nation, and they come in and they provide the leadership we need to do the job that needs to be done to protect America. It�s what our founding fathers wanted for this country is those type of people to come in, and so it's often a good training ground too. If people want to go out to the private sector, you know, that�s fine, too. Get both sides of the fence, but if you want to have a successful job in the private sector, nothing�s wrong with starting in the federal government and getting that experience underneath your belt. You�ll enjoy it.
Mr. Lawrence: I�m afraid we�re out of time, Jim. Todd and I want to thank you for being with us this morning and then squeezing us in your very busy schedule.
Mr. Williams: Well, thank you, Paul. And if people want to learn more about our program, they can always go to the DHS website. That�s www.dhs.gov, and look for US-VISIT, and you can find out lots and lots of information. In fact, if you want to be on our e-mail mailing list, you can contact Anna Hinken. She�s our outreach director. I often introduce her as �anna.hinken,� and that�s email@example.com, and then if you get on our e-mail mailing list, we promise we�ll never let you off.
Mr. Lawrence: Thank you, Jim. This has been The Business of Government Hour, featuring a conversation with Jim Williams, director of the US-VISIT program in the Department of Homeland Security.
Be sure and visit us on the web at www.businessofgovernment.org. There, you can learn more about our programs and get a transcript of today�s fascinating conversation. Once again, that�s www.businessofgovernment.org.
For The Business of Government Radio Hour, I�m Paul Lawrence.
Thank you for listening.
Friday, April 26, 2002
Mr. Lawrence: Welcome to The Business of Government Hour. I'm Paul Lawrence, a partner at PricewaterhouseCoopers, and the co-chair of The Endowment for The Business of Government. We created The Endowment in 1998 to encourage discussion and research into new approaches to improving government effectiveness. Find out more about The Endowment by visiting us on the web at endowment.pwcglobal.com.
The Business of Government Hour features a conversation about management with a government executive who is changing the way government does business.
Our special guest this morning is Steven Perry, administrator of the General Services Administration.
Good morning, Steve.
Mr. Perry: Good morning. Thanks for having me.
Mr. Lawrence: Joining us in our conversation is another PwC partner, Steve Watson.
Mr. Watson: Good morning.
Mr. Lawrence: Good morning, Steve.
Steve Perry, let's start by learning more about the General Services Administration. Perhaps you could describe its mission and its roles >.
Mr. Perry: Sure. Let me begin by saying the General Services Administration was formed by Congress back in 1949. At that time, the purpose was to improve the efficiency of government by taking the procurement and property management activities which were then occurring in several different agencies and consolidating that all into one agency, thereby making it more efficient, eliminating the duplication that otherwise would have existed in the various agencies, and enabling GSA then to be the organization that developed expertise with respect to procurement, property management, understanding the supply base, and being able to do a better job and delivering best value for its customer agencies.
We still operate that way today. I think it's a great organizational design concept. Many organizations are organized in a similar way. Many private-sector organizations pool together their procurement and property management into one central part of the organization as opposed to have it overly dispersed throughout the organization.
Our major units are: one, the property management unit is our Public Building Service unit under the leadership of Jill Morvek (?), our commissioner for Public Building Service. Then we have a Federal Technology Service unit which provides telecommunications and IT technology for customer agencies, under the leadership of Sandy Bates.
Thirdly, we have a Federal Supply unit which provides virtually everything else that agencies need, a wide variety of supplies for their offices, equipment, vehicles. Virtually everything, again, that an office would need to operate are provided by our three services.
Then we have a fourth major part of GSA which is called the Office of Government-Wide Policy. This groups works with other agencies within the federal government to develop policies, particularly as they relate to procurement matters and to management issues. As an example, this is the group that works with other agencies in developing the procurement regulations under the federal acquisition regulation rules. So that's what we are.
We provide office space. We are one of the nation's � in fact, I suppose we are the nation's largest commercial real estate-type entity because we provide in total over 350 million rentable square feet of space, which houses 1.1 million federal workers around the nation. Of that space, of the roughly 8,300 buildings in which federal workers are housed, 1,800 are federally owned by the government, and the other 6,500 are owned by private-sector real estate forms, and we lease space. So providing space is one of the big things we do, and then technology, supplies, and policies are the remaining three.
Mr. Lawrence: That's a broad mission. How many people work with you at GSA, and what are their skills? I heard such different areas.
Mr. Perry: It is a very broad mission. Today we have about 14,300 people nationwide that make up the GSA team. It a few years ago was much larger; as a matter of fact, as high as 35,000 in the early 1980s, and that number has been reduced as we have been able to do more work through the use of technology, improved productivity, and some out-sourcing. We have a somewhat smaller organization, but still, at 14,300, that's among the largest of the federal government agencies.
Within our group, our areas of specialty would include clearly people with acquisition skills. As you know, the acquisition procedures and policies within the federal government are a little bit specialized, and those specialized procedures are there for a good reason, so that we make sure that all of the companies in the private sector who would like to interact or do business with the government have an equal opportunity to do so. But they're also there to make sure that our procurement policies enable us to procure best value for agencies in a way that's ethnical, with integrity, and so forth.
So my point being, acquisition is one of our key skills within our agency. Another one is real estate management. Obviously, again, in order to be able to negotiate real estate deals or to manage properties in which we house federal workers, we need people with those skills.
And like many other organizations these days, information technology is a big skill area for GSA. We use information technology in a wide variety of carrying out our operations, and we are working to continually bring in the new technology people that we need to carry out our operations. Those are three.
There are two others that are particularly critical to our mission. One is financial management skills, because we are endeavoring to enhance our ability in that area; not that we're not doing well. In fact, we are very proud of the fact that we've had 14 consecutive years in which we've gotten a clean audit opinion, which is pretty stellar among federal agencies. Nevertheless, we are moving to have a financial management system that provides timely and accurate financial information to our managers for decision-making purposes, and we are endeavoring to enhance our skills in that area.
Then lastly, the fifth of the skills that we're really focused on these days is security. Even prior to September 11th, certainly following the disaster in Oklahoma in 1995, we've been working to enhance our security process and the people that carry out our security process to do two things, generally. One is to have them be people who can work with the other criminal intelligence-gathering informations of the government to understand what the threats are regionally and location by location, and then to apply their expertise in putting in place countermeasures to reduce those threats.
Countermeasures could include security guards. They also could include cameras, the magnetometers and other sorts of screening devices that we use as people enter public buildings. So enhancing our skills in the security area is a fifth major category of skill development for us today.
Mr. Watson: Steve, as the administrator of GSA, what are your responsibilities?
Mr. Perry: Well, they are varied and broad. Like in any major organization, and we are a major organization, a large, complex organization, I have a number of people who are part of the GSA team who have certain responsibilities, and I'll talk about that. But as it would relate to my particular responsibility, I think it is to assure that we have a really effective performance management process. What I mean by performance management process, it begins with understanding and having a broad understanding in the organization of what our agency's mission, values, and goals are. The head of the organization has a very responsible role to make sure that that is occurring, that there are in fact rich dialogues going on inside the organization as to why do we exist, what is our mission, what are we here for, why do we get up in the morning and come to this organization, what are we responsible to do.
Then once we're clear about our mission, we have talked a lot about what are our values: how will we work together; how will we incorporate ethics and integrity into everything we do; how will we foster teamwork inside this organization; how will we work in a way that illustrates our respect for our fellow associates; how will we act in a way that's professional; and most importantly, or equally importantly, at least, how will we be focused on achieving results; how are we result-oriented.
So we've defined our mission, which is to help other agencies better serve the public, and we've defined our values. I see it as the administrator's role to see that that process is occurring and occurring effectively.
After having established mission and values, our role then as the head of the agency was to help craft the goals for the organization. That is, what is it that we will achieve together. We've set for ourselves I believe some challenging goals, following the directives in the President's management agenda, and that's what we do. As the head of the organization, I spend most of my time making sure that this performance management process is in place and that it's working well.
There are a couple of other elements to it. After you get past having goals, then one of the things that you have to do is to make sure that you have the organizational capability that's necessary for success in achieving those goals. That means that you have people with the skills and competencies and personal characteristics and dedication that are necessary to achieve at that level, and we're working to make sure that's the case. Then, clearly, you execute the action plan, you work on measuring your performance so that you can know where you're achieving your goals and where you're falling short. You take corrective action as necessary to keep yourself on track. Then at the end of the day, you assess your performance and reward and recognize people accordingly.
So that whole performance management process, to my mind, helps to explain or define what I believe my role and responsibility is as the administrator at GSA.
Mr. Lawrence: That's a good point to stop on.
Come back with us after the break as we continue our discussion with Steve Perry of GSA. Do you know what e-government is? You'll find out in our next segment when we ask Steve about GSA's award-winning FirstGov website.
This is The Business of Government Hour.
Mr. Lawrence: Welcome back to The Business of Government Hour. I'm Paul Lawrence, a partner at PricewaterhouseCoopers, and this morning's conversation is with Steve Perry, the administrator of the General Services Administration.
Joining us in our conversation is another PwC partner, Steve Watson.
Steve, you were appointed to this position about a year ago. Can you tell us a little bit about your career prior to joining GSA?
Mr. Perry: Sure. I'm from Canton, Ohio, a wonderful little town in the middle of the state of Ohio. I was born and raised in Canton. My parents had moved there, they had 12 children, and I lived there. I had worked for what was one of the larger employers in Canton called the Timkin Company. Timkin is a worldwide organization with headquarters in Canton and manufactures tapered roller bearings and specialty alloy steel. I had worked at Timkin for 37 years in a variety of positions. The other thing Canton is well-known for that I'll mention is being the home of the Pro Football Hall of Fame. I also had the privilege of being involved with that organization as well.
My career at Timkin started in 1964 and ended in 2001 after 37 years when I joined the Bush administration in this present position. However, there was a period of 2 years, 1991 and 1992, when I was asked by then-governor George Voinovich of the state of Ohio to get involved in his administration running a GSA-type organization, actually at the state level, which was called the Department of Administrative Services for the state of Ohio, and I did that during 1991 and 1992. Then I went back to Timkin. At that point, I had taken the position of senior vice president for human resources, purchasing, and corporate communications. As I say, I'd remained there until 2001.
Mr. Watson: Steve, GSA oversees the FirstGov, website which is a one-stop Internet portal for the government. The site has received praise and a number of awards, and I understand it's been recently updated. Can you tell us a little bit about FirstGov and the recent updates?
Mr. Perry: Yes. FirstGov is a use of Internet technology that was sort of the government's first big step I think into expanding to what ultimately will become a ubiquitous use of Internet technology for government operations. It is a portal into the government.
When it was established, it was put in place as a search engine that enabled people to get information about government activities or government agencies at a very, very rapid pace. There were some 50 million pages of web pages from various government agencies. Then additional state pages were added subsequent to that. Despite the large volume of data that's in this file, the search engine technology that's used would enable you to make an inquiry and get a very, very split-second rapid response so that you could find out information about government activities and government agencies.
What we want to now in keeping with one of President Bush's management agenda items is to expand the use of electronic government, and this is one part of that. What we want to do is enable people in the private sector, either individuals or businesses, not only to be able to obtain information, but to be able actually to complete transactions with the government and with government agencies. So the FirstGov.gov website will be the portal through which people will come, and then that will link to other agency database files or web files so that information could be pulled through that portal or transactions could be completed through that portal. We're in the process of putting that in place as we speak.
Mr. Watson: As you mentioned, e-government is one of the President's key management agenda items. What role is GSA serving in helping to roll that agenda item out across government?
Mr. Perry: Actually, we have a pretty substantial role. We're working very closely with the Office of Management and Budget, who has a leadership role with respect to
e-government and impacting all agencies. We, in working with OMB, have been asked to be the lead agency on 5 of the 24 initial initiatives; e-government or FirstGov.gov being one of the 5. But others that we have been asked to take a leadership role in, one is called e-authentication, and what that means is that it's the development of the process by which individuals or businesses who interact with the government over the web will be able to have a confidential interaction, to protect privacy and confidentiality on both sides of that transaction. This e-authentication is an electronic signature technology that will enable that confidentiality and privacy to be properly protected. So we're working with that one.
A second one that we are involved is called integrated acquisitions. As we are a procurement organization, it makes good sense that we would have a major responsibility there. There are other agencies of the government that also are involved in procurement, and this is going to be a process to integrate together all of the acquisition or procurement processes that are used by various federal agencies into one system as opposed to having multiple systems. That will be beneficial in terms of efficiency from the government side. It will also be beneficial from the private-sector side in that vendors who want to do business with the government will have one basic approach to use in getting that interaction, transaction, or business opportunity completed.
A third e-government initiative that we've been asked to serve as the lead agency for is called e-travel. As you know, government officials do a fair amount of traveling on government business, and this will be a process of taking that travel as it relates to all agencies and again coming up with a consistent and uniform approach for authorizing travel, for handling travel reimbursements and all the record keeping that's associated with travel.
Mr. Lawrence: Let me ask you a question now. You said something interesting about taking the lead on an initiative. What does that mean?
Mr. Perry: In each of these cases, it will be necessary for a number of agencies, and indeed, in some cases all of the agencies, to participate. That is, e-travel is a good example; every agency will be impacted by that. Now, the way that we're structuring this is you have one agency that is designated to be the project manager or the managing partner for that initiative. Then you will have several other agencies that form the core team for development and implementation.
Now, not every agency that's impacted will actually be a part of that team, but many agencies would be a part of that team. Teams are typically made up of 6 to 10 agencies, and the lead partner is responsible for convening the meetings, developing the work plans, and keeping the project on schedule; serving, in effect, as the project manager for that project. So it's a very collaborative effort.
In fact, it in some ways is a new experience for many agencies to work collaboratively on projects, because historically, many of the agencies have worked independently. But the web technology and the use of the Internet really affords us the opportunity to have much, much greater intraagency or interagency collaboration so that we have multiple processes and multiple systems duplicated at every agency.
Ten years ago, the technology would have been such that we might not have been able to exploit those synergies that exist among agencies, but today we clearly have that technology. And this use of web technology or e-government as a way to exploit that synergy and efficiency is something whose time has come.
Mr. Watson: What benefits will the citizens see from e-government?
Mr. Perry: One of the benefits will be that they will have an easier and more efficient means of interacting with their government, either, as I mentioned, for purposes of obtaining information, or ultimately for purposes of completing transactions with the government. All of us have probably had the experience at one time or another of unanswered phone calls or mail that took a long time to be returned or waiting in a line for government information or government transaction completion. I think a benefit that will derive here is that that will be become easier and more efficient. Then, of course, another indirect benefit that taxpayers will receive is a less costly way for the government to operate.
Mr. Lawrence: GSA has expressed a commitment to becoming more citizen-centric and customer-centric. I guess I'm curious, who are your customers?
Mr. Perry: Our most direct customers are the other federal agencies. That's who we work with directly to provide space, technology solutions, supplies, vehicles, furniture, and things of that nature.
In a sense, our indirect customer is the American taxpayer, because again, two things happen: one, as we deliver those goods and services to other federal agencies in an efficient and effective way, we help them to improve the quality of their programs and their ability to meet the needs of the American people. So that's one benefit. The second benefit is that as we do those things well, we reduce the cost of doing it. So another benefit is the lower cost of government.
Mr. Lawrence: How will you become more customer-centric with so many people to serve?
Mr. Perry: Well, one customer at a time I suppose is part of the answer, and we're literally working on that approach. We have a strong commitment to customer service, and in order to be really good at customer service, it has to begin with understanding what the customer's needs are. So we've been working agency by agency to interact with them at the senior management level, at the mid-management level, at the regional level, and at the data-collection level, if you will, to understand what customer needs are; where are they moving programmatically; how can we support that move; what could we do in terms of providing facilities and/or supplies and so forth to support their missions. So we are doing that, as I say, one customer at a time.
Mr. Lawrence: Stick with us through the break as we continue our conversation with Steve Perry of GSA.
Managing one organization is often challenging, but managing across multiple organizations surely increases those challenges. In the next segment, we'll ask how GSA works across multiple government agencies and deals with these challenges. (Intermission)
Mr. Lawrence: Welcome back to The Business of Government Hour. I'm Paul Lawrence, a partner at PricewaterhouseCoopers. Today's conversation is with Steve Perry, administrator of the General Services Administration.
Joining us in our conversation is Steve Watson, another PwC partner.
Mr. Watson: Steve, in the last segment, we were talking about the various
e-government initiatives that GSA is leading. You touched on three of them. Are there others?
Mr. Perry: Yes, Steve. I think I mentioned e-authentication, e-travel, and we talked a little bit about integrated acquisitions. In a general sense, we talked about a fourth one which is called USA Services, which we call our Office of Citizen Services, which has to do with the use of our FirstGov.gov website to become the portal for providing information, and then ultimately, the ability to conduct transactions with the federal government. That's the fourth one.
Then the fifth and final one that we've been asked to serve as the managing partner for is called Fed Asset Sales, and this is to make available to the public assets that the government no longer needs or can use and has available for sale. Some of those assets are personal property, vehicles, boats and things of that nature. Other assets are real property, land and buildings that may not be required for agency missions anymore. Then another category is security assets that the Department of the Treasury makes available for purchase by the public.
We are attempting to put into place a website which would be a one-stop shop for any individual or business that would want to purchase a government, that would be the way that that would happen, and those make up the five projects that we're working on.
Mr. Lawrence: GSA has expressed the desire not to let the human capital need become a crisis. What are your top HR concerns, and how are you addressing them?
Mr. Perry: Well, the issue of managing human capital has to do with building the organizational capability necessary to achieve the goals that an organization has set for itself. As we have set out goals, we are now in the process of assessing whether or not we have people with all the right skills and competencies to be successful in achieving those goals.
We have identified five areas where we know that we have to do some more work in terms of, first of all, additional training and development so that we can enhance the skills of existing people. Second, we will do some more work in understanding what our attrition will be, being prepared in the event of retirements and what-have-you. So we're working to make sure that we're prepared for smooth transitions in those cases.
Then thirdly, doing targeted recruitment to bring into the organization people who have skills that particularly needed. Some of those skills, obviously, will exist in the five mission-critical areas that I may have mentioned: IT, real estate management, security, which is a big one.
Mr. Lawrence: You're also taking a lead role in embracing teleworking for employees. What's teleworking?
Mr. Perry: Teleworking, or telecommuting, as some people call it, has to do with carrying out your normal work, but doing it outside of your normal office place. Sometimes that can happen at home if you have the computer equipment on the home end in order to interact with the network at your office, or other times, it can happen in a teleworking center where you would drive from your home to some other location closer to your home than your office and do the teleworking from there. We've built 15 such centers in the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area, including Virginia and Maryland, so that in some cases, people drive from their home to the teleworking center and then carry out their work from that location.
It has a number of benefits. One of the benefits is that it helps to improve the quality of life in some sense, quality of work life, in that people can use that as an approach to accomplish their work and be productive without necessarily having to drive to work. A second benefit area is that it reduces the transportation problems, snarls and traffic congestion that we have to some extent. And it may have a favorable -- or would have a favorable impact as well on pollution resulting from driving our cars in these congested areas.
Another area of benefit is that in the case of some individuals, they actually wouldn't be able to work if they didn't have the telecommuting as an option, at least for portions of their time. So you might take somebody whose personal life schedule is such that they really couldn't take on a 40-hour-a-week kind of a job, but if they could work some of that time from a telecommuting center, some of that time from their home, and then some of that time in the office, in some instances, it makes it possible to actually recruit that person.
Mr. Lawrence: What are the challenges of telecommuting?
Mr. Perry: One of the challenges initially was to be able to afford the cost of the equipment that would be necessary to carry it out, but that cost has come down dramatically in recent years, so that's not so much of an issue anymore.
Now the challenge becomes is the nature of the work such that telecommuting fits. For example, a receptionist can't telecommute from home because he or she has to be at a location to carry out the job. The same would be true of a maintenance person. They have to be physically where the assets are that they're going to be working on.
But there would be others who are, for example, involved in report writing or in report review or some other kind of activity where their interaction with other associates can be done electronically or over the phone. In those cases where the nature of the work is right, then telecommuting fits. So that's one issue.
The other issue is a little bit of a cultural issue. Telecommuting is relatively new for us in our culture, and so we are finding that managers and subordinates in the manager's office have to get used to this idea of not being in the same work space and nevertheless being confident that work is being achieved. They can get that confidence if they have developed together the performance expectations; you know what is to be done, you know what the time frames are, and as long as all those things are being achieved, whether the person is in the office or working from a telecommuting center, it becomes less and less of an issue.
Mr. Watson: GSA's mission requires it to work closely and cooperate with other agencies to get its work done. How hard is it working across an organization as large as the federal government?
Mr. Perry: Well, it does present its challenges, but you're absolutely right; in order for us to be successful in carrying out our work, we have to work with individual agencies and many times with multiple agencies together. That just requires us and the other agencies to adopt a spirit of teamwork.
In the aftermath of September 11th, I think we learned that we could do that, because although the terrorist attacks of September 11th are a memory that we don't like to keep reflecting on, one of the lessons learned from that was how our government agencies did in fact act very, very closely together. There are numerous examples of that.
I know in our case, GSA and FEMA, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, worked very closely, and we helped them locate space where they could operate in New York, and we provided them with materiel and so forth that they needed to conduct the search-and-rescue efforts and provide other assistance. The same was the case with the Department of Defense here in Washington, D.C. As you know, the airplane attack on the Pentagon caused them to be completely disrupted and they needed to be placed back into space and re-equipped with telephones and telecommunications equipment and so forth. So our two agencies worked night and day, literally, and very closely together to accomplish those things. It's just an example that it in fact can happen and we know that we can do it.
Within our agency, our three major services of technology, supply, and buildings, also found that we could work very, very closely together in providing total solutions to our customer agencies in a way that was closer than we had worked previously. So, yes, it has to happen, it can happen, it does happen. There are always challenges; the challenge of independence as opposed to collaboration. But we're learning in these days that collaboration is the route to high performance. We're doing it in GSA, and I think we're doing it more and more within the total federal government.
Mr. Lawrence: You've described a lot of successes. What were your lessons learned in terms of going forward about how to make this happen absent a crisis?
Mr. Perry: The issue of being clear in our mission and our understanding of our capabilities, that from a customer perspective, they expect GSA, as I say, to deliver a total solution. They don't necessarily look at us only as an entity that provides physical space or only as an entity that provides telephone service or telecommunications. They look at us as an agency that provides everything that they need for the successful operation of their agency other than the people themselves, and they bring that.
But as we look at ourselves in the way our customers look at us, it causes us to understand that we can better meet their needs by working collaboratively across all organizations or aspects of our GSA.
Mr. Lawrence: That's a good stopping point. Come back with us as we continue our discussion about management with Steve Perry of GSA.
What will the future hold for government in GSA? We'll ask Steve for his thoughts when The Business of Government Hour continues. (Intermission)
Mr. Lawrence: Welcome back to The Business of Government Hour. I'm Paul Lawrence, a partner at PricewaterhouseCoopers, and today's conversation is with Steve Perry, administrator of the General Services Administration.
Joining us in our conversation is another PwC partner, Steve Watson.
Mr. Watson: In your fiscal 2001 annual report, it's reported that GSA met or exceeded 78 percent of the performance goals it had set forth. Were you satisfied with this outcome?
Mr. Perry: We know that we can improve upon that, and we know we need to improve upon that, and we know we need to improve upon that because our customer needs are increasing. We are setting for ourselves, or have set for ourselves for 2002 and beyond even more challenging goals than were set in 2001. So we will have to work harder and smarter to make sure that our performance continues to improve. Even though 2001 was a good year and it indicates that we have a strong foundation on which to build, we know that the future will require us to do more than that.
Mr. Watson: What are some of your top priorities for fiscal year 2002 and beyond that, looking forward to 2003?
Mr. Perry: Well, let's take our property management area first. As you know, we have 1,800 or so federally owned buildings. Unfortunately, the state of repair of some of those buildings is not what it should be. The General Accounting Office did a study that indicated that something over $4 billion of deferred maintenance needed to be addressed. We know that that is going to be a tough challenge, and at the same time, we know that we want our legacy to be that we addressed those issues as best we possibly could.
We're doing that by first of all in our portfolio management of our real estate assets, developing the priorities of which of those buildings will be addressed first, and we're looking at those priorities on a national basis. The second thing we're doing is that we're taking the resources that we have available in the appropriations from Congress in what's called the Federal Buildings Fund and giving a high priority to addressing the backlog of repair and alterations work or deferred maintenance.
Then thirdly, we are sponsoring proposed legislation that would reform the property management rules and regulations under which we operate to enable us to use more modern real estate management practices so that we could better address some of these issues. As an example, one of the more modern real estate management practices would be that each agency would be more involved, if you will, in developing an annual facilities management plan and making sure that that facilities management plan was consistent with that agency's mission. That would help to identify whether there are buildings that are excess to that agency's mission so that we could deal with that. It would also help to identify buildings that continue to be needed for the agency's mission, and so they would move up on the priority list in terms of attention for purposes of repair and alterations.
Another part of that reform would be to enable GSA to enter into public-private partnerships; in effect, find a way to be able to have private-sector investors invest in repairing existing federally owned buildings and then recovering their investment over a period of years by receiving a pro rata share of the rent. Today, we often find ourselves with inadequate resources. If we could tap private-sector developers who would be willing to make these investments for a return, it would be a way to help solve these deferred maintenance problem that we have. So that's a big priority for us in the property management arena.
In the procurement arena, what we've been endeavoring to do is find more and more efficient ways to enable agencies to be able to carry out their purchase of products and services needs. As you know, we have something called GSA schedules, a very efficient marketplace type of arrangement that we at GSA have put in place that enables agencies who need to buy certain things just go to that schedule and make the purchase. The terms and conditions have already been negotiated, the price and delivery items are already in place, and it makes it a very efficient process for agencies to use.
In addition to those sorts of unassisted schedules, we have some agencies who need additional assistance, particularly in the purchase of information technology types of items. In that instance, our Federal Technology Service provides additional assistance where it's needed to help agencies develop the scope of their process change, to help them review alternatives in terms of their purchasing options, help them make the selection, and provide for the delivery and implementation of the improvement. So that is an area as well where we are endeavoring to make that process work better so that agencies get even higher value when they use GSA for their procurement purposes.
Mr. Watson: We've talked about other aspects of the President's management agenda. Another agenda item is a better link to performance with the budget process. How effective has GSA been in being able to make that linkage?
Mr. Perry: That's an area that we will need to make further improvement. As a matter of fact, we have had some success in being able to identify parts of our performance agenda that are working well and identify parts that are not working well and then make the appropriate resource allocation changes as needed. What's meant by linking budget to performance is that you should not continue to devote resources to an activity that's not generating a highly desirable result. So that means that there may be low-value activities that agencies are involved in and we need to reduce the amount of time, money, and people that devoted to low-value activities and have a greater proportion of our resource budget allocated to the higher-value activities. So that's what we're attempting to do to a greater extent than may have been the case in the past.
Mr. Lawrence: You've worked in both the private sector and the public sector. I'm curious about your observations on the differences perhaps just in terms of culture.
Mr. Perry: Actually, there are a lot of similarities to me, as a person coming in, I find most people in the private sector would not have assumed. One of the things that is very prevalent I think in the public sector is it is populated by a number of people who are here largely as a result of their commitment to public service. It isn't that they couldn't be successful in the private sector, but they just made a choice to be involved in a public-service type of activity because of the satisfaction that that brings. So we happen to have, certainly at GSA, a number of people who are very capable, competent individuals who are doing what they do partially driven by this desire to be involved in public service.
Again, I see lots of similarities between the private sector and the public sector, but one area of difference perhaps is this area that the President has hit upon as he has announced his performance management agenda, saying that we can deliver good government to the people; good government being defined as citizen-centered and results-oriented. That's a very simple statement, but really a profound statement as well: citizen-centered,
results-oriented government. That's the definition of good government. But President Bush's agenda says that we can deliver that in part by improving on our use of good management practices. So that is an area where the private sector I think generally speaking is more diligent about using good management practices than is the case today in some public-sector agencies.
What I mean by good management practices, to make sure that you have a process of setting challenging goals; goals that are important from a customer perspective, goals that are challenging, goals that are measurable, and goals that are broadly communicated among the people who have to carry them out. That's a management practice. Some organizations don't do that as well as they might. I think as we at GSA and other federal agencies do our goal setting steps better, it begins to improve or offer the opportunity for improvement of the organization.
Similarly, other aspects of the performance management process beyond goal setting, developing action plans which are documented so that it's clear among everybody in the organization who is responsible to do what by when. Then moving on with execution of those action plans, and then measuring performance after the fact; measuring performance as a part of the effort to achieve accountability, but also measuring performance as a part of the effort of understanding where it is that we're on the right track and where it is that we're not on the right track so that we could take appropriate corrective action in terms of our processes.
So these are management practices which, as I say, most private sector organizations that I've been familiar with rely upon and execute in a very diligent and rigorous way. In the public sector, we are moving toward executing those kinds of management practices more diligently and more rigorously, and I think the result will be improved performance.
Mr. Lawrence: What advice would you give to a young person interested in a career in public service?
Mr. Perry: Well, I would certainly encourage it. Being involved in public service is necessary. When you think of what our country's infrastructure and activities would be like if we didn't have the services that are brought to us by federal agencies, it's necessary. It's a very worthwhile career, because you do have the opportunity to use your academic skills and your God-given talents to do very interesting work.
Mr. Lawrence: Well, we've run out of time, Steve.
Steve and I want to thank you for being with us this morning.
Mr. Perry: Thank you. It's been a pleasure. I really have enjoyed our conversation. I'll mention, if I may, if people want to get in touch with GSA, there's at least two ways to do it in terms of using the web. One is through gsa.gov, and the other is FirstGov.gov. That gets you in touch not only with GSA, but with all federal agencies.
Mr. Lawrence: This has been The Business of Government Hour, featuring a conversation with Steve Perry, administrator of the General Services Administration.
Be sure to visit us on the web at endowment.pwcglobal.com. There, you can learn more about our programs and research, and you can also get a transcript of today's very interesting conversation. Again, that's endowment.pwcglobal.com.
This is Paul Lawrence. See you next week.