management policies

 

management policies

Michael C. Kane

Thursday, March 1st, 2012 - 12:44
Michael Kane, a member of the Senior Executive Service, currently serves as the Chief Human Capital Officer (CHCO) for the Department of Energy. He is responsible for strategically aligning the agency's workforce to its missions through effective management of human capital policies and programs.

Kathleen Turco interview

Friday, December 16th, 2005 - 20:00
Phrase: 
"Bringing together different service lines of GSA’s purchasing divisions will allow us to be a one stop shop for federal agencies. Agencies will be able to see a 'One GSA.' That makes it more effective and efficient for other agencies to deal with us. "
Radio show date: 
Sat, 12/17/2005
Guest: 
Intro text: 
Financial Management; Managing for Performance and Results...
Financial Management; Managing for Performance and Results
Complete transcript: 

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Arlington, Virginia

Mr. Morales: Good morning, and welcome to The Business of Government Hour. I'm Albert Morales, managing partner 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 about the Center 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 Kathleen Turco, Chief Financial Officer of the General Services Administration.

Good morning, Kathleen

Ms. Turco: Good morning.

Mr. Morales: And joining us in our conversation, also from IBM, is Steve Watson.

Good morning, Steve.

Mr. Watson: Good morning, Al, and good morning, Kathleen. Thank you for joining us.

Mr. Morales: Kathleen, can you begin by telling us about the history and the mission of the General Services Administration?

Ms. Turco: Yes. General Services Administration, or GSA, has a mission to help federal agencies better serve the public by offering, at best value, superior workplaces, expert solutions, acquisition services, and management policies. The mission of the GSA actually translates into the three services that we have today, including the Public Building Service, the Federal Supply Service, and the Federal Technology Service. So we offer a lot of opportunities in terms of goods and services and facilities that we support in the United States, and now we do some support of state and local governments.

GSA came about in 1949, so we've been around a while, not as long as some other federal agencies. It was an attempt to consolidate some responsibilities that both the president at that time and Congress felt would be better served moved together to better serve other agencies at a lower cost, best value approach, even back in the 1940s, and we continue to do that and continue to evolve today in terms of how we can provide best value in our services to other federal agencies.

Mr. Morales: Can you describe to us the size, budget, and employee skill set at GSA?

Ms. Turco: Yes. GSA has approximately 12,500 employees, and GSA is somewhat unique. It's the first agency I've been with where we operate on a revolving fund basis -- full-cost recovery basis. The majority of other agencies -- federal agencies -- operate on an appropriated funding basis. We act as a catalyst for nearly $66 billion in federal spending annually, and we're probably one of the largest procurement agencies, if not the largest, in the federal government. We oversee assets totaling -- about 8,300 government-owned or -leased buildings, an interagency fleet of 170,000 vehicles, a variety of technology programs. We offer products ranging from laptop computers to systems that cost over $100 million. So we assist other agencies in terms of leveraging billions of dollars in the marketplace; we work with industry to deliver those services and with our federal clients in order to improve on their mission and their delivery to the taxpayers.

Mr. Morales: Can you please describe the role and responsibilities of the Chief Financial Officer?

Ms. Turco: The Chief Financial Officer's office at GSA provides leadership in strategic planning, budgeting, financial policy and procedures, as well as the operations of the financial system at GSA. GSA is rather large in terms of its financial operations, which I find exciting. We process over 1.2 million invoices a year. On the receivables side, we process nearly 440,000 bills totaling $18 billion during fiscal year 2004.

Mr. Morales: That's a lot of checks to write at the end of the month.

Ms. Turco: That's a lot of checks, and we do most of them electronically.

Mr. Morales: What were your previous experiences prior to being appointed CFO in August of 2002?

Ms. Turco: I have had a federal career. I started out at the Department of Education as a management intern. I was very fortunate to obtain that position. And I started in the Budget Office at the Education Department and moved over to the Office of Management and Budget after three years, where, again, I was very fortunate. I was on the management side, and we got to work on the development and putting in place the Chief Financial Officers Act of 1990 and the Government Performance and Results Act, and other opportunities, including Klinger-Cohen. So we were looking at cash and credit management programs across government, internal control programs, working with the Inspector General community.

I had a variety of experience, all of which then led to being offered a job as the IRS examiner in the Treasury Branch at OMB, where I worked closely with the IRS on their tax system of modernization and changes to that, along with bringing in the new commissioner -- it's when Charles Rossotti was brought in to change around the Internal Revenue Service. And that's when the reorganization plan was put in place for the Internal Revenue Service. And then I was subsequently hired by Commissioner Rossotti and Dave Mader to come over and manage the budget and planning process at the Internal Revenue Service, along with working with the senior team on the reorganization of the IRS.

So that was 3-1/2 years of exciting work to change how the Internal Revenue Service delivered business services to the American taxpayers. It was challenging. It was at times frustrating, at times an opportunity that I probably won't have again in my career, so even on the long days, I was very grateful to be there, to be able to work with a group of senior people who wanted to make a difference for the taxpayers. Without that position, I don't think I could have one, gotten the position of CFO at GSA; and two, have been able to walk into it as I have and to set a course out for the office of the CFO. So I learned a lot working with the senior folks at IRS that I brought that to GSA, and it's been, I think, an easier time for me at GSA than I would have had otherwise.

Mr. Watson: Kathleen, it sounds like you dealt with many of the same financial and technology issues and aspects of the job at IRS as you're dealing with at GSA. Can you give us a comparison of your position and approaches at GSA relative to IRS when you were there?

Ms. Turco: There are many similarities, and a couple of differences. In terms of similarities, what's been exciting both at IRS and GSA is bringing in a new strategic planning process, and I think that's the result of the GPRA legislation -- when GPRA was first implemented, the focus was on the metrics, and once you start the development of metrics and you don't have a planning process, it becomes much more difficult to bring together the metrics and the budget process. And at both agencies, I've had the opportunity to put in place a performance management process that allows the senior executives to focus in on the strategic planning necessary for their programs and their business lines in order to drive change of associates or federal employees in terms of delivering on the services, and measuring performance and bringing that together with an awards system and demonstrating our value to the American taxpayers.

And that's very important; folks want to know what they're getting for their money, and being able to put in a performance measurement process really drives that for a federal agency. And I know other agencies have processes in place, and I think when you have that you really can take your agency further in terms of delivering on the business. I think now, with the emphasis from OMB on the program assessment rating tool, the PART process, you have to have a planning process. So that's been exciting. The other piece, I think, is the technology and working on the enterprise architecture and the technology requirements. Both the financial system and the IRS had the opportunity to work on the tax systems as well.

Mr. Watson: Kathleen, you've had an impressive career you've outlined here. As you've progressed into more responsible positions, how has your management and leadership style changed to accommodate that progression?

Ms. Turco: I think when I started out, clearly I was an analyst delivering on the facts and figures to tell the story in terms of the programs or the business activities of an agency. What I've tried to evolve, in terms of my leadership style, into is a business partner or strategic advisor, both to the head of the agency and to my peers and to the other executives that I work with. I think it's very important to demonstrate the value of the financial and budgetary analysis and how it can assist in decision-making and, in fact, different types of business process re-engineering or changes that can be made and programs to improve delivery.

Mr. Morales: I found it interesting that you started off studying elementary education and then moved on to receiving your MBA. What led you to this decision?

Ms. Turco: Somewhat similar. I like teaching. After I got through my education program at the University of Maryland, I moved down to Florida, and I had the opportunity to teach there, but I also had the opportunity to attend graduate school. I had planned to combine the education degree with teaching management at the junior high or high school level, but once I got the MBA, I applied for some federal jobs, so I was off at the intern program at the Education Department. So it was kind of a natural fit to start at the Education Department. So -- and I had planned to stay there, but I got the opportunity to go to OMB, and, you know, I was advised when you have an opportunity to go to OMB, you take it.

Mr. Morales: How is the office of the Chief Financial Officer moving from bookkeeper to decision-maker? We'll ask GSA CFO Kathleen Turco to explain this to us when the conversation about management continues on The Business of Government Hour.

(Intermission)

Mr. Morales: Welcome back to The Business of Government Hour. I'm Albert Morales, your host, and this morning's conversation is with Kathleen Turco, Chief Financial Officer of the General Services Administration.

Also joining us this morning in our conversation is Steve Watson.

Kathleen, can you briefly describe to us the six strategic goals of GSA?

Ms. Turco: Yes, thank you, Al. In 2001, when administrator Steve Perry came into GSA, he set out a new mission, refinement of mission statement in terms of better serving the public by offering best value, superior workplaces, expert solutions, acquisition services, and management policies. Part of that he defined with the senior team six goals: first being provide best value to customer agencies and taxpayers; second, achieve responsible asset management; third, operate efficiently and effectively; number four, ensure financial accountability -- my favorite -- maintain a world-class workforce and a world-class workplace, number five; and then to carry out social and environmental and other responsibilities as a federal agency.

Of those, the best value addresses our desire in terms of being an agency that delivers acquisition excellence, in terms of offering at lowest cost service and technology offerings to other federal agencies. In doing that, it's also a matter of delivering on the service and working with our industry vendors as well as the client agency to ensure best value through the contracting practices. Asset management, obviously, because of our management and Public Building Service -- that is our responsibility for the real property management that's carried out daily by GSA.

Mr. Morales: With respect to the office of the Chief Financial Officer, what are some of the short-term goals for the programs within your office?

Ms. Turco: We've actually set out one what we call long-term goal under GPRA to deliver timely and accurate financial and performance-management policies and services needed for management decision-making and financial reporting. And we annually then update our goals in order to ensure that we continue to deliver on those. This year, we are working on providing strategic business and financial advice to advance management decision-making and reporting vis-�-vis the performance management process. We put that in place about two years ago. That continues to evolve; this is a broad-framework process in which we set out to conduct strategic assessments of our environment in terms of external and internally -- the external environment in terms of what our customers are requiring us, internally in terms of our staffing requirements -- and then we work on strategy and action plans. And my office works hand-in-glove with the other business executives as well as the comptroller offices within the services to ensure that we set out strategy and action plans with performance and budget linkages, including our performance metrics, and then our annual targets, both at the national office level as well as across the other ranges.

Mr. Morales: Kathleen, I think most of our audience has heard about the Sarbanes-Oxley requirements in the private sector. Of course, it's now hitting in the public sector with the issuance of a revised Circular A-123. Can you tell us a little bit about these new requirements and how GSA is meeting them?

Ms. Turco: GSA has received over the last 17 years a clean financial opinion, so we're very familiar with all of the management control and internal control requirements, both the previous ones that was passed in the Federal Manager's Financial Integrity Act from 1982, as well as the current revision to Circular A-123. What's different this year going forward in to fiscal year '06 that we are currently planning for is that we are going to have to document and test our internal controls. Previously, it was through an assurance process -- yes, we have controls; yes, we think they're working -- the bar has been raised, and it will require much more documentation and a testing program that we will carry out in conjunction with the Inspector General's office.

Mr. Morales: Any surprises in meeting these new A-123 requirements?

Ms. Turco: Not so far. Not so far. We're fairly comfortable with the requirements and how we're going to carry them out. I think that's attributable to having -- at GSA, I'm very fortunate to have just a wonderful financial management team; they take the business of financial management seriously. I think the process of going through an annual audit and receiving 17 years of clean opinions has put them in good stead to address any new requirements that come our way. So it's been actually a really easy process in terms of planning for the work we need to do.

Mr. Morales: Sounds like you're in good shape then. This is something you touched on a bit earlier, and I wanted to go back and explore it further: the concept of CFOs moving from a transaction-based focus -- sort of a back-office focus -- to the new focus on delivering information to decision-makers to help them better run the organization, how's that transformation coming at GSA?

Ms. Turco: I think the transformation is underway. When I stepped into the job in 2002, we were about to upgrade to a new financial software package. We carried that out in October of 2002. That was not without its challenges, as all transitions are. And we still have some work to do. But what it's allowed us to do is to be able to do analysis in a more timely way in terms of our receivables and payables, as well as the budgetary analysis and also the performance metrics. We've also put in a performance management tool -- it's called the PMT -- in which we put in either monthly, quarterly, or annually our performance measures and our targets, along with -- we bring in our financial data, and that's reported out monthly. We report out on income and expense statements on a monthly basis. We work with the senior team to go through every month where we stand in terms of revenue expenses, including our operating expenses, what are we seeing in the marketplace in terms of sales, how are we doing with our customers, what are the sales on the schedules, what are we seeing with the fleet, global supply, information technology, telecommunications -- we have both long-distance and regional IT, so we follow both our customer activity and the marketplace fairly closely.

With the new financial system and the concept of a performance management process being put in place, I think that the CFO's office has been able to demonstrate that we can be a strategic partner and a provider of business analysis to our executives, as well as maintaining our requirement for compliance that is the foundation of the financial management office. You cannot not do that. The CFO really needs to drive that home, given this Sarbanes-Oxley and what we're seeing in the private sector, and some challenges that some federal agencies have had. The issue of compliance and internal controls is fundamental to the operation.

We are still a little bit challenged at GSA in terms of moving out of the transaction base, and that's because we've had a challenge with our receivables, billing and collection module. What we do in GSA is fairly substantial, and we're actually in the process of looking to the private sector for solutions, and we've actually issued an RFI, and we've received responses in, and we're going to review those responses and look to put out an RFP and to partner with the private sector, because we believe that they have more expertise in this area than we do. I think that's part of the change, of the evolution, of the federal CFOs, looking to the commercial sector to see what's going on there, what we can learn from them, where we can partner in terms of delivering on financial operations. It's very costly to run a financial system, and we need to find ways to streamline that.

Mr. Watson: Along with your other initiatives, I understand GSA is undertaking development of a financial management systems architecture. Can you tell us a little bit about the architecture and how you're using it there at GSA?

Ms. Turco: Yes. The Chief Information Officer, Michael Carlton, and his team are leading an overall effort for GSA to put in a one GSA enterprise architecture. As part of that, my team said we would volunteer to go first in terms of truly defining the financial management portion of that architecture, and we have been working basically non-stop since last summer in terms of defining the receivables, the payables and all the processes that go through a financial system. That, too, will be used as we move forward to make changes in our financial system and streamline some of the processes and procedures that we have to undertake on a daily basis.

Currently, we have defined six business drivers for financial management related to GSA's overall strategic goals. We have reviewed these through our comptroller offices, and we are looking to drill down in particular in the receivables area and to use that to assist us with our solution necessary to address what we need in billings and collections for GSA.

Mr. Morales: A slight change in topic: government and industry want assurances that procurements are in line with agency and government buying rules. Tell us a little bit about the Get It Right program and how it creates these assurances.

Ms. Turco: The General Services Administration initiated the Get It Right program or campaign or -- in fact, one of might call it a philosophy -- about a year and a half ago to prevent abuses in the use of contracting vehicles as well as contract management at GSA. So what it's about is putting in place a process that ensures we're following the policies and procedures of the FAR, of FASA, and the requirements for contract managers in ensuring that we manage, compete, and carry to fruition on our promises for contract management for other federal agencies.

Mr. Morales: Earlier, you had mentioned the PMT, and I have a very special interest in performance management. Can you tell us about GSA's performance management tools and how they are used to measure the performance of the programs and goals?

Ms. Turco: Yes. We have a fairly robust performance management tool, namely PMT, that's managed out of my office. It allows for us to capture and set the strategy and goals and activities of each of the services and offices. It then allows for us to drill down and to detail out, by way of the six GSA goals, how we will set out objectives and initiatives for the year and measure those in terms of the goals and targets and metrics for each of the services and staff offices at GSA. We report in quarterly; we meet with the administrator, the deputy administrator on a quarterly basis to assess our progress in meeting our goals, and then that performance management information is also used to set out as part of our performance assessment program that the chief people officer manages on our overall performance appraisal and award system. The measures are used to drive awards allocation, both on an individual level and an organizational level. So at GSA, the associates take seriously the performance measurement program, and tying to both your rating and your potential award for the year keeps people focused on the business of GSA.

Mr. Morales: Certainly sounds like a best practice.

Why is there a need for reorganization within GSA? We'll ask GSA CFO Kathleen Turco to explain this us when the conversation about management continues on The Business of Government Hour.

(Intermission)

Mr. Morales: Welcome back to The Business of Government Hour. I'm Albert Morales, your host, and this morning's conversation is with Kathleen Turco, Chief Financial Officer of the General Services Administration.

Also joining us in our conversation is Steve Watson.

Mr. Watson: Thanks, Al. Kathleen, OMB has undertaken its line of business initiatives to improve efficiency and effectiveness of common business functions across government. Supporting this initiative, OMB has designated GSA as one of the centers of excellence for financial management, one of the lines of business they're focused on. Can you tell us a little bit about this new initiative and how GSA will go about becoming a center of excellence?

Ms. Turco: Yes, Steve. It's exciting times in federal financial management in terms of looking towards the future. The line of business and becoming a center of excellence is probably the most exciting work I think that we're going to undertake. Under the President's Management Agenda and the performance scorecard, as you were addressing, the Office of Management and Budget is looking for more efficiencies and effectiveness in the federal government. They took a process which they looked across federal agencies, and they asked federal agencies to come in and compete or apply to become a line of business.

GSA -- in the financial management office, we currently cross-service via a shared services model more than 50 organizations providing payroll and financial services and budgetary services. We thought it was unnatural for us to apply, and we were fortunate to be selected as a line of business. And we are moving forward with growing that business, so to speak; we currently offer financial services related to our systems. Our challenge is going to be along expanding that into e-payroll -- we also offer payroll now -- but expanding that in terms of the type of customers.

Currently, we offer our services to commissions and boards and smaller agencies, so our challenge is going to be in terms of growing that to midsize agencies. We are currently working on our strategic plan and all efforts related to how we'll undertake that. We anticipate that fiscal year 2007, we will begin to work with other agencies, bringing them on board, offering financial services. We're looking to see if we can expand to HR services -- we're in discussion right now with our chief people officer on that -- and to expand on e-payroll. We are partnered right now with DFAS at the Department of Defense; we are payroll partners, and we have taken on a couple more agencies over the last year. And the question becomes expansion on e-payroll as well.

Mr. Watson: Focusing on financial management, GSA sounds like it's already in the center of excellence business. What changes does the new push have on the way GSA will operate?

Ms. Turco: In terms of the office of the CFO or --

Mr. Watson: In terms of the center of excellence services you'll provide.

Ms. Turco: We will be expanding, I think, in terms of both the actual software that we're going to be providing; we're going to have to become more adept at the different financial packages because our customers will want to be able to shop. There's currently three or four that are on the market; we will offer one at this point as we start out. In terms of expanding the services beyond just a financial operation in terms of your payables and receivables and your obligations, our challenge will be, can we move into the financial analysis and assistance related to audit. So that's an exciting change that we are looking to make. Probably fiscal year '08. As well as expanding in terms of our budgetary operations and what we can offer for budget analysis, including formulation and assistance on execution.

Mr. Watson: Sounds like a lot to get done.

Mr. Morales: Kathleen, continuing on this theme of change, I understand there's a plan for merging the Federal Supply Service and the Federal Technology Service. For listeners who are unfamiliar with GSA, can you tell us about what these services within GSA do and why there is a need for this reorganization?

Ms. Turco: Yes. The Federal Supply Service provides federal customers with products, services, and programs to meet their supply, procurement, vehicle purchasing and leasing, travel and transportation needs, as well as personal property disposal requirements. The Federal Supply Service is one of three services currently; there are five business lines within FSS. FSS is located throughout the United States, as well as aligned with military customers overseas. The Federal Technology Service delivers information technology solutions, including network services, telecommunications, and professional services. So the FTS supports government agencies with assistance services in terms of assisting in IT solutions and delivering of larger buys or assisting in the overall acquisition strategy for putting in a total solution for an agency program or operation.

One of the challenges that we've had: we have two revolving funds, one known as the IT fund, or Information Technology Fund, and the other is the General Supply Fund. Over the last 10 years, the requirements for IT have expanded beyond just laptops or desktops, computers; it's really expanded to delivering solutions. And we felt we were somewhat hamstrung with the IT fund because the focus was on just sort of basic IT-type activities, and so we proposed as part of the fiscal year '06 budget to merge the two funds in order to better offer to our customers opportunities for business solutions, and to break down some artificial barriers between these two funds, as well as we think it'll make it a little more efficient and effective in managing it from a CFO's perspective.

Along with that evolved an opportunity to merge the two services as well. A proposal is pending on the Hill with the fiscal year 2006 budget to do just such a merger. Again, we think that bringing together the different services and business lines for FSS and FTS will allow us to be an almost one-stop shop for federal agencies. So along with the Public Building Service -- where we provide buildings, repair and alterations, as well as new constructions -- an agency will also be able to see sort of a one GSA, where you can also purchase your IT, your telecommunication requirements, whether or not you need services from the vast number of schedules that we offer for purchasing your daily office requirements of paper and pencils, et cetera. It'll be much more efficient and effective for other federal agencies to deal with us.

In addition to that, we're looking to expand our customer relationship management opportunities with federal agencies, and to better understand the mission of our federal agencies and to ensure then that our supplies and services address their mission as well.

Mr. Morales: This is a tremendous undertaking, and I would imagine that it will drive impacts in people, process, and technology. How will the process of the reorganization be carried out, and who will be involved?

Ms. Turco: The process of the reorganization starts at the top; Administrator Steve Perry is leading the reorganization. He established a steering committee in February of this year that includes the acting commissioner for the Federal Technology Service, Barbara Shelton; the commissioner of the Federal Supply Service, Donna Bennett; myself, representing the financial management community at GSA; and Michael Carlton, chief information officer. In addition, we have Joe Moravec on the team, and he's the commissioner for PBS, and we also have Marty Wagner, who heads the Office of Government-Wide Policy.

This team brought in some assistance from a contractor to assist us in the design and development of the reorganization. As you can imagine, it's a difficult task. It's a difficult task to ask individuals to look at their operations and propose revising them, realigning them, possibly asking them to take on a new job as we go forward. So there has been a lot of off-sites and meetings in terms of drilling down what is the best alignment for delivering on these services and supplies and products, et cetera.

We just released a draft plan on May 31st, and that has been out on the website, gsa.gov. We're asking our industry vendors to review the draft plan. Obviously, the Office of Management and Budget has been involved in the review of the plan, as well as our stakeholders on the Hill, and we are working to refine it. It's high level at this point. We're going to move forward and drill down into each of the proposed business portfolios and business lines, as well as the office of CFO and the new comptroller office that's going to be established in the new service -- it's going to be called the Federal Acquisition Service -- as well as the requirements for the IT to support the new FAS.

Mr. Morales: You mentioned industry, and I would imagine that industry's concerned about this reorganization. How are you addressing their concerns?

Ms. Turco: We've had now two Industry Day opportunities to have the industry come in and comment, meet with us, and discuss their view of the reorganization. That's very important, because we do work closely with the industry in terms of delivering on our IT solutions, telecommunications, and in particular, of course, the schedules. So it's important to hear the industry concerns and to consider what the impact would be on the industry. So we've taken all that into account, as well as looking at discussing with federal agencies the acquisition community as well as the CIO community.

Mr. Morales: That's interesting. What does the future hold for GSA? We'll ask GSA CFO Kathleen Turco to explain this to us when the conversation about management continues on The Business of Government Hour.

(Intermission)

Mr. Morales: Welcome back to The Business of Government Hour. I'm Albert Morales, your host, and this morning's conversation is with Kathleen Turco, Chief Financial Officer of the General Services Administration.

Also joining us in our conversation is Steve Watson.

Kathleen, I understand GSA has a program called the Financial Management Intern Program, or FMIP. Can you tell us about this program and how GSA is training and retaining its financial management employees?

Ms. Turco: Yes. As part of our overall workforce strategy, about four or five years ago, the Office of the CFO initiated the Financial Management Intern Program. When I arrived at GSA, I was thrilled to learn that I had such a program. It was actually sitting in a separate office; I moved it in to directly report to me.

The management and hiring of financial management staff is critical to the Office of the CFO and to the General Services Administration, and so I take it as a personal responsibility to ensure that we're getting the best and brightest undergraduate financial -- both accountants and analysts out of the local universities and colleges. My staff person on this, Wendy Stoner, works with a recruiting firm; they spend a good majority of the winter and spring each year canvassing the campuses and participating in all of their recruitment programs, and we bring in about 20 or so financial analysts every summer.

In fact, a new class starts July 11th. So we're very excited about this; they have brought in, obviously, you know, sort of a fresh face and the eagerness to make a difference. Every year, we experience that with the folks coming out of school. It's allowed us an opportunity also to grow the financial management offices, to ensure that we have the right set of analytical skills, both financial and the economic performance measures training that they actually do bring from the universities now with the programs -- we've been focusing on that -- has been a real infusion in terms of knowledge and opportunity.

While they may not have the experience, what they have is just an incredible eagerness to demonstrate their value. And working with them day-in and day-out is just -- it's simply -- it's fun. You know, some folks, well, why do I need to redo this, or why are we changing, why are we reorganizing, why do we have to worry about performance metrics? You don't get that with your interns; you get what can I do to help and how can I improve the process. For me, it's an invigorating group of folks to work with.

Mr. Watson: Well, it's good to hear the words "fun" and "work" in the same sentence again.

Mr. Morales: Kathleen, following up on that, that does sound like an interesting program. First of all, how long are the interns there?

Ms. Turco: The program runs two years. We put them on the schedule where they rotate three and six months through the different financial offices, as well as we try to put them into some of the business lines to work directly with business executives to ensure they learn about global supply or the schedules or operation of the buildings. That's very important that the financial analysts and the budget analysts at GSA understand the business of GSA; that's the only way we can really be a force in terms of being a business advisor and strategic partners with the senior team.

They also go through some extensive training in terms of the very basic budget formulation, budget execution, as well as managing their time, analytical programs. They bring, of course, tremendous computer skills; you don't have to worry about that. They're spreadsheet-savvy, they can do research on the Internet -- you don't have to take them through that -- so it's really about growing them, we offer them opportunities to take other courses that'll round out their experience from their undergraduate courses.

Mr. Morales: Shifting gears here a little bit and looking into the future, what will GSA look like five, ten years from now?

Ms. Turco: I believe that GSA will be, as Administrator Perry likes to say, the acquisition workforce for the federal government. I think we will achieve acquisition excellence, and I think part of achieving that is the Office of the CFO and the financial management community at GSA providing the necessary financial analysis and business support needed to ensure that we become the acquisition workforce for the federal government.

I believe that GSA can really offer other federal agencies a cost-effective and efficient way of acquiring their IT needs, their telecommunication needs, their buys off the schedule, whether it's assisted service or assisted light or they buy directly off the schedule using their own staff, providing this type of general services makes it just much more efficient for the federal government to operate. The budget scenario is tight; it's going to remain that way. GSA needs to continually improve how we deliver on services. We need to continually assess our fees to ensure that we're as low as possible yet fully recover all expenses, and we need to continually challenge ourselves to provide those services timely and on-schedule, within budget, to other federal agencies. I think the financial team can really be a great advisor to the business lines as we move forward.

Mr. Watson: That's a vision of GSA. Let's zero in on the CFO's function. What would the Office of the CFO look like five, ten years into the future?

Ms. Turco: The Office of CFO will be definitely a shared service in terms of how we deliver both for financial analysis, policy-setting, and operations, as well as continuing and expanding on our strategic planning and performance measurement. I think that we will see a greater emphasis on the planning and the performance measurement as we move forward -- as you move away from being transaction-based, you really need to plan for how you will conduct and provide the analysis of the programs and the business lines of the agency. And so the focus is really going to be on ensuring the financial policies and procedures are followed, as well as the financial analysis around the income expenses and the fee-setting and the rate setting that we do. In addition to all that, the planning and the budgeting -- the operational piece, I think, will be streamlined. I think we'll be more like the commercial sector. We need to continually reinvent that and find ways to deliver our financial operations in a timely basis that is at low cost. I mean, the transaction-based activity for the agency needs to be really at minimal cost. So I think we'll be a much stronger organization, and I think we'll be an even better business partner for the administrator and for the commissioners and the business executives at GSA.

Mr. Watson: Good objectives for the vision there of the CFO. How will technology play in helping you achieve those objectives?

Ms. Turco: Technology is fundamental. The ability to both acquire and put it in place is fundamental to us moving forward with this concept of being a business advisor. If your financial systems aren't operating, they consume your time. When we implemented the new software, it was six weeks of really dealing with issues almost hour-by-hour in terms of how we were doing getting payments out and billing our customers and watching that on a daily basis. It drove a lot of -- more reporting that we're doing now, actually on a daily basis related to operations, so there's been some good things that have occurred. But without a streamlined, efficient, shared services model for financial systems, you just can't move forward; that is really the piece that will I think drag down an Office of the CFO.

It's been interesting with the financial management line of business the number of folks who have called us and said, we'd like for you to take over our financial operations; we're not interested in doing them. So we think there's just a tremendous opportunity for the CFO office at GSA to become a real driving force in the line of business and financial systems as well as analysis offerings going forward.

Mr. Morales: Kathleen, you paint an exciting picture of the future at GSA and in government. What advice can you give a person who's interested in a career in public service?

Ms. Turco: I would advise anyone who's interested in a career in public service, as well as a career in the private sector, to come in and give us a try. I think we have a fairly high retention rate with our financial management interns; it's about 85 percent. I think that folks find when you're in the federal government, tremendous opportunity for learning and growth. You are challenged on a daily basis. It's very complex; it's ever-changing in terms of the challenges that you have understanding the federal laws, regulations, the programs, the business activities, the financial piece, the metric piece -- it's very comprehensive.

I don't think anyone can say -- I know I have never been bored, and I've always had the opportunity for personal as well as career growth. I think if you're a self-starter, the federal government is the way to go, and there are many, many opportunities out there. As we all know, the workforce is aging, and many agencies are looking for the newer generations to come in and to help us with setting out the agenda and achieving the missions of the federal agencies.

Mr. Morales: Kathleen, that will have to be our last question. Steve and I want to thank you for fitting us in your busy schedule this morning and we especially want to thank you for your 20-plus years of service to our country.

Ms. Turco: Thank you. Thank you. I appreciate that. If anyone wants to learn any more information about GSA, we're at gsa.gov, and I also want to stress for folks who want to learn more about the federal government, if you go to firstgov.gov, you can stroll through the many opportunities there to review federal agencies and the activities and the services that we deliver to the American taxpayers.

Mr. Morales: Great.

Ms. Turco: It's a pretty exciting site.

Mr. Morales: This has been The Business of Government Hour, featuring a conversation with Kathleen Turco, Chief Financial Officer of the General Services Administration.

Be sure to visit us at 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 Hour, I'm Albert Morales. Thank you for listening.