Alan Thomas: “Here at [GSA FAS]–We do work for customers, we’re always thinking about the customers, listening to what they have to say, anticipate what they might need and serve them the way that makes sense to us in covering our costs–This is one big thing I think about in what we can use to run our business.”
Keynote Speaker Alan B. Thomas, Commissioner for the GSA FAS noted that the GSA’s role as a broker for the commercial marketplace has its foundation in American-made rules and regulations, in supporting the federal government in purchasing cost-effective, innovative solutions for information technology (IT) requirements through these Government Acquisition Contracts.
Moderator: Commissioner Thomas–You’ve been on the job about 110 days; tell us about your observations and your early assessments. How’s it been going?
Alan: It’s been great. It’s been one of the most fun jobs I’ve had…really fascinating organization, GSA, we do a lot of different things. Some initial impressions on the breadth of what the organization does, the supply chain–a really great set of 44,000 people across 11 regions (Ft. Werth, Boston). I’ve loved the people I’ve met, every person I meet is a piece of the 44,000. GSA is in the middle of a lot of things that matter, we’re talking about a lot of things we can do for our federal customers and we’ve been busy. Our name, GSA, has come up in a lot of different agencies. The depth of which we’re getting involved in this administration is driving efficiency across the board…really exciting stuff.
Moderator: What are your priorities at FAS, in terms of budget–what are you watching closely?
Alan: Prior to the FAS, we were working for customers with 99% of the budget is controlled by me and the FAS, is working capital. Here at FAS–We do work for customers, we’re always thinking about the customers, listening to what they have to say, anticipate what they might need and serve them the way that makes sense to us in covering our costs–This is one big thing I think about in the systems we can use to run our business–why do customers care? When the systems have an impact on our customers, affecting the quality of the data/service that we provide, there is a large group of them: more than 170 FAS customers in data systems technology, systems to create and modify contracts, manage assets, etc. We’re going to take a look at designing systems that are easy to use, where the caliber of the systems match the caliber of the people. Having great systems that are user-sensitive in their design and sit on modern infrastructure are really important to our customers. Big area of focus.
The FAS has a group called CASE–The Office of Customer and Stakeholder Engagement–that provides enterprise-wide representation of the value of the Federal Acquisition Service to agency customers. The role of CASE is to enable FAS understanding of customer needs in acquisition services, solutions, and to become a strategic partner in helping customers find what works best for their needs. “The success of CASE lies in [its] ability to provide support and direction to customers with regards to research, outreach and customers relations management,” provides Thomas. “Technology transformation is happening inside.”
Moderator: Technology transformation inside?
Alan: Technology transformation inside. GSA GWACs provide access to IT solutions such as: systems design; software engineering; information assurance; and enterprise architecture. The Technology Transformation Service (TTS, separate from GSA-FAS), is spread relatively thin–different cultures, systems, processes–great capability to have in helping federal customers support their technology infrastructure, where we were undertaking the same issues. It’s important to set schedules, GWACs…there’s $50B/year in federal components at GSA. Working together on these projects (ALLIANT; 8(a) STARS II) and modernizing systems–it’s pretty darn important to saving time and money.”
In order to streamline the acquisition process the GSA FAS has developed the “Making it Easier” initiative–in layman’s terms, literally making it easier for suppliers to do business with the government.
Moderator: How do you plan on streamlining the pipeline?
Alan: By Making It Easier, or MIE, does just what it says — makes it easier for new and innovative companies to do business with the government. And it also provides small businesses with tools and support they need to do work with the government. It includes an IT Schedule 70 Plain Language Roadmap that does a wonderful job of explaining the Schedule 70 offer process for new vendors in clear and simple terms. Once new companies are awarded a Schedule contract, the standardized Welcome Package will put an end to new vendors receiving inconsistent and outdated guidance.
This ongoing dialogue on Transactional Data Reporting is something of a occupational passion for the GSA, in the comprehension of crafting great terms and conditions that customers will sign onto. Well-versed in federal policy, strategic communications, project management and process improvement, these panelists are smooth sailors–with ears open to industry partners and customer agencies and a commendable determination that the ‘Making It Easier’ report will shine a light on GSA’s vision for continued improvement.
Other speakers at the Potomac Officer’s Club 2017 Budget and Procurement Forum included: Moderator Martha Shepard (BAE Systems); Panelists Roxanne Banks (Defense Logistics Agency), Karen Cook (Office of Defense Procurement and Acquisition Policy, Services Acquisition), and Dea Merchant (National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency).