Former FAS Commissioner Julie Dunne talks about some of the big accomplishments of FY20.
A Look At What's Happening Throughout GSA's Federal Acquisition Service. I'm Joan Kornblithe, and I really should say welcome to our inaugural edition of FAS Focus. Thanks for tuning into our debut podcast. I'm super excited because FAS commissioner Julie Dunn is joining me to talk about some of the big accomplishments of FY20, which was her first year on the job. We're also going to run down some of the webinars and CLP opportunities coming up in the next couple of weeks, and we will also put a few fascinating facts in FAS Focus. [ Music ]Welcome back to FAS Focus:
A Look At What's Happening Throughout GSA's Federal Acquisition Service. I'm Joan Kornblithe, and in just a couple of minutes I'll be talking with FAS commissioner Julie Dunn about her first year in that role, and some of the highlights of the past 12 months. But first, there is always a full plate of FAS specific webinars and trainings coming up. I know that you've been hearing a lot recently about multiple award schedule consolidation. If you or anyone you know has questions about MAS consolidation, our MAS PMO team can help you out. They have got a monthly webinar devoted to answering your questions. The next MAS AMA -- and that stands for 'ask me anything' -- is coming up on November nineteenth. The MAS team says they'll be discussing new and potential offerer topics, including the MAS roadmap. More information and registration info is in the MAS Interact Group, and also on the official GSA events page. You can find that at GSA.gov/events. You can also email MASPMO@gsa.gov. That is MASPMO@gsa.gov and ask for details. I'm going to also see if we can get that link in our FAS Focus podcast description for you. [ Music ]>> Welcome back to FAS Focus:
a look at what's happening in and around GSA's Federal Acquisition Service. I'm Joan Kornblithe and joining me now is FAS commissioner Julie Dunn. Thank you so much for taking a couple of minutes out of your schedule to join us today. >> Thanks, Joan. I'm happy to be here. >> Well let me start by saying congratulations on your number one. When you walked through that door at 1800 F for the first time and took your oath, what did you think your first year would be like? I am sure that it did not involve becoming a GoogleMeet and telework sensei. >> It certainly didn't. It seems like a year ago, you know, a world far, far away. But I actually had the opportunity -- before I took this job, I was senior adviser to administrator Emily Murphy. So I got a little bit of the lay of the land before I was asked to step in after Allen Thomas, my predecessor, left the service. But, you know, it -- the year flew very quickly. I remember attending a town hall with all the FAS community, and we had the opportunity to meet and, you know, lay out what my expectations were and what my leadership style was about. So -- and I've really been pleased. The folks that are part of the FAS organization are just incredible. And, you know, like you said, who could've imagined managing through a global pandemic? And the resilience of our workforce is just incredible. >> It's really not something that they teach you in business school, or they teach you in any school. You know, COVID-19, which we were just talking about -- the pandemic is why we're recording this virtually today, instead of sitting together in a studio. So why don't we kick things off by talking a little bit more about the FAS COVID response? FAS Is the Federal Acquisition Service, so it shouldn't be a surprise that the agency was able to obtain millions of high demand COVID items like wipes, and masks, and cleaning and medical supplies for GSA's customers. But that's really only one part of the story, isn't it? >> That's right. Early on, you know, who could've imagined the breadth of goods and services that would be needed across the federal workplace. And, you know, it was some of those high demand COVID-19 items as you mentioned, like gloves and masks, and, you know, our emergency acquisition group really stepped up in partnership with FEMA. We also have a group -- the property management folks -- who were able to identify excess property throughout the federal government and get it in the hands of people that really needed it. But there's also the IT piece of things. We were able to quickly get laptops, for example, to the SPA. I think we got over 3,000 laptops to the SPA to help them run the new loan program to help small businesses. We were also very much involved in, you know, some of the building maintenance and cleaning processes. We also, you know, through our EIS contract, we were able to help with a lot of IT infrastructure items. So, and, you know -- you'd also be, maybe, be surprised to learn that we did things like support the Navy Hospital ships Comfort and Mercy. So we were, you know, from every military service to a number of federal agencies, GSA really stepped up and we were able to execute in the virtual environment. >> And you know, sometimes you really have to just think outside the box to meet all these challenges that spring up. The agency made the very sudden decision to have to switch all their planned, in-person conferences and re-cast them as virtual events. That was a huge deal. But then, my favorite story is really the one -- and I'd like you to share it -- about how GSA supported the Peace Corps when Americans were stranded overseas. >> Yeah, that's one of my favorites. So GSA runs the SmartPay program. It's a massive program, basically providing purchase cards for our federal government and customers. And back in March, when the Peace Corps, they suddenly announced they had to suspend operations, they had to bring home 7,000 volunteers from more than 60 countries, and they had to get it done pretty quickly. So the Peace Corps turned to their GSA SmartPay travel card program to get everyone home safely. So there were lots of stories like that. And you also mentioned us pivoting to virtual events. I was disappointed we had to cancel our FAS 2020 event down in Atlanta, but our team really pivoted quickly and we put on a successful 3 day virtual event. We also did that, actually, to support the SmartPay program as well. This past August we put on a big, virtual event. I know we'll all be together in-person at some point, in some level of interaction, but, you know, right now we've adjusted and we've delivered a lot in terms of our virtual training opportunities for the vendor community, as well as our government customers. >> And there are tons more on the way. I've been looking at the advanced calendars, not just for the next quarter but for the next year, and there are a lot of events, big and small, that are being planned all over the country. So you know, virtual events for wherever you are, you can plug into them and some big, massive, multi-day events. And then also, the small, directed training events, as well. >> Yes. I actually had an opportunity this past summer to participate in a training session for the small business community with administrator Murphy. And the whole idea was to try and help some of these small businesses get on the GSA schedule so that they could support COVID-19 relief. So lots of great opportunities through that virtual environment. >> I'm Joan Kornblithe. You're listening to FAS Focus from the US General Services Administration. I'm talking with FAS commissioner Julie Dunn as she marks one year in that role. We've been talking about the FAS COVID-19 response. Let's take a look at some of the other achievements of FY20. Maybe, how you advanced enterprise priorities? >> Sure. So as you, you know, as we've been talking, this global pandemic hit and the team really pivoted, and was able to deliver on the support their customer agencies needed. But at the same time, we continued to deliver on our fiscal year 2020 priorities. A lot of that has happened under the umbrella of what we like to call the Federal Marketplace Strategy. And I know there will be an upcoming podcast on that in the near term, but there's a number of projects that are going on under that rubric, and we will actually be coming out with our -- I believe it's our sixth release, later this month for the Federal Marketplace Strategy. But looking back over the last year, we had some big ones. When it comes to mass consolidation, you know, we completed Phase 2 and we had an incredible 99% of the contractors sign the mass mod for the new single schedule, and we've already seen some of the return on that reform effort, because we've been able -- it takes a lot less time to add the special item numbers because we can modify an existing contract as opposed to setting up a whole new contract. And it's actually been, kind of neat to see, even in the context of the COVID-19 response, I know of at least one, couple of examples, but one that comes to mind because this is now how our brain works. A hospital grade air filter was something that one of our contractors wanted to get onto the schedule, and we were able to very quickly turn that around and get that product on the schedule. And that was a result of this new reform effort, so we're already seeing a return on that investment, if you will. >> By the time you listen to this podcast, we will have put out our next Federal Marketplace Strategy release. You can find it at GSA.gov/federalmarketplace. I know there's also been a lot of progress in robotic process automation, or RPA. Now, it gets kind of complicated. I know what RPA isn't. It isn't robots coming in and taking jobs away from people. But what does RPA mean for GSA exactly? How is it being used? >> So I look at RPA in the broader context of what can we automate in terms of the acquisition process? Right? It's about freeing up the acquisition workforce's time so that they can devote more attention to more complicated tasks, if you will. And it's also so that we can be much quicker for our vendors. Right? So it will take less time for things. So you know, we can't -- we're not going to automate everything. We're going to look for opportunities where there's some efficiencies. And this is something GSA at large has been working on, but in the acquisition context, earlier this year we launched what we like to call the Truman Bot, aptly named over, you know, President Truman since he signed the authorizing legislation for GSA. But that was an effort to automate things like checking the excluded parties list. Truman 2.0 will be coming out soon, and that is, again, an effort to automate things like, you know, pre-populating templates for negotiation memos. We're also looking at ways to automate things in the catalog management area, where we're trying to, in an automated world, reconcile catalogs and pricing so that it doesn't take quite as long and we can, you know, help identify errors and have more accurate data in that context. >> So it's really going to be taking a burden off of the workforce, and also speeding things up. >> That's right. That's right. And, you know, I think this is just the beginning. It's something that, you know, looking forward in our fiscal year 2021 priorities, one of my main areas is IT monitorization and automation. And the idea, there, as you aptly pointed out, is about, you know, adding capacity for the workforce and making things move more quickly >> Because I know -- one thing we've been talking about a lot over the years is making things easier on all sides. >> Yes. >> This is a project that falls within that realm. >> That's right. That's right. That's something that we're very focused on, and you know, I think it's a win-win for all our stakeholders, frankly. Customer agencies, the vendors, as well as our workforce. >> I'm Joan Kornblithe. Your listening to GSA FAS Focus from the US General Services Administration. I'm talking with FAS commissioner Julie Dunn as she marks one year in that role. SCRIM, or supply chain risk management, is something that you were a part of, practically from day one. How has that evolved the GSA over the past 12 months? >> Well, supply chain security is something that I've been interested in for a while. Going back to my time as a congressional staffer, I also had the opportunity while I was there to work on a number of pieces of legislation that were aimed at trying to do a better job of securing the supply chain. One of the things I worked on was the Federal Acquisition Security Council, of which I am a member, now, as the FAS commissioner. And I'm really excited about the FASC, to you know, be part of the legislation and then be part of actually implementing it is pretty cool. And it's something where, you know, we're trying to take a 'whole of government' approach. You know, it's GSA, it's DOD, it's DHS, it's a number of different agencies and the idea is to share information and, ultimately, you know, if there's a consensus on something that, you know, looks not secure, then the idea is that we'll take a government-wide approach, a risk-based approach, in terms of determining whether or not that product should be removed or excluded. So that's, sort of big picture, but GSA itself, we have also, in part, as we were implementing what many know as Section 889, which is a prohibition on certain telecom and IT equipment. As we went through that compliance process, we really identified the need to make sure our coordination across the agency is really tight, and we're sharing lessons learned. So, you know, from OGP to our public building service, we were all, kind of, working together to figure out how we best implement 889. Gave us an opportunity to set up some internal systems and groups. So again, we can take that enterprise-wide look at supply chain. We're also, you know, doing a lot of training for our acquisition workforce in this area and we're also hoping that, you know, we can develop some tools that will illuminate the supply chain a little better and give our acquisition professionals the tools that they need to make good decisions. >> I know that IT modernization is something that you have had a long history with, so is there any other part that you'd like to touch on while we're there? >> Sure. Yes. So again, going back to my time on The Hill. My colleagues and I, there, we did a lot of oversight on federal IT modernization, and so we asked a lot hard questions of the various federal agencies and, you know, it was really gratifying to come to GSA and see how well GSA is doing. And you learn the importance of things like agile development, and you know, making sure we decommission legacy systems, and get us to a more modernized IT solution. And we've got a lot of projects within the Federal Acquisition Service, and we work in close partnership with GSA IT. And we're modernizing internal systems, like for example, Fleet. We just made a major award to modernize the Fleet systems, and that ultimately will consolidate 19 different systems. >> Wow! >> Some of which were still using COPAL. So you know, that's a huge deal and it's good for our customers and, you know, it's good for the workforce. So we're looking for opportunities, in that way, to try and figure out how we can, you know -- in my view, ultimately, IT monitorization should save us money and make us more efficient. So I look for opportunities to do that. >> Now, this is just -- I'm just throwing this out, here. When you look back at some of those questions, when you were on The Hill, some of those tough questions that you were asking, now sitting on the other side of the desk, do you wish that you hadn't asked some of those questions? >> No. I think we were asking the right questions. Frankly, I'm surprised at how right we were on some of those. You know, like, what's your plan for your top three mission critical systems with your modernization plan? Well, you know, how long is it going to take you? How much are you paying for O and M? You know, what are the oldest computing languages that you're using? So we actually asked some good questions, and we tried when we were on The Hill -- and you know, GSA is actually part of this effort, the Modernizing Government Technology Act, which is, you know, provides a financing mechanism to help with IT modernization and sort of provide some up front money for agencies to try and modernize their systems. So it's been quite interesting to get, sort of, the full spectrum. >> You're listening to FAS Focus, a podcast dedicated to the latest news from GSA's Federal Acquisition Service. I'm Joan Kornblithe talking with FAS commissioner Julie Dunn as she begins her second year of service. Congratulations, by the way. I know you've got a lot on your plate today, so I'm not going to keep you much longer. I did want to take a minute to hear about what's been going on with GSA's Assisted Acquisition Service. FY20 was a huge year for AAS, wasn't it? >> It sure was. The Assisted Acquisition Service. They had a great year in fiscal year 19, and they continued the momentum in fiscal year 2020. And they serve a lot of various customers. They are very helpful with HHS in terms of support for the strategic national stockpiles. They were also very effective in supporting DHS in some of their cyber and IT infrastructure work. Our region 8 out in the west, they were very helpful in that regard. Region 4, based down in Atlanta, had a big win for the US Army. It was almost a $3 billion task order for software lifecycle development support. So great stuff going on in, you know, a wide variety of customers. It's a high-touch business, so our folks have been very busy and really pivoted quite well in the virtual environment. >> Well, I know that there is so much more to talk about, so we are going to have to get you back in this chair again sometime. Thank you so much, Julie Dunn, for coming down and sitting down with us today. If you have any questions for commissioner Julie Dunn, or you would like to learn more about any of the programs that we've been talking about, reach out to us. The address is GSAFASfocus@gsa.gov. Coming up, news of another training opportunity and some fascinating FAS facts. I'm Joan Kornblithe and you are listening to FAS Focus. [ Music ]Welcome back to FAS Focus:
A Look At What's Happening Throughout GSA's Federal Acquisition Service. I'm Joan Kornblithe, and as always, we have got a full plate of FAS specific webinars and training coming up. Again, I really need to thank FAS commissioner Julie Dunn for joining us on our debut podcast. Also, a part of not just our debut podcast, but all of our FAS Focus podcast, is our producer Max Stempora. Max, say hello to everybody! >> Hello, everybody! >> Hi, Max! And Max is going to join us for some of the features that we've got, here, like now. He's got some information about another important training session coming up, don't you Max? >> Yes, I do. RFIs or, requests for information, are part of how we dialogue with the industry. I've heard from some of our partners that they can sometimes be daunting or confusing, especially when you're just starting out. I'm pleased to see that we've got a session coming up on November twenty-fourth that's dedicated to explaining more about RFIs and how they can be a useful tool for businesses of all sizes. Our market research as a service, or MRAS, team is putting this one on. >> Any idea of what this one's all about? I mean, beside market research. >> You know, it's funny you should ask. MRAS is calling this training, 'Making Market Research Easy: Enhancing Industry Partnerships'. The description says that attendees will walk away with a better understanding of why GSA collects and [inaudible] responses, and how the collected data shapes future purchasing decisions. Looks like they'll be offering insights into how to respond to GSA's RFIs by providing tips and tricks from the experts on how best to fill out these important surveys. >> Because I know those surveys can get complicated. I've looked through some of those RFIs also. This sounds like a great training. I see that registration info is now up on the GSA events page. Just go to GSA.gov/events and scroll down and find the event that you're looking for. The date, again, November twenty-fourth. The title is Making Market Research Easy: Enhancing Industry Partnerships'. I'm Joan Kornblithe. Coming up on FAS Focus, a few fascinating fleet facts. Try saying that five times fast, or even once. [ Music ] Welcome back to GSA FAS Focus. I'm Joan Kornblithe. We are almost out of time for today. I did want to leave you with a few fascinating FAS facts this week about our GSA fleet. Did you know, -- well, actually, Max, since you're here I'm going to turn this around and I'll ask you this question. Do you know what the most popular vehicle in the GSA fleet is?I will give you a hint:
it is not an executive sedan. >> Oh, man. That's a tough one. I would definitely go for the sedan as my first guess. But you're saying that's not it. Maybe -- >> You may have one. >> Maybe, is it like a SUV? A Chevy Suburban or something? >> Well, you're kind of close. It's a minivan. >> Oh. >> A minivan. Yep. In FY2018, the last year I had official numbers for, 30 agencies leased minivans from GSA fleet. And if you want to go way back, almost 85,000 minivans were leased through GSA fleet between 1999 and 2018. That is a lot of seating capacity provided by fleet. Okay. We've got time for one more. In case you were wondering, the most popular colors are -- we're talking about for vehicles -- most popular colors. Do you want to guess? >> I'm thinking black. >> Wrong. Light white and dark blue. I think you'll get this one. The least common color for a GSA fleet vehicle. >> It's got to be something obnoxious because you can't, I can't picture the government buying bright pink or purple. >> Magenta. >> I was close! >> Magenta, the least common color. And those are all the fascinating FAS facts I have for you today. A big thank you to FAS commissioner Julie Dunn for taking part in the debut of GSA FAS Focus. Don't forget, if there is something FAS related that you'd like to learn more about, or someone you'd like to hear feature on GSA FAS Focus, let us know. Send a note to GSAFASfocus@GSA.gov. That is GSAFASfocus@GSA.gov. I'm Joan Kornblithe, I put the words together. Max Stempora and Stephanie Joseph move the mountains this week. GSA FAS Focus is a production of the US General Services Administration's Office of Strategic Communication.