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Bibb Welcomes New GSA Employees

As prepared for delivery

Remarks By
David L. Bibb
Acting Administrator
U.S. General Services Administration
GSA New Associates Celebration
Washington, D.C.
5/1/06


Thank you very much, Jennie (Liming), for that kind introduction. Good morning, everyone.

What a pleasure for me to be here with you as you start your careers with GSA!

You’ve arrived at an extraordinary time. The challenges we face, while numerous and formidable, are also creating excellent opportunities for creative, hard-working and dedicated individuals. Moreover, we are on the verge of welcoming another important new associate to GSA, one who is totally committed to high performance and continuous improvement.

I’m speaking of Lurita Doan, whom President Bush has nominated to be the next GSA Administrator. I have met twice now with Mrs. Doan and can tell you the same qualities that made her a phenomenally successful small businesswoman are the same qualities that would help her lead GSA. She is energetic, she is pragmatic, and she is highly focused on – and enthusiastic about – leading GSA in its mission of service to our federal agency clients and the American public.

The literature you’ve received says GSA was created in 1949. That is true.

What’s also true is that GSA was re-created last year, and that it’s still being recreated. The organization you have joined is diverse … and dynamic … and evolving.

Last week I spoke at the re-opening of the U.S. Post Office and Courthouse in Brooklyn, N.Y. If you were to take a tour, I know you’d be impressed. Working with a solid foundation that dates back more than a hundred years, the designers, artists, architects and others created a secure, state-of-the-art structure – one beautiful in every detail - that will serve citizens for another hundred years.

But that wasn’t the case just a short while back. The building and all its systems were badly outdated. It was no use to anyone, an eyesore.

There’s a lesson there, and it is this: if the Brooklyn Post Office and Courthouse were going to remain worthwhile and relevant, someone had to seize the reins and make it happen. Congress gave us the go-ahead and we – GSA - made it happen.

Our agency, like the old courthouse in Brooklyn, has a solid foundation. We have the architects needed to design plans to be successful in a marketplace that has grown far more complex and demanding over the decades. And we have the brainpower and world-class workforce needed to carry out the plans.

That is precisely what we’re doing. The changes underway at GSA will increase our value to each federal agency client and to the American taxpayer.

You are now part of this effort. So are the GSA leaders who have joined us today. I think their presence should tell you how important they consider the new associate celebration. Let me take a moment to acknowledge:

- Marty Wagner, Acting Commissioner of the new Federal Acquisition Service (and Associate Administrator, Office of Governmentwide Policy);

- David Winstead, Commissioner of the Public Buildings Service. I know that most of the new associates gathered today are working in PBS.

Also with us are:

- Alan Swendiman, General Counsel and the GSA Acting Chief of Staff;
- Barbara Shelton, Regional Administrator of GSA’s Mid-Atlantic Region, and former Acting Administrator of the Federal Acquisition Service;
- William Kelly, Director of Human Resources Services in the Office of the Chief People Officer

These GSA leaders have helped us implement very important changes over the past few years. Here are some examples:

• We put in place a rigorous performance management process that was key to achieving results aligned with President Bush’s Management Agenda;

• We helped GSA establish clear, customer-focused, measurable goals and detailed action plans for all areas;

• We are stressing “One GSA” to foster greater collaboration and consistency among GSA divisions; and,

• We planned and executed the “Get it Right” plan, and are now moving beyond that plan to steps that will help us achieve excellence in federal acquisition.

And of course we began creating the new Federal Acquisition Service from FSS and FTS, all while maintaining our status as one of the best places to work in the federal government.

Just as the new courthouse and post office will reinvigorate downtown Brooklyn, so too will GSA continue to increase its value to the federal community. That is clear in our long-term plans, as well as in our ability to respond after a crisis, as we saw last summer after hurricane Katrina. 

The point is that even during this period of tremendous change and planning for the future, we never lost sight of our daily responsibilities to our customers or the nation.

That, in a nutshell, is your new organization.

We are excited you’re here and I hope you’re equally excited to be part of the new GSA.

I’m excited, and I’ve been here 35 years!

I’m excited because I know we’re going to continue on the challenging course we’ve set for ourselves in all areas touched by GSA, from tables to technology … from rental cars to real property … and from cleaning services to cutting edge I-T solutions. Some of you may know we recently launched a new search engine for Firstgov.gov – the government’s official web portal. This new tool increases the universe of official government documents that citizens can search from 8 million to 40 million, and it organizes the search like no other engine in existence.

So, while we’re striving to overcome our daily business challenges, we’re also breaking new ground in many areas that benefit our client agencies and the American people.

Let me go back a second to the days when I was a new associate. It may be hard to imagine, but I know the feel of those seats you’re sitting in … what it’s like to be new … maybe a little nervous … not quite sure if a GWAC is a federal contract or the new S-U-V from General Motors.

I know what it’s like because I started with GSA as a management intern in our Atlanta office in 1971. I think what helps get us through the nervous time in a new work environment are the values that we learned growing up.

I know you have come to us from many different parts of the country. I’m from Clarksville, Tennessee, population 100,000. Clarksville is north of Nashville, 700 miles from D.C. Some of you who remember the song, Last Train to Clarksville. That was my Clarksville … the real place is the L & N train station, built in 1890, two years, incidentally, ahead of the Brooklyn courthouse that I mentioned earlier.

For inspiration, we had natives like Robert Penn Warren, who wrote, All the King’s Men. Pat Summit came along later and rewrote the record books in women’s college basketball. There was also the great Olympic sprinter Wilma Rudolph, an African American of modest means who taught us all a lesson about the concepts of fairness and inclusion.

In 1960, when the city wanted to honor Wilma with a parade and banquet for winning three gold medals at the Olympics, she would only agree if everyone – black and white – were allowed to attend. When I look back on all this today, I realize Wilma Rudolph helped integration go down a little easier in Clarksville than in some other places. And I realize I took some lessons away from the experience, even though I was only 12 at the time.

What I’m saying is that we’re all shaped by our experiences and of course by our parents, teachers, friends and family members. Mostly, I remember Clarksville as the place where I learned the values that served me well when I began my civil service career in Atlanta, and which have continued to guide me these many years.

I’m betting that will hold true for you as well, whether you’re from Clarksville, Columbus, Cambridge or any other corner of our great country.

I’m certain that if you are motivated, ambitious and dedicated to continuous learning, you’ll find that our slogan: You Can Do that Here, is more than a catchy marketing phrase. I worked in PBS and the Office of Governmentwide Policy before being named Deputy Administrator and now Acting Administrator. At each turn, I focused on the need to broaden my knowledge and take advantage of opportunities as they arose.  I urge you to do the same.

I know you’re already familiar with our mission. You can’t escape it. It pops up each time you switch on your computer; it’s attached to today’s program. And it is much the same as when President Truman signed the legislation that created GSA as an independent agency in 1949.

Another thing that hasn’t changed is our goal of a world-class workplace and workforce, with all GSA regions, organizations and associates contributing to help federal agencies better perform their missions, be it national defense, homeland security, environmental protection,  housing and urban development, or international relations.

GSA’s ability to deliver goods and services at best value, our growing capacity to anticipate customer needs, and our focus on providing expert solutions all make this agency as important as at any time in its 57-year history.

As I said, these are extraordinary times. As we meet, thousands of our young men and women are fighting in the global war against terror; gas prices are off the charts, and that has reaffirmed the need to secure our nation’s energy future … I could go on. Veterans care. Roads and bridges. Job training. Small business. Education ...  We face critical issues at every turn.

To meet these challenges, agencies are being asked to do more with limited resources. We’ve all heard that before. I’ve been around a long time and can’t remember any time when we had too many resources!

That is one reason why this time of challenge is our time --- our time to show that we are the answer for our fellow agencies. Our time to clearly demonstrate how we add value … how we minimize transaction costs and acquisition time … how we provide the right service or the right product in the right quantity and at the best price … in short, our time to prove we can take the logistical burden off the agencies and free them to concentrate on their core missions.

A case can be made that the nation needs GSA now more than ever.  But it must be a GSA running at peak efficiency, and with an unshakeable commitment to ethics and integrity in everything we do. Remember that! Work hard, but work smart. Know the rules, and apply what you learn to get the job done legally, competently, and always with a focus on the customer.

The President has challenged us to find new and smarter ways to help our customers. The better we perform, the more efficiencies we create. That’s good all around. It saves money. It lets agencies concentrate on their core missions. And it moves us toward the president’s vision of government that is citizen-centered and results oriented.

Much of this is routine, unheralded work that goes by largely unnoticed: a new face on an old courthouse or nuts-and-bolts help for a small business struggling to figure out how to do business with the government.

Other assignments are higher profile:
- Replacing the bombed out federal building in Oklahoma City with a secure and beautiful structure that says terrorism will never prevail over freedom.
- Or helping FEMA respond to a devastating hurricane.

Be aware that GSA is a progressive agency that has changed with the times, occasionally shedding old responsibilities, at times taking on new ones.

Our mission defines what we will achieve together. Our values define how we will work together to get the job done.

The values we operate under include: respect for fellow associates, teamwork, results orientation, professionalism, and, again, ethics and integrity in everything we do.

Ultimately, it is each individual’s responsibility – that’s so important, I’ll repeat it: each individual’s responsibility -- to act with honesty and integrity, and to incorporate into your daily work the high moral standards you learned in the homes and towns where you grew up.

We believe that high performance is linked directly to our associates’ commitment to our mission, values and goals.

Our goals are to:

- Provide best value for customer agencies and taxpayers,
- Achieve responsible asset management,
- Operate efficiently and effectively,
- Ensure financial accountability,
- Maintain a worldclass workforce and a worldclass workplace,
- And to carry out our social, environmental and other responsibilities as a federal agency.

Noble goals, each one. But how do we get there? We know that achieving our goals requires that we have a rigorous performance management process and the organizational capability necessary to achieve our goals now and in the future.  Consequently, we are engaged in a GSA-wide effort to further develop and sustain a performance management process with:

- Clear, customer-focused and measurable goals;

- Detailed action plans;

- And a regular and thorough process to review actual results achieved in an agency-wide performance  measurement system.

We are also engaged in a GSA-wide effort to further develop and sustain a “worldclass workforce and a worldclass workplace.” 

This work will result in:

- A workforce with the necessary skills, competencies and personal commitment to achieve our challenging goals;

- And a positive, productive and safe work environment in which to make it all happen.

There’s plenty more I could talk about – worker engagement, GSA fleet and childcare, real property reform, and so on – but I know Jennie and the new associates team have lined up a terrific group to speak on many of those subjects.

I also know what it’s like when the boss goes on too long. As a long-winded speaker once said, If I’ve gotten my message across, it’s my hope that some of you will leave here inspired …. And the rest of you will at least wake up refreshed.

So let me stop here and again welcome you to GSA. Thank you for your attention, and thank you for inviting me to speak on an occasion that marks the beginning of this important new phase of your professional lives.

Now I’ll be glad to take some questions.