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Administrator Doan Addresses Border Trade Alliance

As prepared for delivery

Remarks by
Administrator
Lurita A. Doan
U.S. General Services Administration
Border Trade Alliance Conference
Austin, TX
September 25, 2006

 

I am excited to be here today to help represent President Bush’s ambitious plan for improvements along the border, as well as to directly represent GSA, which has the primary responsibility for designing, building, and maintaining our nations’s ports of entry.

It’s also great to see so many good friends and colleagues.  I am especially grateful to Maria Louisa and her leadership of the Border Trade Alliance.  We have shared a friendship and a passion for many years to make improvements at our nation’s ports of entry to better allow the safe and secure transit of goods and services into the country.

I also see other friends and colleagues that have developed some of the most innovative ideas for improving the efficiencies of our ports of entry.   Colleagues from the Federal Highway Administration are here….like Sylvia Grijalva, who helped spearhead the remarkable success of the Nogales Project.  stand up Sylvia…..the nation owes you a big thank-you for a job well done…

and so, I come today not only to praise your achievements,  but to thank you for daring to think a bit differently about how to solve complex problems.  The new fast lanes at Nogales started with a solid public-private partnership, you reached out to all stakeholders on both sides of the border --- at the state, federal, and local level. As a result, you were able to build these two new fast lanes in half the time it usually takes, and at a fraction of the usual cost. 

Your success at Nogales represents a clear and unambiguous example of a best practice in how to expand the capacity of our ports of entry throughout the nation..  As you all know, our port’s, are vital trade arteries that are too often clogged with long lines as legitimate trade and travelers attempt to cross the border.  Wait times are often hours long. Congestion is too common.   Your success proves we can do better, we can not only improve our security, but we can simultaneously speed the flow of trade and commerce.

As GSA Administrator, I am always on the look out for best practices in solving complex problems.  You have given GSA a great example, and lessons learned that I intend to make sure we use as we go forward.

As you well know, there is an urgent need in the nation to rethink the way we plan, design and build our ports of entry.  We need new energy and new ideas. Over the past 15 years or so, our trade across the borders has dramatically increased while the capacity of our port’s to handle this new traffic has not kept pace.  To solve this problem we are going to have to think differently. 

I am also going to admit to you that I think GSA has been too timid in leading the effort to design and build additional capacity at our port’s.  In the past, we have tried to hard to build consensus when we should have been bolder in setting out an ambitious agenda. 
Where is Jim King? Am I right about that, Jim?

Well no longer.  Today, I am committing GSA to more boldly assume the leadership role to better design, build, expand, and maintain our nation’s ports of entry.  Our goals are simple: to expand capacity and build new facilities where they are needed most, in a timely manner. The days of performing yet another study to tell us that we have a congested border are over. 

I am blessed with a wonderful group of colleagues at GSA that have been waiting for this chance,

  • Greater Southwest Region 7 Administrator,  Scott Armey;
  • Jim King, Director of the GSA Southern Border Program;
  • and Tye Deberry, Senior Advisor to the Region 7 Administrator

But to succeed….

Maria Louisa…I need your help.  The BTA probably has thought longer and harder about how best to promote legitimate trade across our borders than any other organization in the nation.  You have also spearheaded the private sector to help build the new FAST Lanes at Nogales.  You understand this problem better than anyone.   And so I am asking you to develop a set of innovative ideas from the private sector that could help speed the normal process for building new capacity at our ports.  I need your ideas and best thinking and I would like you to come to Washington with your team to present those ideas to us.  I would hope you could do this in the next 60 days, if you could do it in 30 –so much the better. 

Can I count on you?
I know that we have other colleagues here from CBP too. Could you please stand?

And, I know that tomorrow you will hear from DHS, CBP and us visit—who’s here from DHS—could you please stand?

 9/11 taught us that the nation is vulnerable to terrorist attacks. Our colleagues at CBP are putting new resources and new thinking into improving security along the entire border.  We are going to need their wisdom and counsel too. 

GSA right now has 12 active border projects that have been funded for design or construction. That brings the total to more than $575 million worth of new construction projects underway or in the pipeline.  

We have some especially important pilot projects here in Texas the Donna-Rio Bravo U.S. port of entry in Donna, Texas.  I am very excited about this project and am committed to adopting many of the best practices from the success at Nogales to be able to complete the port at Donna, Texas years ahead of schedule

To be sure, federal money is an important resource. But I am eager to also explore other innovative financing that would help us build more capacity without always depending upon federal grants.  You showed us that when there is a strong business case, the private sector is willing and able to participate and I am very excited about the potential of public-private partnerships, like the one responsible for the success in Nogales. 

I would hope that the BTA could identify a pilot project along the border that could include private as well as public financing.  

These are exciting times.  We have an opportunity that will not come again to move forward.  Those of you in this room, both government and private sector, have already demonstrated that you have the “right stuff”.  Time now to set our sights a bit higher and commit ourselves to building new capacity along our borders faster, more efficiently, and at less cost.  We have a lot to do at GSA to make this all happen.

The border is a challenging and complex piece of real estate. we know there is not one, silver-bullet solution that can provide for security and, simultaneously, the free flow of trade across all 6,900 miles -- especially not if you’ve ever been to the border, as I have, and have seen how different the challenges are:  Holton isn’t El Paso, Pembina isn’t Andrade, Blaine is not Lukesville, Detroit’s not San Ysidro, and so on.

We need our best minds on this problem and I need your help.

You have a lot to do, too, so let me conclude by simply thanking you for all the help you have already provided.  The president often says that “sometimes the government can do most, by simply getting out of the way and letting the nation’s entrepreneurs do what they do best…”   (of course, since I’m also an entrepreneur, I think that gives me a bit of a pass)  so let me now get out of your way and let you get on with your conference…you have a report due in 60 days and I know you have a lot of work to do.
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Thank you and god bless.