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Phelps Speaks on GSA Efforts to Assist Service-Disabled Small Business Owners

As prepared for delivery

Remarks by
John Phelps
Chief of Staff
U.S. General Services Administration
“Veteran Businesses on the Rise”
Albuquerque, New Mexico

October 5, 2006


Thank you very much, Larry.

Congresswoman (Heather) Wilson …

Ladies and gentlemen …

Good afternoon. It’s great to be here with you in Albuquerque on behalf of the U.S. General Services Administration.

GSA Administrator Lurita Doan could not make our conference, but wanted you to know that she is fully and unequivocally committed to increasing federal contracting opportunities for businesses owned by our nation’s veterans and service-disabled vets.

That is why I’m here. That is why two of our GSA Regional Administrators are here: Larry Trujillo of the Rocky Mountain Region and Scott Armey of GSA’s Greater Southwest Region. And that is why several of our important state and federal agency partners are here. Small business experts in this room from agencies such as the Department of Veterans Affairs, Small Business Administration, Minority Business Development Agency, and Department of Homeland Security – to name but a few – will help you navigate – and hopefully penetrate – the federal marketplace. Another individual who can help is Felipe Mendoza, Associate Administrator of GSA’s Office of Small Business Utilization.

As a citizen and army veteran … as the son of a Vietnam vet … and as the brother of a soldier on active duty at Fort Bragg, I’m honored to be part of this effort.  It’s the right thing to do for those who have put the nation’s security before their own lives. As president bush has said, that sacrifice creates a debt that our country can never fully repay.  This work also honors our brave forces fighting right this moment against terrorism in Iraq and other parts of the world.  More than 2,700 service men and women have died in Iraq; more than 11,000 have been wounded and returned to duty. And more than 9,000 have been wounded so severely, they could not return to active duty.

Trying to repay the debt the president speaks of is not only appropriate, it’s also good for the nation. When we help qualified small businesses succeed, we help create jobs, and we help provide federal agencies with the products and services they need to perform their core missions.

My advice to you small business owners is simple: take full advantage of the experts assembled here today. Ask questions. Don’t go home without answers that will boost your odds of winning federal contracting opportunities.

Our Administrator, incidentally, comes from the world of small business, and was a GSA schedule holder before she became head of the agency. What might also be of interest is that Administrator Doan is: 

- The granddaughter of a buffalo soldier,
- The daughter of a World War II and Korean War vet,
- The sister of an army veteran,
- And the wife of a retired army officer.

Her grandfather fought in France as a First Lieutenant in the 92nd Infantry Division under General John Pershing. He was the victim of a mustard gas attack during the Meuse-Argonne offensive and suffered wounds that plagued him the rest of his life.

Lurita is the fourth generation of black entrepreneurs who started businesses, going back to her great grandmother, who sold pralines in New Orleans. Her grandmother strongly believed that education was the gateway to a better life. She began a business school that trained black women to be legal secretaries during the Teddy Roosevelt Administration, a time when women didn’t even have the right to vote. And her Dad also ran several small businesses.

My point is that she knows what all of you know, that running a business is backbreaking work, and there’s no guarantee of success.

She and our agency also know that the small businesses across our nation embody the energy and creativity that have made America great. Small business leaders know the importance of customer focus, of decisive and timely decision-making, and how to transform an organization to best meet the needs of customers.

So when we help you, we help ourselves. When we tap into your energy, creativity, and decisiveness, we help GSA fulfill its mission of helping other federal agencies better serve the public by offering superior products and services at best value.

When GSA expands economic opportunities for service-disabled veterans, we are drawing on men and women who know teamwork, discipline, cooperation and mission accomplishment. All of those traits are essential for succeeding in business.  Now, one of our administrator’s favorite sayings is, facta non verba.  That’s Latin for, deeds, not words. So let me talk a few minutes about our deeds.  When President Bush signed Executive Order 13360, GSA, like all the other agencies, was given certain marching orders.  Section IV of the Executive Order says the GSA Administrator shall:

1 – establish a government-wide acquisition contract reserved for participation by service-disabled veteran businesses …

2 – and assist service-disabled veteran businesses to be included in Federal Supply Schedules.

GSA has established the Veterans In Procurement (VIP) Initiative, an aggressive outreach program to assist vets in getting a GSA schedule, and a government-wide information technology acquisition contract devoted entirely to VIP businesses. This contract, the Vets Government-wide Acquisition Contract (GWAC), has a potential value of $5 billion. (will be awarded some time after October 1, 2006, the start of the government’s 2007 fiscal year.)

Let me explain where we are on the GWAC … the original award date – June 1, 2006 – was postponed until October due to a pre-award protest to the government accountability office. GAO denied the protest on August 22nd.

We were on target to meet the award date, but a few things have set us back.

As you may know, all interested parties were sent pre-award notifications on August 26th, as required by regulation. This notification allows the opportunity to challenge the size status or service disabled status of any of the potential awardees. Challenges have been received and were referred to the Small Business Administration for resolution.  All SBA responses were due by October 1st. (SBA may request an extension) SBA decisions may be appealed to the SBA office of hearings and appeals. One protest has been lodged with the GAO, and GSA’s regional counsel has sent GAO a motion to dismiss. We are still awaiting the GAO’s decision.  Hopefully this will be resolved quickly.
 
Meanwhile, GSA is committed to increasing the number of VIP businesses qualified by GSA to sell to government agencies. Once a VIP business is qualified, we add it to a GSA contractor list, the multiple award schedules, which lists businesses certified to market to all government agencies, a $260 billion market.  Our work is producing results:

  • In three years, GSA increased the number of VIP businesses seven-fold.
  • VIP businesses more than doubled their government-wide business, thanks to being listed on GSA’s schedules. Sales jumped to $660 million in 2005, up from $120 million in 2004.
  • VIP businesses almost doubled their billings to GSA to $103 million in 2005, up from $65 million in 2004.
  • GSA has distributed 7,000 copies of a brochure with interactive cds to federal agencies and VIP businesses. The brochure – is your agency doing its part for veterans? —describes the VIP initiative and offers tips on how to buy from VIP businesses.
  • GSA’s VIP outreach program has conferences scheduled in four cities this year and already has held conferences in nine cities. We work in partnership with the Department of Veterans Affairs and the Small Businesses Administration.

Deeds, not words.

That’s not to say we’re satisfied – we’re not – or that there isn’t plenty more work ahead – there is. Administrator Doan has challenged our management team to continue planning and aggressively implementing additional steps as part of this initiative. She has also pledged to significantly reduce the time and simplify the process of getting a GSA schedule.

In taking these steps, GSA is also helping other agencies meet president bush’s directive to award at least 3 percent of their contract dollars to small businesses owned by service disabled veterans.

By the way, GSA’s web site, www.gsa.gov/service-disabled , gets you to information on processes and procedures related to doing business with the federal government. The web site also provides links to other agencies.

GSA will continue doing its part to ensure that federal contracting opportunities are available to our nation’s veterans. Do your part by making sure you’re ready to step up when those opportunities come knocking.

Thank you very much.