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Bibb Addresses Federal Real Property Association Annual Conference and Awards Ceremony

As Prepared for Delivery

Remarks For
David Bibb
Deputy Administrator
U.S. General Services Administration (GSA)
Federal Real Property Association Annual Conference
October 18, 2006
Washington, DC
(Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center)

 

Thank you, Hillary [Johnson, FRPA President /Jones Lang LaSalle] for that nice introduction.

I always look forward to the “FRPA” annual conference.  It’s a bit like a class reunion—many familiar faces; time to catch up on what’s been happening since we last got together.  —but without all that high school reunion angst!

This conference also gives me the opportunity to recognize the work all of you do—in addition to your very demanding “real” jobs—in putting together this conference and managing this association.  You provide a forum where government and private sector representatives can share information and address real property issues in a collegial and collaborative way.  You also make this association a valuable resource for everyone working in the real property management community.

Let me briefly bring you up-to-date on a number of changes at GSA since we met a year ago.  First, as I’m sure you know, Lurita Doan was sworn in as the new GSA Administrator at the end of May.  That meant I could go back to wearing my Deputy Administrator hat full-time.

While planning for the new federal acquisition service has been underway for many months, it became truly official just a few days ago.  Congress passed and the President signed the bill authorizing the merger of GSA’s Federal Technology and Federal Supply Services into a single new organization—the Federal Acquisition Service.

The bill also permits the consolidation of GSA’s two funding vehicles into a single acquisition services fund.

Many factors led to the reorganization, including shifting customer needs, an evolution in how agencies acquire technology products and services, and a greater emphasis on GSA’s role in federal procurement.

Last Friday, Mrs. Doan completed the final round of official paperwork by signing the GSA order.   Also, as you may have heard, Jim Williams was named Commissioner of the new service in July.  He came to GSA from the US-Visit program at Homeland Security.  However, he’s not unfamiliar with GSA; he had worked at GSA earlier in his government career.

And a familiar name from GSA’s Office of Governmentwide Policy—Marty Wagner—has been appointed Deputy Commissioner for “FAS.”  Marty was Acting FAS Commissioner for several months and has been the acting Deputy Commissioner since Jim arrived.

Now let me fill you in a little bit on Mrs. Doan and her background.  She comes from a proud and long line of women entrepreneurs going back to her great grandmother who sold pralines to New Orleans businessmen after the civil war. 

Her roots go deep in New Orleans; her childhood home was in the ninth ward of New Orleans—and yes, it was destroyed in Hurricane Katrina.  Mrs. Doan is going back to New Orleans on Friday to participate in a “Preserve America Summit,” for which First Lady Laura Bush is the honorary chair.

About 16 years ago, Administrator Doan started her own technology company—with $25 and a handful of business cards printed at Kinko’s.  For the first three years, she was the company’s only employee.

When Mrs. Doan was growing her business, her company became a GSA Schedule-holder.  She credits the GSA Schedules with giving her company its first big break in getting work with the government—as a sub-contractor to a much larger high-tech firm.

Mrs. Doan’s company specialized in security and border surveillance technology.  When she sold the company in 2005, it held about $200 million in federal contracts.

By her own admission, Mrs. Doan remains an “unabashed entrepreneur,” and she brings that same energy and enthusiasm to her position at GSA every day.  She also comes with a deep commitment to expanding opportunities for small businesses to participate in government contracting.

Mrs. Doan sees GSA the premier source of cost-effective, timely, and compliant property management and government procurement.  If I had to summarize Mrs. Doan’s priorities, I would suggest the following:

  1. Re-establishing GSA as the pre-eminent procurement agency for the federal government;
  2. Putting the customer at the center of all GSA business transactions;
  3. Maintaining the highest standards of ethics and integrity in
    everything we do at GSA;
  4. Ensuring the agency’s financial stability and returning GSA’s technology offerings to profitability;
  5. Facilitating opportunities for small businesses to participate in government contracting;
  6. Providing best value for GSA customers and cost-savings for the American taxpayer;
  7. measuring quantitatively and achieving agency performance goals; and,
  8. Being financially accountable.

Now let me talk a little bit about the topic at hand—federal real property management.  I know my colleagues from PBS and OGP have covered several relevant topics in detail in earlier sessions.

However, Fiscal Year 2006 was a very successful year for GSA in terms of real property management, and I’d like to just touch on some of the highlights:

  • Under Commissioner David Winstead’s leadership, GSA’s Public Buildings Service was able to announce, in August 2006, a reduction in the leasing fees GSA charges federal customer agencies.  Beginning in fiscal year 2008, the fee for most leased space will drop from 8 to 7 percent.  Unique space will see a drop from 6 percent to 5 percent.
  • New online leasing tools and other technologies, as well as a restructured PBS workforce, have provided greater efficiencies for GSA, enabling the agency to reduce its fees and save additional monies for taxpayers.
  • OGP’s Stan Kaczmarczyk has provided outstanding leadership for the Federal Real Property Council in implementing executive order 13327.
  • One of its major milestones, reached in December 2005—was completion of the first-ever comprehensive inventory of all federal real property assets.  The Governmentwide database contains data on over 1.2 million assets.
  • With the new-found ability to more accurately identify inefficient or under-used properties, GSA alone successfully disposed of 29 assets in fiscal year 2005, totaling $12 million. 
  • While I don’t like to boast!—this accomplishment made GSA the first agency across government to attain a score of “green” for the new “Real Property Asset Management” measure on the President’s Management Agenda Scorecard.  More recently, three additional agencies—NASA, the Department of State, and the Veterans Administration—have attained a score of green for this measure.
  • On the matter of retention of money from GSA property sales—GSA’s proceeds from property sales totaled $51.9 million in fiscal year 2006.
  • Finally, The National Broker Contracts, e-lease, and other tools have increased the efficiency of GSA leasing operations and contributed to GSA’s ability to reduce fees.  The National Broker Contracts also free GSA staff from time-consuming leasing transaction details and allows us to work as strategic partners with the private sector and customer agencies. 

With the greater freedom provided by the broker contracts, GSA staff have been able to devote greater attention to a subject I think is of vital importance—that is the workplace itself.  I was going to say “the workplace of the future,” but in reality “the future is now.”

GSA is about to release a new book entitled “Workplace Matters.”  In fact, I have in my hand the very first copy, and it just came off the press a few hours ago.  In this case, “hot off the presses,” is literally true!

The reason for the book is a growing acknowledgement that the workplace is a tool that contributes significantly to an organization’s ability to carry out its mission.

  • There are a number of reasons for this evolution in how we regard the spaces in which we work. 
  • A changing—younger—workforce;
  • An increased understanding about how the workplace can be used as a business tool; and
  • The changing nature of work itself.

For some of us who started our government careers a few years ago in offices with grey metal desks and files, no windows for anyone below a GS-15, and one electrical outlet allotted per occupant—that can be a startling concept.

Scientific research studies over several years have documented the link between physical infrastructure and organizational performance.

Experts now believe workplace design should focus on the people and the work they do, because the cost of people in a building is generally 10 to 12 times the cost of the building’s infrastructure.

This book is the outcome of a GSA program launched in 2002 called “Workplace 2020.”  The program provided the laboratory to develop and test techniques that would help GSA’s clients treat office space, workplace technologies, and work processes as integrated systems.

Our book provides a series of case studies on actual workplaces created for GSA Regional Offices and some federal agencies that incorporate the principles of “workplace matters.”  These pilot projects range from small customer service centers to large, multi-building sites.

Let me show you just a few quick PowerPoint that illustrate some “workplace matters” concepts.

  • For the Coast Guard in Oakland, California:
    Bullpen workstations support the needs of highly interactive groups, and enable departments to share resources.
  • For our Mid-Atlantic Regional Office in Philadelphia:
    A data network access center shows how a historic space—in this case, the old John Wanamaker Department Store—can be adapted to contemporary needs.
  • For our Rocky Mountain Regional Office in Denver, which is housed in an old munitions factory:
    The “p.i.t.” (which stands for “people interacting together”) was designed as a space that could reduce work stress and provide an informal gathering place for GSA employees.  A skylight changed it from a dark interior recess to a favorite place for informal meetings.
    Employees raised the money for the athletic equipment by running bake sales and other fundraising activities.
  • For the Department of Energy in Richland, Washington:
    The architect’s sketch shows the planned transformation of cloistered offices off a tunnel-like hallway into open, interactive workspaces.
  • The Customer Service Center in San Antonio:
    -The curving walls of the conference room reflect San Antonio’s River Walk.
    -The availability of natural light is a high priority in most of the pilot projects.   Tempered glass is used for spaces that require privacy, but still desire some natural light.
  • In the Pacific Rim Region, GSA Offices in Auburn, Washington:
    -Small, enclosed meeting rooms are used when quiet or confidentiality are required.
    -The open coffee area is used for casual conversations or brief, informal meetings.
  • And, last, a favorite of mine—Grand Teton National Park Headquarters in Jackson Hole:
    -The spectacular Grand Tetons are right outside this building, but the building has no windows.  Instead, super enlarged photos replicate the exact view as it would appear if park employees on the second floor could look out of windows.

In some ways, the changes architects and behavioral scientists are recognizing in the workplace are comparable to—although not necessarily the same as —the technology advances that led to the creation of the federal acquisition service.

No—we’re not going to reorganize the Public Buildings Service again!  but “workplace matters” reshapes the way we look at and think about organizations and the spaces in which they work.  Implementation of concepts described in the book’s case studies could change—in fact, are changing—the way government customers configure their space—in much the same way as technology is driving new approaches to how we work in the 21st century.

I wish we had more time to spend on this topic—because the evolving perception of workspace is truly exciting and potentially “life-changing” in terms of how the government builds.  I urge all of you to read this book when multiple copies become available.  That should be soon.

I want to thank you for giving me this opportunity to join you today and to participate in the conference.

I would be happy to answer questions.  However, I have noted that the last item on your agenda is the reception.  We are very close to that time, and after two days of meetings, you may be eager to get to that part of the program!

However you would like to proceed—I am at your disposal.  I’m available to answer questions—now or later—and to assist Hillary [Johnson] in the awards ceremony.