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Doan Helps Honor Top Achievers at Coalition Dinner

As prepared for delivery

Remarks By
Lurita A. Doan
Administrator
U.S. General Services Administration
Excellence In Partnership Awards Dinner 
November 13, 2006

Thank you, Jim, for that kind introduction.

I am so fortunate tonight to have the GSA Regional Administrators here with me.  We arranged our quarterly meeting to coincide with tonight’s event, and I’d like for them to all stand up. 

The business that we do at GSA, for the most part, is performed in the 11 regions that span the US and overseas.  The regions work closely with our customers, both in the government and in the business community.  Our success would not be possible without their tireless efforts, so let’s give them a round of applause.

Thank you for all you do for GSA every single day.

What an exciting time…what a true delight to be here with you. 

You know there is a reason why the first group that I meet with after being confirmed as the Administrator was the Coalition for Government Procurement.
 
While many like to talk about transformational change, few know what it really means.  Even fewer know how to achieve it.  And ---- only a tiny, tiny portion of those, have done it successfully.  

I have been blessed in my life to be part of transformational change and there is nothing quite as exhilarating as being part of a bold, new way of doing things that keeps what is good while simultaneously sweeping away the old that does not work, replacing it with something far improved.

In November of 1989, I was a struggling entrepreneur leading a company of one person (me) and had finally secured a subcontract. 

I was asked to go to an Army post in Berlin and help install a new computer system…I know they had asked every other sub to go, but no one was willing.

I also knew it was a chance I needed to prove myself, and so off I went.  And what an experience it was!

Right after I got to Berlin and started working, the whole city just went nuts. As you may know, the Cold War ended, and thousands of Berliners on both sides of the Berlin Wall began to systematically demolish the wall. 

Now THIS was change!  And, I had the great fortune to be right in the middle of it all.

Now I know what you are thinking.  Perhaps this would have been a good time to take a few pictures and stay politely out of the way, right?   Especially since I didn’t speak German.
 
Well,...instead for 1 Deutsche Mark,  I rented a hammer and chisel and gleefully started banging away at the Berlin Wall. 

Let me tell you something else about transformational change. 

It is always, always, ALWAYS much harder than it looks.  Change requires effort.  It takes strength. 

I hit that wall about a 100 times before I saw even the slightest dent.  But with persistence and an aching arm, I finally broke off a chunk of the Berlin Wall.

When I look out at all of you tonight, I see that exact same ‘can-do’ American spirit, and it is a pleasure to join with you to honor some of the people that have broken down other walls and barriers. 

I want to particularly thank LARRY ALLEN AND PAUL CAGGIANO, two people who are dedicated to improving the federal procurement system, and we ought to recognize that right now…

I want to add my personal thanks to Larry and Paul, who have helped me at GSA with wise counsel and timely advice. 

My door is always open to both of you and the coffee is always on.  Its not very good coffee, but it is always on.

As I said, the first group that I met with after Senate Confirmation was THE COALITION FOR GOVERNMENT PROCUREMENT. 

I knew then that there were fundamental problems with the federal procurement system that at long last had to be confronted. 

I also knew that I was about to commit GSA to picking up a hammer and starting to bang away at the barriers to improved performance and start realizing taxpayer savings that were are so desperately needed. 

I am happy to report that we are making some progress too:
If you recall, one of the first things I told you is that we were going to get serious about improving the schedules program and make it easier for small businesses to apply for and receive a schedule. 

For most small businesses, the GSA schedule is their first opportunity to market their goods and services to federal agencies.  These small companies are also the ones producing the most innovative solutions and products. 

So if it takes too long for them to get on the schedule, the government is being hurt because we do not have access to the products and services that are in greatest demand.   GSA needed to speed the process. 

Today, I am happy to tell you that we have been banging away at this since our last meeting and the average amount of time it takes to apply for and receive a GSA schedule has been cut almost in half to 91 days—there are even a few regions that are doing it in 45 days. 

So, I know that this goal is achievable, and we are going to keep working on it.  My arm is not yet tired and I will keep hammering away until we can do it in 30 days.

GSA has also recently completed our most transformational reorganization in its history.   

Overlapping and redundant operations have been streamlined, needless bureaucracy has been cut and new fresh energy and leadership has arrived. 

You may not yet be seeing the results, but I am quite confident that as a result of the legislation recently signed by President Bush, GSA is going to be able to fundamentally improve federal procurements and bring significant savings to taxpayers. 

How do I know this? 

Easy,

Take a look at what else is going on and you will see that GSA just overhauled our financial system and for the first time in quite a while, received a CLEAN AUDIT from OMB. 

Put another way, our financials are now in order, we can measure the costs more accurately and, with greater precision than ever before, we can now start squeezing efficiencies in order to save taxpayers on all goods and services procured by the federal government.

With the return of a clean audit, GSA has demonstrated that we have significantly improved our internal control processes, and set the standard for other federal agencies.  

Now it is time to take on other tasks and leverage our new abilities, organization and leadership to fundamentally improve the federal acquisition system. These are indeed exciting times.

And that is why I am here today. 

GSA is hungry for new ideas and is now better able to quickly implement best practices than at any time in our history.  And here is the fun part…you are the architects of those best practices. 

You have helped pull down barriers to better federal procurement and have developed entrepreneurial ways of solving old problems.

Well done. 

In a few minutes you will get a nice award for all your efforts. 

But let me tell you right now, there is another honor that you are about to receive that you did not expect.

Please e-mail me at lurita.doan@gsa.gov with your ideas for positive change. This sharing of ideas is a type of sacred trust between you and me.  You take a chance, share your idea, and I will respect your forthrightness and have my folks evaluate it, and if warranted, try to make it a reality.

And that is, GSA is going to take your great ideas; we are going to share your examples and let others know what can be achieved with hard work, determination, and the right person with sledgehammer in her hands.

There has, for too long, been a barrier between GSA and our closest allies, the business community.  That has to end now.

I learned a lot about transformational change from the Berlin Wall.   I learned that walls crumble, barriers can be broken, and I am confident that we will do it together.

Thank you.