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Chief of Staff Phelps Highlights GSA Efforts on Behalf of Service-Disabled Veteran Business Owners

As prepared for delivery


Remarks by
John Phelps
Chief of Staff
U.S. General Services Administration
4th Annual Veterans Business Symposium
Elyria, Ohio
November 14, 2006

 

Thank you very much, Lt. Col. Michael Hoskin, for that kind introduction. My thanks as well to:

-  The Northern Ohio Procurement Technical Assistance Center;
-  Lorain County Community College;
-  GSA’s agency partners, especially the U.S. Small Business Administration  and Department of Veterans Affairs;
-  Dennis DeMolet, chair of the SBA Advisory Committee for Veterans Business Affairs and head of DeMolet Consulting; and
-  TEAM GSA, especially Thomas F. Brown and Anthony Outley.

Ladies and gentlemen, I’m very pleased to be here just five days after Veteran’s Day.

I’m also very pleased to work for an Administrator who not only values veterans, but who backs up her appreciation with action. Lurita Doan is the granddaughter of a Buffalo soldier, the daughter of a World War II vet and a Korean War vet, the sister of an Army vet, and the wife of a retired Army officer.

She believes, as President Bush has said, that, “In answering history’s call with honor, decency and resolve, our veterans have shown the power of liberty and earned the respect of a grateful nation.”

I, too, am a veteran. I was in the United States Army for nearly 25 years, serving as Chief of Staff for Army Legal Services Agency and Professor and Assistant Department Head for Administration in the Department of Law at West Point. Before becoming GSA Chief of Staff in early July, I was Chief Operating Officer of the American Red Cross. Previously, I was Deputy Director of the Arizona Office of Homeland Security.

I didn’t know that much about GSA before I got there in July, but each day I’m learning more. In a nutshell, GSA may be the biggest federal agency you never heard of! We have more than 12,000 employees in 11 Regional offices around the nation. Our two largest organizations are the Public Buildings Service (PBS) and the new Federal Acquisition Service (FAS). All told, GSA is the catalyst for nearly $66 billion in annual federal spending. That’s more than one-fourth of the government’s total procurement dollars. GSA also influences the management of federal assets that amount to $500 billion. These assets include an interagency fleet of 190,000 vehicles and 8,300 government-owned or leased buildings.

Something else most don’t know is that GSA plays a huge role after national emergencies. Administrator Doan, who is from New Orleans and whose childhood home was destroyed by Hurricane Katrina, wants us to be even faster and stronger in responding to disasters, and has just created a new GSA Office of Emergency Response and Recovery. I am acting chief of the new office, and look forward to the challenge of building our response capabilities.

In fact, GSA has provided a staggering number of goods and services to areas ravaged by Katrina – over $1 billion for equipment, services and supplies. What may be of particular interest to this audience is that 47 percent of the total was awarded to small businesses.

Now, we know that one item always in high demand after a hurricane is generators. That leads me to a quick success story I’d like to share, one I think might prove inspiring for all of you who’d like to do business with the government.

In 1999, two brothers, Jim and Robert Jablonski – both veterans, one a service-disabled vet – began their own small business in Michigan. “Small business” might be an exaggeration. They sold generators from their garage.

But they were persistent.  They stuck with it and built up the business, eventually adding highway signs and other products to the inventory. This year, Millennium Products will do – are you ready? – about $3 million dollars worth of business. Next year, they could hit $5 million. Talk to Jim – and I hope you will – both he and Robert are here today – and he’ll tell you that a major key to the firm’s success was getting on the GSA schedule.

Once they got a GSA contract, they began selling to the military. They’ve even sold some generators to the White House. Jim says one key was their passion for success. Another key was a great GSA specialist in Fort Worth, Texas who helped walk them through the process when they were just getting started.

The good news for all of you is that more help is available today than when the Jablonskis began six years ago. Today’s event is just one example. But heed Jim’s advice. He says you can’t be afraid of the process. He says you have to put your nose down and go through the middle of the line.

That said, GSA is trying to do more to boost your chances for business opportunities with the government. As you know, several laws and an executive order are now on the books and helping to push agencies to award at least 3 percent of their contracting dollars to firms owned by service-disabled vendors. GSA leadership played an integral part in drafting the executive order.

As I said, GSA influences the spending of some $66 billion annually. The diverse goods and services we provide to our client agencies – including everything from IT to real estate services – may translate to opportunities for small firms wanting to do business with federal agencies. As the government’s premier procurement agency, GSA is a natural entry point for entrepreneurs wanting to do business with the government. That of course includes firms owned by service-disabled vets.

GSA has almost doubled the percentage of dollars spent with service disabled veteran owned small businesses. A few stats to consider:

  • Volume rose from .55 percent in FY 04 to 1.046 percent in FY 05. And it is at 1.3 percent through the third quarter for FY 06.
  • Dollars spent rose 56 percent, from $65 million in FY 04 to $103 million in FY 05.
  • As a broker of business with the federal government via the Federal Supply Schedules, GSA has increased opportunities with service-disabled firms five-fold.
  • Dollars spent on schedule purchase with service-disabled firms rose from $120 million in FY 04 to $660 million in FY 05, and is on trend to exceed $720 million in FY 06. That’s three quarters of a billion dollars!
  • Schedule holders rose from 96 in may 2003 to 729 as of September 2006. That’s a seven-and-a-half fold increase in three years.
  • For Fiscal Year 2006, GSA spent over $4.4 billion in procuring goods and services. Of that amount, 35 percent – $1.5 billion – went to small business, with $511 million going to small disadvantaged businesses. In addition, GSA awarded $265 million in contracting to small women-owned businesses, $218 million to HUBZone businesses, and $73 million to service-disabled, veteran-owned businesses.

What else are we doing? GSA and the Center for Veterans Enterprise have published a “Veterans Business Toolkit” with information about doing business with the federal government. We also have national and regional outreach plans for conferences, seminars, classes, collateral materials, and web upgrades.  GSA has held or will hold an outreach conference in each of our 11 Regions. To date, we’ve conducted conferences with the VA and SBA in New York, Albuquerque, Atlanta, and Boston.

Another very important item is also looming. The addition of the VETS GWAC when announced will provide up to $5 billion worth of opportunity over the next 10 years. In the federal IT market – estimated to be $65 billion annually and growing – we expect agencies to use veteran-owned businesses more and more to meet their 3 percent goal.

In sum, GSA is proud to be a part of the continuing effort to assist those who fought for freedom. Administrator Doan has challenged the GSA management team to continue planning and aggressively implementing steps to meet the 3 percent target. We know there is still much work ahead. GSA has done a wonderful job in supplying our troops in Iraq and elsewhere around the globe with the goods and services they need to fight the war on terror. We will continue to provide that level of superior service, just as we will put maximum effort into increasing federal contracting opportunities for small businesses owned by veterans and service-disabled veterans.

When GSA expands economic opportunities for veterans, we are drawing on men and women who know teamwork, discipline, cooperation and mission accomplishment. Each of those traits is essential for business success.

Plus, it happens to be the right thing to do.

Thank you very much.