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Administrator Doan Honors Vets; Urges Agencies to Use GSA VETS GWAC

As prepared for delivery


Remarks by
Lurita A. Doan
Administrator
U.S. General Services Administration
Vets GWAC Call to Duty
Washington, DC
June 21, 2007

 

Thank you very much, Jim (Ghiloni).  This morning, I was so moved by the National Anthem--- sung so beautifully by GSA’s own, Mary Millben, and the phrase: “Land of the free and home of the brave.”

I love it when someone can hit the high note on “land of the free” as Mary did.  It brought tears to my eyes because  first, Mary has a beautiful voice and second, because I can never hear that phrase “land of the free” and not give thanks for those who made that possible – namely, each and every one of you here in this room today.

I love this country.  And I love the life I get to live in this country.  But, without the sacrifices, over so many decades, by so many men and women, who were willing to give their lives to defend our American way of life --– my life --- the superior quality of my life, would not have been possible.  And, for your willingness to sacrifice, for me and for the countless others whom you have never met, let me say ---- thank you.

Today’s event is a celebration of an idea conceived and achieved by GSA, a thought that became reality and is now enhancing business opportunities for small technology firms owned by service-disabled vets.  We’re very pleased so far with the performance of our new acquisition vehicle. It’s opening doors for our small, vet-owned tech firms, and it’s helping federal agencies achieve their small business goals.

But much more needs to be done.

It is my hope that all agency heads will strongly support this contract vehicle as a way of achieving their service-disabled veteran targets, and I will be contacting each and every one of them to ask for their support.  DoD and the VA have already issued letters of support, and we were fortunate to have Deputy Secretary Gordon Mansfield here this morning and Charles Cervantes and Tony Martoccia from DoD here with us this afternoon.  Last week, GSA trained contracting personnel at the Department of State in the use of the GSA Vets GWAC, and I am very hopeful that the State Department will start to use the vehicle in the upcoming months.

As we approach the Fourth of July, while parades and speeches are important, we all know that honoring those who served is more about deeds than words. I hope the Vets GWAC and some other initiatives we have underway – including conferences like this one - demonstrate that GSA’s season of remembrance is a year-round commitment.

There are many here today who share a passion for honoring the Americans who, throughout history, have placed their own happiness and well-being second to our national security. That certainly includes our military men and women serving today in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere to advance the cause of freedom.

We owe them a debt that can never be fully repaid, but we’re trying, and this effort to assist vet-owned businesses is one example. So, let me take a moment to acknowledge:

  • the Honorable Gordon H. Mansfield, Deputy Secretary of Veterans Affairs, who was kind enough to join us this morning;
  • Lieutenant Colonel Jim Blanco, who runs the Army’s Service-Disabled Business Initiative;
  • Charles Cervantes, head of the Defense Department’s Service-Disabled Business Program;
  • Tony Martoccia, Office of Small and Disadvantaged Business at DoD.
  • Scott Denniston, Director of the VA Office of Small Business and Director of the Center for Veterans Enterprise;
  • and the many GSA employees who have spearheaded our agency efforts on this front:
  • Federal Acquisition Service Commissioner, Jim Williams;
  • my Chief of Staff,  John Phelps;
  • Heartland Regional Administrator Brad Scott;
  • and all other key members of the team, including:
  • John Johnson, Assistant Commissioner for Integrated Technology Services;
  • Jim Ghiloni, Acting Director, GWAC Programs;
  • Tom Brown, Regional Marketing Manager;
  • Mary Parks, Director of our Small Business GWAC Center in Kansas City. (unfortunately Mary couldn’t be with us today).
  • and Matt Verhulst, Vets GWAC, from Region 6

Please rise and let us give you a round of applause.   Thank you.   Let me also thank these other folks from GSA Region 6 who have made the success of the Vets GWAC possible—

  • Jean Oyler;
  • Lewis Jones;
  • Jihyun Huyck;
  • and Lori Hanavan.

also, the events team has done a great job putting together today’s event—

  • Harry Butler;
  • Angie Machen;
  • Liz  Owens;
  • and Pat Shaw.

and a host of others from Harry’s team, Gallagher and Gallagher, our events contractor:

  • Daisy Gallagher;
  • Victoria E. Igoumenaki;
  • and Maha Makhan.

Thanks so much.

Now, the second reason I’m feeling good is because this event is also a training conference.

Vendors should walk away with a lot more knowledge about how Federal agencies plan and manage their I-T investment portfolios, as well as how to market your goods and services to the government.

That’s a subject I know a little about, because before I was GSA Administrator, I was a GSA contractor.  So I feel tied to all of you by a military bond as well as the small business experience.  I’ve had a small business and I can assure you, there is probably no struggle that I did not also experience. 

And, like each and every one of you, every now and again, I made mistakes.  In fact, if there is anyone in this audience who has never made any kind of mistake, then most likely, you’re a very fortunate business owner, or else a business owner without a contract.  We are none of us perfect.  I believe that what counts in life is how you respond afterwards, how you make things right, how you learn from the experience, how you put processes in place to do better and make sure the error doesn’t happen again, and how you return more value than expected to your customer.

But I don’t let the mistakes stop me from trying to do more, or from trying to improve. And as you may have heard me say before, there is no process that cannot be improved.  What I do is write them off ------as continuing education costs in the university we all know -- the school of hard knocks.

My best skill is that I don’t know how to give up—now sometimes that’s a good thing and sometimes not, but I think it is an invaluable skill when it comes to the government contracting arena.  For example, the very best time to make your next sales call is after someone has just told you  -- no --- that’s because you have no where to go but up!

And this kind of perseverance is important because GSA counts on you to market this contract vehicle to the government customers.  We will work with you to convince government customers to use the Vets GWAC, but it will take both GSA and you, working together, to succeed.

That brings me to the tough love part of my remarks. Between President Bush’s Executive Order, the GSA Vets GWAC and other initiatives, the government has begun doing its part. You, too, have some responsibility. I asked our front-line experts what common errors they’re seeing by potential vendors, and what advice they’d give to companies trying to do business with the government. Here’s some of what they said:

- Don’t make “service-disabled” your calling card. Instead, focus on your ability to fulfill the requirement at best value and include your service-disabled status as an added benefit.  The GWAC award process included a rigorous technical evaluation, so the awardees are among the most highly qualified service-disabled firms in the land.

- Instead of saying, "we do good work," prove that quality and on-time delivery are central to your business.

Explain your quality assurance procedures and show your credentials.

- Instead of saying, "I know my trade; I've been in business for 20 years,” explain how you’ve made your business more efficient and produce a list of satisfied customers from the 20-year span. 

- Compartmentalize your responses—have them ready to go, in the event that our government customer has a short turn around. For example, have your reps & certs, or your references and even descriptions of various types of tasks you’ve done previously all ready to go, with the same header, the same font, so pages are interchangeable.  Have the cover letter formatted and ready to be customized.  Then, you’ll be able to respond to task orders that have quick turn-around times, and you won’t have to miss out on those bidding opportunities.

- Be sure to list the Small Business GWAC Center in the customer outreach section when marketing your company and the Vets GWAC.

Let us, at GSA, know when you have a customer who just needs a bit of convincing that the Vets GWAC is the right vehicle, and we’ll be happy to help by speaking with the customer.

- The center provides customer education free of charge and will be able to quickly explain how to use the vehicle. Oftentimes this government-to-government communication is invaluable.

We’re going to continue doing our part to ensure that federal contracting opportunities are available to our nation’s veterans.

Please do your part making sure you’re ready to step up when those opportunities come knocking.

Let me thank you in advance for the great work you’re going to perform for our government customers.  Thank you again for coming to today’s event.  And thank you very much for letting me speak today.