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Chief of Staff Phelps Helps Open New Fema Facility

As prepared for delivery

Remarks by
John Phelps
Chief of Staff
U.S. General Services Administration
Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Disaster Operations Center
Winchester, VA
April 8, 2008


Thank you, Tom.

Administrator Doan regrets not being able to attend today’s ceremony. She asked me to express her gratitude to everyone involved in taking this much-needed facility from sketchpad to reality.


I understand that for many of you, this has been a long time coming and is a dream come true. And I bet none of you will miss that trek up the mountain every day to report to work!!  On the other hand, you’re going to miss those gorgeous mountain views.  From a broader perspective, the dynamic partnership between FEMA and GSA has long benefited our nation. Your efforts provide citizens with a lifeline, and GSA provides the rafts, so to speak. 

At our end, GSA’s Office of Emergency Response and Recovery coordinates with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and FEMA to provide support to other federal agencies when there is a presidential declaration of disaster.  We are dedicated and -- thanks to Administrator Doan --better prepared than at any other time in the history of the agency to respond to national emergencies.  That does not mean there isn’t any more room for improvement.

As a matter of fact, Administrator Doan just spoke at the National Logistics Coordination forum hosted by GSA in Washington, D.C.. Some of you may have been there. Don’t forget that event, for I believe that forum marked the beginning of a critical joint venture between GSA, FEMA, state and local governments, and our private industry partners.

All of us are part of the team that will spring into action when the next man-made or natural disaster strikes.

There was flooding recently in Arkansas, I believe in February of this year, and GSA facilitated the joint field office. But overall it was a very well coordinated effort between local, state and federal agencies.

So whether it’s the fires in California or hurricane response, coastal storms or tornadoes. earthquakes or mudslides, GSA is a key federal partner in getting supplies and equipment to the areas in need.

It nearly goes without saying that the more we achieve as a team, the better prepared we’ll be for the next natural disaster, accident or terrorist attack.

 

In the words of Administrator Doan, our job is to combine the unique strengths and abilities of all key players and create the best disaster response team the world has ever seen.

Having a suitable workplace … no, let me amend that. Having a superior, state-of-the-art workplace … is critical to FEMA being able to fulfill its mission of service to the American people.

Of course it takes the skill and commitment of many individuals and organizations to get us to a day like today. Let me take a moment to acknowledge:

  • FEMA Administrator David Paulison and the entire FEMA team;
  • GSA Component Project Manager Doug Dooling and the rest of team GSA;
  • The developer: Cowperwood Inc;
  • And the many other parties responsible for helping us get nearly 600 FEMA employees moved out of a badly outdated facility and into this magnificent new workplace.

All of you have contributed to a superb facility that you can be proud of, and that we will proudly maintain for many years to come.

Such work speaks to the precise reason GSA was first created – to provide the supplies, services and world-class workspace other agencies need so they can stay focused on their core missions.

Since this is what we do every day, we feel GSA is perfectly positioned to step up during times of national emergency.  Let me give you a few examples:

  • Our Federal Acquisition Service provides DHS with everything from telecommunications services to emergency supplies for FEMA after a disaster.
    Through our new Emergency Response Office:
  • Our fleet managers get vehicles to agents who need to hit the ground and travel to the devastated areas;
  • Our logistics folks make sure that supplies are properly routed. And we now have a quick reference list of vendors who can deliver fast.
  • The telecommunications team makes sure that recovery workers are able to communicate.
  • GSA realty specialists find emergency workspace and provide joint field offices.

I could go on, but you get the point. We’re proud of the role we play in times of national disaster. And we’re proud of this facility.  This workplace enables a critical element: the ability to be better prepared beforehand. 

As you enjoy your new offices, please remember we are not here today and gone tomorrow. My boss and all of us at GSA are committed to ensuring that this great facility remains in tip-top shape so that you can concentrate on the critical service you perform for our nation.

Thanks very much.