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Fleet Managers Taking Winds of Change in Stride

As prepared for delivery.

Remarks By
Barney L. Brasseux
Deputy Administrator
U.S. General Services Administration
FedFleet 2009
Chicago, Illinois
July 28, 2009

Good morning everyone, and welcome to Chicago and the 9th Annual FedFleet!

As an old fleet guy, coming to FedFleet is a bit like coming home.  And being here in Chicago, well … you’ve got to love a city on one of the prettiest lakes there is, especially when the boats are out.

A couple of weeks ago, they held the famous Chicago Mackinac Island sailboat race, which attracted some 330 boats.  That must have been a sight to see!

Now, I’m not much of a sailor, but can you imagine all those boats jockeying for position at the start?  I guess it’s a bit like trying to get home on the Beltway back in Washington!  But think about this … I understand that race covers 333 miles as the crow flies – that’s a long way in a sailboat that only does 7 to 8 knots.  The first boat to finish this year’s race did it in 64 hours, 40 minutes – that’s two and half days, folks.  And all the while, that skipper and the 329 others were constantly trimming their sails, changing their course to compensate for changes in the wind and current, looking for that little edge to beat the other guy to his destination.

I tell this story not just for those among you who manage maritime fleets – although we’re seeing more and more of you each year – but because just like that skipper, all of us in government need to be constantly trimming our sails and correcting our course to get where we want to go as quickly as possible. 

Our FedFleet theme this year is “Winds of Change” and I can’t think of three words that do as good a job describing the situation we’re all in.

Right now, we’re sailing with the wind at our backs:

  • We’re buoyed by the administration’s and congress’ actions in getting the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act passed and we’re all moving quickly and smartly to implement.

But there will be shifts in the wind:

  • Changes in priorities from either the administration or Congress.
  • Projects that don’t work out quite as well as planned.
  • Any number of setbacks and delays.

And just as the skipper anticipates the wind shift by listening to the weather report and watching the water, it is important to know that:

  • Changes will occur.
  • Plan for them wherever possible.
  • Adjust your course accordingly.

Of course, that’s what this conference is for … to help give you the information and tools you need to set a course for success.

I continue to be amazed at how much FedFleet continues to grow.  We have nearly 1,500 attendees, and more than 160 companies represented in the exhibit hall – that’s about a 10 percent increase over last year.

And you’ll be seeing a lot of green out there.  Among other displays, the exhibit hall features 30 fuel-efficient vehicles.  There are several training tracks devoted to green subjects including:

  • Alternative fuel technologies;
  • Management strategies for meeting fleet environmental goals;
  • Understanding energy regulations and requirements; and,
  • Energy score cards.

Green is good, and is a fundamental principle of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.  As I hope you know by now, GSA recently completed the purchase of 17,205 fuel efficient vehicles – including 3,100 hybrids – using $287 million in Recovery Act funds.  By the end of the fiscal year, we’ll also order about $13 million worth of advanced technology buses and electric vehicles for use in the federal fleet.

Deliveries to customer agencies are occurring as we speak.  Each of these new fuel efficient vehicles will replace – on a one-for-one basis – an operational vehicle in the federal inventory that meets replacement standards.  Each new vehicle has a higher MPG rating than the one it replaces.  Proceeds from the sale of the older vehicles will go toward the purchase of even more fuel efficient vehicles, so the cycle will continue.

By increasing the energy efficiency of the federal fleet, we can provide long-term environmental benefits and savings for the American taxpayer, and will continue our efforts to reduce the federal government’s consumption of energy, and increase our use of clean and renewable sources of energy.

In addition to the display of fuel efficient vehicles in the exhibit hall, you’ll also have a special opportunity to see three examples of these newly purchased vehicles.  At three o’clock tomorrow on the Navy Pier, we’ll be holding a media event to showcase how we’re greening the federal fleet with recovery act dollars.  I invite you to join us.

I’m sure you’ll also want to attend sessions on the Federal Motor Vehicle Registration System.  GSA led an initiative to improve both the management and security of the federal fleet by establishing the Federal Motor Vehicle Registration System.  Prior to its development, local, state and federal law enforcement had no way to determine that a federal license plate legitimately belonged to the vehicle to which it was affixed, or whether the license plate or vehicle was lost or stolen. 

You’ll want to learn more about this system, which provides a centralized record of federal vehicles, closing security gaps that I think are painfully obvious, and providing improved asset accountability.

Now, we haven’t forgotten the aviation folks in the room.  The Winds of Change are also in the air.

  • The Next Generation Air Transportation System – NextGen for short – will forever redefine how the national airspace system is managed

Near term – 2012 to 2018 – one of the NextGen impacts on operators will be that the best equipped aircraft will be the best served.  That means that federal aviation fleet managers must plan for the replacement of aging aircraft and avionics required under NextGen.  We’re featuring several sessions this week on capital asset planning.

And let’s not forget safety.  Combined, the federal aircraft fleet is larger than the collective fleets of commercial airlines.  Each and every day, the government uses aircraft to support critical agency missions, some of which are inherently risky, such as firefighting, search and rescue, research and law enforcement.  Our accident record is very good …reduced from previous years, but our goal is zero.  Please take advantage of the several safety sessions being conducted this week to help us achieve that goal.

In a few moments, Becky (Rhodes) will be presenting motor vehicle and aviation awards.  This is such a good program to honor individuals and teams for their innovative approaches to managing various challenges in their fleets.  I congratulate the winners, those who nominated them, and the judges for their commitment to these programs.

I mentioned earlier that we’re seeing more and more maritime fleet managers at FedFleet, as the government uses boats, ships and other waterborne craft to support agency missions.  GSA recently established an interagency working group to review policies and procedures to manage these vessels safely and efficiently.  The group has identified several agencies that already have effective vessel management programs … they are sharing best practices and management resources with other agencies that have less mature programs.  If you’re managing watercraft, please use this week to seek out others doing the same and share your stories.

Now, if you’ll permit a bit of a sales pitch, please remember that GSA Fleet is your one-stop-shop for complete vehicle services.  We can set you up on a cost-reimbursement basis, using set monthly and mileage rates for each type of vehicle.  We provide complete management services, including all fuel and maintenance; call centers for maintenance, repair and accident reporting; management reports; and expert assistance in managing your agency’s fleet. 

Our automotive division has been designated as the government’s single source for general-purpose vehicles for federal agencies because we offer excellent pricing advantages.  On average, vehicles are purchased at savings of more than 20 percent off the manufacturer’s invoice prices.  In a typical year, these purchases amount to more than 68,000 vehicles valued at nearly $1.4 billion.  The division has also developed state-of-the-art automated programs to make vehicle purchasing easier and faster than ever.  GSA’s vehicle purchasing experts stand ready to help you obtain the right vehicles, when you need them, at the right price.

Thank you, again, for joining us this week.  I’d like to acknowledge the tireless efforts of our co-hosts:

  • The Motor Vehicle Executive Council;
  • The Federal Fleet Policy Council;
  • The Interagency Committee for Aviation Policy; and, of course,
  • The FedFleet Steering Committee.

All of you have a huge responsibility to our nation.  We know there are real-world challenges facing vehicle and aviation fleet professionals day-in and day-out.  Legendary basketball coach John Wooden said, "The most important key to achieving great success is to decide upon your goal and launch, get started, take action, move."

That’s why this is your workshop.  You know your goals, so take advantage of this great opportunity to learn from the experts and share your experiences, and make great things happen.

That you very much. Have a great week.