In its three Open Government Plans, issued in 2010, 2012 and 2014, GSA outlined several “flagship” initiatives it committed to complete to advance open government. The most significant initiatives are provided here.
Procurement Innovation Tools. GSA is developing a suite of open source tools that will make it easier for businesses, the public and other stakeholders to find and participate in federal business opportunities, and to analyze and use procurement and grants data. These tools will make it easier to search for federal contract and grant opportunities, analyze federal spending obligations for contracts and grants, register to do business with the federal government, and search for registered vendors. They will also encourage public use of these data sets.
The GSA Integrated Award Environment (IAE) is transforming into an open platform for federal awards information and opportunities. It will provide a set of tools, including Application Programming Interfaces (API) to make it easy to access data in the System for Award Management (SAM.gov), Federal Procurement Data System (FPDS), Federal Business Opportunities (FBO.gov) and other systems. These developer-friendly APIs enable the public to develop other innovative applications to access federal data. Built on open source tools, the APIs will improve GSA’s service to its customers, and make the following processes more transparent and participative:
- Searching for federal contract and grant opportunities, via FBOpen, a set of open-source tools to help small businesses and other companies identify opportunities to work with the U.S. government. The FBOpen website, fbopen.gsa.gov, is a simple, Google-style page where one can search for available federal contracts, grants, and other opportunities. Anyone can add an FBOpen query to their own website using the FBOpen widget-maker. Programmers can use the FBOpen API to build custom query pages and analysis tools. All the code is open-source and available at our github repository.
- Analyzing federal spending obligations for contracts, grants and other funding opportunities reported on federal websites like USASpending.gov and Grants.gov. The API under development will make it easier for the public to find meaningful information about government funds obligated for federal procurements and grants.
- The Federal business registration process, GSA’s System of Award Management (SAM). Federal Acquisitions Regulations require all federal vendors to be registered in SAM prior to being awarded a federal contract, basic agreement, basic ordering agreement, or blanket purchase agreement. Small business owners can “self-certify” their status by registering their companies’ size and socio-economic status and certifying that the information provided is correct. The tools being developed will make it faster and easier for vendors, especially small businesses, to register with SAM.
- Finding companies that are registered to do business with the government. SAM enables businesses, agencies, and contractors—and the public—to search for any entity doing business with the federal government—based on its products/services, size, location, experience, ownership and more. SAM also identifies firms certified by the SBA under the 8(a) Development and HUBZone Programs.
Business Breakthrough. GSA leverages the government’s buying power through responsible acquisition of products and services, making up about 14 percent of the government’s total procurement dollars. Business Breakthrough is a new GSA program to arm businesses with information that will help them compete for Federal purchases that flow through GSA each year. The program is a vital next step in our efforts to maintain an open dialogue with the business community and provide innovative companies with the tools to grow and create new jobs.
Business Breakthrough’s workshops for companies with varying levels of experience with Federal contracting, gave them access to information on how to succeed in Federal contracting through our contracting vehicles. Representatives from GSA, industry and other Federal agencies provide information and guidance including real-world case studies from across industries. Visit GSA Business Breakthrough Program for more information.
ePubs (Google) U.S. Government Bookstore. One of GSA’s longest-running publication programs providing consumers important information on health, government benefits, managing finances and more is now available for free electronic download through a program with Google Books. Since 1970, our Federal Citizen Information Center in the Office of Citizen Services and Innovative Technologies has been distributing government consumer publications on topics such as staying healthy, understanding government benefits, managing finances and saving money, and avoiding scams and identity theft. We partnered with the Government Printing Office and Google Books to distribute these consumer-related publications free of charge. The Federal publications are distributed electronically from Google, as well as in hard copy by the FCIC print distribution facility in Pueblo, Colo. The publications are available by searching Google or Google Books. The public can freely view and download PDF copies of the publications to desktops, laptops, e-readers and mobile devices.
GSA now has more than 100 publications available in Google Books. However, because of the huge volume of publications on Google Books and subsequent competition with retail publications via the site, we pursued expanding USA.gov to include a publications section to allow consumers to order print copies from the Pueblo distribution center, as well as download PDF, .EPUB, .HTML and mobile files to their device of choice. The new Publications.USA.gov website is highly successful, providing copies of more than 700 consumer publications in English and Spanish.
FMI.gov. The Facilities Management Institute (FMI), a public-facing “cloud institute” was created to implement the requirements of the Federal Buildings Personnel Training Act. It embodies the three open government principles: transparency, participation and collaboration. FMI.gov is an open site where the public, Federal agencies, professional societies, industry associations, apprenticeship training providers and academic institutions can collaborate on every aspect of reducing the cost of the Federal Government building operations while increasing its productivity and sustainability. The site provides users with updates on the program milestones and the road ahead for future development. The public can access the knowledge portal aspects of the site and connect with state-of-the-art applied research at the Federal Government’s national labs, major research universities and nonprofits. The site is a resource for anyone with expertise in or a desire for knowledge of:
- facilities management and building operations
- resource management
- waste management and sustainability
- energy management
- applied research technologies
- process improvement
- performance metrics.
The FBPTA sets up a strategic partnership between GSA and the Department of Energy to implement the Act’s requirements. FMI.gov takes that partnership and collaboration with other agencies to the next level by highlighting the training offered by each agency. A Web tool developed in collaboration with Office of Personnel Management allows Federal facilities workforce members to see the career path corresponding to their position and level within their organization. It will suggest a matrix of courses, certifications, licenses, degrees and registrations that represent the core competencies required, which are provided through a combination of government and industry training, and Academic/University training.
Electronics waste disposal (eWaste). The eWaste initiative encourages Federal agencies to take a leadership role in efforts to stop and reverse the trend of inappropriate disposal of electronics across the country under the National Strategy for Electronics Stewardship. It was created by an Interagency Task Force on Electronic Stewardship that saw the leadership role the Federal Government can play in improving public health and our environment.
As the world’s largest purchaser and consumer of electronic assets, GSA has a great opportunity to influence how these devices are managed. The new strategy creates a roadmap for the Federal Government to use its authority and leverage resources to protect human health and the environment from harmful effects of unsafe handling and disposal of computers, cellphones, music devices and other electronics products. The strategy provides an innovative, flexible, pragmatic approach to managing electronics more sustainably, while promoting the technologies of the future.
The Federal Government is the largest entity using such electronic assets and must take a leadership role in efforts to stop and reverse the trend of inappropriate disposal of electronics. The e-waste initiative is comprised of two main activities: policy and reporting. The policy of how Federal agencies dispose of their electronics has been rewritten, and a guidance bulletin, FMR Bulletin B-34, was published. Throughout the process, we engaged the public as much as possible. To obtain public comment on the Bulletin, GSA used an innovative approach to inform our customers on the provisions of the bulletin and regulation. We also developed an automated tool to collect information on how electronics are being disposed of and to ensure agencies’ policy compliance, and publish the data on Data.gov to make our activities more transparent to the public.