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Johnson Pays Tribute to Nation's Veterans

As prepared for delivery

Remarks by
Martha N. Johnson
U.S. General Services Administration
Veterans Day Event
Department of Interior
Washington, DC.
November 8, 2010 

Thank you for that introduction. 

I’m delighted to share the stage this morning with Secretary Ken Salazar and Director John Berry as we take a moment to honor our nation’s veterans.

Like many Americans, I know first-hand the sacrifices made by our veterans; my father served in the Navy during World War II. One uncle was a Navy chaplain during that war, and another entered Nagasaki, Japan, with Adm. Richard Byrd a week after the bomb, and subsequently died of cancer. Another was awarded a Purple Heart in Korea. We are privileged to have the legacy of that generation to guide us forward. 

This Thursday, Nov. 11, we honor the service of the more than 24 million other American veterans who have defended and protected our freedom and way of life. 

The toll on our soldiers and their families is great, yet they consistently put their own interests and desires second to serving our country. They deserve our sincerest thanks. 

I am proud to lead the General Services Administration, an agency that is fully committed to using our acquisition, design, and construction expertise to serve today’s veterans and tomorrow’s as befits their service to our nation. 

At GSA, recruitment and retention of veterans is a top priority. 
• In line with the president’s Executive Order 13518, in fiscal year 2009, nearly 20 percent of our new hires were veterans, of which, 6.5 percent was disabled.
• This is nearly double what our veteran hiring was four years ago, and I look forward to setting – and meeting – ever higher targets.
• The data for FY ‘10 show a preference-eligible hiring rate of 19.1 percent, so I know we’re keeping the momentum up. 

We are also committed to aiding the veteran-owned business community by providing government contracting opportunities.
• We have more than 1,000 veteran-owned businesses on our schedules.
• Through our 21-Gun Salute Program, GSA has met – and has exceeded – the requirements of Executive Order 13360, requiring that at least 3 percent of federal contracting dollars go to veteran-owned businesses. 
• This program is a hallmark of our veteran outreach – opening opportunities for government contracts to veteran-owned businesses, and educating our contracting officers about the unique challenges faced by those businesses.
• Additionally, under our new mentor/protégé program, GSA matches established businesses with small businesses to help guide them onto the federal schedules. I am delighted that 25 percent of the participants in this program – both mentors and protégés – are veteran-owned businesses, including many owned by service-disabled veterans. 

We also help today’s war fighter. Along with the Department of the Army, GSA developed a unique patient-evacuation vehicle that offers smooth medical transport for wounded soldiers coming home.

Finally, GSA is deeply involved in designing, building, and maintaining armed forces retirement homes – one of which I will be visiting Nov. 9 in Gulfport, Miss. 

At GSA, we are honored to be able to use our design and construction expertise to provide healthy and attractive homes for our veterans. In the coming days, I urge you all to reflect on the selfless service of our veterans, and, if you have served, know that you have the thanks of a grateful nation.