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At Fedfleet, Johnson Says GSA is Here to Help Agencies Implement Environmentally Friendly Governmentwide Fleet Practices

As prepared for delivery

Remarks by
Martha Johnson
U.S. General Services Administration
FedFleet Plenary Speech
Orlando, FL
July 26, 2011

Hello FedFleet! It’s terrific to be back here and to join you for another conference. I was glad to be invited back. And glad you came back. That says something. Repeat business.

When I was here last year, I remarked that coming to FedFleet made me feel like I was coming home I feel the same way now.

I started my career at the Cummins Diesel Engine company in Indiana. I was trained as a logistics and supply manager, and took the exams so I can say that I am a certified Production and Inventory Control Fellow.

The problem was that just about the same time I received my certifications, everything changed. Most of what I learned was being thrown over. American manufacturing shifted.

It shifted for a lot of reasons: massively high interest rates which meant having any inventory was extremely expensive. Another shift was the dramatic increase in global competition -- in our case, from Japanese companies like Komatsu.

We moved from push production notions of manufacturing inventory to just-in-time management, and that was a huge revolution for the industry and for my career -- it was my first real taste of big change -- which hasn’t slowed down since.

We live in a time of extraordinary change. I’ve been giving speeches about change for - what - 20 years now? But while it was driving up to the house, coming up the walk, climbing the steps.... now it’s opening the screen door and walking in the house!

My 22 year old son, just back from college, keeps saying “you know, Mom, the world has really changed since I was in high school.” That was only 4 years ago, but you know: he’s right! And if a 20-something is finding it fast, it is significant.

The pace of change is faster than ever before, and the nation, the government, the fleet community -- are setting our sights on the path forward.

The main change accelerator is that the federal budget has been slashed. And, I’m not using casual language.

Our major construction and alterations appropriations was cut 90 percent this year. In the past, budgets may have been tightened or priorities shifted; funds may have been re-allocated. Now, constraints are wholesale, and you in the federal fleet community feel it more than most.

Programs are under new and direct scrutiny. Operational efficiency and strategic management are no longer “nice-to-haves.” They’re essential. They’re imperative.

One of the impacts of this shift is that GSA is now more popular than ever -- departments, agencies, and bureaus have all come to us over the last month or so and have said “we need your expertise.”

They are anxious to brainstorm with us about where they can make changes in terms of:
• workspace,
• telework,
• telepresence,
• acquisitions,
• printing,
• parking,
• building authorities,

The list goes on and on and on. In speeches I used to joke that I wasn’t from the Girl Scouts of America; GSA stands for the General Services Administration. Now we are on everyone’s radar.
They are discovering that we have something important to offer: a clear vision to help them face down their challenges.

The fleet community is right in the middle of this conversation.

To start, the fleet is of major consequence. Last fiscal year, federal agency motor vehicles traveled 5.2 billion miles.

That’s the same as going from here to the moon and back -- nearly eleven thousand times. And we can’t forget that our federal aircraft logged over 400,000 flight hours.

Additionally, the fleet extends across an entire mall of options.

Vehicles of all kinds -- those that move on the ground, over the water or through the air -- are vital to the complex web of missions of our customer agencies.

Vehicles race citizens to hospitals, deliver relief to those in need, transport supplies to the war fighter, and keep our government rolling, flying, and floating.

Agencies need to make good decisions about such a vast and multi-variant fleet. They need expertise and strategies, shrewd analysis, insights, and experience.

This is a time like none other when the federal fleet community must employ and supply the best management advice and options possible for the government to service our country.

Luckily, we have a number of forces converging that will help us a great deal.

The first is advocacy -- from the top.

To build our nation’s innovation muscle and reduce our dependence on foreign oil, President Obama set us on a course to put one million advanced vehicles on the road by 2015 and cut oil imports by one-third by 2025.

And, recognizing that as the owner of one of the largest vehicle fleets in the world the Federal Government ought to lead the way, last May the President issued a Presidential Memorandum that directed agencies to implement smart, government-wide fleet practices.

These include:
• Moving to the 100 percent purchase of alternative fuel vehicles by 2015;
• Developing a methodology to help agencies optimize and right-size their fleets,
• and establishing a goal for the optimal size and composition of the federal fleet overall.

The President’s message is clear: the federal government will lead by example in fuel efficiency and is steadfast in its investment in clean car technology. And GSA is here to help.

The Presidential Memo sets the stage, and aligns our priorities.
• To fleet managers across the government, it centers us around a common goal and gives us the impetus to move forward.
• To industry, it demonstrates our commitment to supporting your research, your innovation, and your products.
• And to the American people it shows that their government is leading the way in supporting the technologies and the jobs of the future.

The memorandum is a challenge from our president to everyone in this room -- fleet managers and industry representatives alike. It pushes us to do more, to stand taller, to reach higher. It puts us at the forefront of his challenge to our nation.

I’m pleased to say that we’re already seeing progress.

The second force on our side is what I call “turning the fly-wheel for its first rotation.” We have to start somewhere, get things rolling. Once a fly-wheel is in motion, it creates momentum. But it takes that first crank.

Over the last two years, GSA has been leaning its shoulder on these challenges. We bought vehicles that were on average almost 25 percent more fuel efficient than the vehicles they replaced.

Last year alone, GSA doubled the number of hybrid vehicles in the Federal fleet. And we did so without increasing the overall number of vehicles owned by the Federal Government.

Currently, roughly 50 percent of the 210,000 vehicles in GSA’s leased fleet are alternative fueled vehicles. That represents serious fuel savings.

Third, therefore, is to build off this momentum.

In May we announced the kickoff of GSA’s electric vehicle pilot program and the purchase of 116 electric vehicles to be dispersed throughout the federal fleet and across the country. They are expected to annually save almost 29,000 gallons of gas, reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 257 metric tons, and save taxpayers almost $116,000 in fuel costs.

And this investment is just the tip of the spear. As we work closely with our industry partners to install charging stations at federal buildings in five cities, we’re also investing in the emerging charging station industry.

The ripple effect of this coordinated approach is vast and reaches across many industries and markets.

By investing in federal electric vehicle infrastructure, we are supporting both the EV industry as well as other, associated industries, such as advanced battery research and recycling. This, in turn, supports American innovation.

Fourth, we need to get to the gut of right-sizing the federal fleet. I’m delighted to say that in the next few weeks, we’ll be announcing our Vehicle Allocation Methodology -- a tool that will help you right-size your agency fleets.

And here’s what’s important when we talk about right-sizing: it’s not just about how many vehicles you have --it’s also about how big those vehicles are. It’s about aligning vehicle size to vehicle mission.

This is an area where we need to really pulse our thinking and stand on the edge. We need to closely examine the size of our fleet -- and the size of our vehicles.

When I go around Washington, for example, I drive in a Ford Fusion. It’s a zippy little car. Gets me from point A to point B just great, and it’s a hybrid. And, as a bonus, while other agency heads circle around looking for parking, I get right to the front of line. Every time.

I mention that because it’s important that as we assess our fleet needs, we are ever more vigilant about our operational needs, too.

So those are four key areas where we’ve made -- or are poised to make -- some big moves.

GSA is on a mission. We are about helping the government be ever better. We have set out on a path, and we are firm in our resolve. The future of the federal fleet -- from cars to trucks to boats to aircraft -- is bright.

But we can’t do this alone. We can only do it with our terrific industry partners, our thoughtful academic advisers, our astute nongovernmental organizational community, and our gutsy client agencies.

We bring scale, impact, heft, innovation, and a gateway to the government, and we need our partners to bring new products, competitiveness, best practices, and market knowledge.

We see much of that on display here at FedFleet.

In this time of huge change, knee buckling uncertainty, and massive constraints, we are all stretching because we must. We must do all we can to care for the Department of Veterans Affairs so that the VA can care for our veterans.

We must do all we can to support Department of Homeland Security so that DHS can protect our people from those who wish us harm.

We must do all we can for the Department of the Interior so that DOI can keep our precious wilderness safe.

And we must do all we can to grow our economy, support new industries and technologies, and ensure that our next century is another great American century.

Thank you all, and enjoy the conference.

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