CFTC becomes advocate after experience with GSA
January 13, 2020
By Alison Kohler
KANSAS CITY, Mo. — After GSA secured space for the first of four offices nationwide on behalf of the U.S. Commodities Future Trading Commission, the point person at CFTC for the five-year effort said his agency is seeing value in using GSA for its acquisition needs.
“If any other (federal) agency asks why go GSA, I’m going to be the biggest advocate,” said Wes French, GSA lease transition program manager at CFTC.
The spark between the CFTC and GSA was ignited in 2016 after the then-chairman of CFTC acted before a formal audit recommendation to use GSA’s Public Buildings Service to find operational space to replace expiring leases for its headquarters in Washington D.C. and three regional offices in New York City, Chicago and Kansas City.
French previously worked at GSA and he said GSA employees’ expertise and cooperation has been one of the major successes.
“Our agency is not in the real estate business. We don’t have that expertise. We’re getting the administrative function that GSA can provide for us,” French said.
“We’ve seen that with other agencies as well,” said GSA Regional Account Manager James Fotopoulos. “They’re focusing on their mission and leaving the rest to us.”
There were many advantages of coming to GSA and “every region has taken a part of the project for us to help us be able to manage our entire transition program,” French said.
The program includes identifying operational space for the headquarters and three regional offices, which involves multiple employees in GSA’s Regions 2, 5, 6 and 11. GSA negotiates and oversees the contracts to build out the spaces, outfits them with furniture and equipment, and serves as the CFTC’s future landlord and lease administrator.
The CFTC offices will reduce their usable square feet by nearly half to an average of 179 USF per person, and the projected savings in the regional offices compared to current lease costs are over $2 million annually.
CFTC is also using GSA’s Federal Acquisition Service in Zone 1 to help with a mass purchase of furniture for all of the regional offices at the same time. “One of the great things about having the buying power GSA does is the consistency (through the inventory),” French said.
Giving up self-management of its space also presents change for CFTC employees.
“There’s a lot of interest, because it’s a cultural change,” French said. “Transparency has been very important. (We have been) socializing it with people early on.”
French said as soon as the agency submitted SF81s to GSA, they communicated with their workforce about the site selections.
Some of the benefits of coming into GSA’s inventory they touted for CFTC employees included:
- Cost savings on space can be reallocated toward funding full-time equivalent employees to carry out the mission.
- Working within a federal office building comes with great security, access to gyms and on-site health units, as well as being part of the federal community who understand their needs and culture.
- Eliminating the need for dedicated hearing rooms in favor of using joint use space in federal office buildings saved 2,000 square feet total between New York City and Chicago.
Sometimes GSA had a reputation of being “space police” who walk through with clipboards counting ceiling tiles and trying to determine if agencies are allocated too much space, French said.
“I get constant comments back after conference calls or meetings from all levels — management and regional staff — and they’re absolutely amazed by the high level of professionalism of the GSA staff,” French said. “I feel very confident that Brian (Dunlay) as an LCO here in Kansas City is going to look out for our best interests in construction costs at the leased location, just as I feel that Meli (Castro) as the project manager in Chicago is going to look out for our best interests in the federal office building. Or Cindy (Weldon) in New York is looking out for our best interests in a situation where we have a forced move. There are countless others throughout GSA who have contributed in immeasurable ways. Finding the right people and getting that relationship built, especially with your regional account manager, is the most important thing, because the talent is there in every region,” he said.
The relationship between CFTC and GSA overall has generated substantially positive results.
“What (we’re) seeing is people sitting down at the table, listening to what we need, assessing what is in the best interest of the federal government, making sure we’re achieving our mission, and providing us world-class workspace for our employees and visitors,” French said.