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Federal Acquisition Service Commissioner Alan Thomas seated on a panel

My Vision for Federal Acquisition

| Alan Thomas, FAS Commissioner
Post filed in: Acquisition  |  FAS  |  Federal Acquisition Service

It’s hard to believe we’re already over halfway through fiscal year 2018, and I’m approaching my one-year anniversary mark as Federal Acquisition Service (FAS) Commissioner. Time always flies when you’re busy, but things seem to be happening at warp speed, particularly in the federal acquisition area, as it’s a major focus for the current administration. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

For my first blog post, I want to outline what I envision for the organization and how my priorities align with the recently published GSA Strategic Plan. GSA’s mission is to deliver value and savings in real estate, acquisition, technology, and other mission-support services across Government. Our values are service, accountability, and innovation. In an effort to develop priorities that not only embody these principles but resonate with our stakeholders, I spent the first six months in my new role on what I called “my listening tour” - checking in with all the regional offices nationwide and every FAS office in D.C. too. My visits focused less on sharing what I wanted to do and more on hearing what my colleagues thought about where the organization has been and where we should be going.

While on this tour, I didn’t just engage with folks internally. I visited with customers like the Departments of the Air Force, Army, Navy, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to understand how GSA can better help them meet their missions. I engaged with our industry partners in both individual meetings and Supplier Council sessions. 

All the information gleaned from my visits with you, as well as our internal and external stakeholders, in addition to our strategic plan, helped me set the priorities for my tenure in this job: to make FAS easy, efficient, and modern

First, let’s talk about what I mean by “easy.”

We’re first going to focus on improving the customer and supplier experience by making it easier to work with GSA. There is a LOT that fits under this umbrella, including modernizing and simplifying our systems. Today, FAS helps our agency customers with the acquisition of $50 billion of goods and services from more than 20 thousand industry partners each year. I’ve asked the team to make it easier to write contracts, place orders, and manage our assets. 

Also included in this “easy” bucket is streamlining and simplifying our internal and external acquisition processes. This will focus mostly on continuing the plans for improvement outlined in our current Multiple Award Schedules (MAS) transformation initiative program. GSA is committed to providing our stakeholders with a Multiple Award Schedules program that addresses current market forces and provides government with a streamlined, value-based contracting solution that continues to save time and money well into the future.

To that end, we expanded the IT Schedule 70 Plain Language Roadmap to the entire Schedules program- now the MAS Roadmap. We’re also continuing our Transactional Data Reporting (TDR) pilot program to simplify sales reporting and being extremely thoughtful regarding the development of new Special Item Numbers (SINs) to reduce burden on industry, both of which you will hear more about throughout this year. 

Additionally, we recently published two critical final rules that impact our stakeholders in this program and others- Order-Level Materials (OLMs) and Commercial Supplier Agreements (CSAs). OLMs introduce a key flexibility into MAS, creating parity with other Indefinite Delivery, Indefinite Quantity (IDIQ) contracts and reducing contract duplication. CSAs decrease the time needed for legal review prior to contract formation, significantly reduce costs to both the government and contractors, and further clarify expectations for all parties. We didn’t publish these rules in a vacuum; the feedback from our industry partners was critical in formulating not just good rules but great ones. 

Next up: What I mean when I say “efficient.”

The most efficient use of taxpayer dollars is developing and leveraging market-leading shared services. Reinventing the wheel is downright irresponsible. 

We’re going to focus on expanding areas where FAS already excels, like our Fleet and Purchase Card programs. Our Office of Fleet Management currently manages about a third of the federal fleet, roughly 200,000 vehicles. Our Purchase Card program provides over three million purchase, travel, fleet, and integrated charge accounts to over 560 U.S. government agencies and other authorized organizations. Both of these programs have been tremendously successful, and I’m looking to build on that success. 

We’re also going to explore additional innovative payment opportunities for GSA SmartPay, such as cardless transactions. And we’re going to invest in new potential shared services like payroll and time and attendance. 

Lastly, what does “modern” mean?

For FAS, modern means providing IT modernization expertise to enable agency transformation. The new GSA IT Modernization Centers of Excellence (COEs) will provide centralized expert advice, consulting, development and support solution implementation for: cloud adoption, IT infrastructure optimization, customer experience, service delivery analytics, and contact center solutions.

It also means innovating. We’re leading a number of the key initiatives identified in the president’s recent report on IT Modernization. We’re also preparing to support the operation and administration of the recently approved Technology Modernization Fund which will help agencies transition from older IT infrastructure to more efficient and secure technologies.

I hope you’re as excited as I am to see how improvements at FAS can impact the federal acquisition landscape writ large. I plan on prioritizing engagement opportunities as I shepherd these initiatives, and look forward to updating you as the year continues.