GSA improving acquisition slowly, steadily

Tuesday - 2/22/2011, 1:55pm EST

Steve Kempf, Commissioner, GSA's Federal Acquisition Service

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By John Buckner
Federal News Radio

February 22, 2011 -- The Federal Acquisition Service is pursuing initiatives in digitization, cloud computing and strategic sourcing aimed at reducing costs and improving productivity.

"I think the challenges facing the federal government have certainly increased," said Steve Kempf, commissioner of the General Services Administration's FAS, during an interview with the Coalition for Government Procurement's Off-the-Shelf program on Federal News Radio.

"The challenges in respect to the complexity of the market place and the changes in the market place. For internally, for us, some of the workforce issues that we are still facing in terms of retaining great people to run our programs and finally some of our systems," Kempf said.

Kempf, who has been on the job for a year, has been working on these issues. In three months, FAS added 200 people to their workforce.

"We have a lot new people, we've got some new regional commissioners but I will say this, they're great people who are really starting to work together well and I am really looking forward to some really great results from this team," Kempf said.

With his new leadership team in place, Kempf said he has been focusing on modernizing the service while continuing to deliver to their customers.

Kempf said communication is key. First, he said he focused on stakeholders and employees to "make sure they knew what we were doing, they were on board and they knew what was going to be happening."

Second, Kempf said he reached out to customers and industry to make sure they're on the same page. Among the priorities Kempf discussed were:

Strategic Sourcing Initiatives
With a focus on office supplies and domestic delivery options, Kempf said the government is leveraging their purchasing to secure the lowest prices.

Other projects include printers, copiers and multi-function devices in a program called print management. As well as wireless plans and the telecommunications expense management service. All of which are part of the GSA's schedules program.

Kempf said that "even the losers on these contracts have gone back in and dropped their prices so people who are not even using the strategic sourcing are actually getting some benefit from this."

Cloud computing
FAS has also taken initiatives in infrastructure-as-a-service, software-as-a-service and are working on an e-mail contract through the schedules program.

"It's really looking at how could we provide some value add to what is already existing on the schedules program already," he said. "So with infrastructure-as-a-service, can we align the service offerings from the commercial vendors in a way that the government wants to buy it in order to meet its cloud computing objectives."

Digitization and customers
FAS's "enterprise acquisition solution" is working for full scale electronic contracting in almost all of their programs. As well as the "supply chain modernization," that will update the broad infrastructure of supply operations.

"I really think that we are seeing some things like customers wanting more data, more transparency and again that feeds into improving our systems so we will be able to supply them with better information," Kempf said.

In updating their systems, along with dynamic pricing, Kempf said customers are able to benefit more from the services.

The schedules program
Kempf said FAS will continue improving the schedules program. He said customers have a well known complaint that the schedules program is difficult to use.

"We are beginning to work very carefully on the training around the schedules program…working with customers on how to use the schedules properly and how to use it for advanced purchasing," Kempf said.

Kempf said GSA will hold training May 10-12 in San Diego at the GSA Expo.

John Buckner is an intern with Federal News Radio.

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