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Speech to Information Technology Industry Council Federal Executive Council by Denise Roth

I am especially pleased to be in your company today.

This event caps off a series of engagements across the country at which I’ve spoken about GSA’s role in government technology innovation. And because we are often thought of primarily as the federal landlord, many at these events are surprised that GSA is involved and plays a leading role in this space. But, here at ITAPS, you well know that, in the federal government space, we are widely thought of as an innovation center, driving federal government technology efforts from product development to cutting-edge acquisitions solutions.

As the first in government to move to the cloud, we play a key role ensuring that other agencies can use cloud services in a cost-effective and a secure fashion through FedRAMP, our premier cyber program. We’ve also stood up 18F, the first federal tech startup, bringing to government 21st Century solutions such as an agile and iterative approach to the development of technology products and services.

All said, GSA is the one-stop-shop that federal agencies depend on to develop and deploy state-of-the-art tools, allowing them to focus on their core missions in service to the American people. We have always done well in this regard, but the status quo is never sufficient; there is always more to do and ways to do it better. And, the longstanding partnership that GSA has enjoyed with ITAPS members is essential to continuing this forward momentum.

Whether on the federal side, or from an industry perspective, we are united by an imperative to apply our expertise and talents toward to making government work as efficiently as possible. And nowhere is this shared commitment and philosophy more critical than in the area of cybersecurity. Changing how we develop and acquire technology is vital to keeping data and systems safe; addressing the needs of all agencies, in a unified, manner, rationalizing all critical systems with a comprehensive strategy.

To this end, President Obama has tasked GSA with major responsibilities under his recently announced Cybersecurity National Action Plan. As part of his Fiscal Year 2017 budget request, we are to deploy and manage a new $3.1 billion Information Technology Modernization Fund (ITMF). The goal of the fund is to retire the Government’s antiquated IT systems and transition to more secure and efficient ones. ITMF would also provide funding to streamline technology governance and secure federal networks. We think this fund will provide the government the ability to reduce costs on the two thirds of IT spending dedicated to maintaining outdated legacy systems and infrastructure. And, it will allow us to focus on new opportunities to creatively address the $12 billion in federal technology needs that have long gone unmet.

When it comes to missions like this, success is usually measured by what doesn’t happen; that is, the absence of effective cyber attacks. If we do our job well, the services citizens expect and deserve from government simply continue normally, uninterrupted. It is also gratifying, though, to be able to see the results of mission accomplishment in tangible, active ways.

We have, in fact, recently embarked upon an initiative that offers exactly that: Achieving concrete, real-time results demonstrably benefiting the American people, while continuing to set the standard for excellence in federal acquisitions innovation.

Just last month, our designers, developers, and technology product specialists at 18F set out to expand their consulting and acquisition services to assist federal agencies that provide grants to state and local programs, working with the California Department of Social Services to upgrade the state’s legacy Child Welfare System. Its outdated, inefficient database architecture allowed some of society’s most vulnerable members - abused and neglected children - to potentially become lost in the system. In the space of one month, experts from 18F worked to completely redesign the RFP for the new system, designing a clearer, cleaner proposal process while reducing the cost of the new system from $400 million to $250 million.

Not to rest on our laurels, though, we are hard at work on a wide range of other groundbreaking, creative acquisitions projects.

At the core of these efforts is a dynamic partnership between 18F offering cutting-edge, agile solutions to the government acquisitions process and our Federal Acquisitions Service with its longstanding expertise and institutional knowledge in this area. This relationship has resulted in a modernization of GSA’s internal approach to acquisitions policy, leading, in turn, to dynamic, rationalized offerings externally to the supplier community.

Just last year, for example, we developed a government-wide blanket purchase agreement - known as Agile BPA - with a goal of fewer than four weeks from solicitation to contract kickoff, and from there no more than three months to deliver a minimum viable product; all the while subjecting potential vendors to a rigorous evaluation methodology to ensure that they can meet agencies’ agile development needs, on time and on budget.

This is but one of many areas in which GSA is committed to improving how we operate internally to improve government’s interaction with suppliers. Indeed, rationalizing industry’s relationship with government is one of the core elements of my vision for GSA’s future, with an emphasis on integrating novel, cutting-edge solutions with the best aspects of traditional contracting processes.

Each year, tens of billions of dollars go through GSA contracts. With this significant volume of sales, we must ensure that our agency provides more, better opportunities for suppliers across the board. To this end, just this week, we launched a “Making it Easier to do Business with Government” strategic initiative. It entails major changes to purchasing policies and procedures that will provide much more transparency to the acquisitions process, and make it much faster and less burdensome for IT businesses to bring their innovation to the government. What does this means concretely?

The initiative’s components include: A Forecast of Contracting Opportunities Tool allowing businesses to search for potential future opportunities to do business with the government.

FASt Lane, a program launched just this Wednesday, that cuts the time it takes to get new, innovative IT vendors on Schedule 70 from 110 to 45 days. Also allowing vendors to make changes or additions to a current contract in one to two business days. 

And, the IT Schedule 70 Springboard, which provides an alternative to the current 2-year professional experience requirement for highly qualified young and startup businesses to get on schedule.

By driving innovation across GSA’s business lines, and throughout our policy processes we are improving the federal technology space in a variety of ways. We are developing strategic technology solutions to empower other agencies, increasing specialized, technical experience throughout government, and modernizing the federal acquisitions process to the benefit of both industry and government.

Are we being as agile and efficient as we can? This is a never-ending, iterative process, but we have come a long way and have achieved much. Perhaps the most important lesson learned is that it is not enough to just introduce agility, cutting-edge technology and private sector best practices into government operations.

We must ensure that the drive to innovate and constantly progress in the area of government technology endures and grows stronger over time. It may sound odd, but we need to institutionalize innovation so that, as administrations come and go, the successes we achieve are woven into the fabric of government operations and policy.

My greatest hope as administrator is to ensure that GSA will continue serving the federal government and the American people in smart, ever-improving, and economical ways. Key to this process, and integral to my vision for the future of our agency is ensuring that all of the efforts I have mentioned today make life and work better and more efficient.

Better and more efficient for government, to be sure, but that is only a means to an end, because, ultimately, government exists to serve its citizens and, if we are to maximize our efforts on their behalf, we must do so in close partnership with our industry partners

I am eager to continue working with people such as you to help realize this vision and develop ever more effective and efficient information technology strategies and services on behalf of the American people.