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GSA reforms are improving efficiency, customer service

Sep. 16, 2012 - 03:23PM   |  
By DAN TANGHERLINI   |   Comments

More than 60 years ago, the General Services Administration was founded in the wake of World War II to deliver consistent and responsive services to federal agencies, services which would also ensure value to taxpayers. Today, everyone at GSA continues to take enormous pride in that mission and since April of this year, we have been engaged in an effort to refocus this agency on our core objective of providing effective and efficient service for the entire federal government.

At a time when every agency is coping with shrinking budgets and growing expectations, we know that the services GSA provides have never been more important. For the past five months, GSA has conducted a top-to-bottom review to examine how we operate and what reforms could be implemented to help the entire federal government give the American people the service they deserve.

This review has already yielded several important reforms that are generating better service and greater savings throughout the government.

We are streamlining our service by consolidating several offices within GSA. We have consolidated all budget, finance and accounting personnel under the chief financial officer. We are finalizing consolidation of our information technology, personnel, budgets and systems under the chief information officer and bringing all human capital management personnel and operations together under the chief people officer.

Through this consolidation, we are ensuring that GSA provides consistent, transparent and efficient service to all our customers.

However, GSA is not only focusing on internal improvements. We have also instituted several programs and reforms that should drastically improve our customer service.

As the government’s savings agency, we have developed programs to drive down travel costs governmentwide while also offering greater transparency, including the E-Gov Travel Service System and City Pairs. Another recent effort by GSA to help save our fellow agencies money on travel is FedRooms, which competes hotel room prices and can provide federal travelers an average of 5 percent savings from standard per diem rates.

GSA has also frozen per diem reimbursement rates for the first time in a decade in order to comprehensively review the methodology used to determine those rates. We have created a Federal Advisory Committee to provide a forum for expert industry advice on these rates moving forward. This action will help agencies save an estimated $20 million in avoided costs next year.

For the first time in years, GSA has begun reviewing many of the fees assessed on other agencies for use of GSA schedules or other services. We have proposed reductions in fees to ensure savings of millions of dollars for our government customers. We are convening an interagency working group to review and develop recommendations on the overall fee structure for the schedules.

GSA is also leading the way in the government’s transition to cloud computing, which will not only increase the efficiency and access to our data systems, but also create significant savings. We are already offering cloud-based email services that lower the cost of email by up to 50 percent annually and save $1 million for every 7,500 email boxes. Last year, GSA was the first federal agency to move to a cloud-based email system, saving $2 million to date, with an expected $15 million reduction in IT costs over the next five years.

As more agencies begin to use cloud systems, we have introduced the Federal Risk and Authorization Management Program, known as FedRAMP, to standardize security assessments of cloud products and services across the government to avoid duplication and needless expenditures.

In these times of severe fiscal stress, government agencies need to work together more than ever to leverage our scale and our skill for the American people. GSA provides efficient, shared services and a common platform for agencies to reduce costs, increase value and improve outcomes. Moving forward, we are committed to earning both your business and your trust.

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Dan Tangherlini is acting administrator of the General Services Administration.

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