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Emily Murphy Speaks at the Potomac Officers Club’s 2018 GSA Forum

On Wednesday, July 18th, the Potomac Officers Club hosted the 2018 GSA Plans & Priorities Forum, where keynote speaker Emily Murphy, administrator of the General Services Administration, and a 2018 Wash100 winner, provided insight into her department’s acquisition process.

Murphy’s presentation hinged on the four key priorities of her administration. First, she mentioned the need for ethical leadership: “By that I mean GSA should be an honest broker [between agencies and industry] … We’re going to be putting the interests of taxpayers first,” To address challenges effectively, constant dialogue with industry and other agencies is crucial, she said.

Second, Murphy stressed the need to reduce duplication, especially regarding the support systems various agencies use. As she put it, “How do we actually make sure the systems reflect the business process we want, rather than having outdated systems driving [everything]?”

The GSA now provides shared services support to smaller agencies, Murphy highlighted, such as helping boost cybersecurity infrastructure or network transformation. According to her, the agency’s government-wide leadership has not only reduced the cost of services by $28.6 billion per year, but also substantially improved quality. Before, Murphy said half of federal employees weren’t happy with the shared services support they were receiving.

Additionally, Murphy outlined how commercial supplier agreements reduce duplication. These agreements cut down the negotiation time between entities with commercial software licenses and contract officers negotiating federal licenses, she explained, adding this creates a more predictable business environment.

“Hopefully, our agencies aren’t going to need to go from contract to contract to get the solution they want, or [have to] go off of scheduling,” she told the crowd, discussing the greater flexibility agencies now have to pursue comprehensive solutions.

Third, Murphy expressed a desire to increase contract vehicle competition, which she asserted goes beyond just increasing the number of offers. This means placing greater emphasis on the quality of solutions being offered, and not relying solely on the Lowest Price Technically Acceptable model, she said.

To that end, Murphy highlighted how the GSA is working with the Small Business Innovation Research program to help commercialize projects once they’ve matured. Specifically, her department aims to ensure solutions developed under those awards secure a path to agencies.

During her final point, Murphy stressed the need for transparency across the entire acquisition process. Without transparency, she opined, “none of these other priorities work.” Murphy stressed that making information available to the public increases competition, instills confidence the GSA is operating as an honest broker and details how duplication is being reduced.

Preceding Murphy’s keynote address was panel discussion featuring other prominent GSA officials. They consisted of: Chris Hamm, director of FEDSIM and GSA’s acquisition innovation advocate; Alexandra Rouse, professional services program executive, responsible for directing OASIS multiple award contracts; and David Shive, chief information officer, who oversees the GSA IT office.

 

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