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Exclusive Interview: Johnson on New Mission of GSA & IRMCO Conference

bildeLast night during her keynote address at the IRMCO Conference, GSA Administrator Martha Johnson revealed the new mission statement of GSA. It is a part of the GSA transformation and we had the opportunity to chat with Johnson about the some of the goals of this year’s conference and the new emphasis in the mission statement.

ExecutiveGov: Tell us about the new mission statement of GSA.

Johnson: There are a couple of key pieces of the new mission statement.   The first is that we are using our expertise, that’s a particularly important angle of it; we are using our expertise to embed ourselves in our client agencies because our mission is that their mission succeeds. We are doing that by helping them with innovative solutions that are particularly sensitive to sustainability, transparency, efficiency and effectiveness.

ExecutiveGov: How is this year’s conference different from the past?

Johnson: I have been with the Obama Administration for two months now and I’ve been really keen on joining it because there is such an ambitious agenda from the White House, particularly for GSA because of our role of being a change agent for other agencies. We are coming in with a huge agenda that we are very excited about. It focuses on sustainability, open government, on recovery, and to do any of these things well we have to have strong cross agency work. This conference is a time for us to deepen our bonds with the other agencies and to be a change agent driving these initiatives and demonstrating our innovative mindsets so that we can take them forward even more rapidly and effectively.

ExecutiveGov: In your mind, what will determine if this conference is a success?

Johnson: I have a couple of different ways of thinking about that. From what I see so far it has been successful because I’m hearing people talk about some new things already. We’re talking about how we can use collaborative technologies to help people more genuinely collaborate, not just participate; not just put up their ideas, but arrive at solutions through those ideas. That’s a very important piece for me, especially in the open government initiative and I’m seeing that happening, people are chewing on that idea. It’s a very important shift in thinking – not just inviting participation, but also actually using that to converge on solutions. We’ve got a good spread of people here and that’s also important to me. I’m seeing how people are beginning to engage differently in the whole management agenda. I think the management agenda is often reduced to measures, compliance, and a fair amount of process. Instead, now we’re already having better conversation about how we need to move from compliance to genuine results and less of a policing environment to one of effectiveness.

ExecutiveGov: What is your personal role at the IRMCO conference?

Johnson: My role is to share with our clients and our industry partners some of the solutions that GSA is providing for them such as negotiated terms of service, and public dialogue tools to help agencies execute their open government directive. I also gave the keynote last night, which was to lay out where I see GSA going and how GSA can be a partner with our clients and with industry. I used the metaphor that we are like a membrane between government and industry and we need to be healthy and we need to be passing information and knowledge back and forth easily and not be brittle and rigid. I used that analogy so that people can understand why I am both positioning us as strong partners with our government clients and with industry, as well as looking internal to make sure that we ourselves are quite healthy.

ExecutiveGov: What was the main message from your keynote address?

Johnson: GSA is very serious about the role that we have in the marketplace. The Clinger-Cohen freed us up to give us more of a hunting license to be in the market and my question is how seriously we want to go out and win business, not just be one of the players in the market. It is a challenge for GSA to offer the goods and services and innovate solutions that we have in a marketplace with a real clear eye for what we can actually do for our clients. There is a growth agenda, and there is a serious new role that we play with the White House. I think the White House appreciates us as an asset in a way that I have not seen previous administrations view GSA. And that’s the good news and the bad news. When you’re a real asset, you’re asked to do things and the administration’s agenda really fits our own transformational agenda.  Sustainability, open government, acquisition reform, predominately acquisition workforce support, recovery act, and virtual workforce – these are huge pieces that affect us as GSA and allow us to play a big role across government.

Martha Johnson will be speaking at the Potomac Officers Club on June 2, 2010. Click here to register.

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