That latest relief spending bill handed a lot of work to the General Services Administration

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The recent, $1.9 trillion spending bill has a lot of elements. It seeks to improve the condition of small businesses. It also includes money to help the government modernize its information technology. Several provisions impinge directly on the General Services Administration. For more, acting GSA administrator Katy Kale, and the associate administrator for the Office of Small and Disadvantaged Business Utilization, Exodie Roe, joined Federal Drive with Tom Temin.

Interview transcript:

Tom Temin: Acting GSA administrator Kat Kale. Ms. Kale, good to have you on.

Katy Kale: Thank you, Tom. Great to be here.

Tom Temin: And the associate administrator for the Office of Small and Disadvantaged Business Utilization, Exodie Rowe. Mr. Rowe. Good to have you on.

Exodie Roe: Thank you, Tom. It’s good to be here as well.

Tom Temin: Ms. Kale, tell us what exactly is the task for GSA under the American Rescue Plan?

Katy Kale: Yes. For GSA specifically, the American Rescue Plan included $1 billion for the Technology Modernization Fund, and $150 million for the Federal Citizens Services Fund, both of which are housed at GSA. Getting into the TMF, the Technology Modernization Fund, it’s a funding model that allows agencies to reimagine and transform the way they use technology to deliver their mission in service of the American public. So GSA administers the fund, and the additional $1 billion provides an opportunity to address the legacy technology and strengthen cybersecurity posture throughout the government.

Tom Temin: In earlier years though, TMF funding has never been more than I think 100 maybe million dollars at the most some years, it was $25 million. Now you’ve got a billion and there’s a whole apparatus for that money to go out to the agencies. Tell us about how that will work now and is GSA equipped for what you hope is demand by agencies seeking that money?

Katy Kale: Absolutely. The infusion of $1 billion into any agency in any fund is going to mean that you need to take a look at the processes and the management to see what needs to change and what will remain the same. As you have probably heard, the process that we’ve had in place for the last three years has worked really well. It’s a process where federal agencies who are interested in technology modernization will submit proposals, we have a team of four that reviews those proposals and invites the project teams to pitch their projects. And then the funds are distributed incrementally in ties to performance against targets and milestones. All the while we have technical experts from GSA and the US Digital Service, able to provide technical support, increase their team capabilities and troubleshoot issues to guarantee successful outcomes. We don’t see any of that changing. But we do want to work closely with the new federal CIO, and the larger OMB as well, as the TMF board to ensure that we have a process that’s sustainable with this larger $1 billion that’s going to be able to capture the current technology needs of all the federal agencies.

Tom Temin: And often that technology requires business and contractors. So I’m wondering if there’s a tie in here to small business in some manner.

Katy Kale: Absolutely. And Exodie can talk more definitely about the small business tie in.

Exodie Roe: So yes, the American Rescue Plan provides $25 billion in additional funding for the Paycheck Protection Program, including to expand eligibility to additional nonprofits and digital news services. There is a fund for the targeted economic injury disaster loan advance, it provides $15 billion. It’s called the EIDL (Economic Injury Disaster Loan) payments including payments for those hardest hit small businesses. The new rescue plan provides $100 million to establish a community navigator pilot program and grants will be eligible to organizations supporting efforts to improve access to the COVID-19 pandemic assistance programs and resources.

Tom Temin: Well, does this come from GSA or from the Small Business Administration?

Exodie Roe: It comes from the Small Business Administration, but it’s just funding as a whole for small businesses through the new law.

Tom Temin: Because GSA has for many years been one of the steward agencies for ensuring that federal agencies meet their small business contracting goals, that hasn’t gone away. What are you planning as the new associate administrator for that whole area to fulfill the spirit of what’s going on with respect to small business and minority owned businesses?

Exodie Roe: I love it and it’s a great question Tom. So OSDBU works with in support FAS and PBS through partnerships. So we work with our acquisition agencies to achieve GSA’s prime and subcontract in small business and socio-economic small business goals, acquisition strategy planning, training and outreach. And to achieve this, I meet with my colleagues to discuss achievements, challenges and solutions regarding acquisition and small business goals. We also collaborate and ensure that the small business program is considered in all contracts and processes. We advise and assist contracting technical and program managers to increase the use of small business program participants as well.

Tom Temin: Because GSA has of course the Federal Acquisition Service, you’ve got the building service, you’ve got the fleets and so many different arms that do acquisition outside of information technology, so it seems like you’ve got to kind of weigh in with them to make sure that everybody’s on the same sheet of music here.

Exodie Roe: Yes, that’s exactly what we do at OSDBU, we partner with FAS and PBS to ensure that all the small business goals are met.

Tom Temin: Alright, and both of you are, well i should say Ms. Kale you’re returning to GSA i believe after a stint there during the Obama administration and Exodie you’re new to the executive branch. Katy what have you noticed differently, how are things different at GSA and what are your overall plans there so far as your acting administrator?

Katy Kale: Absolutely. So it has been a great privilege and honor and i can’t tell you how excited i am to be back at GSA. As you mentioned, I was here during the Obama administration after six and a half years in the White House leading the Office of Management and Administration over there. I came to GSA as the chief of staff and was at the chief of staff at the very end of the administration. And to come back after four years, reunite with some amazing GSAers has been wonderful. In terms of what we’re looking at for the first 100 days and beyond, we are so intertwined with the the priorities of this administration, whether it be COVID relief, all of this work that we’re talking about with technology, we are ready to go and ready to lead by example within all of the the federal agencies — so we’re really excited about the work that we have ahead of us

Tom Temin: Because you do have a lot of inherited programs that have been ongoing i think even before the Trump administration, some of them were started, there are new government wide acquisition vehicles contemplated, especially that relate to small business. You’ve got the consolidation of the schedules, which is partially complete, but that’s ongoing so there’s a lot of pieces to pick up too though, aren’t there?

Katy Kale: Absolutely. It was amazing to see how many things have really remained the same as last time that i was here, whether it’s the work that you were talking about within FAS or our sustainability work that we have both in Office of Governmentwide Policy and in the Public Building Services, there is work that started many administrations ago many administrators ago and continues, and we’re just going to take this next iteration strengthen it and and really run with it

Tom Temin: And Exodie you’re new to the executive branch if I’m correct here, what does it look like so far and what are your plans writ large?

Exodie Roe: Sure, that’s a great question Tom. So as you said, I am new to the executive branch but I’m not new to serving small businesses. Prior to joining GSA, I was the director of policy and external affairs for the congressional black caucus and so I have worked on small business policy and worked directly with small businesses for over 14 years starting in Congressman Jerry McNerney ‘s office in a congressional California district office. And so now that I’m at OSDBU, my plans are for the agency is first and foremost we want to get an A-plus on the Small Business Administration small business procurement scorecard. We also want to make sure that we enhance small business opportunities by ensuring there’s a significant focus on diversity, equity and inclusion, the COVID-19 response, improving the economic recovery and supporting climate initiatives by educating the small business community on opportunities and by training the acquisition workforce on the importance and ease of utilizing small business programs. There’s also an executive order that we want to promote the use of historically black colleges and universities in the federal government procurement process. We also want to make sure that we expand OSDBU’s reach to the small business community throughout the country, specifically in economically disadvantaged areas. So I’m excited about this mission

Tom Temin: And just on a personal note are you moving to Washington or or were you already here for the committee work

Exodie Roe: Well Tom that’s a great question. I actually live in Washington D.C. — so again prior to joining GSA i actually worked worked on Capitol Hill.

Tom Temin: Okay, so you know what the good and bad is of this town.

Exodie Roe: A lot of good in this town. l love Washington D.C. and just all the resources here and all the free institutions and museums and so forth.

Tom Temin: There’s so much to do in D.C., well as someone who comes from a native Washingtonian family myself, I can agree with you there. Exodie Roe is the associate administrator for the Office of Small and Disadvantaged Business Utilization at GSA, thanks so much for joining me

Exodie Roe: Thank you so much Tom for having me, I appreciate it

Tom Temin: And Katy Kale is the acting administrator, great to have you on as well.

Katy Kale: It’s been great talking to you Tom, thank you again.

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