PSC and Agencies Partner to Achieve Missions, Federal Directives
Program Support Center (PSC) hosted a partner engagement forum with U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) operating and staff division executive officers and senior staff to introduce innovations and a new approach to building collaborative administrative solutions that meet their most critical mission needs.
The event was in support of the PSC Partners initiative and held at the Hubert H. Humphrey Building, Great Hall, in Washington, D.C., on July 11.
“We are excited to showcase several concepts that demonstrate the value of streamlined processes, automated workflows, and volume purchasing to reduce costs, speed delivery, and improve quality,” said Al Sample, Director, PSC.
John Bardis, HHS Assistant Secretary for Administration, provides opening remarks. To his left are Bill McCabe, Michael Saunders, Steve Feller, Joe Mayernik, and Lt. Col. Patrick Obruba.
Ken Thomson, Special Advisor to John Bardis; William Brady, Associate Deputy Secretary, Immediate Office of the Secretary; and Lori Ruderman, Director, PSC FedResponse Services chat at the event.
About PSC Partners
The purpose of PSC Partners is to conduct strategic HHS customer engagements focusing on how HHS, through partnerships, can update and modernize key solutions to meet agency requirements in light of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) memo M-17-22 directive to improve service quality and generate cost efficiencies. This is also in support of HHS Secretary Price’s ReImagine HHS initiative.
“PSC understands that HHS operating and staff divisions are facing significant challenges with M-17-22, and Secretary Price has further challenged us all to ‘reimagine’ agencies,” added Sample. “PSC can play a vital role in that success. We are focused on solving some of your most pressing concerns. I have challenged my team to foster a partnership with each of your agencies that is highly collaborative and increasingly responsive.”
To facilitate this effort, PSC is focused on developing solutions in three key areas of support:
Automated Acquisition Support
Modernizing and streamlining procurement, PSC is testing cognitive intelligence technology to improve analytics, enabling improved efficiency and significant cost savings while optimizing contract turnaround time and mitigating compliance risks. PSC is also infusing emerging technology to automate document creation and simplify the procurement process for users and customers.
Streamlined Laboratory Supply Chain
As part of the Secretary’s Ventures Fund, PSC has been charged with developing a proof of concept for an e-commerce platform that leverages volume purchasing to lower cost per unit and increase delivery time that can be scaled to any commodity. By developing an online marketplace model, contract actions can be consolidated and streamlined, leading to reduced costs per unit and “just in time” delivery options.
Unified Facilities Management for Regional Offices
Drawing from government best practices like Joint Basing (DOD) and ICASS (DOS), PSC imagines how centralized acquisition and consolidated rent billing might lead to increased resource sharing and reductions in leased space.
PSC's Cost Savings Plan
Opening remarks were provided by Al Sample, Director, PSC, and John Bardis, HHS Assistant Secretary for Administration. This was followed by a discussion on automated acquisition support by Bill McCabe, Director, Financial Management and Procurement Portfolio and Chief Financial Officer, PSC. Next, Michael Saunders, Director, Real Estate, Logistics, and Operations Support, PSC, discussed the benefits of unified facilities operations.
“There are exciting opportunities before us to really build a modern electronic procurement inventory to benefit the taxpayer and help our mission get where it needs to go,” said Bardis. “It can really address some disparities in pricing and how we think about managing our resources going forward. I think that is really what the executive order is about — how do we manage our resources more efficiently.”
“With business intelligence and strategic planning, we can get some leverage, and negotiate with vendors to get HHS better prices,” added McCabe. ”If we can reduce the inefficiencies and streamline the process by just one percent, you’re saving a quarter of a billion dollars and that’s really in line with the budget guidance that’s just come out.
“We’re looking at a transformation of process from unitary to group purchaser model, with people, processes and automation in place. We have a duty to the taxpayers.”
The second half of the event included a panel of industry experts who spoke about what is going on in the marketplace. Market perspectives were presented by Steve Feller, Senior Managing Consultant, IBM GBS/Cognitive Solutions, Watson (acquisition); Joe Mayernik, CEO, Prodigo Solutions Inc. (laboratory supply chain); and Lt. Col. Patrick Obruba, U.S. Air Force, Joint Basing (facilities management).
PSC and market representatives from acquisitions, supply chain management, real estate, and communications were on hand for additional discussions following the presentations. Topics included the travel system configuration reduction; transit subsidy – WMATA collaboration; electronic records conversion and creation; and electronic health records.
“We thank our PSC partners for their willingness to ReImagine — so we can work together on solutions across the Department to support your critical missions,” said Sample.
Check out the PSC Partners Photo Gallery.
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PSC Chief Financial Officer Discusses Role on ReImagine HHS
Bill McCabe, Director, Financial Management and Procurement Portfolio and Chief Financial Officer, PSC, was interviewed about his role on ReImagine HHS, an initiative begun by U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Tom Price, MD. Mr. McCabe was selected to serve on a workgroup for two weeks.
What is ReImagine HHS?
The initiative was established to determine how HHS can best achieve its mission and better serve the American people. That was the goal — to streamline our operations, be more effective, and be more efficient. This is an opportunity to improve the outcomes for all Americans who are served by HHS, which is a huge portion of the population.
Secretary Price sent a memo to HHS OpDiv and StaffDiv heads on May 2 with a call to action for ReImagine HHS. He also delivered a speech in the Great Hall in the Humphrey Building informing us about the process to reimagine what we do, how we can do it better and more efficiently — overall, how we can best serve our customers. That was his goal, and that was also my goal.
He noted that he sees this effort as an opportunity to improve outcomes for all who are served by HHS. We are engaging in a process to reimagine how we work and how we deploy the American taxpayers’ financial resources, and the vast array of people, physical assets, and intellectual and institutional knowledge that exist with HHS today to better serve Americans now and well into the future.
He went on to say, here’s how we’re going to do it with six values. That is critical about his way of thinking, how we’re going to develop ideas, the things he wanted us to think about. The effort is guided by the values of empowerment, engagement, performance, service, stewardship, and sustainability. These were the guidelines that led us through our two-week reimagining process and will be the guidelines going forward as well.
How did the initiative originate?
The initiative originated from the White House and was driven by Executive Order 13781 from the president. The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) published memorandum M-17-22 with more detailed guidance and suggestions on how to implement the executive order (EO). The EO impacts everyone within the executive branch. So it’s not just HHS; it’s all the departments under the executive branch. Anyone in a cabinet-level agency would be involved in this. One of the things that Secretary Price wanted to do is set up ways to get a lot of people and employees involved in the process.
“ReImagine HHS empowers every member of the HHS team. … It will have governmentwide impact.”
― Bill McCabe, Director, Financial Management and Procurement Portfolio and Chief Financial Officer, PSC
What is your role, and how is PSC helping with the initiative?
There were five workgroups that focused on a given area within the HHS mission: economic and social well-being, health care system, management and stewardship, public health, and scientific advancement. I was a member of the management and stewardship team along with PSC Director Al Sample. There were like 40 people on this team. We came up with approximately six ideas and presented them to a steering committee. I think they were well received and will be at acted on to one extent or another.
The five teams came up with 28 suggestions that they forwarded to the steering and executive committees. On the last day, the teams presented the 28 different initiatives or ideas on how to make HHS better, faster, cheaper, and more economical.
I think the initiative was even bigger than the people imagined. They set up an e-suggestion box, and from what I understand, they received over 6,000 suggestions early on — so virtually all HHS employees were given the opportunity to participate in one manner or another. I think that shows the wide array of people who were interested in reimagining HHS with ideas and suggestions. That's pretty amazing.
That's almost 10 percent of our employees who contributed, so it's a pretty significant return. The suggestions are going to be sifted through and some are valid and will be used. In addition to that, I understand OMB set up a notice in the Federal Register (an official journal of the U.S. federal government) and asked for comments. The notice was on redesigning and reimagining government as a whole — not just HHS. I understand they received huge amounts of comments — like 60,000 — over the first weekend. A lot of the comments were from industry on how to redesign government.
There are approximately 140 people on the five teams and they're not just taking input from them; there were also suggestion boxes set up and they got all kinds of suggestions internally from HHS. In addition, OMB received thousands upon thousands of comments and suggestions from industry and taxpayers and others outside the federal government on how to be streamlined and rearranged. So there's a lot of participation in the process.
What is the timeline?
Secretary Price wants to start implementing reforms — at least initially — in September. In the timeline, a high-level draft of the Agency Reform Plan went to OMB by June 30. In July there is implementation of initial reforms. By September, the Secretary needs a full flushed-out plan. That plan will be incorporated into our budget by February of fiscal year 2018. It will include changes and streamlining that will take place. It's going to happen relatively soon in government terms. It’s not a five- or 10-year project. Even though it won't all be completed in this amount of time, it will begin to be implemented. So, it’s a pretty ambitious plan.
What did you think about the initiative’s approach?
They’re using sort of a bottoms-up approach from all levels of HHS from people who do the work every day. It's not just theory; it's not done at the congressional or the top level. They're asking for input, which is an important step. I think that’s very important. Whatever changes are made will not come across as dictated from the top down and just put over us like a blanket. A lot of it will be brought up from people who suggested it. I think that’s an excellent approach.
So, I think they’ve gone out of their way to solicit input. Everyone was entitled to give input. Every HHS employee either directly or indirectly through the suggestion boxes, through OMB, they asked for government, citizen participation in the way government should be streamlined. I think they've kind of bent over backwards to make sure everyone has the opportunity to make suggestions on how we can make the place better, more efficient.
I think organizations that survive the best and prosper are the ones who are continually looking to reinvent themselves. I think that's the secret to success at least in the corporate arena. In the commercial arena, they have to change with the times. I'm not sure the last time government or HHS went through something like this, but it's probably been quite a while. I think it's timely that we're doing this now.
It's always good to get introspective and look at yourself and see if you're doing things the correct way or if you're just doing them like we did a decade or more ago. So it comes under continuous improvement, continuously reinventing yourself, adopting new processes, functions, technology, and applying them. I think that would be helpful in medicine, and in general in the health fields.
How has your experience been with ReImagine HHS?
It was an honor to be selected as part of the team and to give input. However, all HHS employees were given the opportunity. So, even though it was an honor to be part of the team, I wasn't alone. Everybody was allowed to comment via the e-suggestion box.
We spent two weeks developing this. We sifted through a lot of ideas the first week. There are a lot of ideas, a lot of things thrown out, a lot of things mentioned, a lot of things brought to light. We selected the best ones and that was all done in the first week. The second week was refining and honing the ones we wanted to present to the steering committee.
Al and I pushed forward ideas for reducing cost, streamlining services, and better customer experience through shared services. That's kind of our focus. That was the idea for the whole team that we presented on and it was accepted. That idea of shared services was presented to the steering and executive committees — the expansion of what we do, really. Not that shared services is a new idea in HHS; we’ve been providing shared services for quite a while — since 1995. But, the expansion of it to more services, to more people across government, and improve customer service, all those things — that’s a new approach.
The experience has been great so far. I’m always kind of an outcome-driven person. I want to see some of these improvements — at least a majority get implemented and have the impact that we believe they will. The real test is in the outcomes, how many get implemented, how many get done, how many are successful. So it’s the outcomes. That’s the true test, not theory. It's one thing to bring a lot of suggestions to the table and a lot of proposals. It's the implementation and operationalization of these ideas that will be the true test, as well as the outcomes that we receive from them.
This will be self-improvement, but also it will impact HHS in general and other government agencies that we’re able to serve. So it will have a governmentwide impact, not just HHS. It should be outcome-based. We should be able to deliver services better, cheaper, faster.
I think there’s going to be a lot of budget pressures in our future — fiscal year 2018, 2019, and 2020. So people are going to be looking to organizations and entities in HHS and external to HHS for ways to save money. This initiative, with its proposals and ideas, is an offering we’ll be able to make to them to help attain the president’s goals.
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Walter Discusses Effect of M-17-22 on Shared Services, Federal Government
Jd Walter, Director of Customer Relationship Management, Program Support Center (PSC), was recently interviewed by The Clearing.
In his interview, Walter provides insights on the impact of the Office of Management and Budget memo M-17-22 on the federal government and the future of shared services.
The Clearing is a consultant service that's been working closely with PSC's Office of the Director. They have years of experience in strategy, change management, culture transformation, and leadership training and development.
You can read the full interview at: How M-17-22 Will Impact Shared Services and Potentially Shift Thinking in the Federal Government.
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Rescuers Save Lives With the Help of PSC
Training, Equipment Essential Responding to Life-Threatening Situations
Thanks to training and equipment provided by Program Support Center (PSC), rescuers were able to improve their life-saving skills in Mexico and the Bahamas, and save lives.
Rescue in Mexico
Staff from PSC’s Environmental Health and Safety service completed a firefighting class in Zacatecas, Mexico, that included training on extricating entrapped victims from motor vehicles using equipment that PSC procured.
One of the fire departments received a call and was diverted to a motor vehicle crash scene, where they were able to make good use of the knowledge — and equipment — that PSC had provided.
“One of the teams that we had just trained and equipped was on the way home from training class and they came upon a vehicle accident on the highway and were able to use the high-pressure fire skid that we had to put the fire out and then use a spreader-cutter and ram to get victims out of the vehicles,” said Captain Joseph Hughart, Supervisory Environmental Health Specialist, PSC.
PSC’s environmental health and safety staff along with staff from the PSC facility in Perry Point, Maryland, work together to provide emergency response training and equipment to federal agencies under reimbursable interagency agreements. PSC has an interagency agreement with the U.S. Northern Command (USNORTHCOM), a part of the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD). USNORTHCOM covers North America for the DOD; the Bahamas and Mexico are included as part of this purview. USNORTHCOM partners to conduct homeland defense, civil support, and security cooperation to defend and secure the United States and its interests. As part of this mission, USNORTHCOM ensures that training is provided for fire departments around U.S. government facilities.
Instructors provide training to firefighters in Mexico on extricating a victim from a car accident.
This recent training in Mexico was for firefighters around the city of Zacatecas. In fiscal year 2017, PSC delivered three high-quality training classes with classroom and “hands-on” field instruction with participation from firefighters from a total of 15 Mexican states. Zacatecas was the first training held.
Along with invaluable training, PSC supplies basic life-saving tools, all as part of their mission. One such tool that PSC offers to use is a spreader-cutter. “What that does is it cuts the metal in a car,” Captain Hughart continued. “It cuts the roof or doors and then spreads them just like big jaws and pinchers, like maybe a crab would have. Then, the second thing is a hydraulic ram which once we cut, we can put that ram in between two pieces and operate it and it will actually push those two pieces apart and that will allow us to go in and get the victim. If the ambassador or consulate officer was involved in a wreck or an explosion around the consulate or embassy, those guys would be available to extricate very quickly because our embassies and consulates depend on local first responders.”
The support is part of a joint security operation project between the United States government and Mexican government, which is covered under a recent treaty ratified by Congress. It includes various elements, one of which is joint emergency response cooperation. The U.S. government has a number of facilities and approximately 400 personnel working in Mexico.
“We have a U.S. embassy and eight different consulates around the country,” said Captain Hughart. “We have quite a few U.S. federal employees there and a lot of the places where they work, there’s not adequate firefighter capacity. So through the U.S. Northern Command and the U.S. embassy in Mexico, we work with the Mexican government to train and equip firefighters. In this case, we train them on basic firefighting.”
PSC’s customer agencies served include the DOD and Department of State, and they work under the U.S. Mexico-Border 2020 Program. The program includes a number of U.S. federal agencies and departments such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, DOD, Environmental Protection Agency, Department of Transportation, and U.S. Agency for International Development.
“There are a lot of agencies involved and the DOD was designated by Congress to receive and disburse the funds,” said Captain Hughart. “So there are a lot of different agency activities in Mexico as part of this Border 2020 program, and this is just one of them.”
This is not the first time that the high-pressure fire units have been used to save lives. PSC has been running this program in Mexico since 2012. This is actually the fourth major firefighting project there, in addition to water rescue projects, collapsed structure rescue projects, and technical rope rescue projects. “We trained and equipped the Mexican national search-and-rescue team for several years,” Hughart said. “We have a number of projects ongoing down there and this is one of them.”
“We specify what equipment to buy and they buy it,” said Captain Hughart. “We use USNORTHCOM funding to pay them and then we ship it down to Mexico. We go down and either put the training on ourselves or hire a contractor to do it. Usually we put the training on ourselves. But there have been several incidents where this equipment has saved lives. So, it's really kind of a soft power relationship with Mexico where when we do something official for them, that also benefits us for our federal employees down there.”
Rescue in the Bahamas
PSC has had a similar program ongoing in the Bahamas since 2012 where they train and equip 12 hurricane or floodwater rescue teams.
"They had no water rescue capability,” said Captain Hughart. “In fact, we had a live rescue during our class in the Exuma Islands District. There was a lady who was drowning while we were doing class on the beach and our team went out and got her. So you know, we’re saving lives both in the Bahamas and Mexico.”
Environmental health and safety officers were conducting a water rescue boat training and equipment class for DOD’s U.S. Northern Command on Exuma in the Bahamas. During the class, a female tourist was swimming far out in the bay on an air mattress float. Gusty winds caused her to lose the float. The winds picked up the float and quickly carried it across the bay, out of reach. Water conditions were dangerous: the water was cold, with chop, high winds, and very powerful long-shore currents and rip currents.
The woman quickly got tired trying to swim back to shore against the current, and began waving her arms above the water. Environmental health and safety officers dispatched a rescue boat with four students to extract her from the water and return her to shore. The woman stated that she was about to go under and would not have made it without the rescue boat pickup.
A team trains on water rescue techniques in the Bahamas.
PSC’s environmental health and safety staff as well as staff from the PSC facility in Perry Point have received several reports over the past five years about lives being saved as a result of the emergency response training and equipment projects. “The entire PSC team deserves a note of thanks for supporting these projects,” said Captain Hughart.
“We were training and equipping the Exuma water rescue team because they didn’t have any training or equipment,” Captain Hughart said. “In fact, we formed a team. Exuma has a big resort on it, and a lot of people from the U.S. fly there now — there are direct flights from Atlanta. But there’s no rescue capacity as there is in most of the Bahamas and so we’re funded by USNORTHCOM to recruit, train, and equip a water rescue team and we buy all the gear in conjunction with Perry Point and ship it down there. We go down and put on our one-week in-the-water rescue team. We teach them swimming techniques; we donate boats and motors; and we teach them how to put those together and operate them.”
The client is USNORTHCOM in Bahamas and they work with the Bahamas National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) which is like the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency. “We go out with NEMA and Northern Command and we do the training and equip part of it,” Captain Hughart said. “Then, NEMA comes in at the end and actually commissions the team and its part of their national hurricane disaster response capability.”
When PSC started in 2012, 98 percent of their population had no water rescue capability — now 98 percent does. “We’ve covered the whole country,” said Captain Hughart. “Just going island-to-island where there are people. We’ve done I think 16 major water rescue equips down there.” The team also went to Mexico recently for water rescue training.
Track Record of Response
PSC’s environmental health and safety team started working with the U.S. Agency for International Development back in 1996 providing disaster response and training and equipment all over the world for them. “With USNORTHCOM, we’ve been doing it since 2010 and USAID’s office for foreign development started with the Rwanda genocide in 1995,” said Captain Hughart. “I was one of two HHS responders sent to Rwanda for the genocides.
“We went down to Mexico in 2010 to do a response to Hurricane Alex for USAID and USNORTHCOM found out about it and we got to talking a lot,” said Captain Hughart. “So, most of our business grows by word of mouth. We work with a group of people, then somebody else finds out about it and it goes from there.”
Captain Hughart is stationed at Dobbins Air Reserve Base, an Air Force base northwest of Atlanta, and gets deployed for training and disasters. He was busy running trailers to their warehouse to ship material out to the Bahamas, when he took time for an interview. They have a track record of worldwide response. “We went out on the Haiti earthquake, the Japan earthquake and nuclear incident there, we’re on the ground for all the big disasters, Ebola, we’ve been to Iraq, you name it, we’ve been to all of them.”
Captain Hughart humbly pointed out that while his team provided training, also essential is the equipment procured by his PSC colleagues. “The real heroes on this are the staff at Perry Point,” he said. “Thank you for purchasing all of the firefighting and water rescue gear for the NORTHCOM projects.”
Learn more and explore how the PSC Environmental Health and Safety service can support agency missions. Also, check out the PSC Rescue Photo Gallery.
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