call me maybe

This afternoon, GSA hosted a call to go over President Obama’s 2016 budget that included significant increases for public buildings. I had a free 30 minutes so why not listen in?  I'm glad I did but not because I learned a ton about GSA. The format itself is interesting though.

Here's my summary of the call.

Administrator Dan Tangherlini, Deputy Administrator Denise Turner-Roth, and Commissioner of the Public Building Service, Norm Dong read prepared statements. See the internally prepared summary here and an external one here. For three normally suave, engaging professionals, a couple of stumbles made it sound as if they were seeing some of the content fresh off the printer.

To start, they reviewed the budget request and sprinkled loads of words like transparency, efficiency of internal operations, innovation, cutting edge, vital/critical investments (said probably 8 times), etc. They highlighted a couple of points on savings over the last couple of years that resulted from some building closings/consolidations, changing up their approach to staffing, and decreasing space allocations per staff in federal buildings. I heart efficiencies too!

They talked a little bit about St. Elizabeth’s cost reductions (established $1 billion if I heard this correctly) that resulted from crashing the schedule. Curious to know how that's going to work. They also mentioned new courthouse construction in Tennessee and safety repairs in Fort Lauderdale. Oh yeah, I always forget that there are lots of federal buildings outside of DC. And, of course, they've starting planning for new investments in 2016.

They then opened it up for questions. Needless to say, this is a little awkward—even with a moderator who unintentionally interrupted the Administrator. Here are the highlights...

  • There were several random questions from people wanting to say their name/organization out loud, “long time listener, first time caller” types.  Sorry, if your question is on where you might find agency information on the internet, Google seems like a better starting point than the agency's top three executives but whatever.
  • They then had one from GAO that prompted a big “only if we get the money” caveat from their earlier statements. 
  • They answered some questions on how they prioritize projects which is largely customer-driven because of their reimbursable model.

The three emphasized that a key point of their budget is building in transparency on the amount of rent they collect—an important initiative driven by the Administration. They’re eager to continue demonstrating how they reinvest the rents collected into improving the building efficiency including energy.

There was a good question on getting the proceeds from the sale of assets in disposition. It sounds like whether or not they get the money depends so they’re moving towards an exchange model where they can get services instead of money.

In sum, the fact that they host this call at all is interesting. They open these conference lines up to the public from time to time. It's a curious communication technique because the information is, by design I'm sure, very high-level and directly supports the budget request. There really is never anything new shared or insider information offered. I'm curious to know who this scores brownie points with-- their examiner, their internal staff, their clients, their vendors? Does your agency or client do something similar?  

Curious to know what other tactics people are using to build support this time of year-- especially given the big unknowns with this Congress.