Message from the PSC Director
At Program Support Center (PSC), we are always looking for ways to best serve you by improving the delivery of services and reducing costs. Our goal is to make it easier to fulfill your agency's mission. In fact, that's our mission every day!
One of the ways we support customers is by incorporating the newest ideas and utilizing the most up-to-date technology. As detailed in the feature article in this edition of Partners, we've been doing technology assessments and exploring how to deploy new technology to improve services. As a forward-thinking organization, we're excited about the future and how we can best contribute to your overall success.
We had another outstanding year of partnership with customer agencies and are proud to share some highlights. For example, we closed out the financial activity for fiscal year 2017 and reopened the system in record time to be available for the 2018 fiscal year business operations of all the agencies we serve. Not surprisingly, this success is viewed as a benchmark for the government as a whole. This is just one example of how we strive for excellence, and the depth and breadth of the support we offer federal agencies.
We take pride in active and seamless partnership with other government agencies. We stand ready to improve agency business operations with innovative, highly practical, and effective solutions. Our wide range of solutions can lift many burdens so that you can fully focus on primary objectives. Please visit our directory and contact our service directors to learn more and explore how we can assist. We thank you for the partnership. Have an enjoyable spring season!
Director, Program Support Center
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Working Smarter — Enhanced Technology, Optimized Service
Technology is an integral part of shared services. Program Support Center (PSC) is exploring opportunities to innovate in order to improve the delivery of services and reduce service costs.
With a progressive, forward-looking approach, we are assessing our technology to ensure it is the right technology, with the right functionality, and the right management to best serve our customers — and our workforce.
“We're focusing on working smarter in the future and using technology as an enabler to that goal,” said Al Sample, Director, PSC. “In shared services, we're committed to improving our business processes, leveraging our resources — including our human resources.”
As the largest multi-function shared service provider to the federal government, with close to $1.4 billion in business annually, we use state-of-the-art technology to its full advantage, such as managing our transit subsidy business that serves over 86,000 customers, supporting our extensive travel services, executing badging processes, and delivering more than $2 billion in grants daily.
Partnership with OCIO
PSC is partnering with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Office of the Chief Information Officer (OCIO) to assess what technology we have and what we will need going forward. In keeping with a trend across the government, PSC wants to get out of the business of owning and managing technology. This will help us shift all of our focus to service delivery — instead of also being concerned with system maintenance.
While technology will always be a vital component of PSC service offerings, spending less time managing technology will allow more valuable time and energy for managing services. The federal government wants to move from local ownership of technology to using software as a service. The idea is to buy licenses, not systems.
“It's important that we partner with OCIO because we can ensure compliance with information security standards, minimize duplication of the systems and effort, and leverage the enterprise systems that already exist within HHS to control our costs and, most important, improve our efficiencies,” said Sample.
“OCIO is the strategic partner that's going to help us leverage cloud technologies, which gives the capability to gain significant economies of scale to control costs and minimize our need for supportability,” Sample explained. “We are partnering with OCIO to make the best use of systems that are already in existence, such as their email systems or decision support systems — or systems like the UFMS [HHS's Unified Financial Management System] platforms. They [OCIO] are key to helping us integrate and minimize duplication of effort. They are the experts in terms of helping us make sure that we're secure, and that systems are supportable to meet our business needs.”
Software as a Service
Some examples of available software as a service include SharePoint, Salesforce, email platforms, artificial intelligence, and robotics. These capabilities allow PSC to focus on solving business problems and needs, instead of putting energy toward building and managing technology. The software-as-a-service model gives shared service capabilities to reduce costs and enhance security.
“We don't worry about things like performance management,” said Sample, “because most software-as-a-service capabilities are cloud technologies that have almost infinite capabilities to scale and many are already integrated within our enterprise systems. We're in the business of managing PSC as an organization rather than managing technologies. We want to leverage and utilize software as a service for our needs when we need it versus becoming mired in the ongoing support of technologies that become legacy technologies very quickly because of changes in the industry.
“Therefore, software as a service is an enabler for agility and speed to market and being able to implement the latest and most advanced technologies to solve complex business needs. We want to buy what we need on demand, versus building and supporting it,” he explained.
In addition to assessing our current technological capabilities, PSC is also looking at ways to take advantage of new and emerging technologies to upgrade current functionality or improve processes and services without having to buy systems. New technology can help externally with strategic planning, and internally with processing.
Particular areas of technology that we are closely considering include artificial intelligence (AI), robotic process automation (RPA), and blockchain (a trusted chain of communication and approval technology). PSC is looking at innovation opportunities for all of our services, such as acquisitions, grants, accounting, and transportation.
For example, a vendor reported that their system, which uses AI technology, was able to read and understand the Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) in a matter of minutes. FAR has more than 1,900 pages of all the laws and regulations for government acquisition compliance. “I don't think many humans understand it,” said Bill McCabe, Chief Financial Officer, PSC. He also noted: “We do about 9,000 contracts a year and it's impossible for a human to read 9,000 [contracts] and do an analysis that AI can.”
PSC is also looking at RPA technology to see where it can enhance transactional efficiencies by deploying bots. RPA refers to software that can be programmed easily to do basic tasks across applications. RPA is designed to reduce the burden of simple, repetitive tasks on employees. An example of RPA is chatbots with the FedResponse Contact Center. The chatbots provide information online via chat and can handle simple scripts.
“It saves human staff to handle tier-two questions that require more complex decision-making and thought,” said Lori Ruderman, who recently served as the FedResponse director. “It allows humans to do more meaningful work. They are operational 24/7, during weather events, and don't take sick days. The maintenance costs are minimal compared to training and replacing human employees.”
McCabe added, “It will free us from some of the more mundane tasks — especially the robotic technology — like filling out forms or processing, that people aren't really necessarily into or want to get involved with. This allows people to do more strategic work. It's not a question of replacing people. Technology allows them to do higher-level work and lets the bots do the more mundane tasks involved in the accounting and acquisitions processes.”
Robots can be doing rudimentary data entry approximately 15 times faster than a human can type. Having AI and bots working together frees up staff.
The technology can help with speed to market, too. “If we can cut the acquisition cycle time, for instance, down from an 80-day cycle to a 60-day or a 40-day cycle by just being able to communicate faster and more efficiently, we could cut down the process of the contract award,” said McCabe. “That will help immensely with the transferring of data. The combination of artificial intelligence and robots especially will help us perform our jobs much more efficiently. If we can cut that down by days, and maybe more like weeks, that would be huge — and time is money, so you save time, you save money.”
Key goals related to the adoption of the new technologies are better accountability, transparency, and collaboration with our valued customers. “It will allow us to do things in a more efficient management style, instead of taking a week to call somebody back, and getting them on the phone and they're on vacation or meetings,” said McCabe. “The ability to constantly communicate back and forth with our customers will make us more efficient and more accountable. Those things together will save us a lot of money, a lot of cost, reduce a lot of time in not just the acquisition cycle but the accounting cycle, too, and process improvement in general is what we're looking for.”
Maximizing the Workforce
Leveraging technology also supports operating in a more efficient and effective manner, in line with the goals and objectives of the Office of Management and Budget memo M-17-22. “I see technology as making the best of our human capital,” asserted Sample. “I see it helping to improve the morale and job satisfaction of our workforce, if we can have a workforce that focuses more on decision support and more meaningful work in the future. Technology is an important tool to improve an employee's value to the organization. Plus, technology is an asset to our overall shared services business.”
PSC is a non-appropriated agency within HHS and operates on a competitive fee-for-service basis with a large contractor workforce and a relatively small federal workforce. PSC's current operation at peak efficiency has made it a bit of a challenge to meaningfully observe the goals for M-17-22. Better use of technology can help toward that end.
Business intelligence, state-of-the-art technology, and strategic planning can help save money. “If we can reduce inefficiencies and streamline the process by just one percent, you can save a quarter of a billion dollars and that's in line with the budget guidance,” said McCabe.
Sample added: “Our goal is to continuously look for ways to work smarter and technology helps us achieve those goals, whether it's utilizing AI to make better decisions, execute improvements in our business process, or use robotics to perform rudimentary tasks that no longer need human intervention. It gives us the opportunity to elevate the kind of work that humans perform in the future. I want to challenge our workforce to embrace technology to ‘work smarter' in the future.”
The end result is that PSC is evolving to provide more robust customer solutions with higher quality and lower costs by leveraging innovative technology.
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Visiting PSC's Largest Acquisitions Customer
A Program Support Center (PSC) team recently had the opportunity to visit the Letterkenny Army Depot (LEAD) — the largest external customer that utilizes PSC's acquisitions service — to discuss a partnership in support of our nation's defense. PSC is currently providing assisted acquisitions services and contract administration to LEAD.
LEAD is known as the Army's capabilities-based depot and the premier center of industrial and technical excellence for air defense tactical missile ground support equipment, mobile electric power generation equipment, Patriot missile recertification, and route clearance vehicles. LEAD's mission is to develop and deliver material readiness for the air defense forces of the United States and its international partners, building combat power for combined and joint route clearance operations worldwide.
The PSC team that went to the Chambersburg, Pennsylvania, site included Al Sample, Director; Earl Pinto, Director, Acquisition Management Services; Don Hadrick, contract officer; and Travis Sutton, contract specialist. The team made a presentation to the deputy base commander and was given a tour by LEAD's contracting officer representative Jimmy Doyle.
The purpose of the visit was to see operations firsthand and discuss the partnership. “It's a chance to make continuous improvements to the customer service delivery,” said Pinto. “You don't know that unless you ask the questions — you sit down with them and figure out what's working and what's not working. The customer is very happy with the level of service they're getting.” Hadrick added: “You have to be curious and passionate when providing customer service.”
PSC has awarded two contracts for LEAD, including a large contract outfitting Humvees and other vehicles with armor protection. The second contract provides for earned value management professional services — a project management technique for measuring project performance and progress — for LEAD and the Redstone Arsenal Program Executive Office, Missiles and Space in Alabama.
The partnership between PSC and Letterkenny began in 2011. Before PSC came onboard, the joint warfighter's mission was in jeopardy because of potential contract issues. PSC was brought in to write a new contract and provide services to ensure LEAD could continue its critical work.
Today, the support for LEAD is on a larger scale. “The new value is about $85 million a year, and multiplied by five years it's about $450 million,” said Hadrick. “That's our largest single contract for assisted acquisitions.” The contract is the largest employer in the Chambersburg area, with nearly 1,000 employees.
Hadrick noted the value of the whole team's visit to the site. “I think it gives an opportunity for management to really see how large of a contract this is, and the true impact to their mission,” he said. The visiting team was inspired by seeing the work being done to help defend freedom and save lives. They even got to climb into one of the military vehicles.
The inside of the depot resembles an automotive assembly plant, with lines of production all the way across the facility, where staff strips everything off vehicles and sends them to shops such as for welding and paint. Much of the staff consists of mechanics who repair vehicles, and electronic technicians. Employees at the depot work in about 25 labor categories, each with specific duties, such as painting vehicles.
Like PSC, LEAD has a working capital fund and operates as a business. “They are basically one of five depots in the United States that have working capital funds with specific projects, so they support the retrofitting of the Humvees, the generators, and those kinds of things,” explained Hadrick. “[The LEAD operations] support other groups with their projects.”
The partnership between PSC and LEAD continues to develop and be a win-win situation. Hadrick added: “They're expanding the work we do for them because we already wrote another contract and we have another forthcoming. The ultimate goal is to grow and expand our business with Letterkenny.”
PSC provides comprehensive support for negotiated contracts and simplified acquisitions by our trained and certified acquisition professionals. Learn more about PSC's acquisition service and explore how the solution can help support your agency's mission at the PSC acquisition web page.
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PSC Reopens System in Record Time to Support Agency Missions
Reopening Program Support Center's (PSC's) financial system in a timely manner at the end of the fiscal year is vital to support mission operations for the federal agencies that PSC serves. The finance team was able to provide excellent customer service by opening the system in record time for the new year to enable essential payments.
The team broke its own record with a fiscal year-end closeout and system reopen in three days for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), shaving a day off last year's record-breaking year-end activities.
Closing out the fiscal year completes the annual financial activity for six HHS operating divisions and all 16 staff division components of the Office of the Secretary that use PSC's financial services. The financial records that PSC provides are also the basis for annual reporting to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and the U.S. Department of the Treasury.
The team set this new record despite increased customer support requirements this year. Acquisitions grew more than 33 percent, for $2.3 billion total obligations. The grants team disbursed an impressive $518 billion to 17,526 grantees in 135 countries.
The timeliness demonstrated by the financial team was top priority and of utmost importance to everyone involved. “We service the Secretary's office and a number of operating divisions; the Administration for Children and Families is the second largest in HHS, so stopping delivery of critical payments and critical services and payment for those services and obligations impacts the agencies' missions, like health care and so forth,” said Scott Brna, Deputy Chief Financial Officer, PSC. “When the system is closed, we can't award contracts, travel payments stop, and all the payments for our vendors stop.”
“You want to make sure that we continue to support the mission [of each agency we serve] behind the scenes,” said Brna. “It's a sign of quality for our service and sends a message that we know what we're doing, because we have the expertise on our team that we can close and reopen in the three-day timeframe, and minimize the downtime for a lot of critical activities. It minimizes disruptions for our vendor community, our customer operating divisions, and so forth, so that they can start fiscal year (FY) 2018 business and continue FY 2017 business with minimal interruption.”
PSC's accounting team works closely with the financial reporting and acquisitions teams, who also operated around the clock — including the weekend the final day of FY 2017 — to process all the outstanding contract awards.
The year-end process goes in different cycles and many teams are involved. One important shared function of these teams is getting all the data into the system. The acquisitions team awards contracts, operating divisions award grants, and feeder systems record payroll, travel, and other items. The grants team prepares and generates the expenditure, advance, and accrual files to interface with the finance systems. All this activity happens until year-end, requiring ongoing input of data into the finance systems.
PSC then rolls forward the data from one fiscal year to the next and loads budgets, allowing for smooth operations in the new year. Next, the financial reporting team analyzes the data in the system and finalizes the year-end reports to Treasury and OMB. Finally, independent auditors review the data and render an opinion on the financial statements.
“PSC leads the government in year-end close and is used as a benchmark for other organizations.”
— Scott Brna, Deputy Chief Financial Officer, PSC
Brna attributed the success to factors including PSC Director Al Sample's initiatives for workforce development, operational excellence, and superior customer service and customer experience. “Our employees are top-notch,” Brna said. “They put in the hours, hard work, expertise, blood, sweat, and tears. They deserve the kudos for getting it done. Really, it's a marker of our expertise, our capabilities, our striving for continuous improvement. It's something that demonstrates our competency in financial management.”
What's also impressive is that the team did so well despite a turnover in staff this year. “We brought in resources and planned for the staff transition,” said Brna. “We picked up somebody new from the Office of Finance and brought in some staff from around FMP [Financial Management and Procurement Portfolio] to supplement them.”
Each year the process has improved. This continuing progress involves extensive planning, meetings, and three mock conversions. The customers are partners in this success, too, which requires a lot of coordination. “It's really good, open, constant communication,” explained Brna.
This year-end success story is something that PSC staff takes pride in. “No one else in the department [HHS] closed in three days,” said Brna. “Other things being equal such as systems, deadlines, and requirements, PSC leads the government in year-end close and is used as a benchmark for other organizations.”
Consolidating the functions of budget, acquisitions, grants, and accounting in the Financial Management and Procurement Portfolio has streamlined the process. “We continue to reap benefits because we're under the same house,” said Brna. He points to the vital chain of events, “having all the players working in partnership — understanding what their role is and then who has the handoff. It's all part of a good team. It's worked out well, even outside of year-end close. We've improved the whole customer intake process for bringing on non-HHS customers into our acquisition mix, streamlining the end-to-end process.”
The team has received many thank-you notes and kudos from appreciative customers, from the auditors to the Secretary's office, including praise as exemplary for HHS as a whole. “We're actually seen as the model for other accounting centers,” Brna said. “Especially with a new administration, you want to show that we're the ones who know what we're doing and give confidence to the new players that we've got it together and we're doing something private industry often can't even do, which is close and open the books in three days.”
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Renew Your Energy with Nutritious Fuel
One of your most important energy sources is the food you eat. Daily food choices can have a big impact on our energy levels and our long-term health. Of course, eating well — and in moderation — can help you maintain a healthy weight, while boosting your immune system and lowering your risk for a number of diseases. To inspire federal employees on their path to wellness during National Nutrition Month, our nutrition page provides quick-reference information — and encouragement — to make smart food choices every day.
Does a stack of blueberry banana pancakes sound good right now? How about a bowl of curried butternut squash soup? Would your kids enjoy Busy Mom's Mac ‘n Cheese for supper tonight, complete with secret ingredients? These are just a few of the tasty, nutritious, and practical recipes employees have shared to inspire your healthy food choices. View the full recipe list.
None of us likes denying ourselves foods we enjoy — and dwelling on what we can't have tends to make those foods more tempting. To succeed with healthier food choices, focus on foods that you find both nutritious and delicious and feel free to be generous with them.
- Fruits and vegetables — Pile them on! According to choosemyplate.gov, fruits and vegetables should fill half your plate, with a range of colors for variety in flavor and nutrition. Learn more about choices and ways to get more at Fruits and Veggies: More Matters.
- Whole grain foods — Choose whole grain pastas, breads, and cereals for more fiber and nutrients.
- Lean sources of protein — Choose beans and nuts, lean meats, seafood, soy, and eggs.
- Dairy and other calcium-rich foods — Remember milk is not the only option. Dark leafy vegetables like kale, Swiss chard, mustard greens, and Chinese cabbage are natural calcium-rich sources, and many foods are fortified with calcium.
- Water — Are you really hungry, or just thirsty? We often mistake thirst for hunger, so try keeping a water bottle handy for sipping when you're hungry — instead of reaching for your favorite snack food.
While shopping, read food labels with an eye out for sodium, saturated and trans fats, and added sugars.
- Sodium — Aim to keep your total sodium below 2,300 milligrams every day. High sodium often crops up in processed foods and restaurant dishes.
- Saturated fats and trans fats — Choose baked goods without trans fats (check the nutrition facts label) and use non-hydrogenated fats from vegetable sources when baking for yourself.
- Sugars — Limit your sugar and satisfy any sweet cravings from natural sources, like fruit. One easy and tasty swap is sparkling water with fresh fruit instead of soda or juices.
Good nutrition is a great step toward a healthier you. Learn more ways to take control of your health by completing your wellness profile. You can access healthy recipes for breakfast, lunch, and dinner options on our nutrition page.
Do you want to spread the word about wellness? We make it easy. To support good health, our monthly campaigns provide user-friendly promotional materials and toolkits, including fliers, posters, bulletin-board graphics, closed-circuit TV slides, and even customized email blast messages. These health promotion toolkits are a great way to deliver wellness information and resources to increase awareness of healthy lifestyle choices and our occupational health services.
Download and explore more of our monthly campaign materials — visit the toolkit page.
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