Message from the PSC Director
As the premier provider of shared services to the federal government, we realize the importance of modernizing technology in Program Support Center’s (PSC’s) service delivery to you, our client agencies. PSC creates value that most organizations cannot attain independently, and we continually explore ways to create new services and enhance business solutions that ensure our customers' vital needs are met.
To advance the development of our technology strategy to best serve our customers, we have hired Dennis Papula as our Chief Business Technology Officer. We are excited to have Dennis on the leadership team. He will provide oversight and guidance for new technology initiatives and establish and maintain effective working relationships with PSC stakeholders and partners. You can read an interview with Dennis in this edition.
We look forward to leveraging new leading-edge technology to help agencies focus on their core missions that enhance and protect the health and well-being of all Americans, whether an agency is seeking a cure for a particular disease, administering grant programs for child health and development, or preparing for disease outbreaks or the impacts of natural disasters. We want to support and improve your business operations and provide a reliable go-to resource while enhancing your experience and working smarter on your behalf. We see great opportunities to be in the vanguard of change that helps our organization better support yours.
Some examples of our commitment to modernization include our recent industry day event with more than 200 industry partners that focused on business solutions that use artificial intelligence technology. We updated our website — psc.gov — with improved speed, more intuitive navigation, and a streamlined user experience overall. In addition, our mail operations service is using cutting-edge technology to save client agencies money and add value with benefits, such as superior service. You can learn more about these topics in this edition of Partners.
We look forward to exploring opportunities to leverage both existing and emerging technologies to better serve you.
Thank you for your collaboration and partnership. I hope you have a terrific summer!
Director, Program Support Center
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New CBTO on Board to Enhance PSC’s Technology and Capabilities
Dennis Papula is the new Chief Business Technology Officer (CBTO) at Program Support Center (PSC). In this role, he is responsible for the development of a clear technology strategy and roadmap to support PSC’s diverse business needs.
Papula provides oversight and leadership for all new PSC technology initiatives, ensures compliance with HHS policies, and establishes and maintains effective working relationships with PSC stakeholders and partners. This requires him to wear several hats and contribute to many of our service areas — and to our overall operations. We are looking forward to making the best use of his expertise as we grow and advance as the largest multi-function shared service provider to the federal government.
Before coming to PSC, Papula was the Director of the Enterprise Strategy and Governance within the Office of the Chief Information Officer at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). He has had a distinguished career in government supporting information technology (IT) development and modernization for government agencies including the Federal Trade Commission, General Services Administration, and the U.S. Department of Education.
PSC Partners: What vision does PSC Director Allen Sample have for the role of CBTO?
Dennis Papula: PSC is in a great place for modernizing. Modernization has to be supported by the culture and the culture's tone is usually set at the top. PSC has an incredible opportunity with Al Sample at the top because he understands and gets technology: it’s in his blood. Therefore, the opportunity for us to be able to do some leapfrogging [from the initiatives Al has spearheaded] is pretty profound and many good decisions already occurred prior to my arrival.
I also believe PSC is leading the way within HHS, using some more advanced or commercialized technologies. Whether it’s adoption of cloud platforms — which we have already in operation — or use of technologies like robotics for process automation, we’re pushing the Department [HHS] in a very positive and constructive way. I look around the space and I think, “Okay, there are some things we don’t have that other organizations do.” However, that allows us to catch up quickly because we aren’t having to interact with legacy solutions or competing platforms. We also have a leadership team that accepts risk and understands there will be knowns and unknowns, while they have the right kind of decision criteria to prevent significant losses. We just need to be aware of best practices within the commercial sphere and leverage other agencies’ advancements.
How do you see your responsibilities as the new CBTO?
My role as the CBTO is to create a corporate strategy and advise on business value related to our technology solutions. I am here to assist — not direct — decision makers in coordinating and facilitating technology adoption to enhance business operations and support sustainability, scalability, and business outcomes.
Determining what you aren’t going to do or be involved with will help eliminate underutilized or outdated technology, mitigate analysis paralysis, and inhibit the paradox of choice. Having a solid strategy will enable us to get started, experiment, and deliver solutions sooner by streamlining our ability to move past obstacles.
We’re working with strategic intent to understand what our existing technology is, how it’s being used, and how we can modernize that technology to improve our overall environment. Our goal is to enhance our cloud capabilities to improve customer engagement, provide workflow modernization, and deploy a platform for employees to openly communicate.
How can each portfolio and PSC team member contribute to the advancement of technology at PSC?
Employees can benefit PSC by providing feedback, input, and ideas, as they reside in all parts of the organization, especially the potential blind spots for leadership. We also want to start experimenting at PSC by having our workforce be on the front end of adoption before we roll out solutions to our customers. This requires the workforce to be open and willing, and requires leadership to be aware, accepting, and comfortable with both success and failure.
People always want to look for the perfect solution. The problem is you never get your requirements perfect. In addition, you can get scope creep. You get business process folklore and legend, too — as opposed to rational consideration: “I used to do it this way, I still want to do it that way.” The result can be a difficult, unsupportable, customized, commercial off-the-shelf product that takes years to deliver. PSC would greatly benefit from more calculated risk in pursuing technology solutions. It’s okay to do things differently; we need to perpetuate and reinforce this with the workforce.
Overall, we get to experiment, learn, and grow as a community, while gaining access to the most modern technology and functioning as entrepreneurs within our organization. Employees may soon hear news of our plans to modernize PSC, along with the potential opportunities that follow such as technology change ambassadors.
What attracted you to PSC?
I strongly believe in the mission and value of PSC. We provide shared services to organizations with incredibly important core missions such as finding a cure for cancer or detecting and preventing the next pandemic. We’re here to help them avoid reinventing the wheel or doing travel management, basic accounting, and grants administration. Every minute spent away from their core mission is an opportunity lost for our customers. We’re also able to take on greater internal risk in contrast to our customers and other agencies due to our support role. This gives us the incredible opportunity to be on the vanguard of leading change within HHS.
What plans do you have for existing and emerging technology at PSC?
Technology is integrated in everything we do and directly impacts our ability to attract and retain customers, as well as our ability to effectively deliver on our operations. There is not a single thing we do here that doesn’t involve technology or cannot be aided with the use of technology. My plan is to orchestrate a corporate strategy to facilitate open communication and eliminate replication within PSC. Transparency will allow our employees to back out of the garage and see what would typically be out of view. They will be able to leverage existing tools and technology instead of buying costly duplicative resources, the effect of which will reduce waste, avoid barriers, and increase PSC’s pace of delivering quality service to our customers.
Providing customers with a one-stop shop will certainly enhance and unify their overall experience with PSC. The same can be said with an employee platform. We want to make things transparent and easy for both our customers and employees. We potentially can create a secure platform that aids in sharing information and allows individuals to learn and play with new platforms and technologies and build for themselves regardless of location or grade.
Are there any technology policy issues that could affect business technology in the near or long term?
We must all be aware of memorandums and executive orders issued by the President such as the recent Executive Order Enhancing the Effectiveness of Agency Chief Information Officers, issued May 5, 2018. Officials will want to be aware and extra wary of commercialized technology trends that get in the way of practicality. As a government organization, we have to balance stewardship of resources and be mindful of existing tools, technology, and strategies that lead us to more practical solutions.
Technologies like blockchain are still emerging and use cases are still coming into play. RPA (robotic process automation) has been out in the commercial sector for a number of years and the use cases are voluminous, offering fairly dramatic changes to operational performance. It is especially important for PSC to modernize and benefit from technological advancements to aid business practices and secure revenue as a non-appropriated entity.
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New PSC.gov Soars Higher
Program Support Center (PSC) has reached new heights, with a new and improved PSC website that is more accessible and better performing.
The website showcases our full array of shared service solutions. Users can access comprehensive information about our organization, especially all the features that relate to our mission to provide client agencies strong and timely support so they can focus on their core mission.
The website has a fresh design with a more modern look and feel — including new images, color scheme, and content. Since its migration to the new platform, the site's performance has improved, with more intuitive navigation and faster loading pages.
The transition to the new platform began May 1. The web address — or uniform resource locator (URL) — for the homepage remains the same psc.gov and we are striving to keep URLs for other pages the same so that users' bookmarks will still get them where they want to go.
PSC's Federal Occupational Health web team migrated the site to the new platform. The content was prioritized based on user access data — number of visits to individual pages. This ensured that the most often used pages were ready and available.
“We took a hard look at the data from the original site and recognized some changes we could make to improve the user experience,” said Elizabeth Hawks, web developer, Federal Occupational Health. “We made the site fully responsive and cross-browser compliant. We simplified the navigation, decreased redundancy, and added larger testimonials to bring some of our customer logos and client agency comments more to the forefront.
“We've had great feedback since the launch. People seem to really like the look and feel of the new site. It makes us happiest, though, when we hear from people, ‘It is so easy to navigate.’ That was one of our primary goals,” Hawks said.
To provide feedback or request more information, please contact PSC Office of Communication.
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New Ventures with NPS and DOJ
The mail operations team at Program Support Center (PSC) has entered into joint ventures with the U.S. National Park Service (NPS) and the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) to provide state-of-the-art equipment, software, and data hosting services to support enterprise mail processing and reporting requirements.
The partnerships are expected to lead to significant cost savings for the agencies, with several other benefits including efficiencies in time, premier service and support, and additional data security. For example, the projected savings for one agency is more than $1.2 million over the life of the contract. These PSC services are also available to other federal agencies.
PSC Mail Operations Project Manager Melissa Harrison has oversight of the 427 NPS locations that are undergoing this transition throughout the United States and its territories.
“Providing updated software, equipment, and supplies to diverse locations and remote sites has its challenges, but we endeavor to accomplish this task through active involvement of issue spotting, resource management, and problem solving,” said Harrison. “All stakeholders are engaged in weekly meetings that address questions, concerns, and open-action items.”
Customer satisfaction, PSC's top priority, is at the forefront of this effort and Harrison is dedicated to the customers and this project. In addition to the dollar savings, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is able to provide several other benefits including:
- Premier service support — customer service requests are escalated and response times are accelerated
- Compliance with the government initiative to use shared services, buy in bulk, and leverage existing items
- Additional security — HHS has contracted with the only vendor that is FedRAMP certified, greatly decreasing the time required for software vetting/trusted site approval
- Access to enterprise software via HHS shared services
- Rate shopping feature includes the U.S. Postal Service discount program, with Schedule 48 rates and utilization of UPS and FedEx discount programs
- Bulk buying power — on goods, services, and supplies
- Saving client agencies time, money, effort, and staffing costs related to a standard procurement — which often takes months to complete
PSC will also be assisting numerous sites with mass mailing efforts by supplying stand-alone folder/inserters. The agreement provides for equipment and software supply, delivery, installation, training, and maintenance. For example, the collaboration with DOJ, specifically the Executive Office for Immigration Review, will support enterprise mail processing and reporting requirements at courthouses throughout the United States.
“I would like to recognize Melissa Harrison for her dedication to our customers and this project,” said Bobbie Sue Cline, Director, Mail and Publishing Services, PSC.
PSC provides official government mail services to all federal agencies. We offer a comprehensive end-to-end solution for our customers and design, address, sort, and deliver mail pieces to the U.S. Postal Service. Our expertise and relationships with the U.S. Postal Service and other carriers means we can go beyond what is standard to find the smartest, most cost-effective, and quickest mailing solutions.
Learn more about how the PSC's mail operations solution can support your agency by visiting the PSC mail operations web page and contacting Bobbie Sue Cline at Bobbisue.Cline@psc.hhs.gov or (301) 651-3140.
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Glimpsing the Future: Artificial Intelligence Industry Day
To expand possibilities for acquisition solutions provided by Program Support Center (PSC) and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), PSC recently hosted an artificial intelligence (AI) industry day on “The Development of an Artificial Intelligence Solution to Assist with Category Management.”
The event, part of the HHS's BUYSMARTER initiative under ReImagine HHS, provided a tremendous opportunity for HHS to learn about emerging technologies that may be able to streamline the acquisition process and bring about significant cost savings. More than 200 industry business partners attended this dynamic and engaging event at the Hubert H. Humphrey Building in Washington, D.C.
PSC's acquisition management team, on behalf of HHS, held the event for the pre-solicitation of a requirement for the development of an AI solution to assist HHS with consolidating its buying power.
The day featured a panel discussion and open dialog with attendees. Patrick Joy, Head of Contracting Activity, PSC, served as the moderator and provided opening remarks. The panel included Jose Arrieta, Associate Deputy Assistant Secretary for Acquisition, HHS; Ken Thomson, BUYSMARTER Solution Architect, HHS; Lori Ruderman, Director, BUYSMARTER Program Management Office, HHS; and Darryl Grant, Customer Liaison, Acquisition Management Services, PSC.
The BUYSMARTER initiative was developed from ReImagine HHS in response to the Office of Management and Budget Memo M-17-22 for reforming government. “With all the new and emerging technologies available to modernize federal processes and practices, it is critical for us to engage industry early and often in order to leverage these opportunities,” said Ruderman. “HHS is primed and ready for modernization and the vendor community can help us get there quickly and effectively.”
The purpose of this event was to familiarize industry with the potential opportunities of this acquisitions model while also determining industry capabilities, identifying potential sources, and obtaining industry feedback. Various industry members, including the Small Business Community: Small Business, Section 8(a), Historically Underutilized Business Zones (HUB-Zone), and Service-Disabled Veteran-Owned Small Business, were invited to add to the discussion about the development of AI solutions for HHS and PSC.
The results of this industry day, including issuance of a future request for proposal, will be made part of the market research analysis to validate the overall acquisition strategy and further refine the requirement.
The event was well received by those who participated. “Thank you so much for this industry day!” said Terri Hall, Director, Federal Advisory, KPMG. “I think it was the best one I've ever attended and especially appreciated your genuine desire to elicit the feedback and insights of so many stakeholders. The contracting community is super energized to help HHS on this journey.”
“It was great to have this AI outreach,” said Joseph Tatner, director of communications, Biswas Information Technology Solutions, Inc., a women-owned small business. “I wanted to again express my excitement about this project. The session was one of the best I have been to, with a lively discussion of important issues. As I mentioned from the floor, requirements analysis and strategic planning is key to any implementation to accommodate future growth. Since humans can never be taken completely out of the equation, properly planning the use of technology to support decision making is also critical.”
HHS has a strong need for the development of an AI solution for category management (identifying and managing the categories of " common spend" goods and services). This effort aims to decrease procurement costs and improve efficiency through economies of scale. HHS fully intends to use AI to manage all functions of the total acquisition process from beginning to end.
Not only will an AI solution need to interact with the multiple systems currently available in the HHS inventory, it will need to interact with any future e-commerce solutions that HHS develops and uses. The new model will be charged with delivering highly specialized, real-time reporting along the entire acquisition lifecycle. Shortly after the industry day was held, PSC released a draft request for proposal as a planning tool and as a means of soliciting industry comments for use in developing the final solicitation. More than 40 companies submitted detailed responses that are currently under review. It's exciting to consider how AI can help HHS and PSC make the acquisitions process more robust and efficient.
PSC's acquisition management service provides comprehensive start-to-finish support for negotiated contracts, simplified acquisitions, and assisted acquisitions. Our certified acquisition professionals oversee the entire acquisition lifecycle, including acquisition planning; soliciting and assessing offers; and negotiating, awarding, administering, and closing government contracts. Explore how the service can help your agency. Learn more at the PSC acquisition management service page and contact PSC today.
Check out the artificial intelligence industry day photo gallery.
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Bike2Work Program Keeps Employees Rolling Along
Summer is a great time to get outdoors and ride your bicycle, both for the simple enjoyment of riding and to commute to work.
Program Support Center (PSC) supports biking to work with our Bike2Work Benefit Program that offers employees who regularly commute by bicycle up to $20 per month to pay for bicycle expenses. The program is an extension of PSC’s transit benefit program and is available to all qualifying U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) employees of participating operating divisions.
Karlyn Beer, an epidemiologist with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta, and other program participants enjoy the many benefits of biking to work, including increased physical fitness and wellness, saving on gas and automobile wear-and-tear costs, improving air quality by reducing carbon emissions, helping to reduce traffic congestion, and the opportunity to enjoy scenic views.
“It gives you mental clarity when you arrive at work, with a clearer head — you’re more relaxed,” Beer said. “It takes me less than 10 minutes longer to get to work on my bike [than by car] and when there’s traffic I can get there faster on my bike.”
Beer is president of the CDC Cyclist Network (CycNet), an employee organization that works with CDC Community Transportation Services Lead Scott Kemp to make bicycling safer on and within 5 miles of CDC campuses. CycNet has about 250 members, and they partner with neighboring organizations like Emory University and the city of Atlanta to support better infrastructure for biking. The group includes all levels of bicyclists, from those who ride daily to those who don’t bike to work but are supportive of bike safety.
Beer began bicycling in college at Cornell University in upstate New York because she didn’t have a car, and later continued while working in Colorado. She chose housing in areas where she could get to her job via bike or mass transit. She has also taken her bike around the world and has ridden in 10 different countries.
“I used that as an opportunity to see what it’s like to live in other places and use a bike to get around, and I saw how democratizing bikes can be,” she said. “Not everyone can afford a car but most people can afford a bike and there are bike shops even in the smallest and most remote places. So you really see that it makes transportation accessible to everyone.”
Beer likes that the Bike2Work Benefit Program helps pay for bike repairs, tuning, and general maintenance; bicycle equipment (like locks and air pumps); bike upgrades (lights, rack, etc.); and safety equipment. After having her lights and flat-tire kit stolen during a recent conference, she was able to replace everything using the benefit.
PSC’s Transit Program Office offers transit benefit program services for government employees, including services for mass transit, Bike2Work, or vanpools. Our Bike2Work Program is in accordance with Executive Order 13834 “Efficient Federal Operations.”
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Supporting FEMA in Puerto Rico
By Abbey Porzucek
Program Manager, Environmental Health and Safety
PSC’s environmental health and safety team answered the call to assist the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) with their operations in Puerto Rico in response to the aftermath of Hurricane Maria. FEMA’s chief request was for mold inspections in hospitals and federal buildings throughout the island. Raceli Cosio-Old and I flew to San Juan earlier this year to complete these inspections in partnership with FEMA and the local health department.
Our group performed the first mold inspection as part of an operation to reopen a hospital on a small island called Vieques, which lies off the east coast of the main island. The hospital is the only place on the island to receive medical treatment, but it has not been in operation since September due to excessive structural damage from Hurricane Maria.
As a result, patients are receiving medical treatment in tents in the hospital’s parking lot. Any patient needing advanced care, such as dialysis or an x-ray, must be transported to the main island.
Due to Vieques’s remote location, we had to take a helicopter from the main island to get there. Once on land, completing the assessment took approximately four hours. As we moved throughout the hospital, we noticed black mold on mattresses, ceiling tiles, and the walls of the room housing the heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) system. Mold growth in an HVAC system will generate airborne mold throughout the building when it is turned on again.
Even though we did not have access to examine inside the HVAC system, we found enough evidence to indicate the system would have to be professionally remediated prior to the hospital reopening. Water damage was extensive, but the island is so hot that the majority of the water evaporated before excessive amounts of mold had a chance to grow. We are still analyzing our findings to make a final determination of whether the structural damage and mold will be repaired and remediated, or if the hospital will be condemned.
The second assessment evaluated four government-owned storage and office spaces in San Juan. These buildings sustained major structural damage from the hurricane. Pieces of the roofs had been torn off, allowing water to pour into the buildings every time it rained. There are puddles of standing water, swarms of mosquitos, and water damage to everything inside. Unlike what we saw in the Vieques hospital, these buildings had extensive mold growth. Visible spores covered anything that was porous: walls, floors, ceilings, books, and paper files. One of the four buildings will be demolished and the furniture left inside will be destroyed. Although extensive remediation could be performed in the other three buildings, their fate is still unknown.
My work with Raceli will be continued by two of our environmental health and safety colleagues, who will spend 60 days traveling throughout Puerto Rico to continue mold assessments. Assessing for mold is an important step in the process of reopening buildings after a hurricane. Depending on the type of mold and extent of exposure, it can cause symptoms ranging from a mild allergic reaction to respiratory complications that can lead to serious injury to the lungs, and even death. The need for these assessments is especially urgent in Puerto Rico as the island tries to rebuild enough to make it through the next hurricane season, which typically begins in June. Learn more about the environmental health and safety services.
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Region 10 Gets the Gold
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Region 10 was recognized as a top performer with a Gold Award from the City of Seattle’s Department of Transportation (SDOT) and Commute Seattle for reducing its commuter drive-alone rate. Program Support Center (PSC)’s transportation team helped achieve the prestigious gold level through a commitment to implementing a robust commute trip reduction (CTR) program that supports employee commute options.
PSC worked to encourage employees to reduce drive-alone commute trips and vehicle miles traveled per employee. Elements of the program include the designation of an employee transportation coordinator, information distributed to current and newly affected employees, and a survey to show employee commute behavior and the worksite’s progress toward commute trip-reduction goals.
“HHS Region 10 is very proud of this award,” said Regional Account Manager Ronald Moore. “We worked together. We respect the environment and are dedicated to using the PSC transit benefit program to lessen the carbon footprint.”
Noting Commute Seattle contributions, representatives of SDOT acknowledged, “Your transportation programs, benefits, and amenities are directly contributing to our city’s success. The citywide drive-alone rate has been steadily dropping according to our biennial survey. We recognize the top performers in each network as well as employers achieving the highest proportion of commutes by non-drive-alone modes. Thank you for your efforts to reduce congestion and make our city a better place to do business!”
PSC Regional Support serves as a strategic partner with operating divisions and staff divisions located in HHS Regional Offices, providing access to a full range of operational support services that include facilities management, telecommunications support, transportation services, mail operations, physical and personal security support, personal property management, and more. Learn about our full range of operational support services on the Regional Support webpage.
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Keep Summer Fun and Breezy
Summer is a great time to get outside, be more physically active, and enjoy various exciting season activities and events. Like so many things, however, you can sometimes get too much of a good thing — too much sun, too much heat, too many bugs.
We encourage you to always put safety first and take the necessary precautions for a safe and fun-filled summer. See our July Summer Safety page where we offer tips and tools designed to help everyone enjoy summer more.
Protect Your Skin
The skin is the body's largest organ. It protects against heat, sunlight, injury, and infection. Yet, some of us don't consider the necessity of protecting our skin. There are simple, everyday steps you can take to safeguard your skin from the harmful effects of UV radiation from the sun.
- Wear proper clothing
- Avoid getting sunburn
- Go for the shade
- Apply broad-spectrum sunscreen
- Re-apply broad-spectrum sunscreen throughout the day
Dehydration is another safety concern during the summer months. Be sure to drink enough liquids throughout the day, as our bodies can lose a lot of water through perspiration when it gets hot out. Drinking plenty of water — even beyond the goal of having eight-8 oz. glasses of water — can be part of good nutrition, too. Snacking on water-rich foods like raw fruits and vegetables can also help keep you hydrated.
Without enough fluids, you may experience dehydration. Look for these signs:
- Extreme thirst
- Dry mouth
- Muscle cramping
- Feeling lightheaded
- Foggy thinking
The remedy for dehydration is to slowly reintroduce fluids to the body. Take your time, though, because gulping down water can cause stomach distress. Also, try to avoid alcoholic beverages, because they can ultimately add to your dehydration.
Visit foh.psc.gov/summersafety to learn more. Also, take the interactive quiz on eye safety to find out how much you know about protecting your eyes this summer. The Summer Safety campaign is part of a series of monthly campaigns. Each campaign also includes easy-to-use health promotional materials, including fliers, posters, bulletin-board graphics, and customized email messages.
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