GSA announces plan to simplify federal contracting

The General Services Administration’s contracting division is developing a new Web platform and business structure to bring more expertise to complicated acquisitions, the agency said April 9, 2014.

The new initiative, called Category Management, will involve assigning a Federal Acquisition Service manager in charge of each of several acquisition categories, such as information technology, professional services and travel.

Those managers will help develop a Common Acquisition Platform with information about contract vehicles, historical prices and other data related to specific procurements, FAS Commissioner Thomas Sharpe said in a 1,000-word blog post.

The acquisition platform will eventually include several tools related to specific categories of government purchases, according to the blog post.

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Information technology price transparency could come at cost

TotaKeep reading  governmentwide transparency on pricing for information technology products could have unintended consequences, said a senior acquisition official.

Today, federal agencies have access to the catalog-list prices companies charge through governmentwide acquisition vehicles (GWAC). Although those catalog prices are negotiated with price fairness in mind – to ensure the amounts are comparable to commercial prices – agencies often pay less than list when executing orders of any significance.

That disconnect between the catalog price being the de facto maximum price, rather than the actual price, has led to efforts to record actual prices and share that information between federal agencies.

Rob Coen, acting director of the National Institutes of Health Technology Acquisition and Assessment Center, told an audience of federal officials and private sector sellers that his agency is setting up a dashboard that will permit customers to “see what other agencies are buying, who’s buying what, who they are buying it from and what they are paying.” NIH runs three governmentwide acquisition contracts, contract vehicles dedicated to IT products or services and meant for inter-departmental use.

The General Services Administration is also developing a “Price Paid Tool,” an online portal currently in proof of concept stage.

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Scam targets GSA schedule holders using spoofed federal email addresses

The General Services Administration’s schedules program has been victimized by spear phishing attacks costing vendors more than $1.5 million, and law enforcement officials say, is increasing.

GSA alerted Schedule 70 and 75 vendors Wednesday that since July 2012 the FBI, the Environmental Protection Agency and GSA inspectors general have been investigating a series of fraudulent orders placed online to GSA vendors from criminals posing as federal contracting officials, according to an email to Schedule-70 and 75 vendors, which Federal News Radio obtained.

The hackers ordered HP printer toner cartridges using official federal employee email credentials but fake phone telephone numbers and stolen credit cards.

Law enforcement officials now say scammers are targeting orders for laptop computers, though it’s unclear if these two cases are related. But GSA said “there are some significant similarities and we’re following up on investigative leads to make further determinations.”

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Agencies setting off into the next data frontier — procurement

Agencies are starting to grasp the real value of procurement data. Several agencies are asking the General Services Administration, NASA and others for more details on what they buy, how they buy it and how they could make better decisions.

NASA, for example, is working closely with the Veterans Affairs Department to provide them with an assortment of data points around energy efficiency, such as how VA’s IT products are rated for Energy Star or E-Peat. NASA also plans to provide VA with information about how their purchases meet the Trade Agreements Act and about their buying habits based on product classifications.

Joanne Woytek, the program manager for NASA SEWP governmentwide acquisition contract, said the fact that VA and other agencies are asking for and receiving this type of data is a sign of maturity for both the GWAC providers and the agencies in understanding what’s available and why the data matters.

“I’ve seen this happening more with our contracts and SEWP V. A lot of what we are putting into that is to make it a more mature model. We can’t just say, ‘we can do that,’ we will actually demonstrate the things we can do,” she said at the 2014 Acquisition Excellence conference in Washington Thursday sponsored by GSA, the Homeland Security Department and ACT-IAC. “We will be able to show agencies what they are buying. We’re going to be able to provide them with more information. We always said we could do that, but we actually are going to start doing that. I think that’s going to have a bigger effect on agencies who no longer will say ‘I don’t want to use you because I’m not sure you can give me that information. I’m not sure you can control what we’re purchasing.’ We can do that for them and we’ll actually start showing that. So I see us having a better impact on people now that we’ve gotten to this point.”

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What went wrong with GSA’s Networx transition?

A pair of internal analyses by the General Services Administration finds much to criticize in the structure of federal telecommunications contract Networx, portraying it as too complex, inflexible and mismatched to the way agencies buy telecom services.

The Government Accountability Office has estimated that a protracted agency transition to Networx from the predecessor governmentwide telecommunications contract caused agencies to miss out on $329 million worth of savings and GSA to spend an extra $66.4 million on supporting it. In the end, the transition took three years longer than anticipated.

GSA provided the two reports – one from July 2012, another from September 2012 – after FierceGovernmentIT submitted a Freedom of Information Act request for them. Agency officials decided to release the documents independently of FOIA, and we withdrew the request after being promised the reports.

Among the observations the analyses make is that while GSA initially defined more than 50 telecom services for Networx, only six services account for more than 80 percent of business volume.

“Networx has thousands of contract line items and millions of service permutations,” the July 2012 report says. “It is no surprise that agencies indicate the Networx program is too complex.”

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Major departments seek continuous monitoring acquisition independence from DHS

Some federal agencies are choosing to buy continuous monitoring tools independently of the Homeland Security Department’s Continuous Diagnostics and Mitigation Program despite forfeiting DHS procurement money for those tools when doing so.

Those agencies have sought and received a “delegation of procurement authority” from the CDM program. That means they are able to use the blanket purchase agreements for security tools set up by GSA for the CDM program. But, if they exercise the delegation by buying tools themselves rather than through program office, they do it “with their own money,” said Jim Piché, a GSA acquisition manager newly appointed to overseeing the blanket purchase agreements.

A GSA spokeswoman said the agency won’t release a list of the agencies that received a delegation.Piché spoke Wednesday during a Washington, D.C. industry-sponsored panel on the program.

An industry source says agencies with a delegation include the departments of Agriculture, Homeland Security, Justice and Veterans Affairs.

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DoD a top spender on GSA’s governmentwide contracts

Nearly $1 billion has flowed through the General Services Administration’s governmment-wide contracts this year, with SAIC and SRA International among the companies receiving the bulk of that business.

Defense components and the military services account for nearly half of the spending across GSA’s five GWACS, which include 8(a) STARS, 8(a) STARS II, Alliant, Alliant Small Business and VETS.

DoD, which includes defense agencies, has obligated $230 million in task orders against the GWACS. The Air Force Headquarters obligated $167 million in funding, and the Army has spent $110 million as of March 10, according to GSA data.

SAIC, SRA International and Lockheed Martin have seen the largest share of business under the GWACS this year.

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OMB and GSA try for agility in IT development, oversight

The Office of Management and Budget plans to revamp its TechStat agency information technology oversight methodology, said Beth Corbet, deputy director for management at OMB.

Cobert said a new TechStat approach will allow federal chief information officers to take an incremental, agile approach rather than focusing on static compliance. She testified during a March 12 hearing of the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee.

“As we think about a process like TechStat, you don’t want to be measuring compliance with requirements. You want to be looking early about how we’re looking at needs,” Cobert told the committee.

The idea of more quickly, efficiently and openly delivering federal IT may be catching on at the General Services Administration as well.

GSA unveiled March 12 a new office called 18F, presumably named after the address of GSA headquarters at 1800 F St. NW. The office’s inaugural blog post explains that it is a startup within GSA, which encompasses the Presidential Innovation fellows program, and in-house designers, developers and project managers from within government.

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GSA’s chief acquisition officer becomes head of OFPP

GSA Chief Acquisition Officer Anne Rung will move to the White House to head up the Office of Management and Budget’s Office of Federal Procurement Policy, sources with  knowledge of the move told FCW.

Rung will replace Joe Jordan as administrator at OFPP. Jordan stepped down in January to accept a position as president of public sector at FedBid, a privately held company that offers a reverse-auction marketplace in which companies compete for government business by bidding down their prices

At GSA, Rung has had a dual role as chief acquisition officer and associate administrator for the Office of Governmentwide Policy.

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Strategic sourcing’s impact on small biz needs measurement and monitoring, GAO says

“Strategic sourcing” is a method used by the federal government to improve procurement efficiency by moving away from numerous individual procurements toward a broader aggregate approach.   Since 2005, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) has encouraged federal agencies to use strategic sourcing.

Now, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) has issued a report on how strategic sourcing affects small businesses, including small disadvantaged businesses. The report discusses: (1) how OMB, GSA, and selected agencies have considered small businesses in their strategic sourcing efforts, and (2) the extent to which data and performance measures are available on the inclusion of small businesses in strategic sourcing initiatives.

In its review, GAO found that OMB and the General Services Administration (GSA) have developed guidance on strategic sourcing that stresses the importance of including small businesses.  GAO’s review of documentation for three ongoing government-wide strategic sourcing initiatives showed that GSA considered the inclusion of small businesses in the strategic sourcing process. For example, when developing strategic sourcing initiatives for office supplies and print management, GSA identified the current market share of small businesses with these products and also set aside specific contracts for various categories of small businesses, such as service-disabled veteran-owned small businesses. In addition, GAO’s review of agency-wide strategic sourcing initiatives at each of five agencies — Departments of Defense (DOD), specifically Army and the Defense Logistics Agency; Homeland Security (DHS); Housing and Urban Development (HUD); and the Interior and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) — showed that the agencies generally considered the inclusion of small businesses.

However, data and performance measures that would provide a more precise understanding of the inclusion of small and disadvantaged businesses in strategic sourcing initiatives are limited.  GAO’s specific findings include:

  • Although GSA has collected baseline data on proposed government-wide initiatives, it has not developed a performance measure to determine changes in small business participation going forward.
  • DHS has collected some data on contracts awarded to small businesses under strategic sourcing initiatives, but it and the other agencies in GAO’s review generally did not have baseline data and performance measures to determine how small businesses were affected by strategic sourcing.  OMB guidance requires agencies to establish baselines for small business participation prior to implementing strategic sourcing and set goals for small business participation.
  • In addition, federal internal control standards state that information is needed to determine whether the agency is achieving its compliance requirements under various laws and regulations.  Without baseline data and performance measures, the effect of strategic sourcing initiatives on small businesses will be difficult to determine.
  • Moreover, OMB has not monitored agencies’ compliance in reporting baseline data and performance measures on the inclusion of small businesses in government-wide and agency-wide strategic sourcing initiatives. OMB required agencies to submit annual reports on the implementation of strategic sourcing from fiscal years 2005 through 2007 and prepare information for acquisition status sessions from fiscal years 2010 through 2012. (No reporting was in place for fiscal years 2008 or 2009.)  However, virtually none of this information included baseline data or measures of the effect of strategic sourcing on small businesses.
  • Federal internal control standards state that effective monitoring should assess the quality of performance over time.  Without effective monitoring, it will be difficult for OMB to help ensure that agencies are tracking the impact of strategic sourcing on small businesses.

As a part of its report, GAO made recommendations to GSA, selected agencies, and OMB to improve data collection and performance measures related to the inclusion of small businesses in strategic sourcing. DOD, DHS, GSA, HUD, and OMB agreed with GAO’s recommendation. Interior partially agreed, suggesting that a more effective approach would be to work with OMB and other agencies to develop common approaches. NASA disagreed, stating it already tracks related spending for the agency. GAO believes its recommendations remain valid as discussed in the report.

To download the complete report, click here.