How to unleash the full potential of GSA’s Federal Supply Schedules

President Barack Obama recently received a briefing from the General Services Administration’s Federal Acquisition Service (FAS) on category management and the Common Acquisition Platform (CAP). The briefing is a very significant symbol of GSA’s important role in government management. It highlights GSA’s central role in providing procurement services and programs that support customer agency missions across the federal enterprise.

As a former GSA employee, it was great to see the White House focus on the important, unsung work GSA does day and day out on behalf of the American people.

Strategically, category management and the CAP have the potential to improve GSA’s delivery of best value commercial products, services and solutions to customer agencies. As you know, FAS has reorganized around market sectors or industry categories to better focus on market trends and customer requirements.

Category management has the potential to improve FAS’s management of its contracting programs through increased understanding of customer mission requirements and commercial market trends. The CAP has the potential to provide the federal enterprise with transparent, competitive information regarding already existing contracting programs, best procurement practices and market trends. The CAP can address contract duplication and provide federal market information that can further assist customer agencies in making sound, best value procurement decisions.

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GSA proposes overhaul to Multiple Award Schedules

Under a proposed General Services Administration (GSA) rule, the Multiple Award Schedules (MAS) would get an overhaul to address recommendations by the 2010 Multiple Award Schedule Advisory Panel.

The proposed rule would address two key recommendations from the panel’s report – providing agencies with information on prices actually paid for goods and services as well as eliminating the price reduction clause reporting requirements for contractors.

The price reduction clause forces contractors to report if it reduces prices to commercial clients and then, in turn, give that same discount to government contracts.

Keep reading this article at: http://www.fiercegovernment.com/story/gsa-proposes-overhaul-multiple-award-schedule/2015-03-04

Rung: OFPP making progress in overhauling acquisition platforms and vendor relations

In the last three months, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) says it has made progress in overhauling the federal government’s acquisition system.

OMB has built stronger vendor relationships and started implementing streamlined acquisition categories, says Office of Federal Procurement Policy Administrator (OFPP) Anne Rung in a March 6 blog post.

Rung says OFPP has taken several steps to built stronger relationships with contractors, including the launch of its first online national dialogue with industry last year and partnering with GSA to improve customer-facing tools.

And on March 18th Rung will issue guidance to agencies directing them to seek feedback from vendors and internal stakeholders – such as contracting officers and program managers – on how well certain high-dollar acquisitions perform.

Keep reading this article at: http://www.fiercegovernment.com/story/rung-ofpp-making-progress-overhauling-acquisition-platforms-and-vendor-rela/2015-03-09

Read OFPP Administrator Rung’s entire blog posting at: http://www.whitehouse.gov/blog/2015/03/06/transforming-federal-marketplace-90-day-progress-report-administrator

With Academy’s help, Oklahoma business advisors learn GSA Schedule process

Sixteen business counselors from the Oklahoma Bid Assistance Network (OBAN) recently participated in a two-day workshop on the intricacies of the GSA Schedule process.

OBAN provides marketing and technical assistance to Oklahoma businesses interested in selling products and services to federal, state, local and tribal governments.  OBAN’s mission is to create jobs and expand the economy in Oklahoma by providing resources to Oklahoma businesses.

Sixteen Oklahoma-based business counselors benefited from instruction about the GSA Schedule process provided by consultants from The Contracting Education Academy at Georgia Tech.

Oklahoma-based business counselors benefited from instruction about the GSA Schedule process provided by consultants from The Contracting Education Academy at Georgia Tech.

The counselors gathered on March 3 and 4, 2015 on the campus of the Francis Tuttle Technology Center in Oklahoma City to receive advice about how they can guide their business clients through the proposal process to win a GSA Schedule contract.  The instruction covered prerequisites to the process, decision-making in the selection of the appropriate Schedule and Special Item Numbers, preparation of the required proposal narratives, financial requirements, negotiations, award, and contract administration.

Consultants from The Contracting Education Academy at Georgia Tech provided templates and engaged Workshop attendees in the actual preparation of a proposal to GSA.  OBAN counselors were asked to imagine themselves as real businesses working through the process — actually preparing proposal documentation for GSA’s review.

Here’s what OBAN representatives had to say about the workshop:

  • “This was a very thorough overview of the GSA proposal process.  I valued the instructors’ knowledge of the subject material and willingness to deviate in order to address all questions.”
  • “I valued the presentation, the discussions, and the hands-on training.”
  • “Great workshop — the information, the handbook, and the templates.”
  • “I received instruction on all the steps in the preparation of a GSA proposal, including templates and writing exercises to help me understand the challenge.”
  • “I valued the discussions, practical examples, and the eOffer demonstration.”
  • The resource materials will prove to be very valuable as I counsel my clients.”
  • “I valued the in-depth conversations resulting from Q&A throughout the workshop, along with the breakdown of the full proposal process.”
  • “Valuable templates with coaching in an open Q&A format.”
  • “I received an in-depth overview of the proposal response process, along with best practices, possible roadblocks, and resources to help expedite an accurate and complete response.”
  • “This was an in-depth workshop that covered the entire GSA proposal process — I valued the knowledge of the instructors and the detail of the workbook we received.”
  • “Excellent instruction and insight from very knowledgeable people who have actually successfully submitted proposals to GSA.”

Groups interested in arranging for the GSA Schedule workshop, or other government contracting instruction, to be brought to their community may contact The Contracting Academy at Georgia Tech at 404-894-6109 or info@ContractingAcademy.gatech.edu.

6 simple fixes for the federal procurement process

As the largest buyer of goods and services in the world, our government has a rigorous procurement process in place to protect the American taxpayer, designed to facilitate helping Uncle Sam buy what he needs to perform his myriad missions efficiently, effectively, and economically. Unfortunately, the federal government fails to spend taxpayer money wisely with such frequency that newspapers and television reports are rife with examples of overspending, failed projects and bloated contracts.

Procurement goes through reforms every few decades, but the current environment could not be worse. From the Brooks Act in 1972 to the Service Acquisition Reform Act in 2003, much has been done to address the “mechanics of procurement,” but little has been done to address the human aspect of procurement, either on the government or the contractor sides. From a $10 stapler to a $1.2 billion failed technology system, our government tries to legislate fixes, but it is hard to legislate human nature.

There are things that can be done without formal change; leaders need to lead, managers must manage, and the workforce must exhibit good judgment, be honest and realistic, achieve value, and learn to manage risk. Procurement personnel need to be well trained, their workload must be better managed, and they need to possess strong problem-solving skills. Contractors need to help the federal government with its procurement issues, provide the right solutions, and be realistic about what it can do.

Keep reading this article at: http://www.federaltimes.com/story/government/acquisition/blog/2015/02/20/procurement-fix-legislation-rule/23754523/

GSA Schedules and DoD’s confusing FAR 8.4 deviation

On March 13, 2014, Defense Procurement and Acquisition Policy (DPAP) issued a class deviation to FAR 8.404(d). This deviation directed that ordering activity contracting officers are responsible for making a determination of fair and reasonable pricing when using GSA’s Federal Supply Schedules (FSS). The deviation essentially incorporates complex FAR 15.404-1 price analysis techniques into the streamlined FSS ordering procedures with the vague caveat that the complexity and circumstances of each acquisition should determine the level of detail of the analysis required.

In discussing the rationale for this deviation, DPAP has consistently focused on the variation in pricing across the FSS program. In particular, the example of a $29 stapler listed on an FSS contract has been cited by DPAP as creating a “significant” risk that Department of Defense (DoD) contracting officers will simply order the $29 stapler rather than search for a cheaper stapler on another FSS contract. For those of us of a certain age, the use of this example reminds one of the $600 toilet seat reportedly purchased by the DoD back in the 1980s. Like the toilet seat purchase, however, there is greater context that undercuts the stapler example cited by DPAP.

Keep reading this article at: http://www.federaltimes.com/story/government/acquisition/blog/2015/02/13/gsa-advantage-dpap-far-waldron/23365305/

GSA wants to boost market share of Schedules to 33 percent of federal spending

The General Services Administration (GSA) is exploring different ways to boost its contract spending market share and enhance its Multiple Awards Schedule program, according to agency officials.

Tom Sharpe, the commissioner of the Federal Acquisition Service at GSA, said he wants to boost the agency’s market share of federal spending from 15 percent to 33 percent in three years.

New contract vehicles such as the OASIS contract for professional services and the move to a “category management” system of expert contract advisers will help, Sharpe said.

He said at a GSA industry forum Feb. 13, hosted by the Professional Services Council, that the agency might roll out more versions of OASIS in the future for other contract areas besides professional services.

Keep reading this article at: http://www.federaltimes.com/story/government/acquisition/gsa-gwac/2015/02/13/gsa-changes-schedules/23359425/

VA failed to vet dubious contractors

An internal VA study has found that an east coast office that handles about $4 billion in business each year didn’t do enough checks to vet the backgrounds of companies to which it awarded contracts.

The internal study by consultants found that the Department of Veterans Affairs‘ “Service Area Office East” failed more than half the time to perform at least one of the required responsibility determination reviews, which include checking lists of banned companies or checking basic corporate facts with Dun and Bradstreet and other databases.

The study, obtained through the Freedom of Information Act, found the office would often neglect to fill out required paperwork on why they selected “high risk” contractors and found 94 percent of Federal Supply Schedule contracts had some kind of problem, including lack of proof that contracting officers pushed for government price reductions.

Some contract files didn’t even have signatures.

Keep reading this article at: http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2015/jan/5/va-failed-to-vet-dubious-contractors/

Who’s the boss in government contracting?

he management structure of government procurement, where one of every six federal dollars is spent, has remained generally unchanged for many years, even as the volume and percentage of products and services performed by agencies has evolved to today’s outsourced, dependent model. One continuing characteristic of this model is decentralization.

For example, since its creation in 1971, governmentwide acquisition policy responsibility rests with the Office of Federal Procurement Policy (OFPP), residing within OMB. It helps shape the policy and practices governing over $500 billion of annual contract obligations. It does so with a very small budget and staff and relies on interagency cooperation to develop policy and workforce development planning in the form of memos, circulars, guides, or reports. OFPP chairs the FAR Council, consisting of senior procurement executives from GSA, NASA, and DoD (the largest contracting agencies at its creation), to manage cases (changes to the FAR) from civilian and defense agency councils, extensively relying on agency-provided “teams” for assigned subject areas. In addition, OFPP oversees the Federal Acquisition Institute (FAI), chairing its “board of directors” (agency procurement executives) to ensure training priorities are addressed, including development of a professional acquisition workforce. OFPP’s mandate relies on words like “collaborate,” or “assist” in describing its role over other civilian agencies. FAI itself has a small staff and relies on other, better-funded agencies, to develop training programs and schools, as well as private contractor-approved providers.

Keep reading this article at: http://www.federaltimes.com/story/government/acquisition/blog/2015/01/16/government-contracting-leadership/21858713/

GSA aims to shorten software acquisition cycle with Agile Delivery Services BPA

The General Services Administration is seeking feedback from industry and government stakeholders on a proposed blanket purchase agreement that would feature vendors who specialize in Agile Delivery Services, or the development of software through a faster, more interactive acquisition process.

“The goal of the proposed BPA is to decrease software acquisition cycles to less than four weeks (from solicitation to contract) and expedite the delivery of a minimum viable product (MVP) within three months or less,” writes Angela Bumbrey, program analyst for advertising and marketing at GSA, in a recent post on the agency’s blog.

GSA’s 18F, the agency’s digital innovation lab, and GSA’s Office of Integrated Technology Services are collaborating on the establishment of the BPA.

Keep reading this article at: http://www.fiercegovernmentit.com/story/gsa-aims-shorten-software-acquisition-cycle-agile-delivery-services-bpa/2015-01-08