The GSA Multiple Award Schedule (MAS) program is the crown jewel of government-wide contracting programs. The MAS program provides customer agencies with access to thousands of contractors offering millions of commercial services and products. State and local governments can use the MAS program’s information technology contracts to meet their needs as well as using MAS of all types for disaster recovery. With contractors located from Maine to California (and don’t forget Alaska and Hawaii) the MAS program supports hundreds of thousands of American jobs. The program includes a mix of small, medium and large business reflecting the diversity of the commercial market place. Last year the MAS program accounted for over $50 billion in competitive purchases by federal, state and local governments. One third of the dollar value of these purchases went to small business concerns, far exceeding the government-wide goal.
The MAS program’s success can be attributed to three key features:
Reliance on the Commercial Market Place
First, the fundamental strength of the MAS program is its reliance on the commercial market place. Reliance on the commercial market place increases competition and cost effective solutions. It ensures access to the latest technologies. Indeed, Jacques Gansler, Director of the University of Maryland’s School of Public Affairs and former Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics recently commented on who DoD should buy from stating in part that ”It’s very clear that in many areas, the Department of Defense is no longer the leader . . . . [In] a lot of electronics, a lot of information systems, software packages, the commercial world is way ahead, so we should be drawing on that commercial world. . .”
Continuous Open Seasons
Second, continuous open seasons ensure on-going access to the ever-changing commercial market place. In the commercial world nothing stands still; companies are always looking to improve services and products. The competition inherent in the commercial market place leads to innovation, growth and value. Continuous open seasons brings that dynamic to the MAS program. Under continuous open seasons, companies can submit offers to GSA any work day throughout the fiscal year. The use of continuous open seasons provides new commercial firms of all sizes with an ongoing opportunity to participate in a vital federal market place. In particular, continuous open seasons provide opportunities for emerging small businesses seeking to enter the federal market place. As a result, competition is enhanced and the government gains access to the latest commercial technologies. There is a direct connection between continuous open seasons and the depth and breadth of commercial capabilities available to federal customers. Indeed, the Government Accountability Office has cited continuous open seasons in finding that the MAS program is a competitive procedure under the Competition in Contracting Act.
Electronic Market Tools
Third, GSAAdvantage! and e-Buy provide an efficient and effective electronic market place through which agencies can compare commercial offerings and conduct streamlined task order competitions. These tools enhance transparency and competition at the delivery/task order level. As a result, contractors have increased visibility of agency requirements which means more business opportunities. In turn, agencies can leverage requirements and conduct efficient competitions that deliver best value outcomes.
There has been a lot of discussion recently regarding the future of the MAS program. GSA is exploring the next generation of the MAS program. In exploring the future structure of the program, GSA should maintain these three features which have been at the core of the MAS program’s success.
In the spirit of the Administration’s “Myth-Busters” initiative, the Coalition looks forward to working with GSA on improvements to the MAS program. In addition to addressing Other Direct Costs, here are four suggestions that we look forward to exploring with GSA and the VA:
- Restructure and consolidate the solicitation and Special Item Numbers and move to a single “Corporate” or “Consolidated” Schedule Model.
- Reform the Pricing Policies and Procedures to eliminate the Price Reduction Clause and rely on the mandated competition requirements for task orders to drive pricing.
- Consolidate operational management of the MAS program in a single office and strengthen the policy role of the Office of Acquisition Management.
- Leverage resources across the MAS enterprise through increased coordination and cross-program support between GSA and the VA, including electronic acquisition tools, marketing and outreach (GSA Expo), and policy development.
These suggestions would increase the efficiency and effectiveness of the program for customer agencies, taxpayers, GSA and industry, including small business contractors across the socio-economic spectrum. In the coming weeks, the blog posts will elaborate on how these suggestions can reduce processing and paperwork, eliminate overlap and duplication, enhance operational consistency and strengthen oversight and management of MAS operations.