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The Enduring Strength of the MAS Program: An Economic Catalyst for Government and Industry

This month, Administrator Denise Turner Roth provided the keynote address at the DC Chamber of Commerce Annual Meeting & Chairman’s Inaugural Breakfast. The address focused on GSA’s role as an economic catalyst and on the importance of public and private partnerships. Administrator Roth’s address reflected her strong commitment to strengthening GSA’s relationship with the business community.

In outlining GSA’s economic catalyst initiatives, Administrator Turner Roth set forth three guiding principles:

  • Foster two-way communications between government and industry, leading to improved contract requirements that reflect supplier feedback
  • Increase support to prospective and new vendors, which allows us to continually cultivate the products and services the government has access to
  • Reduce barriers and complexity across the board by reviewing internal processes to ensure they are geared toward achieving desired results

Coalition members welcome and support the Administrator’s focus on the government-industry partnership. In the spirit of that partnership, Coalition members also look forward to future Myth-Busters dialogues on opportunities to implement/apply the Administrator’s three principles to specific procurement policies and procedures governing GSA’s government-wide contracting portfolio, including the Multiple Award Schedule (MAS) program.

As part of that dialogue, in January, FAR & Beyond will launch a series of blogs identifying opportunities to apply these principles throughout GSA’s contract portfolio in an effort to solve key challenges that currently impede economic growth and opportunities for commercial firms nationwide. Opportunities to streamline acquisition procedures and increase government access to commercial products, services, and solutions are tailor-made for the synergistic effect of government-industry in partnership. There is no shortage of opportunities for government and industry to partner in streamlining acquisition procedures and increase access to commercial products, services and solutions.

With regard to GSA’s MAS program, there is no greater barrier to entry for commercial firms than the closure of schedules to new offers. Procurement law long has recognized that, by definition, competitive procedures under the Competition in Contracting Act of 1984 (CICA) includes the multiple award schedules program if, among other things, participation in the program is open to all responsible sources. By undermining full and open competition, closing the schedules to new offers mitigates the government’s access to the fruits of market forces: innovation and downward pressure on prices. In addition to contradicting the spirit, if not the letter, of the law, it is antithetical to the schedules program’s raison d’etre.

Currently, multiple schedules are closed to new offers. For example, Schedule 75 – Office Solutions: Supplies & Services has been closed to new offers since 2010. A very powerful, symbolic first step in reducing barriers and increasing support to vendors would be to reopen this schedule to new offers. Such a step would be a catalyst for economic activity and provide opportunities for new vendors to enter the federal market. It also would provide current Schedule 75 contractors who are approaching the end of their 20 year contract term an opportunity to submit offers and receive new contracts to continue to compete and deliver commercial products and services to customer agencies. In the end, everyone benefits.

Schedule 75 continues to play a positive role in the federal marketplace for office supplies and services, and thus, it reflects the enduring strength of the MAS platform. According to GSA’s Schedule Sales Query (SSQ) tool, sales under Schedule 75 totaled $362 million for the first 3 quarters of FY2015. In contrast, according to SSQ, sales under GSA’s separate Federal Strategic Sourcing Initiative (FSSI) OS3 Multiple Award IDIQ contract totaled $50 million for the same time period. Clearly, Schedule 75 remains an important engine of opportunity, an economic catalyst, for the commercial office solutions industry, and it should be maintained and promoted by re-opening it to new offers!

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