On September 29th the Office of Federal Procurement Policy (OFPP) issued a policy memorandum entitled “Development, Review and Approval of Business Cases for Certain Interagency and Agency-Specific Acquisitions.” The memorandum outlines the required elements for the business case analysis as well as the process for developing, reviewing and approving business cases supporting the establishment or renewal of GWACs, multi-agency contracts, BPAs, and agency-specific contracts. The memorandum is a significant step in bringing discipline to the contract creation process and reducing contract duplication. Contract duplication unnecessarily increases costs for government, industry and the taxpayer. The Coalition supports OFPP efforts in addressing contract duplication.
The GSA Multiple Award Schedule (MAS) program is the key to addressing contract duplication. The MAS program provides a government-wide marketplace where agencies have access to millions of commercial services and products at fair and reasonable prices. The MAS program drives efficient and effective competition at the order level via a streamlined ordering process supported by a robust set of competitive electronic tools (GSAAdvantage!, GSA e-library, and E-buy). The MAS’s vast federal marketplace for commercial items and its streamlined ordering process means that agencies can competitively acquire services and products in less time and at a lower overall acquisition cost than creating a new agency-specific contract. Moreover, by using the MAS program, government and industry can reduce contract administration and overhead costs associated with the management and operation of standalone agency-specific contracts.
Given the scope of the MAS program, each time an agency-specific contract is awarded there is a significant possibility that it is for the same or similar services found on MAS contracts. Indeed, a review of the GWACs, MACs, enterprise and agency-specific multiple award contracts would find that most, if not all, of the contractors also have MAS contracts for the same or similar services. So why does that happen?
Based on my experiences at GSA, agencies typically cite three reasons for creating a new contract rather than using MAS program: (1) unique agency requirements; (2) adequate agency control of contract administration and budget; and (3) pricing. Let’s address each of these in reverse order.
First, the pricing issue is a red-herring. As with all multiple award contracts (including the MAS) the ultimate price paid is driven by competition at the task order level. Here, the MAS program has a significant advantage over typical multiple award contracts. The MAS program provides greater access and competition from many more commercial contractors. GSAAdvantage! provides a powerful market research tool for program managers and contracting officers with access to contract pricing for millions of services and products. E-buy provides a transparent and powerful tool for soliciting competition and price reductions at the order level. Pricing is not an issue when using the MAS. Ultimately, the MAS is structured to deliver best value and competitive, market driven pricing at the order level.
Second, agencies have control over contractor performance, schedule and budget when using the MAS program. The MAS program is a direct order-direct bill model. At the task order level, the ordering agency is responsible for managing contractor performance and funding. This fundamental operating principle of the MAS program is recognized in the Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) 8.406-2 and 8.406-3. It provides the ordering activity with the authority to inspect and accept supplies and services in accordance with terms of the applicable MAS contract, as supplemented by the order. FAR 8.406-3(b) also provides the ordering activity with the authority to terminate an order for cause if the contractor fails to perform. Finally, FAR 8.406-6 provides the ordering activity with the authority to issue final decisions on disputes arising out of performance of an order. Control is not an issue when using the MAS.
Third, the scope of the MAS program and resulting contracts provides agencies with the ability to customize orders by including agency unique requirements. It is this flexibility that underpins the MAS program. The program is flexible by design. Since the mid-1990’s the MAS program has sought to offer a sound, streamlined and standardized framework for order level competition while allowing agencies to fully address their requirements. Uniqueness is not an issue when using the MAS.
The MAS program is the prescription for reducing costly contract duplication. Based on the above and in light of OFPP’s September 29th memorandum, the MAS program plays a key role.