Guest Blogger: Aubrey Woolley, Manager of Policy, The Coalition for Government Procurement

The Coalition’s Annual Fall Training Conference provides an opportunity for government and industry leaders to address the latest in Federal procurement and work together towards a more efficient and effective procurement system for the benefit of the American taxpayer.  This year’s conference, Continuing the Dialogue, was no exception.  Some of the most valuable dialogue occurred during the breakout sessions that covered the broad spectrum of services and products that members offer through the MAS program. The sessions provided an opportunity for the leadership of the FAS acquisition centers to meet directly with their industry partners to discuss the latest program developments and plans to improve their programs and continue growth in the coming fiscal year.

In case you missed this year’s IT Schedule 70 breakout session, the IT Acquisition Center announced its FY2013 goal to double its annual sales to $32 billion.  The Coalition has always supported Schedule 70’s objective of continued growth, providing even more opportunities for contractors to meet the needs of Federal agencies through best value technologies.  The $32 billion goal may be viewed as a “moon shot” in the context of Federal budget cuts and possible sequestration in 2013.  However, it’s important to consider the benefits of the IT Center setting high goals in order to make real progress in areas that will make a difference to GSA’s customer agencies, its industry partners, and ultimately the American taxpayer.

There are several cross-cutting measures that the Coalition has advocated to modernize the MAS program as a whole.  The IT Center can take these measures to increase the efficiency, effectiveness and utility of its contract offerings for GSA customers:

  • Allow Other Direct Costs (ODCs) for task orders.  Schedule 70 contractors (and Coalition members) promote use of the schedule for Federal agencies to procure comprehensive solutions to meet their IT service requirements.  However, the inability to include ODCs on task orders under the MAS program continues to be a disincentive for many customer agencies to use the program.  Implementing existing regulatory authority to allow ODCs on Schedule 70 task orders will attract agencies to the MAS program that currently find it necessary to set up separate contract vehicles to purchase IT services similar to those already on the IT Schedule.  Facilitating the acquisition of ODCs through Schedule 70 has the dual benefit of making the GSA program more useful to customer agencies and reducing potential government costs associated with contract duplication.
  • Shorten the modification processing time to add new technologies.  One of the strengths of the MAS program is continuous open seasons which allow new contract offers to be submitted at any time.  Under the updated contract modification process, contractors can continually refresh offered technologies.  However, getting the newest technologies to the Federal market under Schedule 70 is only as effective as the modification process is efficient.  Streamlining the mod processing time to add new technologies will bring the services and products offered under Schedule 70 more in alignment with commercial offerings and the latest in innovation.  A concrete first step that the IT Center could take is to address the processing time for reviewing EULAS.  Despite recent efforts it is still taking far too long for contractors to upgrade/enhance their software offering.  As a result, the IT Center is at significant risk of losing market share and fostering contract duplication as customer agencies look for alternatives to meet their software needs.
  • Put “commercial” back into commercial contracting.  The fundamental strength of the MAS program is its reliance on the commercial marketplace, which increases competition and cost effective solutions.  Government unique requirements add to costs and make it difficult for companies to do business with the government.  The more that the IT Acquisition Center’s policies and requirements can be aligned with commercial practices, the more companies can provide the innovative competitively-priced solutions they offer commercial customers to the Federal market under Schedule 70.   Putting commercial back into commercial item contracting will increase access to the latest technologies in the commercial marketplace.  It will enhance competition for customer agencies and lead to more cost effective, best value solutions to the government’s information technology needs.  The IT Center is uniquely positioned in the federal marketplace to be the leader in putting commercial back into commercial item contracting.
  • Consider adding a cost-reimbursement capability.  Given the Department of Defense’s interest in procuring some types of services on a cost-reimbursement basis, any plan to significantly increase sales under Schedule 70 should examine this contract type and develop a solution to keep the program attractive to GSA’s biggest customer.

Over the last year the Coalition has highlighted the potential for these measures to improve the entire MAS program.  The themes articulated will remain at the heart of our continuing dialogue with GSA.  There has never been a better time for Government and industry to seize the opportunity to “modernize” the MAS program for the benefit of customer agencies and the U.S. taxpayer.