On Tuesday the Coalition held a Breakfast Seminar entitled “End of FY2011 Procurement Crunch: Effective Tools in a Compressed Buying Season.” Our thanks and appreciation to GSA’s Steve Kempf, Commissioner of the Federal Acquisition Service; Mary Davie, Assistant Commissioner – Integrated Technology Service; Tami Riggs, Assistant Commissioner – Customer Accounts and Research; Bill Sisk, Assistant Commissioner – Global Supplies and Services; as well as John Nyce, Associate Director, Acquisition Services Directorate, Department of Interior and Ray Bjorklund, Chief Knowledge Officer, Deltek for an engaging and thoughtful discussion of the key acquisition tools and trends for the fourth quarter of the fiscal year. A star studded cast indeed.

Thanks also to Bill Gormley, Chairman of The Coalition for Government Procurement, for serving as moderator for the panel discussion. A special thank you to Coalition member Staples Advantage for sponsoring the breakfast. Staples’ support was vital to getting the message out about GSA’s and Interior’s procurement tools that can assist agencies in effectively and efficiently procuring products and services over the compressed fourth quarter procurement cycle. A synopsis of the event is provided below.

While listening to the Steve Kempf’s opening remarks and the panel discussion I got to thinking about the debt ceiling “resolution” (for now) and the coming challenges for agencies as the federal budget is transformed (a softer word than cut). As the panelists were giving overviews of their programs, contract vehicles and services, I connected the dots. Tuesday’s debt ceiling “resolution” is the beginning of a prolonged period of reduced government spending across the board. Agencies will have limited financial resources to perform their missions. This should mean more opportunity for GSA’s and Interior’s government-wide contracting support programs and services. Fundamentally, GSA and Interior provide a government-wide shared services model that leverages contracts and assisted procurement services to meet agency procurement needs. Agency contracting activities, operating with limited resources, will increasingly turn to GSA and Interior to meet their procurement needs.

The key to success for GSA, Interior and other similar procurement organizations will be their ability to provide streamlined, cost effective procurement solutions for agency customers. Correspondingly there will be opportunities for companies that can increase government productivity and help reduce operating costs. For example, agencies are looking to cloud computing and “software as a service” to reduce operating costs. GSA’s cloud computing and “software as a service” Schedule Blanket Purchase Agreements (BPAs) and the Alliant contract should benefit.

Beyond information technology, agencies will also look for solutions across the commercial marketplace (e.g. furniture, logistics, facilities maintenance, professional services, office supplies and general products) to reduce costs. GSA’s Schedules and GWACs should be the prime channels for agencies seeking commercial solutions. Using existing contracts such as the GSA schedules and GWACs will guarantee cost savings to Government and industry by reducing contract duplication.

Of course the contract terms and conditions and governing regulations must create a framework for efficient and effective procurements. A “renewal of commercial item contracting” is vital to improving these contract vehicles and, ultimately, the Government’s bottom line. Over last decade commercial item contracting has seen a layering of numerous additional government- unique terms and conditions—requirements that increase costs and reduce access to commercial solutions. Getting back to commercial contracting basics by eliminating unnecessary, burdensome regulations would increase competition, productivity and efficiency for the Government and the taxpayer.