What’s the deal with mobile devices? Or can a better deal be struck? The July 11th issue of the Federal Times had an interesting front page article on the Government’s growing demand for iPads and other mobile devices. The article primarily focused on potential security challenges of mobile devices and the government’s response to those challenges. For example, the article indicated that the FAA is planning on adopting security and acquisition standards for iPads by October 1stso that they can be bought throughout the agency.

What caught my eye was the article’s discussion of how these devices may or may not be acquired. As the Federal Times noted, “[w]hether the tablets will be procured through large-scale acquisitions or purchased by feds is still under consideration.” However, as the article noted, iPads are already available through NASA’s Solutions for Enterprise-Wide Procurement (SEWP) and the National Institutes of Health Information Technology Acquisition Assessment Center’s Electronic Commodity Store (ECS) 3 contracts. In contrast, iPads and other Apple products are not available on GSA’s Federal Supply Schedules contracts due to Trade Agreements Act concerns.

So, why the distinction? GSA also should be allowed to offer iPads and other mobile devices through its contracts. The federal market is speaking. More and more government personnel see mobile devices as key tools for improving overall performance. The GSA FSS program is the leading government wide contract program. Agencies routinely use the FSS program to leverage information technology requirements. GSA and OMB currently use FSS Blanket Purchase Agreements (BPAs) for a host of important procurement initiatives, including OMB’s ongoing cloud computing efforts. Use of the FSS program to acquire mobile devices will foster greater competition and increase savings for the taxpayer.

NASA SEWP and NIH’s ECS 3 are government wide acquisition contracts (GWACs) for information technology. As GWACs, OMB reviewed and approved both these contract vehicles. If these two GWACs can be structured to allow for the inclusion of iPads and other mobile devices,—it makes good business and procurement sense to allow the GSA FSS program to be structured in a similar manner. As we are doing with Other Direct Costs, the Coalition will explore potential contract structure solutions to this issue.

On a personal note, I have gotten a host of questions as to how Boy Scout camp turned out. We were lucky. The weather was beautiful—in the 80’s with low humidity during the day and down into the 60’s at night. And no bugs! For me it was relaxing. On the last full day my son did his five mile hike, pitched his tent and really “camped out” with the other first year scouts. He had a great time. He told me his favorite part was the “down time” sitting around a camp fire each night with his troop as the older boys told ghost stories. There is something to be said for the simple things in life.