Last week’s Comment focused on the challenge of contract duplication and the role of GSA’s Multiple Award Schedule program. This week’s comment focuses on an open market Request for Proposals (RFP) for commercial items that appears to duplicate existing MAS contracts for the same or similar services and products. It is a solicitation that I previously examined in the April 15, 2011 Comment of the Week. However, with the issuance of OFPP’s policy memorandum regarding business development and review for new contract actions, another look at the RFP is in order.

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Tactical Communications Equipment and Services (TacCom) RFP No. HSSS01-11-R-1001 seeks to establish multiple award Indefinite-Delivery, Indefinite Quantity (IDIQ) contracts under FAR Part 12, Acquisition of Commercial Items. Specifically, the RFP seeks commercial tactical and communications equipment and services including but not limited to mobile radios, control/base stations, software, routers, repeaters, test equipment as well as engineering, design, installation, and maintenance services. The RFP has an essentially unlimited commercial scope stating in part that “All commercial offerings available from a vendor are within the scope of this contract and are made available through their commercial or GSA catalog, including both existing and new technologies as they become available, may be purchased through this contract.” See Subsection A.3, Contract Coverage.

With regard to pricing, the RFP states that “[t]he contractor shall express its pricing as a percentage discount off of GSA schedule and/or commercial catalog pricing. Using GSA schedule pricing as the baseline is highly preferred over commercial catalog pricing… Percentages base-lined against GSA pricing must cite the specific schedule on which the pricing is published.” See Subsection B.3, Pricing. Subsection B.4, Published Commercial Catalog Guideline, reinforces the focus on GSA pricing stating in part that “[p]rices for all products and services shall be based on the published GSA contract price (preferred), or commercial catalog price, as adjusted by any Contractor discount.” Further, the pricing tables in Attachment 4 of the RFP instruct offerors to insert GSA schedule pricing when available.

The RFP’s reliance on the GSA schedule pricing raises issues that go to the heart of the MAS program’s role. The new OFPP business case policy guidance does not apply to the RFP as the closing date for receipt of proposals is today. However, it is fair to ask whether future business case analysis must address whether the MAS program will meet an agency’s needs before creating a new contract vehicle. The DHS RFP seems to indicate that the MAS program would actually meet the customer’s needs.

Which leads to the following questions: (1) Why create a new IDIQ contract vehicle for services and products that are already priced on the GSA MAS? (2) Given the reliance on GSA schedule pricing for the IDIQ contracts, what is it about the MAS program that does not meet the customer agency’s needs? (3) Why not conduct a streamlined competition under the MAS program and seek price reductions for the establishment of multiple Blanket Purchase Agreements (BPAs)? These are fair and timely questions in light of the substantial investment in the GSA MAS program made by Government and industry. Rather than have Government and industry invest in a whole new set of contracts, why not use the GSA schedules—that is what they are there for!

Finally, as many of you know, Bill Gormley resigned from the Washington Management Group/Deltek last week. As Chairman of The Coalition for Government Procurement, Bill’s position, commitment and contributions to the Coalition’s success remains as strong as ever.