Imitation may be the sincerest form of flattery but it also costs time and money. In other words, contract duplication remains a challenge in the federal marketplace, especially in procurements involving commercial services and products. Indeed, many agency specific procurements establish multiple award IDIQ contracts with the same contractors for the same items that are on GSA’s Federal Supply Schedule (“FSS”), also referred to as the MAS program. Duplicative contracts increase contractor infrastructure costs and government administration costs. In this time of increased budgetary pressure, it simply does not make taxpayer sense for government to create and industry to chase new commercial item contract vehicles when those items can be acquired efficiently and effectively through the FSS program.
GSA’s FSS program includes over 15,000 contracts offering millions of commercial products and services at fair and reasonable prices. The FSS program includes an electronic catalog, GSA Advantage! and eBuy, an electronic quote tool used to contact FSS contractors for task and delivery order competitions. The streamlined competitive ordering procedures allow ordering activities to focus on requirements and competition. These procedures save time and money when compared to open market procurements. The Federal Acquisition Regulation (“FAR”) recognizes the value of the FSS program. FAR 8.002(a) provides that the “optional use Federal Supply Schedule” has priority over other commercial sources. Nonetheless, agencies continue to award contracts, including multiple award IDIQ contracts, for services and products that are on the FSS.
The Acquisition Advisory Panel focused on the proliferation of contract vehicles and made recommendations regarding the acquisition planning process. Since that time some progress has been made in aligning the IT GWACs. However, more can and should be done to eliminate duplication of services and products contracts, including agency wide or enterprise wide commercial contracts. One step would be to revise FAR Part 7, Acquisition Planning. Currently, the general guidance in FAR Part 7 promotes the acquisition of commercial items to the maximum extent practicable but in that context does not specifically mention the FSS program. With regard to the contents of an acquisition plan, FAR 7.105(b)(1) provides for the consideration of required sources under FAR Part 8. However, this guidance is not strong enough. FAR Part 7 should be revised to require that whenever an open market commercial item procurement is contemplated, the contracting officer must make a determination that it is the best procurement method. The determination must include analysis addressing alternative procurement approaches including conducting a competition under the FSS program.