This week marks the beginning of a new series of blog posts highlighting and debunking “Urban Myths” regarding GSA’s Multiple Award Schedule (MAS) program.  Through the Coalition’s “Myth-Busters” conversations with acquisition leadership across the federal government, it has become clear that there are certain “Urban Myths” regarding the MAS program. That’s why we are doing this series.  It is vital to dispel these myths as they stand in the way of the government taking advantage of an outstanding shared services contracting program.

These misperceptions reflect the continuing need to educate customer agencies.  Training on the MAS ordering procedures and e-tools is critical to empowering customer agencies to efficiently and effectively use the MAS program for commercial requirements.  Better understanding means better value for the taxpayer!  Training is a savings investment.  Effective use of the MAS program by customer agencies can save at least 15-20 percent in direct acquisition costs while at the same time reducing unnecessary contract duplication.  And to GSA’s credit, it has invested in both online training and classroom training on effective use of the program.  Information on GSA’s online and classroom training can be found here.

Now let’s address the “Urban Myth” regarding the “high” MAS contract prices.  There are those who criticize MAS contract level prices and point to the additional, significant discounts provided in response to task order competitions for specific agency requirements.   The reality is that the MAS program is designed to provide multiple levels of competition resulting in best value for customer agencies and the taxpayer at the task order level.

First, GSA negotiates MAS contract prices seeking and obtaining discounts from the contractor’s commercial price lists or standard commercial market pricing.  The negotiated, fair and reasonable MAS contract prices are based on contractor’s competitive commercial pricing practices and policies while taking into account differing terms and conditions between the contractor’s commercial contracts and the MAS contract.

Second, each MAS contractor’s prices are posted on GSAAdvantage!, GSA’s electronic catalog, for review, market research and ordering by customer agencies.  This transparent, electronic marketplace is inherently competitive, allowing customer agencies to compare and contrast millions of commercial services and products offered by MAS contractors.  GSAAdvantage! is a dynamic market place.  MAS contractors can and do, post temporary price reductions (special offers) at any time via the website.  Indeed, GSAAdvantage! serves the entire federal market place by providing contracting officers and commercial firms, with a powerful competitive market research tool.

Third, the FAR 8.4 ordering procedures require competition at the task order level.  The new FAR 8.4, as mandated by Section 863 of the FY 2009 National Defense Authorization Act, provides that for MAS orders exceeding $150,000, customer agencies must provide notice and an opportunity to compete to all MAS contractors capable of meeting the requirement.  The contracting officer must also ask for a price reduction for all orders over $150,000.  Alternatively, if notice is not provided to all the contractors, it must be provided as many as practicable to reasonably ensure receipt of at least three quotes.  When the requirement is provided to less than all MAS contractors and less than three quotes are received, before award can be made, the contracting officer must document the file addressing the reasonable efforts to obtain at least three quotes.  The FAR 8.4 ordering procedures ensure robust competition at the task order level in an efficient, streamlined manner that saves customer agencies and contractors time and transactional costs (bid and proposal/administrative).

Fourth, GSA’s e-Buy, the MAS electronic quote tool, provides an efficient and effective channel through which customer agencies can provide notice and opportunity to compete for individual task order requirements.  e-Buy is identified in FAR 8.4 as one method to provide notice to all contractors in accordance with the statutory and regulatory task order competition requirements.

The MAS program’s multiple layers of competition provide customer agencies with a powerful government-wide procurement tool that saves time and money.  That’s why it is vital to invest in education and training.  That’s why we take on the “Urban Myths.”