This week’s blog post shines the light on another “Urban Myth” regarding the General Services Administration’s (GSA’s) Multiple Award Schedule (MAS) program.  Contrary to the misperceptions of some in the procurement community, the MAS program includes effective mechanisms and ordering procedures for leveraging and competing customer agency recurring requirements.   Indeed, it is surprising that some in the procurement community have recognized the key attributes of the MAS program and, as a result, cling to the belief that the MAS program does not allow agencies to leverage requirements when the current Federal Strategic Sourcing Initiative (FSSI) is built on the foundation of MAS contracts, e-tools and ordering procedures.  The critical procurement tool that empowers customer agencies to leverage requirements under the MAS program is found at Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) 8.405-3, namely Blanket Purchase Agreements (BPAs).

FAR 8.405-3(a)(1) states that “Ordering activities may establish BPAs under any schedule to fill repetitive needs for supplies and services.  Ordering activities shall establish the BPA with schedule contractor(s) that can provide the supply or service that represents the best value.”  The establishment of MAS BPAs must be consistent with the MAS program’s streamlined competitive ordering procedures.  That means that for BPAs that exceed the simplified acquisition threshold, the customer agency must post the Request for Quote (RFQ) on e-Buy thereby providing all MAS contractors capable of meeting the BPA requirements notice and an opportunity to compete or, alternatively, provide the RFQ to as many MAS contractors as practicable to reasonably ensure receipt of at least three offers.  When notice is provided to less than all and less than three offers are received, the customer agency must document the file explaining why, despite reasonable efforts to do so, additional contractors capable of meeting the BPA requirements could not be identified.  See generally FAR 8.405-3.  In addition, FAR 8.405-4 provides that ordering activities must seek a price reduction when the BPA exceeds the simplified acquisition threshold.   As such, FAR 8.4 guidance makes clear that customer agencies can compete and leverage recurring requirements through MAS program using BPAs.

MAS BPAs make a significant positive difference in saving both time and money for customer agencies, contractors and the taxpayer.  The Air Force’s recent efforts to put in place contracts for commercial office furniture are instructive here.  The Air Force has embarked on a lengthy, complex open market competition with the goal of awarding four “commercial item” contracts for office furniture.  Under the Air Force’s acquisition approach, these four contracts will form the basis for future competitive, open market contracts for the actual delivery and installation of furniture at approximately 70 locations around the country.  Significantly, the commercial furniture to be acquired is already on MAS contracts. Therefore, under FAR 8.4 the Air Force’s commercial furniture requirements can be leveraged and competed under the MAS program, saving time and money in the acquisition process.

Although the tools are in place to successfully leverage requirements via the MAS program, the keys to a successful BPA remain requirements development and specific volume commitments on the part of customer agencies.  As the Coalition’s “Best Practices for Federal Supply Schedule BPAs” states in pertinent part that “Commercial contractors overwhelming report that they offer their best terms and prices to customers who provide the most detailed information about their requirements and usage.”  The Coalition’s “BPA Best Practices” can be found here.

Finally, the key to eliminating these “Urban Myths” is communication across the procurement community regarding the central role the MAS program can play in saving the Federal government time and money.  That’s why GSA’s MAS training and engagement with senior leadership across the Federal government regarding the value acquisition programs is more important than ever!