GSA bolsters IT Acquisition Center

The General Services Administration is reorganizing its IT Acquisition Center to better cope with the growing popularity of the Federal Supply Service schedules.

Neal Fox, assistant commissioner in GSA's Office of Commercial Acquisition, said that early next year GSA will add more experienced contracting officers and simplify the processes to change vendor schedules after agencies spent record amounts on the schedules in fiscal 2003.

Fox said agencies bought more than $27.4 billion worth of products and services on all the schedule contracts in 2003 -- a $6.3 billion increase over 2002. The IT and professional engineering services schedules continue to be the two most popular schedules, he said.

Agencies spent $15 billion on IT products and services last year, up from $13 billion in 2002. Feds also spent $2.2 billion on the engineering services in 2003, up from $1.3 billion the previous year.

"The rapid growth in sales of IT products and services has required new thinking about how we organize to keep pace," Fox said. "The IT Center is receiving an average of eight to 10 new vendor offers per work day, nearly double what we saw a year ago."

Fox said GSA is transferring experienced contracting officers to the center as well as hiring new ones from outside of the agency.

The office also will put a new team approach in place to improve the center's efficiency. This method combines groups of employees on a project instead of each employee working on pieces separately, Fox said.

"The team structure will provide for better coordination of efforts at lower levels in the organization," Fox said. "Peers will work more closely together to accomplish work projects, and decision making will be pushed to lower levels."

Early next year, GSA will reform how schedule modifications are done, reducing the number of changes by 80 percent, Fox said.

"Vendors will be able to place new products on GSA Advantage without a modification and begin selling to agencies that same day," Fox said. "That will eliminate the lag time between commercial marketplace product availability and GSA schedule availability."

On average, it takes two weeks to perform a schedule modification, he said.

During the year, GSA will modify GSA Advantage to let vendors make modifications and submit offers online. Fox said contractors will send proposals through the Internet using digital signatures.

GSA will test these changes next year at the IT Center initially and then expand them agencywide, Fox said.

Another improvement to GSA Advantage the agency is working on will improve the search function, Fox said. With 5 million items on the schedule, the system is overwhelmed, which is making searches slow and search results too broad.

Fox said GSA is redesigning the search portal to have a more commercial look and sort data into more user-friendly categories.

GSA also is changing the name of the Corporate Schedule program to the Consolidated Products and Services Schedule. The Corporate Schedule program let vendors put all products and services they sell through the individual schedules in one place for agencies to buy from. Fox said the Corporate Schedule did not catch on with agencies or vendors, and this new approach is clearer.

GSA also will invest $2 million in training for agencies and vendors, Fox said.

GSA also will work with the Defense Acquisition University to build course material and already developed a video for classroom training on these changes and new initiatives, Fox said. *

Jason Miller is a staff writer with Government Computer News. He can be reached at jmiller@

postnewsweektech.com.

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