Buy Lines | GSA schedule makeover long overdue

The General Services Administration has a chance to get multiple-award contracting schedules right.

Personally, I was glad to hear that the proposed organization of GSA's Federal Acquisition Service is under review. Why not take the time necessary to revisit the re-organization plan to be sure it can restore GSA to acquisition excellence?

I understand that one area under review is the organization of the schedule contracts program vis-à-vis indefinite-delivery, indefinite-quantity contracting programs. This is both proper and appropriate given the fundamental differences between the two contract types.

The currently proposed reorganization puts everything IT into one organization, IT Solutions, regardless of contracting type. That would put IT Schedule 70 contracts in the same organization as IDIQ contracts, but separated from the other multiple-award schedule contracts.

Some members of our IT community believe that such an IT stovepipe in GSA is a good idea. But as a longtime contracting professional, I would instead organize a contracting organization by contract type. Thus, the schedules program would include all schedules while the IDIQ contracting program would include all IDIQs.

The way in which these two contract types are formed is completely different. Each has its own separate set of regulations, and the way that each is administered is completely different as are their ordering procedures.

I believe that some of the alleged abuse of these contracting types stems from rampant confusion on this point. Let's not exacerbate the situation by mixing contract types within the same acquisition program. Each contract type has unique processes, and the grouping of like processes lays a path to automation and efficiency.

As a member of the IT community, part of me liked the idea of having the Schedule 70 separate from other schedules. That is, tucked away into the world of IT where we have many unique practices, dating from the days when IT was still automatic data processing and ADP schedules were separate from the Federal Supply Service.

In the days before the procurement reforms of the mid-1990s, everything ADP was separate because of the Brooks Act. Microcomputers, mainframes, telecom gear and other technologies each had separate schdules. That changed in 1996 when Congress replaced it as part of the Information Management Technology Reform Act, now referred to as Clinger-Cohen.

Since 1996, after its merger with the Federal Supply Schedules program, Schedule 70's scope was enlarged, and it became the cash cow of the schedules program.
But the Schedule 70 contract shop needs more contracting resources and more automation, all investments that are unique to the multiple-award schedule contract type and have nothing to do with the IDIQ contract type. Let's invest in the schedules program as whole, not just in one commodity.

We need to approach the schedules program as a whole because government needs to buy items from many schedules at the same time. Today, many government requirements demand that items be bought from many different schedules. Some equipment often bought in conjunction with items on Schedule 70 are only awarded on Schedule 84, security and law enforcement, while certain videoconferencing equipment is awarded under Schedule 58, professional audio-visual telecommunications and security solutions, and Schedule 56, power backup equipment.

Add to this the need for services to glue the solution together and it could span Schedule 70 and Schedule 871, professional engineering services. And don't forget Schedule 69, training aids and devices. That's seven of the approximately 50 schedule contracts needed to put together a converged data operations room.

GSA has a unique opportunity to revamp its contracting programs and processes to leverage current regulation, the need for converged solutions and the promise of automation. Let's structure the organization so that the changes needed in the next generation have a reasonable chance of becoming reality.

Steve Charles is a co-founder of immixGroup, a government business-consulting firm in McLean, Va. Steve welcomes your comments at Steve_Charles@immixgroup.com. immixGroup ranks No. 65 on the Top 100.

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