I read with interest the article, "Small IT Firms Should Protest Expanded GSA Schedule" in the Nov. 6 issue of Washington Technology.

The issue of whether or not GSA Multiple Award Schedule contracts should be open to state and local governments is complex and has as many sides as there are schedule contractors.

Unfortunately, Kenton Pattie's article failed to discuss many of the relevant issues surrounding Cooperative Purchasing, and as a result, left Washington Technology readers with an incomplete and inaccurate portrayal.

Our coalition is a 300-member association representing companies that sell a wide variety of goods and services to the federal government. Our members account for 75 percent of all Multiple Award Schedule (MAS) sales. Pattie's main contention is that small businesses would be harmed should state and local governments be permitted to buy from MAS contracts. Two-thirds, however, of all schedule contractors are small businesses that already successfully compete every day with larger companies in the federal market.

Additionally, every large business schedule contractor whose contract has an estimated value of $500,000 or more is required to submit and adhere to a small business subcontracting plan. Schedule contracts contain liquidated damage clauses and other penalties should companies fail to live up to their small business subcontracting goals. Thousands of small businesses across the country benefit from these subcontracting plans.

Like most segments of our economy, "small business" is not some monolithic force, but rather an entity as diverse as the country itself. The MAS program can clearly be good for small businesses whether they hold a contract themselves or participate in some way through a contract held by a larger company.

It is important to note that Cooperative Purchasing would be optional for contractors as well as for state and local governments, and it has become crystal clear that state purchasing officials view federal MAS contracts as but one potential option in their acquisition arsenal.

Statutory mandates within states that require them to use small businesses within the state for a certain amount of business. State procurement officials take this mandate very seriously. To suggest that their heads would be mystically turned by access to federal pricing belies our experience and suggests that trained procurement professionals would simply ignore state rules.

As for pricing, some states feel that they already get a better deal for some goods and services than that available on the federal schedule program.

The issue of cooperative purchasing is also not one of small vs. big business. Companies of every size support or oppose cooperative purchasing for a variety of reasons.

We hope that, should the issue of cooperative purchasing come before Congress again, that its fate is indeed decided on merit.

Edward L. Allen
Executive Director,
Coalition for Government Procurement

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