New rule for buying services

A new procurement rule tells agencies how to buy services off federal schedules. The rule, published June 18 in the Federal Register, requires all orders under the General Services Administration's Federal Supply Schedule to have an acquisition plan.

For work worth more than $2,000 and not for performance of a specific task, such as installation or maintenance, the rule requires agencies to issue a statement of work.

The rule says agencies should ask bidders to submit firm, fixed-price quotes to limit the use of time-and-materials contracts. It says blanket purchase agreements should not last longer than five years.

Industry executive Jeffery Westerhoff said the rule is important because, for the first time, it lays out in the Federal Acquisition Regulation procedures for buying services.

"We now have in the FAR the principles that were generally being followed by different contracting offices to varying degrees. This is good news for me," said Westerhoff, senior vice president for governmentwide acquisition contracts at SRA International Inc. in Fairfax, Va. Before, he said, each contracting office would interpret guidance differently "because it wasn't written in a rule."

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