Agencies skip FTS, look to GWAC vendors

Agencies are taking advantage of a rule that lets them order directly from the General Services Administration's governmentwide acquisition contracts (GWACs) instead of going through the Federal Technology Service.

Neal Fox, assistant commissioner in the Office of Commercial Acquisition at GSA's Federal Supply Service, said last week that agencies have used the direct-order authority on more than 25 percent of all orders off of the multiple-award contracts. In the past, about 95 percent of all orders went through FTS' acquisition office.

"Direct ordering helps customers because FTS cannot handle all of the orders that come through," Fox said during a discussion of FSS sponsored by the Industry Advisory Council of Fairfax, Va. "There is a class of customers that didn't need FTS services, and the direct-order authority meets their needs."

FTS provides acquisition support services such as planning, awarding and administering contracts, and manages agency funding for specific projects.

Fox said agency contracting officers must be trained on how to properly use GWACs before they can order directly. FSS established this process after it took over the management of these contracts in 2003.

FSS also is facing a possible impact on its services from the Defense Department's policy requiring contracting officers to look internally first before buying from other agencies' contracts. DOD accounts for 70 percent of all multiple-award schedule purchases from GSA.

"We may not see some falloff for some time," Fox said. "But I think the trend will reverse because agencies have such a small procurement workforce, and they cannot go back to the contracting procedures of seven to 10 years ago, which took a long time and were not easy."

Fox said FSS expects GWACs to continue its strong growth. In fiscal 2004, agencies spent $3 billion on these multiple-award contracts, up from $2.9 billion in 2003.

"We think the slowed growth between 2003 and 2004 was an oddity, and some of it may have to do with the FTS contracting problems," Fox said.

FSS schedule sales increased by 16 percent, to $31.1 billion, in 2004, Fox added.

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