OMB moves to limit brand specifications

For a year federal agencies have been directed to not use brand names in contract solicitations and requests for proposals.

To microprocessor makers such as Advanced Micro Devices Inc. the regulation meant agencies' requests for proposals worth more than $25,000 could not specify Intel Corp.'s processors, for example, unless the agency could justify why a certain brand name was needed.

The Office of Management and Budget released a memorandum last week that gives the regulation a some muscle. While the existing guidance has the force of law, OMB has taken the additional step of publishing it in the Federal Acquisition Regulation.

"We of course are going to be happy because there are not going to be as many Intel-only specifications published by government contracts," said Steve Kester, manager of government affairs for AMD.

"The new requirement is simply saying you should follow the current regulation and not use brand names," Kester said. "And if there is going to be a brand name used, you need to justify it and clearly explain why a specific brand produced by a single company as opposed to allowing free and open competition."

The additional focus on the regulation will likely affect other areas of government buying, such as office electronics.

The Air Force and Army, and the departments of Agriculture and Commerce have adhered well to the new regulation, Kester said.

"But there remain a number of agencies that even today are continuing to issue those brand-name specifications," Kester said.

Intel and OMB were not immediately available for comment.

About the Author

Doug Beizer is a staff writer for Washington Technology.

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