Advisory panel recommends new GSA IT services schedule

To increase competition among services contracts, the General Services Administration should develop a new schedule for IT services and expand the Defense Department rule of three to the rest of government.

These were among the 10 recommendations the Acquisition Advisory Panel made to the Office of Federal Procurement Policy and the Hill.

In a meeting earlier this week, the panel, which Congress mandated under the Services Acquisition Reform Act, added these suggestions to the four they had agreed on earlier this year. The panel is made up of 13 federal, private-sector and academic procurement experts.

"The focus of these recommendations is competition and updating current government practices consistent with the significant record of competition in the commercial marketplace," said Marcia Madsen, the panel chairwoman and a partner in the law firm Mayer, Brown, Rowe & Maw LLP of Chicago, in a statement. "These recommendations reflect a balanced approach to improving the government's ability to acquire services while recognizing the constraints under which government buyers operate."

The panel said the new IT services schedule, which would be in addition to the existing IT schedule, would be for professional services, and the prices for each order would be based on competition and not on posted rates.

The push to expand DOD's rule of three from Section 803 of the 2002 DOD Authorization Act to the rest of government includes services and products. The rule of three requires DOD to obtain at least three bids for all task orders placed through GSA's Federal Supply Schedule.

The other recommendations also focus on increasing competition. These include:
  • Establish agency centers of excellence in requirements analysis and development. These COEs would have advance approval of the statement of work for any complex service.
  • Have GSA develop a database of publicly available market research on services acquisitions by government and commercial buyers.
  • Strengthen competition for procurements in excess of $5 million for orders under multiple award contracts by requiring the agency to provide a clear statement of work, a reasonable response period for receipt of proposals, significant factors they expect to consider in evaluating proposals, a written statement documenting the reason the award was made and a debriefing for unsuccessful vendors.
  • Improve the transparency of the ordering process by providing a public notice for information purposes within 10 days of a sole source task or delivery order worth more than $100,000.
  • Enforce policies limiting time and materials contracting; convert, when possible, time and materials contracts to performance based contracts; don't award time and materials contracts unless the government can ensure effective oversight.
  • Clarify regulations on when the government may obtain additional data for commercial-item contracts.
  • Have GSA establish a market research organization to analyze publicly available data on government and commercial services transactions and make it available to the public.
  • Change the current Federal Acquisition Regulations definition of a standalone commercial service to reflect the statutory definition that lets noncommercial services be treated as commercial ones.

The panel will meet again Aug. 10 to finish making recommendations before submitting their entire report to OFPP in the fall.

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