GSA express program to shorten time it takes to get on schedules

When she became administrator of the General Services Administration one of Lurita Doan's goals was to decrease the time and burden for vendors to get on the Federal Supply Schedules. Doan figured contractors in turn would pass those savings to the government.

GSA is trying to hold up its end of Doan's plan. The Federal Acquisition Service late last week revealed the new FAS Multiple Award Schedule Express program.

Under a pilot program, MAS Express is "designed to accelerate new MAS contract awards by allowing proposals submitted by offerors who meet specific criteria for certain products to be awarded significantly faster, with a long-term goal of awarding within 30 calendar days," GSA said in a notice posted on FedBizOpps.gov.

GSA is focusing on specific schedules for the pilot, including IT hardware and repair and maintenance under Schedule 70. Other products include sports, promotion and recreation under Schedule 78, and recording and reproducing video and audio under Schedule 58.

The Express Program is similar to one GSA attempted to set up in the early 1990s, said Larry Allen, executive director for the Coalition for Government Procurement, an industry association in Washington.

"The overall intent is laudable ? to reduce the amount of time it takes to get on the schedule," Allen said. "There has clearly been a steady drumbeat from small businesses that say the schedule process takes too long. But the reality is [that] I'm not sure if the program will be of much use for people. You have to acquiesce everything up front to participate. Some companies called it the 'drop-your-shorts' approach."

Allen said vendors must guarantee their lowest price to GSA, which is nearly impossible for most companies. And if they do guarantee their lowest price, they will face audits in five years, he added.

The best way to speed up the time it takes to receive a schedule contract would be to require the use of eOffers and eMods, Allen said.

"It has not enjoyed widespread acceptance in the agency," Allen said. "They can't get COs [contracting officers] to use them, but it saves time because vendors don't have to submit paperwork, and things can be easily looked at and modified if needed online."

To apply for the program, vendors first must complete an education session titled Pathway to Success, GSA said.

"The Pathway to Success program is primarily intended to assist contractors to help make the business decision if it is in their best interests to have a MAS contract," GSA said. "Offerors will receive certificates for completing Pathway to Success, which they must submit with their offers. These certificates are valid for one year, and the employee attending the presentation must still be employed by the company at the time of proposal submission."

The training will cover proposal submission, obligations involved in being a schedule contractor, how an offeror must differentiate themselves by pricing, service, delivery and terms, and conditions and opportunities available through the Express Program.

GSA expects near-term benefits to include reduction in the time it takes to process a schedule offer, less time to make products and services available to agencies and streamlined collaboration and communication between the contractor and GSA personnel.

Jason Miller is assistant managing editor of Washington Technology's affiliate publication, Government Computer News.

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