Senate bill would expand access to GSA schedules for states

States, localities currently can only use GSA schedules when the disaster has struck, but this bill would allow them to prep for emergencies

States and local governments would get expanded access to the General Services Administration’s schedules program so they can prepare for an oncoming disaster, according to provisions of a new bill in Congress.

The Federal Supply Schedules Usage Act (S. 2868) would open GSA’s Multiple Award Schedules Program slightly more to state and local governments and the American Red Cross by allowing them buy from the contracts to prepare for a disaster, instead of limiting the schedules' use to recovering from it.

Currently, under the Disaster Recovery Purchasing Program, states and localities can only use the schedules after the disaster has struck. GSA's cooperative purchasing program also allows states to buy from the schedules for information technology and other products and services for law enforcement and emergency management, such as fire-fighting.

The programs are different, primarily in the particular GSA schedules authorized for use and the conditions under which products and services may be purchased.

The American Red Cross already can buy from the schedules contracts for international relief efforts. Congress allowed greater temporary purchasing authority in fiscal 2009 and 2010 appropriations bills for the Red Cross’ responses to domestic disasters and for preparations. The American Red Cross is the only federally chartered volunteer relief organization authorized to assist the United States with its relief obligations under the Geneva Conventions and other international treaty obligations.

The bill, introduced Dec. 10 by Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee Chairman Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.), would expand that authority to other areas, such as providing aid to the armed forces.

Lieberman's committee approved the legislation Dec. 16. It now awaits a vote by the full Senate.

About the Author

Matthew Weigelt is a freelance journalist who writes about acquisition and procurement.

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