Agencies schooled to be vendor-neutral in RFPs

Agencies must buy based on factors such as performance, cost and security while also analyzing open source and technologies from a mix of sources

The Obama administration’s senior IT and procurement officials today reminded agencies to buy IT without vendor names in mind after a judge ruled this week that the Interior Department inappropriately chose to buy e-mail and desktop software from Microsoft instead of Google.

When the government buys software and computers, “it is important that those purchases be fair, neutral and based on an objective assessment of relevant criteria,” Victoria Espinel, intellectual property enforcement coordinator, wrote this afternoon on the White House’s blog.

As IT and acquisition officials develop procurement plans, they should base their decisions on performance and value, and be free of preconceived preferences, according to the Jan. 7 memo signed by Espinel; federal CIO Vivek Kundra; and Dan Gordon, administrator of the Office of Federal Procurement Policy.


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Officials should buy suitable IT on a case-by-case basis to meet their needs, the administration said, adding that they need to consider factors such as performance, cost and security. They should also analyze alternatives including proprietary, open source and technologies from a mix of sources.

The reminder comes after Federal Claims Court Judge Susan Braden imposed a preliminary injunction Jan. 3 to keep   Interior from awarding a noncompetitive contract with Microsoft for e-mail and computer operating system software.

Braden ruled that Interior officials began negotiations for a sole-source contract with Microsoft several months before when they decided Microsoft was the department’s standard for e-mail and desktop software. Officials also knew that Google had the software applications to do the work and was interested in competing for the contract yet went ahead with the sole-source contract, she said.

“Interior violated the Competition in Contracting Act and relevant Federal Acquisition Regulation provisions and...such violation was prejudicial to Google’s interests,” Braden wrote.

About the Author

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

Reader Comments

Thu, Jan 27, 2011 Jaime Gracia Washington, DC

The rate of protests is on the rise, and the fact that poorly trained acquisition workers, combined with the ability of industry to protest at will, can only create an environment where mistakes, or fear of them, will also rise. Following source selection procedures and ensuring proper documentation are the most effective means of preventing these issues from occurring, but bias and lack of accountability seem to be pervasive instead. Combined with this environment, and a proposed spending freeze by the president, we can expect these incidents to rise as well.

Wed, Jan 19, 2011

Procurement officials are making the mistake of not listening to IT officials. And so is government. It takes so long to complete the procurement process that IT is forced to use something they can't work with, don't need, or could have saved time and money by getting what they actually wanted and needed to do the job correctly. How can you keep a standardized desktop or environment if you are buying on the whim of an official who should butt out.

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