New GSA contract points to procurement evolution

A follow-on contract for an array of office supplies may signal an evolution in the government’s demands on contractors, or at least some progressive thinking about it.

On Jan. 31, the General Services Administration released a request for proposals for the Federal Strategic Sourcing Initiative (FSSI) Office Supplies Strategic Sourcing Solutions Third Generation for Purchasing (OS3). Among other changes, OS3 includes no blanket purchasing agreements and less data reporting.

Officials say OS3 “is an effort to concurrently carry out the Office of Management and Budget’s and the GSA Administrator’s mandate to maximize use of FSSI while building a new, more sustainable business model,” according to the RFP.

The model boils down to saving money.

“With increasingly constrained resources and budgets, GSA’s mission of saving the government time and money has never been more important,” Tom Sharpe, GSA’s Federal Acquisition Service administrator, said in a statement.

As for progressive thinking, GSA officials decided to lighten the burden on companies to report data.

Officials must have questioned the usefulness of all the reported information about office supplies, such as pencils and pens, said Bob Woods, president of Topside Consulting and former senior GSA official. The resources that companies pour into the many required reports and paperwork cost money, and “someone ends up paying for it,” he said.

GSA has aligned the contract’s data reporting requirements to commercial practices. Brenda Bearden, president of BearDen Solutions and formerly the director of supply chain operations at Lockheed Martin, said the government will pay extra for unique, government-only requirements, because contractors have to set up new procedures to gather that data. By using commercial practices, companies may have that data already.

The government can either take advantage of commercial practices or prepare for increased costs, she said.

The shifts in terms and conditions from OS2 to OS3 could indicate some thoughts on deeper questions about the real necessity of the data and the reality that agencies would consequently pay for it.

“These changes may be evolutionary as time goes on,” Woods said. Nevertheless, they are related to a contract for relatively simple items, not laptops and system integrations. Contracts providing more complex items may not advance so easily in these evolutionary ways.

However, Woods said it is still common sense in action.

About the Author

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

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