COMMENTARY

Let's merge schedules and GWACs to create something really innovative

The Multiple Award Schedule program is arguably one of the most efficient contract vehicles ever developed by the federal government. The longevity of the program is a testament to the innovation and the speed to market.

As the program is not designed for complex needs spanning multiple disciplines, GSA brought those capabilities to market with various government -wide acquisition contract programs.

In the current form, there are the MAS and GWAC programs that serve unique purposes. GSA’s gone through great lengths to simplify MAS -- the single schedule has potential to significantly streamline acquisition as a single contract vehicle. As many benefits as MAS provides, it’s not without challenges: namely, the inflexibility of priced products and labor categories, labor category descriptions, and outdated price reductions clause.

Many GWACs solve these challenges, yet the ability to be added to a contract vehicle is not timely and is fraught with award… protest… corrective action… protest… award.

Let’s celebrate the success of the MAS program and various GWAC programs by combining the best features into a new program focused on simplicity, technology, and commercial practices.

Imagine a contract vehicle that is continuously open, allows both fixed price and cost reimbursement contracting, provides flexible pricing, and allows companies to propose commercially viable solutions to the government in the same manner as a private company. This one contract vehicle would replace the MAS program and GWACs by eliminating administrative costs for both government and industry while providing a simple and easy-to-use vehicle for agency customers.

Contract awards could be very simple. If a company already has an existing MAS or GWAC, they are automatically in the program. New companies could submit a simple technical proposal based on what the potential supplier can provide to the government and how it plans to perform the work.

Competition at the order level would then decide if companies can stay in the program. Cost reimbursement contracting could easily be turned on by a government-approved accounting system -- and more common now, a third-party audit certifying the acceptability of cost accounting.

This approach would eliminate the need for an in-depth look at pricing at the contract level and allow a best-value process to determine task order price. It would free up time for both federal contract specialists as well as industry pricing experts to focus on higher-value work.

This would mirror a common industry practice of an unpriced Master Services Agreement and priced work statements. Further, it focuses on quality and price at the order level through vigorous competition by qualified firms.

Congress granted civilian agencies the option to implement “unpriced services” in the 2019 National Defense Authorization Act. Particularly, Section 876 titled, “Increasing Competition at the Task Order Level,” shows the support of Congress for unpriced master contract vehicles designed to increase competition where it matters the most -- at the order level. GSA has yet to implement this authority.

Let’s start the conversation with customer agencies, as well as GSA and industry leaders.

About the Author

Jacob Bertram is a principal consultant with Lohfeld Consulting Group. He left government service in late 2019 and has more than 15 years of experience in government contracting with expertise in four different agencies focused on major weapon systems, aviation, auditing, and government wide programs. He brings in-depth understanding of Multiple Award Schedules, Government Wide Acquisition Contracts, contract and project management, negotiation, compliance, DCAA audits, and proposal evaluations, especially price volume and cost narrative audits.

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