As GSA’s FAS struggles to reinvent itself, contractors suffer

The last year has been a tough one for the General Services Administration’s Multiple Award Schedules (MAS) program.  The Federal Acquisition Service (FAS) – the GSA agency charged with administering the MAS program – has struggled to re-invent itself and its contracting vehicles in order to ensure they both stay relevant in an increasingly competitive federal marketplace.  The byproduct of this struggle has been mostly negative for Schedule vendors.

GSA Schedule ContractIn an effort to demonstrate the value its contracts bring to federal customers, FAS has pursued an unrelenting crusade aimed at reducing prices at all costs.  It is no longer enough for a vendor to give the Government a great deal vis-à-vis its commercial customers (a determination historically made through a “vertical pricing” analysis).  Now vendors also must charge less than their competitors – a determination made through a “horizontal pricing” analysis.  While FAS contracting officers are supposed to consider factors that may explain a price differential as part of their price evaluation, in practice, COs pay little heed to such “trifles.”  The concept of value rarely enters into the equation any more.

Time and again, vendors are told to lower prices or remove products from their Schedule because another vendor offers the same product at a lower price.  So what that the other vendor offers no customer service, no phone support, no warranty, and is run by two guys out of a garage in Glenwood.  Price is king, and that’s all FAS seems to care about nowadays.  (We mean no disrespect to the good people of Glenwood by the way.  We just couldn’t resist the alliteration.)

Keep reading this article at: http://www.mondaq.com/article.asp?articleid=417332

GSA changes plans, will keep service Schedules open after all

The General Services Administration has figured out a way not to have to temporarily close down its services schedules to new offerors after all.

After Federal News Radio reported the Federal Acquisition Service’s plans to suspend the services schedules to new vendors while it put the pieces in place to give the program a facelift, Tiffany Hixson, FAS’s professional services category executive, said her team has now figured out a way to run both the current schedules and the new consolidated schedule at the same time.

“Since the last time we talked, my team really has been looking at the challenge of closing the schedules even for a short period of time. Industry had quite a few concerns with that part of our acquisition strategy,” Hixson said in a follow-up interview Thursday. “So what we decided to do is open the new professional services schedule at the same time that we are going to be transitioning our existing schedules to our new contract environment. So instead of working our process in serial fashion, we are going to be doing that in parallel fashion and that takes care of the problem. So we do not have to close the schedules, which is a big win for us and also for industry.”

Keep reading this article at: http://www.federalnewsradio.com/65/3690349/GSA-suspends-adding-new-vendors-to-services-schedules-

GSA applying its IT model to overhaul of services schedules

The General Services Administration (GSA) wants to make it easier for agencies to buy professional, management, technology and a host of other kinds of services from the schedule contracts. To that end, GSA will consolidate seven different professional services contracts into what could end up being one mega- schedule.

Tiffany Hixson, GSA’s Federal Acquisition Service’s professional services category executive, said the goal is to consolidate the schedules of as many as 500 vendors by November 2015.

“We are really hoping that will make it much easier for federal contracting officers to get those services, in particular where we have a requirement that covers a number of services areas. So instead of having to compete those services across a number of schedules, they will just be able to go to one,” Hixson said in an exclusive interview with Federal News Radio. “We think that will make it a lot more user friendly from a contracting officer perspective. Additionally, we will be able to reduce our administrative overhead, and for our contractors, it will reduce the cost of administering the number of schedules that we’ve got in the professional services area.”

Keep reading this article at: http://www.federalnewsradio.com/446/3685243/GSA-applying-its-IT-model-to-overhaul-of-services-schedules

GSA awards long-awaited OASIS contract

The General Services Administration has awarded its 10-year, multibillion dollar OASIS contract to 74 companies, according to an agency announcement.

The companies include Accenture Federal Services, LLC., Booz Allen Hamilton, Inc., Boeing Service Company, Deloitte Consulting, LLP., Lockheed Martin Integrated Systems, Inc., Raytheon Company and others across six separate pools of contractors.

OASIS is governmentwide acquisition contract that offers professional services, such as financial management and engineering, scientific and logistics services. OASIS also features separate contracts for small businesses and larger firms.

The market for all of the services offered through OASIS adds up to about $60 billion per year, according to research firm Deltek. The company estimates GSA may capture between 5 percent and 10 percent of the market — up to $6 billion a year.

Keep reading this article at: http://www.federaltimes.com/article/20140519/ACQ/305190012/GSA-awards-long-awaited-OASIS-contract

GSA to hold industry day in Atlanta for HUBZone and SDVOSB firms on May 28

The General Services Administration (GSA) is planning an Industry Day focusing on Service-Disabled Veteran-Owned Small Businesses (SDVOSBs) and HUBZone certified small businesses with specific NAICS codes.  The program’s planned presentations will outline contracting and potential subcontracting opportunities in GSA’s Public Buildings Service (PBS).  GSA’s Federal Acquisition Service (FAS) also will be presenting.  This event is being facilitated by GSA’s Office of Small Business Utilization.

The top NAICS codes for Region 4 PBS:

236220   Commercial and Institutional Building Construction
337214   Furniture
53              Real Estate (includes rental & leasing)
541611    Administrative, Management & General Management Consulting Services
561720   Janitorial Services
561210   Operations and Maintenance
GSA Schedule 70

AGENDA

1:00 p.m. – 1:15 p.m. Opening Comments
Chasity Ash, Small Business Technical Advisor, GSA Office of Small Business Utilization
Mildred Quinley, Director, GSA Office of Small Business Utilization (OSBU)

1:15 p.m. – 1:45 p.m.  GSA, Federal Acquisition Service
1:45 p.m. –  2:15 p.m. Services Branch, GSA Public Buildings Service
2:15 p.m. – 2:45 p.m.  Small Projects Branch, GSA Public Buildings Service
2:45 p.m. – 3:15 p.m.  Capital and Program Support Branch, GSA Public Buildings Service
3:15 p.m. – 4 :00p.m.  Wrap Up, GSA Office of Small Business Utilization

This event is open to small business firms whose primary NAICS codes are listed above.  Pre-registration is required.  Please send attendee names, company name, address, phone numbers, and email addresses to r4smallbiz@gsa.gov.  Limit two attendees per firm.  Please include your NAICS codes, CAGE code, and HUBZone certification number or SDVOSB status in the email.  Please direct all inquiries to Region 4 OSBU at (404) 331-5103 or r4smallbiz@gsa.gov.

If you are unable to attend this even, a conference line  is being set-up.  Be advised that this will be a “Listen Only Call” and all phones will be muted.  If you have any questions during the call, please email them to r4smallbiz@gsa.gov. The Conference Call-In Number is 559-546-1000 and the Access Code is 584979.

GSA names ombudsman to give industry a louder voice

A new procurement ombudsman aims to close the communications gap between the General Services Administration (GSA) and its vendors.

The ombudsman, Millisa Gary, is one of several ways GSA is trying to be more responsive to its government and industry customers.

“Her role is to indeed be a voice for industry, make sure we are hearing their concerns and helping an industry partner in navigating our bureaucracy,” said Jeff Koses, GSA’s senior procurement executive, in an exclusive interview with Federal News Radio. “Not necessarily to resolve the issue but to get them a fair hearing and to get them in front of the right audience. Often as we are pursuing best value and pursuing savings, the value of industry conversations can’t be overstated.”

Koses, who took over as senior procurement executive in January after spending the last six years as the director of acquisition operations for the General Supplies and Services portfolio at GSA’s Federal Acquisition Service, is making changes such as naming an ombudsman part of the agency’s key initiatives to improve supplier and customer relations.

Keep reading this article at: http://www.federalnewsradio.com/445/3609830/GSA-names-ombudsman-to-give-industry-a-louder-voice- 

GSA awards 125 small businesses OASIS contracts

On Monday (Feb. 24, 2014), the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA) announced it has awarded 125 contracts to small businesses for its One Acquisition Solution for Integrated Services (OASIS) Small Business (SB) contract to companies that will provide customers with best value services for complex professional service requirements.

OASIS SB, a 100-percent small business set-aside contract, was developed in response to the Government’s need for a hybrid, government-wide acquisition vehicle.  OASIS SB will provide a streamlined solution for both commercial and non-commercial needs. OASIS SB is designed to reduce duplication of contracting efforts across the government and provide federal agencies with comprehensive, integrated professional services contract options.  The list of the 125 companies awarded contracts is available by clicking here.  

“We created OASIS SB to meet the growing demand for a hybrid, government-wide acquisition vehicle that maximizes opportunities for small businesses, stated Federal Acquisition Service (FAS) Commissioner Tom Sharpe.  “We believe that the large pool of awardees will provide government with access to highly skilled small businesses through a contract that is not only cost effective, but also efficient and streamlined for easier use by federal agencies looking to purchase complex professional services.”

OASIS SB will compliment GSA’s Multiple Award Schedules (MAS) program and provide agencies with more flexible full-service options. Notable features and benefits of OASIS and OASIS Small Business include:

  • Government-wide use
  • Access to best in class solution providers
  • On-ramp/off-ramp procedures to ensure a flexible, vibrant vendor pool
  • Integrated support for key government initiatives

GSA predicts OASIS SB will drive down costs for federal agencies, and increase efficiency by reducing the time spent on developing complex contractual instruments. OASIS SB will include a vast array of professional services contractors for agencies to choose from. In fact it  has already become the solution of choice for some government agencies. In December,  the United States Air Force committed to use OASIS SB in lieu of creating several of its own multiple-award, Indefinite Delivery/Indefinite Quantity (IDIQ) acquisition vehicles. These efforts are estimated to be worth approximately $1.4 billion per year and use of OASIS SB is projected to save the Air Force and taxpayers significant dollars and resources.

For more information visit www.gsa.gov/oasis and OASIS Industry Group on GSA Interact.

GSA launches Alliant GWAC social community

The General Services Administration has launched a new social media tool on the Interact.gsa.gov website in an effort to gain feedback from other agencies and industry partners.

The community page is intended to facilitate “transparent and open” discussions pertaining to the Alliant II and Alliant Small Business II government-wide acquisition contract vehicles, GSA said last week.

GSA started the Alliant Interact community to follow OASIS Interact forum’s platform for feedback and dialogue on proposals and ideas.

Keep reading this article at: http://www.executivegov.com/2014/01/gsa-launches-alliant-gwac-social-community

 

GSA launches ‘reverse auction’ platform, encourages small business competition

The U.S. General Services Administration (GSA) announced on July 9, 2013 the launch of a government-managed reverse auction platform— reverseauctions.gsa.gov— available through the National Information Technology Commodity Program (NITCP) of GSA’s Federal Acquisition Service (FAS).  GSA expects the platform to deliver increased savings for federal agencies on the most commonly purchased office products, equipment and services, while also making it easier for small businesses to compete for the government’s business.

In a reverse auction, sellers compete to win business from agencies; prices will typically decrease as the competitive auction progresses.  GSA’s new reverse auction platform reduces federal agencies’ acquisition processing time and costs, drives prices and costs down, improves transparency and collection of data, and allows for small business set-asides.   “Using a government-run reverse auctions tool is a fantastic innovation for GSA’s customers, and we expect that it will drive even more savings and speed into the acquisition process,” said FAS Commissioner Thomas A. Sharpe, Jr.  “This approach to government procurement can be used with a good portion of GSA’s Multiple Award Schedules as an efficient and cost-effective process for purchasing commonly used products and simple services.  Reverse auctions can drive down prices paid, reduce the total cost of acquisitions, and save time and precious acquisition resources for both government and industry.”

Federal agencies now may use the GSA platform to conduct reverse auctions through select GSA’s Multiple Award Schedules and established select blanket purchase agreements (BPAs) for commodities like office supplies, laptops, tablets and monitors, as well as for simple services like warranty, training and installation.  Additionally, the platform will allow federal customers to set aside auctions for small business, increasing opportunities for small and disadvantaged companies to bid easily for government business.

“GSA is doing a lot of exciting and positive things to improve acquisition efficiencies and drive competition, but the new reverse auction platform hits the ball out of the park,” said U.S. Department of the Navy strategic program manager Jamey Halke.  Navy is the first agency to use the platform and is already engaged in a partnership with GSA to add the Navy’s BPAs to the platform.

Historically, GSA’s customers have saved as much as 17 percent through use of reverse auctions.  With GSA offering front-loaded discounted pricing as a starting point through its BPAs, the reverse auction approach will provide additional savings to the government.

Reverse auctions also provide greater transparency into prices paid which improves the government’s ability to negotiate with vendors to receive best pricing possible.  The reverse auction platform also captures line-item data by agency bureau, which will aid agencies in performing prices paid analysis and provide insights into purchasing behavior for strategic sourcing opportunities.

Learn more about the Reverse Auction platform and benefits at http:\www.reverseauctions.gsa.gov

 

Suspension and debarment often misunderstood, contractors told

Though viewed by industry as a punishment, the government’s suspension and debarment procedure for errant contractors is designed to be an “instantaneous” way to protect taxpayers from irresponsible spending, a panel of procurement officials agreed on Thursday. They parted company, however, on whether the current rules afford sufficient due process to affected companies.

Speaking at the first Acquisition Excellence conference staged jointly by the General Services Administration and the American Council for Technology and Industry Advisory Council, current and former procurement officials expressed concern that suspension and debarment has become “a hot topic” in Congress. Government Executive was one of four media partners for the conference.

It’s being used to go after “bad actors in all sorts of endeavors, from failure to pay taxes to fraud convictions,” said William Woods, director of acquisition and sourcing management at the Government Accountability Office, which in October 2011 published a study comparing frequency of suspensions and departments at 10 agencies. Most of the contractors tagged as suspended on GSA’s Excluded Parties List System are there for reasons unrelated to federal contracting such as drug trafficking or violations of export controls, he said.

Seven of the fiscal 2012 appropriations bills contained language requiring use of suspensions and debarments, added Rob Burton, a top White House procurement administrator during the George W. Bush administration and now a partner at Venable LLP. But the purpose of suspension and debarment is “not complicated,” said Dan Gordon, former administrator of procurement policy for the Obama White House who is now associate dean for government contracts law at The George Washington University Law School. “The purpose is to protect the taxpayers, not to replace or supplement the Justice Department’s administration of justice — they take care of the bad guys,” he said. Gordon warned that many misread the GAO report to imply that the more an agency suspends and debars, the better, as if “what this country needs is to hang more contractors high from a tree.”

What the process requires is “a matter of checking, of being careful,” Gordon said. “The system works pretty well,” and doesn’t require new legislation or regulation. The interagency committee on suspension and debarment can help by sharing best practices among specialized staff at agencies, he added.

Burton disagreed, calling the current regulations “flawed in a fundamental way because they allow for no due process.” He described how his private sector clients can suddenly receive a letter informing them they can’t do business with the federal government and “they get no opportunity to present their own information or defend themselves.” He added the current rules “would not pass constitutional muster.”

Joseph Neurauter, GSA’s top suspension and debarment official, stressed that the tool is not intended as punishment for contractors, though he acknowledged it can jeopardize an individual’s job. “It’s about minimizing risk for the federal government,” which is why the suspension is “instantaneous,” he said. His job is to view the problem from the point of view of agency acquisitions teams, Neurauter added. But he does regularly send letters to individuals who are suspended and invite them to meet informally and “show cause” as to why they should regain eligibility for government contracts.

Asked about new legislation that would impose suspension and debarment consideration for war zone contractors involved in human trafficking, Woods said “that’s a policy call for Congress.” Gordon said he is “always concerned when Congress sets up an automatic system of suspension and debarment because it undercuts the process by precluding discretion by officials looking at the full picture.”

At other sessions of the all-day conference that assembled several hundred federal employees and contractors at the Grand Hyatt in Washington, GSA chief Martha Johnson opened proceedings by stressing the value of sustainability as a key to reframing procurement in an age of limited budgets. A related session was titled, Sustainable Acquisition: Is It a Dream or Is It Real?

At lunch, Lesley Field, acting White House administrator for federal procurement policy, and colleagues presented achievement awards to federal contracting professionals in categories of buying smarter, effective vendor communication and strategic sourcing.

In a nod to the challenge of preparing the next generation of acquisition officers, Steve Ressler, founder of the social networking tool GovLoop, moderated a panel of young federal contract specialists from several agencies who are in the Rising Acquisition Professionals program. It was set up in 2010 by the Office of Federal Procurement Policy and the Federal Acquisition Institute.

Other sessions focused on how tight budgets are affecting ongoing relationships among agency contracting officers, program managers and industry. Speakers stressed the importance of engagement and dialogue early in the acquisition process, and many complained that too many agency staff members are fearful of tapping the expertise of contractors for fear of violating the Federal Acquisition Regulation and favoring one potential bidder over others, possibly provoking a bid protest.

“Government and industry too often talk past each other on early engagement,” said Mark Day, director of the Office of Strategic Programs at GSA’s Federal Acquisition Service. “Government asks the wrong questions, asking about prices before we know the cost drives, and then they write requirements that drive costs up.” Contractors, in turn, too often target the title not the role, Day added, and he recommended they talk to the official actually writing the requirements. “Early engagement is a mystery to the government side, and they’re scared of it,” Day said. “But it is an opportunity to find the sweet spot between what the government needs, what the contractor can provide and what the FAR allows.”

– by Charles S. Clark, Government Executive, Mar. 30, 2012 at http://www.govexec.com/contracting/2012/03/suspension-and-debarment-often-misunderstood-contractors-told/41638.