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Editorial: Contracts that break the mold

Jun. 23, 2014 - 12:14PM   |  
By STEVE WATKINS   |   Comments

There are two large federal procurement programs worth keeping an eye on because they are breaking the mold for how complex products and services are procured in the federal sector.

One of the more novel federal programs under way today is the Continuous Diagnostics and Mitigation (CDM) program, being run by the Homeland Security Department.

It aims to significantly beef up cybersecurity across the dot-gov landscape while also freeing up untold labor hours by federal IT staffs now spent on creating huge, useless paper reports that are required by law.

What’s novel about the CDM program is this: It applies a centrally managed procurement approach to a complex array of IT products and services.

Until DHS — in partnership with the General Services Administration — awarded the estimated $6 billion CDM contract to 17 bidders last August, such approaches have typically been applied only to commodity-type products and services, such as office equipment and package delivery services that are now strategically sourced.

The CDM program has taken the centrally managed sourcing approach to a new level.

And so has another program: GSA’s One Acquisition Solution for Integrated Services (OASIS) program. OASIS applies a more centrally managed procurement approach to a wide array of information technology and professional services. In May, GSA awarded that contract to 74 bidders, and it hopes the program will generate as much as $60 billion over 10 years.

The programs address two key objectives: saving money and offering a more managed approach to the procurement of complex products and services. Both programs are just getting started, so it is too soon to know how well this marriage of centrally managed procurement strategies with complex procurements will turn out. Many are watching because they are clearly precedent-setting efforts that, if successful, are likely to be more widely applied for other categories of complex procurements. If they are successful, though, it is not too daring to predict that they will likely dramatically alter the almost $100 billion-a-year federal marketplace for professional services and IT solutions.

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