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Chris Hamm, the director of the General Services Administration's Federal System Integration and Management Center, said government contracting costs too much and takes too much time.

"The process is incredibly costly to you and it's incredibly costly to the government," Hamm said at a recent contracting conference. "I think the entire system is broken."

That is why GSA is pushing to use new tools, techniques and processes to make the solicitation and contracting processes easier, faster and cheaper — and contractors should be watching closely.

The agency has been using "objective scorecards" that ask contractors to grade themselves based on a variety of criteria. The score becomes part of the criteria for how GSA grades the contractor.

Jim Ghiloni, the director for governmentwide acquisition contracts at GSA, said the agency was looking at using the objective scorecard more because it provides better information than the more traditional "narratives" that contractors write for contract solicitations.

"It doesn't matter what kind of wine I drink in order to get an award," Ghiloni said. "I really do think the scorecard is a superior procurement process to what we were trying to do."

He said contractors should see the objective scorecard technique used in its upcoming Human Capital and Training Solutions contract solicitation and in its much-anticipated Alliant sequel.

The agency has also launched a new tool to make it easier for agencies to figure out the hourly rates for various labor categories.

The Contract Awarded Labor Category (CALC) tool allows contracting officers to conduct market research and price analysis across awarded prices on 48,000 labor categories from more than 5,000 recent GSA contracts.

CALC searches the awarded prices on several of GSA's professional services schedules, including Mission Oriented Business Integrated Services; Environmental, Logistics Worldwide; Professional Engineering Schedule, Language, Advertising and Integrated Marketing Schedules; and the Consolidated Schedule.

Hamm said FEDSIM has used oral presentations for its solicitations for years but has been moving to more video presentations recently. The video presentations were born out of a reaction to bid protests, he said, and they have become a creative way to solicit ideas and information.

"I think you are going to see more and more of it. I don't think it's going away; I think it's only going to increase," Hamm said.

Michael Fischetti, executive director of the National Contract Management Association, said agencies should always be experimenting with new ways to solicit contracts, including video presentations.

"As technology advances I think we should always take advantage of doing things better, faster and cheaper," he said. "As long as the government has a way of properly evaluating and the contractor has a way of proposing their ideas to the government, I think anything should be allowable."

GSA is also taking additional steps to improve the contracting process and work out issues with contractors. A few months ago GSA hired Kathy Jocoy to work directly with the private sector, hear complaints, anticipate problems and serve as a direct conduit for innovative ideas or contracting improvements.

GSA has expanded its industry outreach efforts to include monthly webinars, interactive posts on the agency's website, and direct conversations with industry organizations and companies to hear and address concerns, Jocoy said.

She said it helps cut down on contractor frustration when they know who to contact for their concerns and questions. Those monthly webinars are reaching more than 600 attendees.

"We used to have to wait for someone to go talk to my boss before we would hear about a challenge that we could have dealt with from a frontline perspective. So it's been very, very effective," Jocoy said.

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