The General Services Administration is on a mission to change how federal agencies buy commercial products by establishing a commercial e-commerce portal that would simplify and streamline the government’s estimated $6 billion open market purchases.

The agency announced July 2 that it wants industry input on the proof of concept of that e-commerce portal, which would test for a larger scale offering by starting with just a few agency customers.

“The issuance of the draft solicitation is an important step forward for the commercial platforms initiative,” said Laura Stanton, GSA federal acquisition service deputy assistant commissioner for the office of information technology category and category management, in a news release.

“An exciting opportunity lies ahead to create not only a modernized buying experience, but also reduce the burden for agency partners and suppliers alike. During the initial proof of concept, GSA will encourage robust competition through the implementation of multiple e-marketplace platforms. We are looking to leverage business-to-business terms whenever practicable, to allow for streamlined buying while obtaining a more transparent and centralized view of this type of governmentwide spend.”

The planned e-commerce platform stems from a provision of the FY2018 National Defense Authorization Act, and would enable federal agencies to buy supplies in much the same way that individual consumers are able to make quick-delivery purchases from marketplaces like Amazon.

This plan is not without controversy, however, as some experts have wondered whether the government will be able to abide by or enforce contracting requirements that call for a certain percentage of purchases to be from small businesses, certified employers of handicapped Americans and other disadvantaged industry programs.

The platform or platforms proposed by GSA would target agency spending that happens outside existing government contracts.

The awards for such a proof-of-concept platform would be offered to multiple contractors for a one-year base period, with the option to renew for another year four times.

Those interested in providing feedback on the potential contract have until Aug. 1 to email their thoughts to

Jessie Bur covers federal IT and management.

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