Acquisition

Federal plan for one award schedule gets industry thumbs up

Government contractors see promise in the General Services Administration’s plan to consolidate the current 24 multiple award schedules into a single schedule over the next couple years, according to preliminary results from the agency’s request for information on the plan, released Aug. 1.

The current system requires agencies using the program to purchase certain goods and services from pre-negotiated contracts that have been separated by topic areas, such as human capital, information technology and professional services.

GSA announced in late 2018 that they would begin the process of consolidating the schedules, citing problems with the current system that sometimes require agencies to purchase multiple services off of different schedules to complete a single project.

For example, an agency looking to reform its call center might have to make purchases off of an IT schedule for new technology, the professional services schedule for a consulting solution and the office management schedule for the call center’s furniture and carpeting. The agency would then have to cobble together the purchases from those separate schedules into a single project.

According to the RFI’s preliminary results, approximately 88 percent of those that responded to the request agreed that the proposed format would benefit both industry and federal agency customers, while 94 percent agreed that the proposed format was clear to understand.

Meanwhile, 78 percent of those that responded to the RFI said that they agree with the agency’s planned mapping of their current special item numbers from the divided schedules into the consolidated schedule.

But according to Alan Chvotkin, executive vice president and counsel of the Professional Services Council, a positive reaction now in the planning stage does not guarantee that GSA and contractors will experience a completely smooth transition in the future.

“I think the numbers are way too high, given what I’ve been hearing from companies … about where they fit in the consolidation. I’m pleased to see the results, but it will be the deep dive yet to come in what the actual solicitation looks like,” said Chvotkin in an interview with Federal Times.

“Until you see what you have to comply with, there’s always going to be a tension to [contractors]. Notwithstanding the overwhelmingly positive results, how they adjudicate those comments and ultimately select which terms and conditions go into the consolidated solicitation, that’s when we’ll see what the reactions are going to be.”

Most especially, Chvotkin pointed to the 78 percent of respondents who agreed with the planned mapping of special item numbers, which, while still positive, was the lowest percentage of all the questions asked.

“I think that reflects at least people paying a lot of attention and worry about what’s going to happen with their specific single or multiple special item numbers,” said Chvotkin.

GSA’s hardest phase of consolidating the multiple award schedules is also yet to come, as coordinating the contractors that have multiple awards across different schedules will likely require the most work and logistics.

But Chvotkin said that these concerns should not detract from the successes that GSA has so far had with the process.

“They’ve done a very open process, they’ve talked regularly to industry, they respond to a lot … they’ve been very transparent about their information collection,” Chvotkin. “I’m pleased to see the preliminary findings, but the devil is in the details here.”

GSA plans to release its final solicitation based on the RFI by Oct. 1.

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