GSA plays Captain Ahab in latest effort to streamline schedules

The General Services Administration has been taking small steps to modernize its schedule contracts for much of the last five years.

But now GSA is going after the white whale of schedule contracts: the IT Schedule, known as Schedule 70.

Schedule 70 accounted for $14 billion out of $32 billion in agency spending against all the GSA schedules in 2014.

And the agency is looking for help.

GSA issued a request for information Sept. 3 asking if the requirement for vendors to have at least two years of experience is necessary anymore to be included on Schedule 70 for IT products and services. GSA also wants to know whether this requirement is preventing cutting-edge IT firms from providing products or services to the government.

GSA is proposing for those companies without two years of corporate experience that they describe at least three relevant projects that would demonstrate they are qualified to work for the government.

Responses to the RFI are due by Sept. 18.

“This is a positive step by GSA and the administrator,” Roger Waldron, president of the Coalition for Government Procurement in an email statement to Federal News Radio. “The coalition is pleased to see GSA acting on recommendations we have made regarding streamlining IT Schedule 70. We look forward to working with GSA to simplify and streamline the proposal submission and evaluation process for IT Schedule 70.”

Waldron said the proposed changes in the RFI are consistent with the “agile” approach to reducing barriers to entry for commercial firms seeking to enter the federal marketplace.

“The coalition also believes that the lessons learned and insights gained from this streamlining initiative can be applied across the entire GSA schedules program,” he said.

GSA joins a growing list of agencies wanting to reduce barriers for new companies. The Defense Department has opened up an office in Silicon Valley to recruit and help companies become defense contractors.

The Air Force also is trying to attract non-tradition vendors through a series of efforts such as Plugfest-Plus.

GSA’s 18F, the Department of Health and Human Service’s Buyer’s Club and others also are trying to take steps to draw the interest of these cutting-edge companies.

This update to Schedule 70 is part of a broader initiative to improve the GSA schedules.

In June 2012, GSA announced it would move to a demand-based approach to the contracts. But that soon was abandoned for new approaches that focused on category management and strategic sourcing.

Then in April, GSA announced another set of efforts around collecting pricing data, reducing the burden of selling commercial items to the government and adding flexibility at the order level for products and services.

GSA also has said it will open its e-Buy tool to the general public to view what requests for quotes and requests for information are available — a major hole in the government’s quest for greater transparency for the last 25 years.

The agency also recently launched an improved automated price reductions tool for schedule contract holders, and is in the midst of upgrading GSA Advantage and the DoD EMALL, with a goal of migrating these tools to a common platform so it’s easier for vendors to upload and modify their product or service catalogs instead of having to upload the catalog to multiple systems.

This post is part of Jason Miller’s Inside the Reporter’s Notebook feature. Read more from this edition of Jason’s Notebook.

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