Management imperatives for schedules consolidation

This column was originally published on Roger Waldron’s blog at The Coalition for Government Procurement and was republished here with permission from the author.

In November, the General Services Administration (GSA) announced that it will be consolidating all its multiple award schedules (MAS) into a single schedule for best value commercial solutions. As many of you know, the Coalition has been a strong advocate for the single schedule concept, which will help to reduce costs for both government and industry stakeholders, as well as increase competition and customer access to best value solutions.

The single schedule concept is a game changer, providing GSA with a tremendous opportunity to inject much-needed consistency into the MAS program. Currently, the structure of the schedules program — which features 24 separate schedules and corresponding contract scopes — limits flexibility and hampers the ability of the program to deliver best value solutions consistent with the commercial market. Moreover, these separate contract scopes, which raise artificial barriers and stove-pipes, further promote what is perhaps the most enduring challenge associated with the MAS program: Inconsistent contract negotiation, award and management across GSA’s centers and contracting officers.

Accordingly, the single schedule concept is an opportunity for GSA to address these inconsistencies, as it provides a framework for strong, coordinated management. The importance of this opportunity cannot be overstated, as Coalition members report that, currently, the implementation of the Order Level Materials (OLMs) authority can vary widely depending upon the contracting center or contracting officer with which they interact.

For GSA’s customers and contractors, inconsistencies in the scope of the OLM authority, which is quite broad at some of its acquisition centers, and exceedingly narrow at others, undermines competition and access to commercial solutions through the MAS program.

Similarly, the single schedule concept will serve to eliminate the confusion, inconsistencies, and inefficiencies surrounding the barriers associated with the current, separate scope of contracts for the 24 schedules. Indeed, as a first step towards consolidation, GSA has the opportunity to work with existing schedules contractors to expand the scope of their current schedules, thereby potentially reducing the current and future paperwork burdens associated with requiring contractors to seek an entirely new schedule contract.

In addition, by so doing, GSA likely will increase the momentum of transition to the single schedule, as it will have eliminated the delay associated with needless administrative steps, like creating additional contracts that only would be consolidated later in the transition process.

Through the strong, coordinated management framework afforded by the single schedule concept, GSA can address contract inconsistencies by providing its acquisition centers and personnel with consistent guidance. A key element in this central framework should be the creation of an effective contract management channel for industry to raise issues regarding ongoing contract negotiation and/or administration.

Such a channel would enable GSA to consistently follow-up with its acquisition workforce to ensure that policies are being implemented correctly.

In addition, the single schedule concept creates opportunities for the Federal Acquisition Service to identify and adopt innovative performance measures that can drive organizational behavior towards the strategic goal of a more commercial, flexible, and efficient schedules program for customer agencies and industry partners. Performance measurements to incentivize FAS acquisition centers and personnel to make decisions that produce MAS-wide benefits, rather than center or personnel-specific benefits, are foundational to effective schedules consolidation.

GSA deserves praise for embracing this innovative, efficient approach to serving its customer agencies. As the agency continues to focus on improving the MAS program, the Coalition looks forward to a robust dialogue with all stakeholders on this timely and strategic effort.

Roger Waldron is the president of the Coalition for Government Procurement, and host of Off the Shelf on Federal News Network.

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