GSA’s commercial platforms program to grow by five providers

The General Services Administration made eight awards under the next generation Commercial Platform Initiative, including four to small businesses.

Agencies will soon have more choices to buy commercial products from under the General Services Administration’s Commercial Platform program.

GSA is expanding the number of providers from three to eight, including six new ones.

Along with current platform providers Amazon Business and Fisher Scientific, GSA awarded spots on the next generation Commercial Platform Initiative (CPI) contract to:

  • e-Procurement Services
  • Grainger
  • Noble Supply & Logistics
  • Pacific Ink
  • Social Glass
  • Staples

Four of the awardees, ePS, Noble Supply, Pacific Ink and Social Glass, are small businesses, opening the door for agencies to obtain small business credit for these small dollar buys.

“This is about meeting our customers where they are with a modernized user experience and streamlined process for government purchase cardholders,” said Tom Howder, the acting Federal Acquisition Service commissioner, in a release.

GSA created the CPI program under a proof-of-concept moniker with awards to Amazon, Fischer and Overstock Government in 2020 under direction from Congress with a goal of capturing data on and managing products under the micro purchase threshold of $10,000. Initially, GSA thought the market was about $6 billion, but came down in the last few years to the potential market being about $500 million.

Overstock Government decided not to bid on the next generation platform, sources say.

Lawmakers detailed its desire for GSA to pilot online commercial platforms in Section 846 of the 2018 Defense Authorization bill. The House Armed Services Committee’s initial goal was to make federal procurement less complex and more competitive through the use of commercial platforms.

“GSA’s announcement of eight contracts awards for the commercial platform initiative represents the passing of a significant milepost on its journey to bring enhanced electronic commerce to agencies,” said Roger Waldron, president of the Coalition for Government Procurement, in an email to Federal News Network. “Collectively, these contracts represent a streamlined channel through which agencies can acquire commercial off the shelf products quickly. They also put competitive pressure on the Schedules program to improve its administrative efficiency, which is a positive result that will help buyers and sellers in the market.”

The awards come at more and more agencies are using the initial three platforms, though data shows Amazon Business received the vast majority of the orders, accounting for 96% of all orders in fiscal 2022, according to an August 2023 report from the Government Accountability Office.

GSA says for 2023, 34 agencies spent $80 million, which is double the amount of money spent in 2022.

GSA also says total orders also increased to 305,000 from 105,000 in 2022, and 52% of all users were repeat buyers and agencies spent on average between $250-$350.

Source: GSA

“This is a pivotal turning point in the Commercial Platforms Program as we expand the number of platforms available, including a number of small business awardees,” said Keil Todd, the Commercial Platforms program manager, in the release. “We’re excited to move out on the next-generation of this program to further our commitment to agencies in helping them get the products they need to support their missions.”

With the additional companies GSA is adding, agencies have access to buy from well-known diverse companies like Amazon Business, Fischer Scientific, Staples and Grainger that provide a large variety of products, but from the four small companies.

Noble Supply, for instance, provides the Defense Department with access to products from 13,000 companies.  Pacific Ink offers office supplies and Social Glass provides access to small purchases across 50,000 products. And ePS  filed a protest of the solicitation in December only to gain corrective action and win an award.  ePS is a platform providing access to small business suppliers.

“We are looking forward to assisting GSA in meeting the goals of the Commercial Platform program. This award allows us to bring other federal agencies the benefits that federal buyers are currently experiencing within the e-Procurement Services (ePS)  Army and Air Force eMarketplace programs,” said David Saroli, CEO of e-Procurement Services (ePS), in an email to Federal News Network. “Being part of the Commercial Platform program will also help increase the growth our small business suppliers are currently experiencing through the Army and Air Force ePS e-marketplaces.”

The journey to this award, and it’s unclear if GSA has crossed the finish line given several unknown factors like how many bidders there were and if any that were unsuccessful would file a protest, was not an easy one. GSA took heat for initially overlooking, or ignoring, the requirement to comply with the Javits-Wagner-O’Day (JWOD) Act. The 1938 law mandates the AbilityOne Commission publish a procurement list that identifies commodities and services that the commission has determined are suitable to be furnished to the government by companies who employ people with disabilities. Agencies must buy these specific products and services unless there are specific circumstances that require exceptions.

GSA ended up fixing the solicitation to satisfy the protestors’ concerns.

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