OMB moves ahead with proposed ban of most new contracts for mobile devices, services

A draft memo released for public comment March 29 would require GSA to run a governmentwide contract for mobile devices and services, and mandate agencies use t...

The Office of Management and Budget is planning to ban most new contracts for mobile devices and services, and wants to know what agencies and industry think about that.

As Federal News Radio first reported in January, OMB’s new draft mobile device and services policy will try to bring most contracts under a governmentwide vehicle run by the General Services Administration.

“The purpose of this directive is to improve how the Government buys and manages mobile services and devices,” wrote Tony Scott, the federal chief information officer, and Anne Rung, the administrator in the Office of Federal Procurement Policy in a blog post from March 29. “Each year the federal government spends approximately $1 billion on mobile devices and service contracts through more than 1,200 separate agreements. This draft policy directs agencies to implement specific actions to reduce duplication, improve pricing, and better leverage the government’s vast buying power.”

Under the draft memo, agencies would have to develop plans by August to transition from their current contracts to the new governmentwide contract. OMB says agencies then would have until September 2018 to end all existing contracts and only use the new governmentwide mobile device and services solution.

The draft memo is similar to the one OMB issued last October. In that guidance, the Office of E-Government and OFPP set the tone for how it would bring specific commodity technology buying under the category management initiative.

The administration banned most new contracts for desktops and laptops, and named three governmentwide acquisition contracts as the main source for this hardware.

Rung said on March 22 at the Acquisition Excellence conference in Washington that OFPP has started to see a shift since OMB issued the  laptop/desktop memo.

“We have some some prices on the three existing governmentwide contracts drop by as much as 50 percent,” she said. “Since most of the buying happens in the fourth quarter, I will come back to you at the end of the fourth quarter as to how successful we were.”

OMB followed that memo with a draft software license guidance in March where the goal is to reduce duplicative purchases, take advantage of industry best practices, encourage more agencies to use open source and promote cost savings and innovation. OMB estimated agencies spend $9 billion a year on all software.

A key part of this latest draft memo for mobile services and devices is agencies will have to establish inventories, and report that data to the Integrated Data Collection tool run by OMB by May 31.

“OMB will then post all usage and pricing data to the Acquisition Gateway for use by other federal government agencies during the market research phase of any wireless contract acquisition,” the draft stated. “The reports must, at a minimum, identify the purchased service, including quantity of minutes, data, number of text messages, and the actual utilization of this service.”

Based on that data, OMB wants agencies to end the contracts of any device or service that isn’t being used by May 31 and every quarter thereafter.

There were few, if any, significant changes from the initial draft obtained by Federal News Radio in January.

“We always get constructive comments, helpful comments, but I don’t see a significant shift,” Rung told Federal News Radio on March 22 at the Acquisition Excellence conference in Washington. “Everything needs to be in place and shifting change by December.”

OMB even kept in the potential requirement for agencies to buy “previous generation devices” as a way to increase savings.

“[A]gencies should also implement policies to acquire new devices with no less than 18 months between refresh cycles, and are encouraged to standardize device capabilities and features to the maximum extent possible to leverage buying power to drive costs,” the memo stated.

OMB also wants the Mobility Services Category team to work with GSA on a strategy to develop and award at least one next generation governmentwide acquisition contract before May 31, 2018. The strategy is due by Oct. 31.

Comments on the draft policy are due by April 28.

Scott and Rung say by consolidating mobile device and services contracts and pushing agencies toward a single contract vehicle, the government could save $230 million annually.

“Further, by requiring agencies to report all mobile service usage and pricing data and maximize the use of government- or agencywide solutions, this policy will help agencies determine which services and devices will best suit the delivery of their missions, better position them to leverage the government’s vast buying power, and help develop at least one government-wide solution that incorporates the various requirements of Federal agencies domestic and abroad,” Scott and Rung wrote.

Rung said in the next few months all three memos will be finalized and OMB can begin tracking savings that could be worth as much as $10 billion.

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