GSA gathers input to improve acquisition process

By Meg Beasley
Federal News Radio

The General Services Administration is leading the way to increase dialog between the government and industry, but they need help – from agencies and from the private sector.

Mary Davie, GSA’s assistant commissioner for Integrated Technology Services, said her office has a lot of questions around how to facilitate information sharing between the public and private sectors. It is specifically looking at improving the acquisition process.

“What would federal agencies need?” Davie asked. “What would benefit the industry? And what kind of platform would enable that communication so that we can improve communication during the process, get better requirements and have that information put in to requirements, documents and solicitations and throughout the acquisition process.”

Davie was one of several government officials to speak Tuesday at the Federal Networks conference sponsored by Suss Consulting in McLean, Va.

The administration announced a 25-point government plan in December that calls for improving dialog with industry. Administration officials said they fear agencies will miss out on state-of-the-art technologies and best practices when they don’t talk to industry.

“It’s my experience that poor communication is too often the cause of costly problems,” said Dan Gordon, administrator of the Office of Procurement Policy, in a press conference earlier this month. “Poor communication between the government and industry, and especially not enough listening on the government’s part. Not enough communication from industry to government.”

The plan calls for GSA to develop an interactive pre-collaboration platform. The Office of Management and Budget also is leading a mythbusting educational campaign.

At Tuesday’s conference, Davie said another GSA priority is helping agencies adopt a cloud-first policy. She said 12 cloud-related blanket purchase agreements will be ready for agencies in March and GSA will launch FedRamp in October, a program that GSA expects to make transferring to the cloud easier.

Davie also said GSA expects to issue a request for proposals for cloud e-mail services in mid-March, and expects it to be awarded in July.

But she said e-mail is an easy target and that GSA is meeting with agency CIOs to learn about other cloud related needs and ideas.

“We really want to reach out so that we understand within software-as-a-service, within platform-as-a-service, within infrastructure-as-a-service, what other things could we be enabling for agencies?” said Davie. “So what solutions does industry have that they could bring already? What are agencies targeting, and how can we put solutions in place to help them?”

Davie said GSA has done a lot of contracting legwork. She said she hopes agencies will use GSA’s services as jumping-off points and alter contracts or programs as needed to fit their missions.

One example of this is GSA’s 15 Telepresence centers across the country. The centers aren’t just for GSA, Davie said, all agencies can use the centers to improve performance in areas such as telework, reduced travel, sustainability and connecting to other agencies and businesses.

GSA also is looking at improving current contracts.

Karl Krumbholz, GSA’s director of the Office of Network Services Programs for Integrated Technology Services, said his office is working toward several contracts in the coming months, two of which will involve updating existing programs.

He said later in the day that the first contract GSA will revamp is Connections, GSA’s one-stop-shop for telecommunications equipment and support. Krumbholz said Connections II will be similar to the original, which expires this year, but it will have several improvements.

“The former contract did not have world-wide coverage – this will, so it will be global in scope,” Krumbholz said. “We are targeting provisions for supply-chain risk management, some ways in which the contract will have to meet sustainability requirements and language which will allow some ancillary construction associated with implementation of the service.”

GSA plans to award the new contract this summer. Krumbholz said it will be an important complement to other large contracts. He said right now GSA can’t buy equipment and labor on its other large networks contract.

Krumbholz also said it is time for GSA to consider replacing Networx, the largest set of government contracts for civilian telecommunications. He said GSA spoke with different stakeholders at different points in developing the first Networx contract. Krumbholz said that approach, and the extent to which stakeholders – especially Congressional Committees – wanted to understand exactly what GSA was doing, really slowed the process.

“We would go up and explain, and they would send us back to do other things, and that took a long time,” Krumbholz said. “The sooner we can begin this dialog with industry and our agency users, and bring that dialog such that all the stakeholders can understand what we’re doing and give us the guidance that will be important for our acquisition, the sooner we can move it along.”

Krumbholz said that conversation will start at the Network Services Conference, which will be combined with this year’s GSA Expo, to be held May 10 – 12 in San Diego.

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