DOD agrees to negotiate GSA SmartBuy deal

The Defense Department has answered the General Services Administration's call for help in lining up deals for its slow-moving enterprise software licensing program, known as SmartBuy.

DOD officials have received executive authority from GSA to negotiate a SmartBuy deal for Microsoft Corp. productivity software on behalf of the federal government. Officials did not specify with whom they are negotiating.

But by giving agencies the ability to construct governmentwide deals, GSA is expanding a program that has had a modest start. Since February 2003 when the Office of Management and Budget announced the program, GSA has negotiated just two contracts: with ESRI of Redlands, Calif., and Manugistics Group Inc. of Rockville, Md.

GSA SmartBuy program manager Tom Kireilis said agencies with specific software needs that GSA is not currently negotiating for could initiate a governmentwide license.

'Agencies could act as a broker for and bring in other agencies with the same software need,' Kireilis said at a recent breakfast hosted by the Armed Forces Communications and Electronics Association in Bethesda, Md. 'This could be very helpful for smaller agencies.'

GSA and DOD procurement officials signed an agreement delegating the governmentwide authority, Kireilis said in a separate interview.

DOD also is discussing a potential enterprise software license contract with antivirus vendor Symantec Corp. of Cupertino, Calif., that could turn into a SmartBuy agreement. A company official said Symantec likely will sign separate Defense-wide, antivirus deals for desktop PCs and e-mail, and possibly another for network software.

Neal Fox, GSA's assistant commissioner for commercial acquisition for the Federal Supply Service, said agencies would first perform some fact-finding and other tasks before GSA would delegate authority.

'For instance, the Defense Information Systems Agency is the acknowledged leader in antivirus software management. It makes perfect sense to have them help us craft an enterprise-level agreement,' he said.

DOD has considerable experience with departmentwide software agreements. Fox said Defense officials have 12 such deals in place for software, including Web accessibility, database and word processing.

Meanwhile, GSA is working with Novell Inc. to modify the company's FSS schedule contract into a SmartBuy contract.

The contract would include tiered pricing for quantity buys and would let Novell sell packaged software and services, according to a notice on GSA's FedBizOpps site.

'We've done enough up-front work and feel comfortable enough to say we are intending to make a deal with Novell,' Fox said. 'We are hoping to get this done in a month or so.'

Volume discounts

Fox said he could not comment on the negotiations. But the tiered pricing model could work in one of two ways, he said. Either an agency would get larger discounts over time as it buys more software, or agencies could receive a discount by teaming up to buy software in volume. If agencies team up, GSA's Federal Technology Service would handle contract administration and pooling of funds, he said.

GSA has modified schedule contracts to include tiered pricing, but these deals would not be considered SmartBuy deals because the discounts weren't steep enough, Fox said.

After reviewing agencies' software inventories, which were due to GSA on May 1, officials plan to meet with other vendors who have tiered pricing to see if their contracts could be converted to SmartBuy deals.

'We have to define what technically constitutes a SmartBuy deal,' Kireilis said. 'It will include the ability to spread savings to all agencies off one agreement.'

Kireilis said many agencies provided their software inventories, but GSA does not have all of them yet. He would not say how many still were missing.

'For the most part, agencies provided us with the majority of the information we asked for,' he said. 'Hopefully, we will arrive at some conclusions to suggest the next set of priorities.'

Kireilis said by the end of the month GSA plans to release a request for information for software that could become SmartBuy agreements based on the agency inventories.

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