Logging On | Is Schedule 70 the Wal-Mart of IT commodity buys?

Brad Grimes

There was a time my wife and I actually shopped at Wal-Mart'that is, browsed the aisles for a variety of things we wanted. But then we grew more comfortable shopping online, and rediscovered the mall, and experienced the Target store literally across the parking lot from our local Wal-Mart. Today, we don't shop at Wal-Mart, we buy. We buy toilet paper, laundry detergent, beef jerky (that's mine)'commodities for which the only criterion is low price. We're in and out in minutes.

Some say that's similar to how government IT buyers have started treating Schedule 70 of the Federal Supply Schedule. In this edition of the GCN Technology Acquisition Guide, Michael Sade at Commerce tells contributing writer Caron Golden that department officials look to the General Services Administration schedules for commodity purchases. For anything special, it appears, they're looking elsewhere, including to governmentwide acquisition contracts and the growing number of department-specific, multiple-award contracts.

Like Wal-Mart, Schedule 70 isn't exactly hurting. Last year, agencies wrote checks for $16.8 billion to the schedule's 5,000-plus vendors. But sales have slowed, if not leveled off altogether, and greater choice seems to be a key reason. Of course, it hasn't helped that a 2004 GSA inspector general report led to a well-meaning oversight program, Get It Right, that may actually be hindering acquisitions.

Still, as GSA's largest schedule, 70 is well-positioned for the future. Requests for quotes through GSA's e-Buy program are rising at a 10-percent clip, indicating that agencies appreciate the tool's convenience for large-scale purchases. Plus, Schedule 70 will be home to some leading-edge solutions that agencies need to consider, namely public-key infrastructure and other authentication technologies, including those surrounding Homeland Security Presidential Directive-12.

While GSA reorganizes, it's business as usual for Schedule 70, so buy with confidence. Golden tells you how.

Among the IT solutions you can find at GSAAdvantage.gov are videoconferencing systems. In fact, a search for 'videoconferencing' recently turned up 5,507 products, including everything from the carts on which you'd transport systems to the systems themselves.

As GCN contributing writer David Essex explains, government initiatives such as disaster preparedness, business continuity and telework make videoconferencing systems more compelling than ever.

Still browsing the Schedule 70 catalog? This issue of the GCN Tech Acquisition Guide can help you choose departmental servers, enterprise scanners and document management applications. In the GCN Insider, we have the performance numbers behind Intel's next-generation server processor, plus a quick survey of the news surrounding Microsoft's plans for a rapidly growing market'IT virtualization. And make sure to flip to the back page to find out what products the GCN Lab has been raving about, along with answers to your IT questions.

We trust you're getting the information you need from these special editions of GCN. If not, let us know. Next month we're serving SEWP (the Scientific and Engineering Workstation Procurement contract) with a healthy plate of storage hardware, application security and integrated development environments. Mmmm. Come back for more.

Brad Grimes is GCN's chief technology editor.

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