Debate ends; MAS duties move

After weeks of internal debate, General Services Administrator
Roger Johnson has approved the consolidation of all GSA schedule programs into a single
operation run by the agency's Federal Supply Service.


The shift, which officially takes effect Oct. 1, ends the Information Technology
Service's role as chief negotiator and manager of the Multiple-Award Schedule information
technology contracts.


Under the scheme, a newly created FSS ADP Acquisition Center will develop, award and
administer the IT contracts. The center director will report to William N. Gormley,
assistant FSS commissioner for acquisition.


Responsibility for ITS' On-Line Schedule System will be reassigned to FSS' Acquisition
Operations and Electronic Commerce Center and the Office of FSS Systems.


MAS and FSS officials already had begun working on a system interface that would let
federal offices access the IT Service's schedule listings via the GSA Advantage System.
Advantage lets users electronically browse FSS schedule catalogs, place orders and
authorize credit card purchases.


FSS' Acquisition Management Center will assume internal MAS management and operations.


The change will affect fewer than 300 employees. FSS now has roughly 200 employees
working on its schedules program, while ITS has about 70 involved with MAS operations. At
ITS, duties go beyond scheduling, according to ITS Commissioner Joe Thompson.


He said at a recent press briefing that to merge the two shops would require a careful
evaluation of the skills of the employees that now handle the MAS and FSS schedules
contracts.


Personnel assignments still are being worked out, but ITS officials said they expect
the ITS Schedules Division employees to move into FSS' offices in Arlington, Va., and
continue working with their current vendor clients.


""We're going to proceed with an orderly transfer,'' said James Arrington,
deputy commissioner of ITS for information technology acquisition. ""Our
contracting people will be part of the program, and they'll probably deal with the same
vendors.''


Disgruntled ITS officials, arguing that their technical expertise should remain in ITS,
had tried to keep their MAS programs. Some MAS software vendors expressed concern that a
transfer would undermine recent improvements in the way ITS handled contract negotiations.


But Larry Allen, executive director of the Coalition for Government Procurement in
Washington, said most of his members are confident the shift will not hurt existing
contracts or jeopardize reforms.


""We have members with both FSS and ITS contracts and do not expect any big
culture shock,'' Allen said. ""The move also provides a chain of command to
resolve disputes and get answers faster. Under the old ITS format, the only place to go
was the commissioner's office.''


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