GSA issues solicitation for single IT Schedule

After months of delay, the General Services Administration has issued a solicitation
for a new, single Information Technology Schedule.


The IT Schedule will replace five existing schedules: 70 A for large computer products,
70 B/C for microcomputer products, 70 D for refurbished equipment, 70 E for electronic
commerce products, and 58 VI/VII for telecommunications products.


The agency stopped awarding new contracts for the five schedules in mid-December. It
had hoped to have new contracts for the IT Schedule in place already, but a dispute with
the Small Business Administration halted that plan.


SBA officials had voiced concerns that a single schedule for IT products would give
large companies an unfair advantage. But GSA rejected that notion.


In a three-page letter to SBA Administrator Aida Alvarez, GSA Administrator David
Barram last month denied the SBA contention that combining the schedules was a bad idea.


Contract holders on the defunct schedules can decide whether to join the new program,
and GSA officials will meet with them to discuss the change during the next six weeks,
said William N. Gormley, assistant commissioner for acquisition at GSA's Federal Supply
Service.


The new IT Schedule contracts will run for five years with five-year options, Gormley
said. FSS will negotiate new contracts indefinitely rather than during specific
solicitation windows, as had been the previous practice.


"Having variable contract periods will make our job a lot easier," he said.


The combined schedule eliminates redundancy in the FSS program, Gormley said. Now
federal buyers won't have to hop among schedules to place orders with one vendor. The new
schedule also reduces the management burden on vendors, he said, noting that some vendors
previously had to oversee as many as five schedule contracts.


"Our eventual goal is to have evergreen contracts that do not end," Gormley
said, as long as the vendors achieve minimal sales goals. Vendors must have sales of at
least $25,000 during each 12-month period or face contract termination.


The IT Schedule solicitation requires that all schedule vendors accept government IMPAC
credit cards for small buys, Gormley said, and the vendors must sell only year 2000-ready
products.


Each IT Schedule contract holder is required to undergo a past performance evaluation.
For the reviews, GSA has enlisted the help of Dunn & Bradstreet Corp. of New York.
Vendors must submit 20 references and pay $125 to Dunn & Bradstreet for the reviews.


To get the solicitation on the street, GSA spent the last few months in intense
meetings with SBA, GSA officials said.


"It got to the point where we needed to move forward," Frank P. Pugliese Jr.,
commissioner of GSA's Federal Supply Service, said at the recent FOSE conference in
Washington. "We spent a lot of time on this."


SBA officials had argued that a single schedule would let the bigger companies bundle
goods and services, making it difficult for small businesses to compete on price.


But Barram said combining the schedules does not limit any vendor from participating or
vying for orders from agencies.


GSA and SBA share the same objective, he said. "We both want a Multiple-Award
Schedule program that assures maximum participation by small business concerns," he
said.


Including small businesses is a "key success factor in this administration's
mandate to deliver commercial quality goods and services to the federal community,"
Barram said.


In his letter, Barram said GSA will protect small businesses by encouraging agencies to
buy from small companies' schedule contracts. Furthermore, GSA will include small
businesses as subcontractors for those that do not hold schedule contracts.


GSA will sponsor educational seminars with SBA on how agencies can do more business
with small companies and will promote such programs for all schedules, and not just the IT
Schedule, Barram said.


SBA officials said they are generally satisfied with the GSA response.


"It's a move in the right direction," said Jose Gutierrez, assistant
administrator of prime contracts in SBA's Government Contracting Office. "It says to
us that GSA is willing to begin to explore some of the issues."


GSA wants to assuage small business concerns, Pugliese said. "We are not the kind
of agency that thumbs its nose at small businesses, and our numbers prove it," he
said. Small businesses hold 70 percent of the more than 6,000 FSS schedule contracts, he
said.


Gormley said small business sales accounted for 32 percent of total MAS sales last
year.


"We're proud of small business participation in the schedules program, and we want
to see it increase," he said.


Since late 1997, SBA has let agencies count schedule buys toward their procurement
preference goals, which the Clinton administration boosted from 20 percent of all
procurements in fiscal 1997 to 23 percent for this fiscal year.


Larry Allen, executive director of the Coalition for Government Procurement of
Washington, said SBA didn't get much from its efforts.


"They got some nice language," he said, but in the end "agencies have
the ability to do what they already have the ability to do." Agencies can buy from
whatever schedule vendor they choose, Allen said.


GSA has posted the IT Schedule solicitation on the Web at http://pub.fss.gsa.gov/adp/index.html.


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