GSA seeks FAST streamlining, savings

Can FAST grow faster and bigger and become more efficient?


That's the objective for the General Services Administration's Kansas City, Mo.,
Federal Acquisition Services for Technology office, which acts as a personal shopper for
agencies.


The organization's new director, Wayne Cooper, said he hopes to rein in operating
expenses and raise revenues above last year's $470 million.


Cooper became FAST director in GSA's Heartland region on April 6. He succeeded Carlos
Villar, who had inherited a program that catapulted from $5 million in sales in 1993 to
$415 million in 1996.


The Kansas City program is the largest of GSA's FAST programs, Villar said. Half of the
agency's 11 regions have FAST offices.


Work this year has gotten off to a good start, Cooper said. Through March, the office
had processed 1,722 transactions worth $222 million.


Last fall, Robert J. Woods, then commissioner of GSA's Federal Technology Service,
criticized some of the regional programs for losing money and singled out the Kansas City
office for poor accounting. FAST officials there are overhauling the accounting system.


After a selection process that began in February, GSA chose Cooper from among four
applicants for the FAST position.


Cooper's appointment is part of a recent reshuffling among FTS executives that made
Dennis J. Fischer the FTS commissioner, former FAST director Ron Decker the Federal
Computer Acquisition Center administrator and Ron Williams the FTS assistant regional
commissioner in Kansas City.


In July, GSA reset the FAST fee structures, raising from $200 to $300 the minimum that
FAST can collect.


Villar, who has predicted FAST will reach $1 billion in revenues by 2000, now serves as
special assistant for market development under Williams. Villar works on information
technology and telecommunications programs, Williams said.


FAST's motto--"It's so fast, you won't believe it's the government"--promises
procurement action from eight hours to five weeks after agency funding documents arrive.


GSA launched FAST as a new business line in 1996. It was known previously as the
Integration Services Program.


Cooper had served as acting FAST director for five months in 1996. "We were
understaffed and overwhelmed, working overtime," he said, in part because of cuts in
federal procurement jobs.


After surviving a GSA audit and program review, FAST last year received a Golden Hammer
award for innovative government practices from Vice President Al Gore.


Cooper, who earned a master's degree in public administration from Harvard University,
supervises a staff of about 40, split almost evenly between federal employees and
contractors.


When FAST buys on behalf of agencies, it charges a fee of 2 percent for commercial
products and 4 percent for services.


It can make buys from GSA schedule contracts, governmentwide acquisitions such as the
NASA Scientific and Engineering Workstation Procurement II and National Institutes of
Health Electronic Computer Store II contracts, and 8(a) vendors. Villar said PCs, network
products and printers are the most popular products that agencies seek through FAST.


Half the sales are through GSA schedule contracts, he said. That represents a big shift
since 1995, when ordering was almost exclusively through requirements and 8(a) contracts.


Since 1996, the average order size has dropped from $179,000 to $111,000, Villar said,
but that has not increased GSA FAST's costs.


"We handle less paperwork than three years ago," Villar said. The
organization uses imaging to scan in contracts and other information.


Cooper said FAST also plans to process more IMPAC credit card orders and work closer
with regional GSA offices.


"We want to present one GSA look," Cooper said, because in most cases
agencies should buy through their regional GSA offices. Agency buyers do shop around
different GSA offices to get the best terms, he said, and "if we can partner with
local GSA offices, we should."


FAST officials in Kansas City track vendors' past performance through qualitative
databases that don't have rating scales, Villar said.


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