GSA schedule beckons in budget squeeze

After spending $10 million over seven months, state and local governments are expected to open their wallets much wider to use the General Services Administration's Federal Supply Service IT schedule this year.

GSA, state and industry officials have said procurement managers are very interested in buying Schedule 70 IT, and additional training from GSA and state associations should give the schedules a significant boost.

'We are getting a lot of calls from our members about the program, how they can use it and the benefits' said Nick Economou, a senior consultant at the National Institute of Government Purchasing, an association in Herndon, Va. 'It is a matter of educating our members so they understand the benefits of the program.'

The E-Government Act of 2002 opened only the IT schedule to state and local governments. GSA issued interim rules in May and plans to release the final rules in early spring, said Roger Waldron, director of the FSS Acquisition Management Center. From May through November, states purchased about $10 million of IT products and services from the schedule.

'There are some minor tweaks for the interim rule, mainly just to clarify a few things,' Waldron said recently.

The rule applies to the 50 states, 3,139 counties, 19,365 incorporated municipalities, 14,178 school districts, 550 Native American tribal governments and others.

GSA also is trying to teach procurement officials how to use the schedules. Waldron said GSA developed online and classroom training courses that became available last month.

'We are fielding numerous calls from state and local officials to make sure they can use the schedule,' Waldron said. 'My perception is, with all the budgetary pressures they are under, they are looking to reduce costs and seeing the schedules as an alternative to buying IT the typical way.'

Training available

Economou said his organization is offering Web training to its 12,000 members and will conduct a seminar about the schedule in August at its annual conference.

Costis Toregas, president of Public Technology Inc., a Washington nonprofit technology R&D organization, said small governments will benefit most from the opening of the schedules.
'These localities are not as advanced with technology or purchasing, and the GSA schedule gives them benefits of better prices and terms,' Toregas said.

Bill Bowser, Maryland's deputy chief of procurement, said his interest stems from the better prices GSA has gotten from vendors.

Maryland's regulations have long permitted state agencies to use federal contracts, but a purchase must be at least $250,000. Bowser said the law needs to change before Maryland departments can use it on a regular basis.

Still, Waldron said interest from many states around the country is high.

He said as governments come to understand how the schedule works, they will make better use of it.

'There is a lot of interest out there,' he said. 'The growth will be slow and steady and may not explode any time soon because there is a learning curve state and local government purchasers must go through.'


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