New portal gives agencies a hand in buying services

New portal gives agencies a hand in buying services

The Office of Federal Procurement Policy today launched an online portal to help agencies and vendors set up and manage services contracts'an area in which agencies spent more than $186 billion last year.

The Acquisition Center of Excellence for Services is a cross-agency project with the General Services Administration and the Defense Department that lists best practices, laws and regulations, training and online tools for contracting personnel to use.

'This is a big deal for the acquisition community,' said Robert Burton, acting administrator for OFPP, at a ceremony unveiling the site at GSA in Washington. 'We want contracting officers to be in a better position to make good decisions and have the tools to make smart decisions.'

The Services Acquisition Reform Act of 2003 required OFPP to develop the center. Rep. Tom Davis (R-Va.), sponsor of the law, wanted OFPP to give agencies more help in buying services, as the number of these contracts has risen 46 percent over the last three years.

OFPP, GSA and DOD worked with the Defense Acquisition University to build the site. The project team modeled the center of excellence after DAU's 25 other communities of interest for such topics as software acquisition management, earned value management and alternative dispute resolution, said Julia Wise, a procurement analyst for GSA, who helped lead the portal's project team.

'This is a repository of service contracting information,' Wise said of the six-month effort.

The project team developed the first version of the site focusing on the five areas where agencies spent the most money in 2003: IT and telecommunications, equipment maintenance, support services, government-owned and contractor-operated offices, and utilities services, Burton said.

Under IT and telecommunications, the site lists DOD best practices for source selection, a performance-based acquisition guide, instructions regarding intellectual property and how best to use award-term and incentive-option language in contracts, as well as private-sector best practices.

'The site gives contracting officers the best wisdom across government at the point of need,' said Frank Anderson, president of the DAU. 'This is about the power of knowledge sharing.'

Wise said the portal would continue to evolve. She said over the next six months the project office would release Version 2, which likely will include architecture and engineering services.

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