GSA's Perry: Let a few agencies do most of the buying

The federal government should centralize its buying around a few agencies, except for unique procurements such as weapons systems, the chief of the General Services Administration has said.

Stephen Perry, the agency's administrator, said commercial items such as IT equipment, office supplies and leasing should be handled by agencies that have expertise in procurement, such as GSA.

'It would make sense to leverage GSA's capacity to purchase goods and services instead of expanding that same capacity in other agencies,' he said at a press briefing with reporters after giving the State of the Agency report to employees. 'Agencies should not have no procurement staff, but they should not duplicate what GSA does.'

When asked if he saw this in the same vein as the shared-service model or the center-of-excellence approach that the Office of Management and Budget is pursuing with financial and human resources management, Perry said 'yes, if you see the government as a whole entity, which I do.'

Perry said some agencies have developed strategies to move more procurement to GSA over time. He also said the sales growth in GSA's Federal Technology Service and Federal Supply Service schedules is further evidence of centralized buying gaining acceptance.

In fiscal 2004, FTS sales increased to $3 billion from $2.9 billion and FSS sales jumped to $31.1 billion from $26.2 billion.

Part of the issue, Perry said, is the dearth of qualified contracting officers. Many agencies are competing for too few candidates, he said.

'Agencies should not expand contracting officers if they are not in the business of contracting,' Perry said. 'Especially if those services could be done by one of the procurement agencies.'

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