Editorial: Schedule panel’s omission

When we praised the General Services Administration for creating an advisory panel to evaluate the relevance of the schedule contracts’ price-reduction clause, we didn’t realize it would overlook two important participants: the head of GSA’s Federal Acquisition Service and a representative from the Office of Federal Procurement Policy.

We were pleased that the panel’s membership includes David Drabkin, GSA’s acting chief acquisition officer. Although he is controversial, Drabkin has always been a fierce advocate of good government.

Yet we believe that Jim Williams, commissioner of FAS, also needs a seat at the table if the panel is going to be effective. Furthermore, OFPP must be involved.

With the departure of Lurita Doan as GSA administrator, it is the perfect time to add Williams to the panel.
As we have said on many occasions, the GSA schedule contracts program can and should be the entry point for most companies looking to do business with government. It can and should provide one of the best places for agency buyers to find a broad and competitive marketplace of products and services.

Although the panel includes agency representatives — led by Chairman Elliott Branch, executive director for contracts at the Naval Sea Systems Command — Williams is the one who, in the end, will be responsible for ensuring that GSA’s customers are satisfied with the program and that it is working. We don’t understand why he wouldn’t have a seat on the panel.

Furthermore, OFPP officials have a clear stake in ensuring that the system works, so why is there no OFPP representative?

In our April 28 editorial praising the panel, we stressed that the panel’s report should not become shelfware. There is often no better way to avoid dealing with a problem than to create a committee to discuss the issue. We are concerned that the committee might raise the right issues but not have the right representatives to make the necessary changes.

Williams would be a valuable member of the panel, and he could ensure that the panel’s work moves beyond discussion toward implementation.

Coming up with the right panel can be challenging, but failing to include Williams and an OFPP representative hinders any important reforms that might result from the group’s work.

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