Doan campaigns against SEWP
GSA is one of the GWAC’s prime customers, but Doan says NASA should let it end
The General Services Administration is one of the biggest users of NASA’s Scientific and Engineering Workstation Procurement III contract, even though GSA Administrator Lurita Doan argues that the contract unnecessarily duplicates what GSA should be doing.
Asked recently whether SEWP provides useful competition for other contracts, Doan said, “If you think that’s competition, then you have totally misunderstood what competition is about.”
In fiscal 2005, GSA spent $476.5 million through SEWP III. That put GSA second only to the Defense Department, which spent $507 million, according to an internal report on the contract’s performance obtained by Federal Computer Week.
Overall, SEWP III did $3.5 billion in business in fiscal 2005, a 10 percent increase over the amount of business reported in fiscal 2004, the report states. NASA expects SEWP’s fiscal 2007 business to rise another 10 percent, according to the report.
Doan said GSA should be the agency that handles procurement, while NASA should “focus on the truly grand mission of getting another guy on the moon or going out to space or getting our Hubble [Space] Telescope to work again,” she said. “These are important things for our morale and our spirit as Americans.”
Earlier this year, Doan began campaigning to take SEWP away from NASA, arguing that GSA is the logical choice for governmentwide acquisition contracts that feature commodity products and services. Doan said she believes SEWP III and similar agency-run contracts duplicate GSA’s business.
Doan said she has asked the Office of Federal Procurement Policy to deny NASA’s request to start work on SEWP IV. OFPP Administrator Paul Denett has requested additional information from NASA, according to Doan.
“I do think he wants to make a judicious decision,” Doan said Sept. 27 while meeting with reporters after speaking at a National Chamber Foundation business forum. “To me, there is only one decision, so my life is very simple.”
Federal Acquisition Service Commissioner Jim Williams said the changes GSA has proposed would be in the best interests of NASA and the public.
SEWP under review
“While GSA values the current partnership with NASA on SEWP III, we believe for the overall efficiency of government procurement, all of those customer agencies’ needs anticipated to be met by SEWP IV can be met by GSA contractors, with savings to the taxpayers,” Williams said.
Dean Acosta, NASA’s press secretary, said the space agency would not discuss the situation or Doan’s comments while OFPP is considering the contract’s future.
However, some market observers say the government benefits from the competition created by overlapping contracts.
“It’s not duplication,” despite Doan’s characterization, said Skip Kemerer, a contract officer and deputy program manager for SEWP from 1992 to 1997. “It’s competition to GSA, and that is necessary to keep GSA competitive in the fees it charges and the services it provides.”
Competition or duplication?
Stan Soloway, president of the Professional Services Council, said Doan is raising an important issue about the roles of different contract vehicles in the federal marketplace.
Doan’s position introduces “a question of balance and alignment, and it’s probably less a question of either/or,” Soloway said.
The debate should lead to a clearer distinction between necessary replication and unneeded duplication of effort, he said.