Time for a Schedule 70 makeover?

New director of GSA's schedules contracts sorts through ideas for updating the program

Sales on the General Services Administration’s largest schedule contract, Schedule 70, were looking flat before this year, and fiscal 2008 figures aren’t showing any bounce.

Based on first-quarter sales figures, GSA expects relatively flat revenue in 2008, said Mary Powers-King, director of information technology schedules programs at GSA’s Federal Acquisition Service. Agencies bought $16.9 billion from the Schedule 70 IT contract in fiscal 2007, a drop of about $300 million compared with the previous year.

Although Schedule 70 sales remained flat, total schedules sales increased by more than $2 billion between fiscal 2004 and fiscal 2005. Total schedules sales rose another $2 billion in 2006, then leveled off in 2007, according to GSA.

The relationship between GSA and its largest customer, the Defense Department, chilled after a controversy about DOD misusing the contract. However, that relationship is warming again, officials say.

Powers-King said she wants to increase sales by bringing a fresh customer perspective.

She came to GSA from the Transportation Department, where she worked for 29 years in several divisions.

Although Powers-King gave few details, she offered some general goals: Fix the lengthy solicitation process by making it shorter and easier. Also, offer reasonable prices and fees that are aligned with industry and other governmentwide contracts.

Powers-King also said she will investigate ways to speed the contract modification process.

GSA should be creative in finding ways to modernize the schedule, she added.

Members of the federal contracting community have additional ideas about how GSA could improve its schedules contracts.

Customers don’t want hassles when they buy from multiple schedule contracts for a particular project, said Neal Fox, former assistant commissioner for acquisition at GSA’s then-Federal Supply Service who is now an independent consultant. GSA is taking steps to simplify schedule buying for security convergence projects requiring cybersecurity and facility security products and services, for example.

Some critics say GSA collects too much information from its schedule holders and customers. “Contracting officers ask for everything under the sun,” said Larry Allen, president of the Coalition for Government Procurement. GSA should streamline its process for gathering data on spending and make that information readily available, Allen said.

Schedule 70 sales have been affected by congressional demands for vendor information, other critics say. GSA’s inspector general and Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) fought GSA and Sun Microsystems about the amount of information the government sought about Sun’s pricing and schedule contract. Sun ultimately pulled out of the contract. Soon thereafter, two other contract- holders, Canon USA and EMC, dropped their schedule contracts.

Powers-King said GSA must “make sure industry understands what it means when the inspector general comes knocking.” The IG has an auditing arm and an investigative arm, and companies that are asked for more information need to know which part of the IG’s office is requesting information, she said. Fearing the IG’s actions hinders speedy sales, she added.

Allen and Fox agreed that Powers-King should work on lifting the morale of GSA’s contracting officers and the acquisition workforce. Fox said he advised Powers-King to focus attention first on mid-level managers.
 

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