Editorial: MAS panel on right track

Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) raised some good questions in July about the purpose of the Multiple Award Schedule (MAS) Advisory Panel.

The panel, which former General Services Administration Administrator Lurita Doan convened before her abrupt departure earlier this year, is reviewing the MAS program’s policies and operation.

Waxman, as far as we know, was correct in saying Doan was the only person interested in convening the panel. In a July letter to David Bibb, who was then acting administrator, Waxman questioned the wisdom of continuing the panel if no one besides Doan was interested in its work.

Indeed, the panel appears to be working in a vacuum, with no clear indication that its recommendations will carry weight with anyone at GSA. On the other hand, GSA has not canceled the panel. That falls short of outright endorsement but seems to satisfy panel members, who continue to go about their business.

The change in leadership at GSA makes us wonder, as Waxman does, whether the panel’s recommendations are likely to lead to meaningful change. However, unlike Waxman, we believe the work of this panel, whatever its genesis, should be completed.

It’s understandable that Waxman and other members of Congress are not especially interested in the intricacies of schedules contracting, such as the price reduction clause, which has been a topic of much debate at panel meetings, or special item number descriptions. This is territory that contracting officers pretty much have to themselves.

Still, however arcane it seems, this is important stuff. For example, the panel has studied the price reduction clause by asking a fundamental question: At what point in the procurement process will competition bring the best price?

Federal agencies spend billions of dollars a year through schedule contracts, so the federal government has a vested interest in ensuring that the MAS program runs as effectively as possible.

Despite losing their original champion, the panel members have worked through the issues tirelessly before arriving at their recommendations. We only hope that GSA officials, in this administration, or the next, will give those recommendations their due consideration. 

About the Author

John S. Monroe is the editor-in-chief of Federal Computer Week.

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