Agencies need guidance on BPAs

Beware of agencies bearing one-size-fits-all blanket purchase agreements. At least that's what some folks seem to be implying after a bumper crop of BPAs were awarded across government covering a wide range of information technology products and services. It seems like only yesterday that the Defense Department declared the General Services Administration's multiple-award schedule to be the "preferred source of supply" for DOD purchases.

At the same time DOD directed procurement offices to take advantage of alternative purchasing vehicles such as BPAs which let agencies acquire products and services quickly and often at lower prices than they can obtain from the schedule. It was only last month that the Defense Supply Service began touting its series of BPAs that offer everything from soup to nuts to 320 DOD agencies.

The motivation and goals behind increased use of BPAs were pure: to obtain the best possible value in the shortest period of time and at the best rates available. But the result was mixed some focused on a specific need and delivered a good deal for a single agency while others were wide-ranging awards that simply duplicated the GSA schedule with lower prices.

These and other concerns led the Air Force to place a moratorium on all new BPAs. The Navy also placed new restrictions on BPAs. GSA is due to meet with the Air Force this month as they work together to iron out guidance for contracting shops. Clearly the Air Force and Navy decisions were prudent.

BPAs offer an alternative not a panacea. It is not clear that the forces behind procurement reform ever envisioned BPAs serving more than 300 agencies. What is clear is that agencies have not had enough guidance in awarding and administering BPAs. We support the services' measured actions and look forward to the GSA/Air Force collaboration.

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