GSA beats goal of awarding contracts in 30 days or less

As initiative moves into its second phase, some industry officials question whether improvements are real

General Services Administration officials say they are beating Administrator Lurita Doan's goal of awarding multiple-award schedule contracts in 30 days or less. More than a year ago, Doan promised to award such contracts in less than a month.

The Multiple Award Schedule Express Program under the GSA schedules program is designed to simplify and speed the process for vendors to receive MAS contracts. Under Phase 1 of the MAS Express Program, GSA is averaging about 20 days to award a schedule contract, said Mike Sade, the Federal Acquisition Service's assistant commissioner for acquisition management.

As the agency heads into Phase 2 of the program, GSA officials say they expect award times to shrink even more, although some industry leaders have expressed skepticism.

The program moved into Phase 2 Aug. 15. GSA expanded it to include 15 schedule contracts for various goods, such as information technology and office furniture. Agency officials say the program has great potential, and Sade said GSA plans a third phase of the program in the future.

Changes in the second phase opened MAS Express to electronic bids for selected schedules via the eOffer program, which lets vendors submit contract offers and modifications online. The agency simplified eligibility and streamlined the offer review process, but the eOffer program is not available to all schedule holders.

Officials say technology is a major factor in expediting contract awards. The eOffer system guides contractors through the steps of submitting a proposal, and GSA returns submissions to contractors within three days so they can correct any errors. Sade said eOffer cuts two or three days off the old submission process.

Some industry experts say MAS Express is taking GSA in the right direction. It opens more opportunities for businesses to get contracts in a timely fashion, said Alan Chvotkin, senior vice president and counsel at the Professional Services Council.

However, others say the 20-day average might not be telling the full story. They estimate that the overall time to award all but the most simple schedule contracts has decreased little, particularly for IT awards. Others say it often takes substantially longer than 20 days, and in most cases GSA continues to take months to award IT schedule contracts.

One expert familiar with the process, who requested anonymity, said that when a submission is rejected for even minor errors, GSA resets the clock. The clock restarts when the contractor resubmits the offer. Previously, GSA gave companies a chance to add information to their original submissions.

'A more accurate measurement tool would capture the time from which an original offer is submitted through the award of a contract,' the expert said. 'That time frame is going to give everyone a much more accurate picture of schedule lead times than merely the time of the last resubmittal.'

About the Author

Matthew Weigelt is a freelance journalist who writes about acquisition and procurement.

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