Guidance on service buys
As a consultant who negotiates General Services Administration schedule contracts for companies with GSA, I have been closely following the proposed rules for Defense Department information technology services buys as published in the FCW article, "Rule would stifle DOD service buys."
GSA schedules are a great vehicle to procure many IT products and services, but they are not suited for every acquisition. Obviously, when responding to new rules, each trade group and government agency has an agenda to push through, but maybe it needs to look at the rules that are already in place and work them into the schedules program.
If this regulation makes sense for DOD, it should cover the entire federal government. What is so different in civilian agencies that the rules would not apply to them? Are time-and-material contracts only a bad idea for DOD?
What I find ironic is that it no one has brought up Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) Part 16. It specifically addresses "policies and procedures and provides guidance for selecting a contract type appropriate to the circumstances of the acquisition." Specifically, Subpart 16.6 deals with the use of time and materials, labor hour and letter contracts.
The rules for time-and-material contracts state in part "a time-and-materials contract may be used only when it is not possible at the time of placing the contract to estimate accurately the extent or duration of work or to anticipate costs with any reasonable degree of confidence."
It further goes on to say, "A time-and-materials contract may be used (1) only after the contracting officer executes a determination and findings that no other contract type is suitable; and (2) only if the contract includes a ceiling price that the contractor exceeds at its own risk. The contracting officer shall document the contract file to justify the reasons for and amount of any subsequent change in the ceiling price."
The rules for buying from GSA schedules have changed very little in the past few years with the exception of adding information on the GSA Advantage online ordering system and the use of blanket purchase agreements. There is nothing to cover the acquisition of services within these rules, and anyone who is experienced in procuring services knows that you don't buy services the same way as product.
Perhaps all agencies should be directed to FAR Part 16 in choosing the contract type used for services under GSA schedule. A time-and-materials contract may or may not be the best way to procure services under GSA, but the guidance already exists for making the determination and documenting the findings.
Government Sales Consultants Inc.
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