IRS to tap GSA for TDPI

An upcoming procurement experiment by the Internal Revenue Service could change how agencies make volume purchases of computer equipment, software and services and elevate the importance of a General Services Administration schedule contract in vendors' contract portfolios.

The IRS plans to use the schedule to purchase millions of dollars worth of Unix workstations, laptops, networking technology and services through the Treasury Distributed Processing Infrastructure (TDPI) program. During a one-year pilot acquisition slated to begin this year, the IRS plans to seek price discounts from the most competitive GSA schedule vendors and governmentwide indefinite-delivery, indefinite-quantity contracts.

If the IRS deems the pilot a success, the agency would continue the new purchasing practice and other agencies could follow suit, said Steven Kelman, administrator of the Office of Federal Procurement Policy. OFPP named TDPI as one of five innovative contracting procedures that agencies are testing this year.

"We're going to have to see whether the radical simplification and streamlining of the process this method allows turns out to deliver good value for the taxpayer," Kelman said.

"We're trying to emulate what we believe commercial practice to be," said Keith Holman, the IRS section chief for corporate computing, although the agency has not yet determined exactly how it will make its selections.

Technology Ease of Use

Holman said major benefits of the approach are that the IRS would be able to get the latest technology more easily and could switch vendors in midstream if the agency finds a better deal.

Vendors think the tactic would help them save bid and proposal costs and might offer more opportunities to small businesses that make up the majority of schedule holders.

Provided the experiment succeeds, it could raise the profile of the GSA schedule as a purchasing strategy. TDPI is thought to be the largest acquisition program to use the schedule since GSA lifted its maximum order limitation last year.

The buy is unlikely, however, to be worth nearly as much as the $1.4 billion Treasury Multiuser Acquisition Contract that it will succeed. AT&T Global Information Solutions holds the contract, which expires next year.

"If it does work, it...makes schedules a more attractive vehicle than they already are," said Larry Allen, executive director with the Coalition for Government Procurement, whose members include numerous schedule vendors.

John Leahy, group manager, governmental affairs and public relations with Sun Federal Inc., said vendors who do not have schedule contracts may have to get them in order to continue to compete in the federal market. Sun is a likely TDPI competitor.

Government officials and vendors noted that the pilot has potential pitfalls. Among them are whether vendors will be treated fairly in the selection process and whether the agency can build the same types of close relationships with suppliers that they have under long-term contracts.

"It heightens the level of service vendors will have to provide because it will be a more competitive situation," said Steve Baldwin, vice president of business development with BTG Inc., an IRS contractor.

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