New business line puts GSA on billion-dollar FAST track

The General Services Administration plans to launch next month a new information technology business line that could supply more than $1 billion worth of products and services to federal users within two years.

The Federal Acquisition Services for Technology (FAST) program is modeled after a hugely successful project begun two years ago in GSA's Kansas City, Mo., region. That program sold more than $200 million worth of IT equipment, software and services in the first two months of this year alone.

Jerry Tuwiner, a procurement analyst in the Procurement Services Center for GSA's Office of IT Integration (ITI), said FAST will supersede the Kansas City program and similar programs at other GSA regional offices, replacing them with a standardized ordering procedure.

"We want to make it a national program," Tuwiner said. "The client interface ought to be the same if [users] interface with GSA in any region."

A GSA spokesman said FAST will allow federal employees to buy an extensive range of equipment and services from any GSA region and eventually reduce order processing to four working days or less. The program will not be at full speed until June, but the spokesman said ITI is already accepting orders for IT products and "noncomplex integration services."

Tuwiner said ITI has not yet set up an automation and financial management infrastructure that can handle a full-blown program.

"At first, we are going to have a phase-in period," he said. "We can't handle 1,000 orders simultaneously right now. But once we feel comfortable, we will expand it and go for greater volume."

The program will not compete with GSA's multiple-award schedule and will, in fact, use the schedule as its first source for meeting clients' requirements, Tuwiner said. If the schedule is unable to meet those needs, he said, FAST will ferret out governmentwide contracts that can.

In cases in which neither the schedule nor governmentwide contracts can meet users' needs, ITI will award a series of contracts with 8(a) vendors who will be given task orders.

Tuwiner said ITI will issue a solicitation next month requesting proposals from 8(a) firms. He declined to estimate how many contracts would be awarded but said "the dollar value could be fairly substantial."

FAST orders will be subject to a surcharge to cover ITI's expenses, but Tuwiner said program officials have not yet determined the amount of such a charge. He said the surcharge might be a percentage of the cost of each order, a fixed charge per transaction or a combination of both.

Lack of Enthusiasm in Some Corners

Sources at some GSA regional offices were unenthusiastic about the transfer of their programs to GSA headquarters.

"This is just an emulation of what we are doing here," one source said. "It's kind of bothersome; there is a philosophy in government to get services closer to the client, and GSA is doing the opposite."

The source also complained that ITI has asked regions to help pay the program's overhead expenses, which he estimated could come to about $2 million in the first year alone. ITI may need to impose expensive surcharges on customers to pay for the program, he said.

Larry Allen, executive director of the Coalition for Government Procurement, said members of his organization initially were concerned that FAST would compete with GSA's schedule program, but they were encouraged that ITI intends to make extensive use of the schedule for FAST customers.

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