Vendors balk at move to all-electronic CBD

A plan to make the Commerce Business Daily fully electronic has encountered criticism from on-line service providers - criticism that may cause the Commerce Department to rethink its initial intention.~~Last month, the CBD issued a request for information asking vendors for ideas on how it can improve the way contracting offices prepare and submit notices to the CBD and how the CBD disseminates these notices to the business community. Responses are due today.~~Some of the improvements the CBD wants to make include:~~* Publish notices on a real-time basis, instead of every 24 hours.~~* Convert the 5 to 10 percent of CBD notices that are received on paper to electronic form.~~* Provide an interactive system so that users in the government and the private sector can exchange procurement information via a system such as the World Wide Web.~~* Provide hyperlinks to other Web sites.~~* Provide services to low-tech users.~~* Provide mechanisms for financing the service, including fee for service and a billing rate structure.~~The incentive for change, said Norman Meltzer, manager of the CBD, was the opportunity to "reinvent" the system to see where it could save money and improve the process. However, several critical letters he has received from value-added on-line service providers may force the CBD to rethink its plans.~~"In light of the letters, I don't know what to say" about whether changes will go ahead as planned, Meltzer said.~~A decision will be made on how to proceed after the CBD reviews all the responses and letters it receives.~~Meltzer said issues revolve around such things as whether changes to the system will require businesses and agencies - such as the Defense Department, which makes up about 90 percent of CBD notices - to make major investments or systems alterations to comply.~~The improvements posed are "already provided by the private sector. Your agency is proposing to spend government money to compete with my firm and others already doing this job," said Bruce Levenson, chief executive officer of United Communications Group, in a letter to Commerce Secretary Michael Kantor. "Streamlining the steps for publication is best left up to the agencies themselves."~~UCG offers on-line services, including CBD Express (a service that electronically transmits an agency's CBD synopsis), CBD Access and a reporting service called CBD Weekly Release.~~There are about a dozen firms that provide the CBD either in electronic or paper form, including STAT-USA, a fee-funded group within Commerce.~~There is no reason why the government should not be innovative if it saves money, said Ken Rogers, the manager of STAT-USA. "I think, from a collection standpoint, it's probably a good idea. Managing [CBD notices submitted] via different e-mail systems must be a burden. On the distribution side, the sentiment in this administration is that everything should go electronic if it's more cost-effective for an agency to do that."~~The challenge for on-line service providers is to continue finding new ways to add value to government information, Rogers said.

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