Treasury on new tack with TMAC follow-on

General Services Administration multiple-award schedule vendors competing for the upcoming Treasury Distributed Processing Infrastructure (TDPI) procurement have until the end of this month to pitch their wares to the Internal Revenue Service.

The IRS plans to award up to eight contracts to supply the Treasury Department with Unix and Windows NT servers, workstations, laptops, software, local-area networks, peripherals and support services.

In an experiment sanctioned by the Office of Federal Procurement Policy, the awards would consist of blanket purchase agreements with selected schedule vendors.

Late last month, the IRS issued a market survey asking vendors which products they would be able to supply from their schedule contracts, as well as which items they plan to add by the end of October. TDPI trail boss Mary Adams said the agency wants to be sure it has at least three vendors to select from in each category, as required in federal procurement regulations.

"It's not a formal proposal at all," Adams said. "It's to identify people who can meet the requirements."

Vendor Selection by January

The IRS expects to select the TDPI vendors by January. The initial contracts will be for one year.

TDPI is designed to replace the Treasury Multiuser Acquisition Contract (TMAC) held by NCR Corp.; that agreement expires in early June 1997. The TDPI contracting approach reflects a trend at the IRS to award multiple contracts for equipment and services.

Larry Allen, executive director of the Coalition for Government Procurement, which represents GSA schedule vendors, said TDPI is one example of how agencies can increase their use of the schedules.

The IRS intends to negotiate agreements with vendors for prices that are lower than those offered on their schedule contracts.

Recently, the Navy negotiated agreements with schedule vendors to supply computer equipment, and the Federal Aviation Administration plans to use schedules, along with a series of small procurements, to replace its expiring Office Automation Technology and Services contract, also held by NCR.

However, Jan Morgan, a research analyst with International Data Corp., questioned the TDPI approach.

"Why are so many different agencies coming up with their own multiple-award schedules when that's the business GSA is in?" she said.

"GSA has worked very hard over the last year to raise [order] limitations and ease commerce between vendors and agencies. What message are agencies sending back to GSA?"

It is not clear how many vendors are interested in pursuing the procurement. Adams said she is not sure whether suppliers would be discouraged by congressional proposals to cut the IRS' technology budget.

Although the contracts will be open to all of Treasury and possibly to other agencies, the IRS is expected to be the largest customer. Treasury expects to spend as much as $500 million on equipment under TDPI - about as much as it has spent so far under TMAC.

Allen said he doubts vendors will pass up a business opportunity. "If there's an opportunity out there, I think there will be vendor interest," he said.

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