GAO finds Net is hot for vendors showing wares

The Internet is emerging as an important market research tool for federal agencies buying information technology according to a new report by the General Accounting Office.

Government and industry officials participating in the GAO review of agency market research activities said the Internet is "becoming a popular forum" for information on vendors' products.

Many vendors the report noted have published "extensive commercial catalogs" of their wares and government agencies are collecting information from vendors who respond to acquisition opportunities posted on-line.

In a letter to GAO published with the report J.R. Dailey acting deputy administrator of NASA said the Internet "will enable procurement offices to select and deliver products and services to government customers more quickly."

Most of the nearly three dozen agencies vendors and trade associations interviewed for the study concluded that it would be a bad idea to establish a governmentwide database for market information.

GAO said the Army's Communications-Electronics Command abandoned its own product database after six years because it cost too much to maintain and was never current. The agency now uses Datapro a commercial market research service.

The Federal Acquisition Streamlining Act of 1994 required agencies to conduct more market research to support another requirement of the law: that agencies buy more commercial products. GAO said that in its review of 21 recent contracts agencies' commercial market research efforts "varied widely" but appropriately.

GAO said that before FASA the Defense Department had more extensive market research activities than civilian agencies because an earlier law required it. Since FASA was enacted two years ago civilian agencies have begun to catch up.

But GAO reported that because federal regulations to carry out FASA did not take effect until last year it would be at least another year before any "significant effects" of new practices are visible.

The report "Acquisition Reform: The Government's Market Research Efforts " was required by FASA.

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