DOD asks buyers to use schedules

The Defense Department this month designated the General Services Administration's multiple-award schedule contracts as "preferred sources of supply" and encouraged DOD customers to take advantage of new program features such as blanket purchase agreements and teaming arrangements among schedule vendors.

A March 6 memo by Eleanor Spector director of procurement in the Office of the Undersecretary of Defense for Acquisition and Technology said revisions GSA has made to its schedules program during the past year have made the program much more attractive to DOD employees. For example GSA has removed limitations on the size of schedule orders and has allowed schedule vendors to form teams to offer end-to-end solutions.

"I urge you to take full advantage of GSA schedule contracts if you need supplies or services that are covered under them " Spector wrote. "Use of these contracts meets DOD goals to simplify the acquisition process while at the same time increasing the contracting officer's authority and ability to make sound business judgments." The memo was intended for distribution throughout DOD.

The memo praised by industry groups is likely to meet opposition from some DOD officials who believe the department's own indefinite-delivery indefinite-quantity contracts such as the $1 billion Desktop V contract meet the department's needs best.

Anthony Valletta deputy assistant secretary of Defense for command control communications and intelligence acquisitions said last month that "right now the jury is out" as to whether the schedules are preferable to IDIQ contracts.

Valletta said a plethora of schedule acquisitions within DOD will make it difficult for high-level managers to hold the agency chief information officers accountable for ensuring that the Defense IT standards - such as the Defense Information Infrastructure Common Operating Environment - are enforced.

But he also said he recognized the advantages of fast ordering and delivery provided by schedule contracts as well as the extremely low chance that schedule buys will be protested.

A spokeswoman at the Air Force Standard Systems Center which manages Desktop V said officials had not yet seen the memo. But she added that "Desktop V is the best value."

Cmdr. Phil Graham a resource manager at the Navy Information Systems Management Center (NISMC) said he is already beginning to see Defense organizations moving away from IDIQ vehicles in favor of schedule contracts.

He noted that the Naval Air Systems Command and the service's Fleet Industrial Supply Center (FISC) have already embarked on BPAs with GSA and he added that he has received inquiries from Army and Air Force personnel interested in similar arrangements.

Graham said he expects the schedules to "pull some business away" from other DOD contracts. But he said schedules may not be appropriate in cases in which commercial items cannot meet DOD's tactical requirements.

He added that the Navy now awards few requirements contracts that are mandatory to users seeking a specific type of IT product or service. He said Navy organizations such as NISMC and FISC avoid requirements contracts "like the plague" because they are extremely susceptible to protests.

Carleton Jones president of Sysorex Information Systems Inc. said he agreed that GSA has improved the schedules program but said the contracts would pose no serious challenge to his company's performance on contracts such as the Army's PC-2 contract. He said warranty coverage is priced much more reasonably on PC-2 than on the schedule.

But Jones added that the Army and other agencies that have awarded IDIQ contracts must take steps to ensure that those contracts offer the latest technologies something the schedules program does well.

The memo written following a meeting between Spector and William Gormley assistant commissioner for acquisition at GSA's Federal Supply Service describes "the many improvements made to the FSS schedules." An attachment to the memo lists all of those changes with brief descriptions of each.

Larry Allen executive director of the Coalition for Government Procurement industry group said he expects the memo to produce an explosion in schedule sales. He said a memo advocating the schedules program in 1988 increased schedule sales from DOD.

Since then many Defense computer users stopped using the program because of the restrictions placed on orders by GSA Allen said. For example schedule customers had to publish synopses in the Commerce Business Daily of purchases exceeding $50 000.

Although FSS lifted many of those restrictions recently some Defense customers are apparently unaware of those improvements and continue to avoid the contracts he said.

"There are a lot of misconceptions about the schedules in DOD and a lack of awareness about the changes " Allen said. "Contractors think this memo is a very big deal.

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