Contract boom: FAST and furious

LAST WEEK'S AWARD OF 33 MORE CONTRACTS UNDER THE GENERAL SERVICES ADMINISTRATION'S FEDERAL ACQUISITION SERVICES FOR TECHNOLOGY PROGRAM IS JUST THE LATEST EXAMPLE OF A FEDERAL CONTRACTING ENVIRONMENT GONE MAD WITH COMPETITION.

THE FAST PROGRAM WITH ITS EMPHASIS ON CHANNELING BUSINESS TO 8(A) VENDORS NOW HAS MORE THAN 100 VENDORS IN ITS STABLE. ADD THAT TO THE TENS OF THOUSANDS OF BLANKET PURCHASE AGREEMENTS THROUGHOUT THE GOVERNMENT. THE NATIONAL INSTITUTES OF HEALTH ALONE HAS MORE THAN 1 100 BPAS (NOT EXCLUSIVELY FOR INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY) AND HAS INSTITUTED A BPA MANAGEMENT OFFICE TO HELP ADMINISTER THE BOOMING BUSINESS. THROW IN GOVERN-MENTWIDE PACTS INDIVIDUAL AGENCY IDIQS AND STRAIGHT MULTIPLE-AWARD SCHEDULE BUYS AND THE CHOICES ARE MIND-BOGGLING.

ALTHOUGH NO ONE WOULD ADVOCATE LESS COMPETITION THIS NEW APPROACH DOES HAVE ITS DISADVANTAGES. FOR EXAMPLE MANY OF THE PRODUCTS OFFERED UNDER THE NEWLY AWARDED FAST PACTS ARE AVAILABLE ON EXISTING CONTRACT VEHICLES. IN AN AGE IN WHICH GOVERNMENT IS SHRINKING WHO IS GOING TO BE AROUND TO ADMINISTER THESE CONTRACTS? AS ONE INDUSTRY WATCHER SAID IF EVERY VENDOR HAS A CONTRACT THE GOVERNMENT CAN'T LEVERAGE ITS BUYING POWER.

THE GOVERNMENT OUGHT TO KEEP ITS EYE ON THE PROCUREMENT PENDULUM. OFFERING WHAT AMOUNTS TO A LICENSE TO MARKET PRODUCTS AND SERVICES TO THE GOVERNMENT TO EVERY VENDOR THAT SHOWS INTEREST IS BOUND TO CAUSE AN ADMINISTRATIVE NIGHTMARE AT THE VERY LEAST. AT WORST IT COULD FORCE A PUSH FOR A RETURN TO THE OLD WAYS OF DOING BUSINESS AND SACRIFICE THE TRUE BENEFITS OF PROCUREMENT REFORM: QUICK ACCESS TO THE LATEST IN PRODUCTS AND SERVICES AT PREFERENTIAL PRICES.

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