BPAs blitz to top of the charts (Part 2)

After a year of explosive growth for the multiple-award schedule (MAS) program the General Services Administration plans in fiscal 1998 to apply tighter oversight of blanket purchase agreements (BPAs) to encourage small groups of agencies to cooperate on schedule purchases and to kick off a new marketing emphasis on seat management.

William Gormley assistant commissioner for acquisition at GSA's Federal Supply Service said he was extremely pleased with the performance of the MAS program in fiscal 1997. He cited the growth of BPAs and of services contracts as reasons for the increasing popularity of the program the total number of contracts increased by 22 percent this fiscal year while MAS contracts with small businesses increased by 23 percent.

But there are concerns about how some agencies are using BPAs. For that reason Gormley said he would become more involved in the BPA awards process and would oppose the award of governmentwide BPAs by schedule customers.

"We have an obligation to our customers to educate them on the scope of BPAs " he said. "BPAs have to be in line with the contracting office's customer base and we need to move away from governmentwide BPAs."The intent of any procurement is to support a specific customer base " he added. "To put something out that is governmentwide probably does not fall within the responsibilities of an agency's contracting office."

A GSA source said Gormley planned to meet this week with officials from the Department of Veterans Affairs who last month awarded a BPA for telecommunications services. VA officials said the services worth up to $1 billion would be available to any federal agency. The source said Gormley was unhappy with statements made by VA officials that their BPA could produce substantial revenue for the agency.

Gormley said FSS next year would encourage agencies to team up in small groups on BPAs rather than open individual awards to all agencies. "We're going to be moving more toward agencies teaming with each other to perform cooperative BPAs to stretch their purchasing dollars " he said. "That's where I would expect to move away from some of these governmentwide deals. It's a way to have a multiple-award environment but with a single award to allow the government to leverage its buying power."

Steven Kelman director of the Office of Federal Procurement Policy called the idea of governmentwide BPAs bizarre and endorsed Gormley's approach. "I think the idea of an agency doing a BPA and opening it up to other agencies is like a duplication of what GSA already does " he asserted. "On the other hand I am a strong supporter of agencies' managers and users looking for areas to standardize what they buy."

Another change to the MAS program planned for next year will be an emphasis on seat management. With 16 leasing contracts now awarded by FSS Gormley believes federal customers can combine those contracts with IT services contracts to outsource completely the management of their IT resources. "We have all of the ingredients for seat management and we will make that clear to our customers " he said.

The action may come as a surprise to officials at GSA's Federal Telecommunications Service who recently issued a draft request for proposals for their own seat management initiative. The two organizations have sparred in the past over which of them should engage in various business lines.

Gormley said he was aware of the FTS seat management plan but had not seen its requirements. "I don't know how flexible they are " he said adding that FSS seat management would give users the ability to choose the degree to which they would outsource their infrastructure.

GSA administrator David Barram said last week he was still wrestling with the question of how to divvy up IT acquisition responsibilities between FSS and FTS. He said both groups should put aside internal GSA issues and focus on what is best for their customers. He added that he was "getting a little impatient" with the organizations' inability to agree on their roles. "We're going to figure this out and I'm starting to get more personally involved " he said.

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