DOD Supply launches BPA barrage

The Defense Supply Service-Washington has quietly awarded a series of blanket purchase agreements covering a range of information technology products and services open to more than 320 DOD agencies. Although DSS-W officials have not attached dollar values to any of the four BPAs awarded so far observers said these deals may be the largest yet of their kind in light of the huge customer base served by the organization.

Alex Graham the contracting officer who helped negotiate the agreements said the agency competitively awarded three BPAs for IT services to CACI International Inc. BTG Inc. and ASM Research Inc. The agency awarded a BPA for equipment to Comark Federal Systems and is on the verge of completing an agreement with Dell Computer Corp. Graham said. He added that the deal with BTG may be expanded to include products.

"We would like to do more of these if appropriate " Graham said. He said DSS-W undertook the BPA initiative after noticing the frustration many DOD customers were experiencing as a result of their dealings with agencies such as the General Services Administration's Federal Systems Integration and Management Center (Fedsim) and the National Institutes of Health which tack on surcharges to orders for IT products and services. He said DSS-W does not charge its customers for its services.

"Things that are out there now are more costly than our program " Graham said. "The value added is more direct support without the usual 1 or 2 percent surcharge. Our director is looking to be more reactive to our customer base.

"I've found that the GSA schedule pricing has some flexibility built in " he said. "I used it as a starting price. I'm looking for discounts. And I know the Comark prices beat [NIH's Electronic Computer Store] contract pretty well." The BPAs will expire at the end of March 1999 when the companies' GSA schedule contracts lapse. Graham said each vendor was selected solely on the basis of lowest price and has offered deals significantly lower than published GSA schedule prices.

Harold Klink vice president for business development at CACI said DSS-W customers will be able to purchase all of CACI's IT services through the company's BPA. Those services include everything from systems analysis and software development to telecommunications and Year 2000 solutions.

Graham said BTG and ASM Research will offer some of the same services. DSS-W personnel opted for the BPA as a way to avoid lengthy procurement cycles and as a method to get services to users who need them immediately Klink said. "They are trying to get away from a lot of requirements definition so they put this in place to have a preferred vendor " he said.

But some in industry and government believe BPAs such as those awarded by DSS-W are not in line with the intentions of policy-makers who promoted the BPA concept.

Larry Allen executive director of the Coalition for Government Procurement and a supporter of BPAs said the agreements were initially envisioned as deals negotiated quickly to meet an identified need of a specific office or organization.

"I don't think when we started talking about BPAs that anyone envisioned 320 operational units buying from one agency " Allen said.

Analyst Bob Dornan senior vice president of Federal Sources Inc. said deals such as those awarded by DSS-W may seem like bargains but they are proliferating too quickly and often include hidden management and marketing costs. "I don't think anyone is measuring the cost of all this excess capacity. These vehicles with overblown scopes and coverage cause a distortion of the market " Dornan said.

Graham said his agency's legal department required the contracting office to narrowly define the services and products included in the BPAs to avoid agreements with excessively wide ranges of offerings.

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