GSA tests Internet-based buying system

The General Services Administration's Pacific Rim regional office expects to conclude tests this month of an Internet-based system that will electronically funnel information technology requirements from agencies to vendors holding contracts with the region.

Joe Ilagan former acquisition service director at GSA's Pacific Rim region said the IT Solutions pilot system covers agencies' requirements under three GSA programs: Federal Acquisition Services for Technology (FAST) the Federal Information Systems Support Program (FISSP) and the Telecommunications Support Contract 2.

Following its tests in the Pacific Rim region the system will be tested by GSA's Southeast Sunbelt region before it is rolled out for nationwide deployment later this year. Directors in GSA regional offices will determine the time frame for installing the system in their offices.

Ilagan who retired from government service last week said the IT Solutions system has worked well during the first weeks of testing. "It cuts down on a lot of paperwork " he said. "Right now we basically put together a requirement and fax it to some of the vendors. With this system we will post requirements from customers only to the vendors [that] we want to respond to that requirement. From there vendors can download all the information they want about that requirement."

Agency customers who want to order from any of these three contracts can register to submit their IT requirements online by logging on to the IT Solutions World Wide Web site (it-solutions.gsa.gov) Ilagan said. Eventually the system will use a centralized registration process that was developed by the Defense Department.

The IT Solutions concept has met with mixed responses from GSA personnel nationwide. At GSA's Heartland region office Kansas City Mo. an employee associated with the FAST program which awards contracts strictly to small businesses said he liked the idea of accepting bids electronically and listing all contract actions on the Internet. But he said he believes it will limit competition and hurt small businesses by directing business to a limited number of vendors.

A GSA official in Washington D.C. who spoke on the condition of anonymity said he believed IT Solutions would funnel larger task orders to FISSP vendors and create an uproar among the dozens of small businesses that have received FAST contracts. "This is a big push to sweep FAST under the rug " he said. "I think we are going to hear some noise from those [small-business] guys."

Ilagan said vendors will continue to have the same shot at GSA business that they have today only now the transactions will be performed electronically. He said FISSP is geared mainly toward long-term requirements for IT services while FAST mostly meets short-term needs for products. He said the two programs will have little overlap.

Officials at GSA's Federal Technology Service headquarters could not be reached for comment. But former FTS commissioner Bob Woods now president of Federal Sources Inc. McLean Va. said agency officials had been discussing changes to the FAST and FISSP programs for months. He said they have been concerned about overlap the proliferation of too many FAST contracts and a lack of coordination.

"There needs to be better central direction of those programs " Woods said. "My sense is that some weeding out of programs could go on. On the other hand it's never clear that weeding out programs is always better business.

"I don't think GSA will abandon support of small business " he said. "But I think they will have to pare down the number of contracts."

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