GSA's Barram overrules SBA; releases sked

The General Services Administration plans to issue today the long-delayed solicitation for information technology products and services on the multiple-award schedule. David Barram, GSA's administrator, late last week made decisions on several issues raised by the Small Business Administration, which had been delaying release of the new solicitation.

Ida Ustad, GSA's deputy associate administrator for acquisition policy, said a letter from Barram outlining his ruling was on its way to Aida Alvarez, SBA's administrator, late Friday afternoon.

SBA's objections centered around the agency's belief that combining all IT products and services into a single schedule category as GSA proposed would make it difficult for small businesses to compete for task orders and that it constituted contract bundling.

Ustad said Barram believes that the consolidation of the IT schedules does not constitute contract bundling. "It really doesn't change the ability of small businesses to compete in the program," Ustad said.

Barram's letter rejected requests by SBA to set aside schedule items for hardware maintenance, IT training or IT professional services for small businesses. But he did make a concession to SBA's concern with a stipulation that gives agencies shopping for IT professional services the opportunity to limit their consideration of schedule vendors to small businesses only.

"GSA had, for other reasons unrelated to small-business issues, decided it was necessary to establish special ordering procedures for the IT professional services," Barram wrote.

"Therefore we feel we can add to those special ordering procedures the authorization for ordering activities to limit consideration to small-business concerns. However, we do not believe we can do so across the board without a [Federal Acquisition Regulation] revision."

Bill Gormley, assistant commissioner for acquisition at GSA's Federal Supply Service, said personnel at the service would work over the weekend to get the solicitation on GSA's World Wide Web site by today. "I think the changes to the new IT solicitation reflect the importance of small businesses in the industry and provide more tools for agencies to support their efforts to meet their procurement preference goals for small business," Gormley said.

Judith Roussel, SBA's associate administrator for government contracting, said late Friday afternoon she had not seen Barram's letter. She acknowledged that SBA was bound by Barram's decision, regardless of whether it agreed with his actions. "We don't have any further recourse," Roussel said.

Consultant Robert Guerra, president of Robert J. Guerra & Associates, said the small businesses he represents will be relieved when the solicitation comes out. He said the interests of small businesses hoping to obtain new schedule contracts have been harmed by the delay.

"I think this is a compromise; I don't necessarily think it's a good solution," Guerra said. "I think the biggest issue here is to get off the dime and get the solicitation out."

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