Rep. Davis to renew push for co-op purchasing legislation

Rep. Tom Davis (R-Va.) said last week he plans once again to introduce a bill that would allow state and local governments to buy information technology products and services off the General Services Administration schedule.

But a push to open up the GSA schedule to state and local governments may be met yet again with strong opposition and a lack of consensus from the IT industry. Last summer the pharmaceutical and emergency equipment industries helped block a similar effort. Those industries were concerned that legislation might force them to sell products to state and local governments at GSA schedule rates, which are lower than commercial rates. Although Davis' measure would focus solely on IT purchasing,

Larry Allen, executive director of the trade group Coalition for Government Procurement, which represents pharmaceutical firms as well as IT firms, said the pharmaceutical and emergency equipment industries will likely oppose the planned legislation.

"If you look at this issue strictly as an IT issue, you would look at it and say, 'Hey, 80 to 90 percent of the community supports this, and what's the problem?'.... But the problem with this issue is that it's probably not going to be viewed solely as an IT issue," Allen said.

"We think that it would help our business in that it would allow us to leverage our business and our expertise into the state markets," said Charles Mathews, vice president of the systems and technology group at Federal Data Corp.

But an Electronic Data Systems Corp. spokesman said, "We don't see the need right now for a pilot program in cooperative purchasing."

Bill Gormley, assistant commissioner of the Office of Acquisition at GSA's Federal Supply Schedule, said GSA is in favor of cooperative purchasing, which could lead to intergovernmental computer systems that are built to the same specifications by the same vendors.

Richie Lieber, principal of acquisition services at the Transportation Department's Transportation Administrative Service Center, said cooperative purchasing would mean lower costs for agencies. The costs of services should go down because the companies can spread overhead over a bigger base," he said.

Peter Sirh, Davis' counsel, said Davis may try to attach draft language onto an existing bill this session, Sirh said.

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