GSA to use electronic posting system for solicitations

The General Services Administration starting next month will use a new electronic posting system for solicitations in order to save money and speed up procurement time and has drafted a plan to take the system governmentwide.

Last month, GSA issued a memo stating that starting Oct. 1 it will use the Electronic Posting System (EPS), which is a World Wide Web-based application that allows agencies to electronically post synopses and solicitations, provide vendors online access to business opportunities and send companies e-mail notifications related to a specific area of business interest.

EPS was developed by NASA and redesigned by GSA for governmentwide use. Earlier this year GSA, NASA, the Commerce Department and the Government Printing Office planned to integrate EPS with the existing Commerce Business Daily Net (CBDNet), a free online listing of government contracting and opportunities, to create an enhanced CBDNet system. However, uncertainty over how much that project would cost and how it would be developed caused that project to fall apart.

However, GSA is forging ahead with its plans to use EPS and to promote it to other federal agencies. NASA, GSA, the departments of Transportation and Interior, and the Air Force have begun to test the software in an effort to show how it works on an interagency basis. For information on this pilot, go to eps.arnet.gov.

Paul Fontaine, GSA program manager for the Acquisition Reform Network, a Web clearinghouse for information on federal purchasing reform, said GSA is meeting with senior procurement executives this week to get their blessing on a plan that details how EPS can be rolled out governmentwide.

"We still intend to make EPS a governmentwide system to present a single face to industry" for government opportunities, Fontaine said.

Even agencies that have their own electronic posting systems can easily connect to the governmentwide index in EPS, thereby maintaining the single-face-to-industry concept, he said. "We have a single protocol for interfacing with the [EPS] system," Fontaine said. "It's not intended to replace anything out there but [to] tie these legacy systems together."

The goal is to have the multiple agency systems appear as a single system to vendors searching for government opportunities.

"The real goal is that when you go to eps.arnet.gov and do a search, you don't have to bounce from site to site to get all the synopses and solicitations," said Ken Stepka, a procurement analyst at NASA. "Through this pilot, different agencies can bring opportunities together and have them searchable via a one-stop shop." Another benefit is that a copy of anything posted to EPS is automatically sent to CBDNet, Stepka said.

DOT will decide whether to roll out EPS departmentwide after it receives the results from the pilot. "EPS is a key element of our electronic commerce strategic plan," said Lesley Field, procurement analyst at DOT. "We're pleased with it so far and have several agencies participating in [the pilot]. It [provides] the flexibility to meet the requirement for a single point of entry" for vendors.

Even before the pilot, DOT had been trying to consolidate the solicitations its agencies were posting to their Web sites so that they could be searched, but there is no universal search engine that easily does that, Field said. "We want one place where a vendor could search for DOT opportunities," she said.

So far, the Philadelphia office of GSA's Public Buildings Service has posted CBD notices and sources sought using EPS, said Peter Andrews, a contracting officer there. "Cost-wise, it should be a lot cheaper for government to use EPS," Andrews said. "Instead of sending solicitations to the print shop and getting copies made...if we do it electronically, that cost is transferred to the contractor."

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