Davis seeks studies on contracting

Technology and Procurement Policy Subcommittee

At a time when the administration is pushing agencies toward outsourcing and commercial acquisition practices, the General Accounting Office will be taking a close look at two of the biggest examples at the government's lead contracting agency, the General Services Administration.

Rep. Tom Davis (R-Va.), chairman of the House Reform Committee's Technology and Procurement Policy Subcommittee, requested GAO to develop two reports on contracting advocated by GSA.

The first report, which Davis requested last month, will focus on agencies' use of seat management-style outsourcing in general and two contracts in particular: GSA's Seat Management and the Outsourcing Desktop Initiative for NASA.

Davis requested the second report last week, asking GAO to explore whether the government is well-served by the contracts available from GSA's Federal Supply Service and Federal Technology Service.

Under a seat management contract, agencies outsource the management of their information technology products and services to a single vendor. Its success depends on the agency being able to hold the vendor to service-level agreements because the agency is paying the contractor to be the IT support staff, not just provide hardware.

Davis' concern is that many agencies still do not understand how to manage this type of contract, said his staff director, Melissa Wojciak. He has asked GAO to find out whether agencies have used seat management properly, whether they can measure any increases in performance, and how they manage the risk of depending so greatly on a nongovernmental entity.

The study of FSS and FTS "will be looking at redundancies within the programs," Wojciak said. An increasingly greater amount of federal contracting dollars are going through the two programs. FSS offers schedule contracts with pre-approved products and services that can be purchased in any volume and combination. FTS creates and manages large solutions contracts or helps agencies' contracting offices develop smaller, specific contracts.

Davis wants to know how agency contracting officers decide which contracts they will use and how the two services coordinate their buying power. He also has asked GAO to examine whether, in their contracting actions, FSS and FTS are competing with private industry.

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