The way things (should) work

As the General Services Administration crafts rules covering service acquisitions off the schedule program for the Federal Acquisition Regulation, potential customers can find the existing procedures in several places on GSA's Web site.

In general terms, the rules dictate that organizations ordering services must first develop a statement of work that includes a description of the work and where and when it will be done. They must also define the deliverable schedule, applicable standards, per diem and travel rates, and any special requirements.

If the order is for services valued at more than $2,500, agencies must send the statement of work to at least three vendors and request that those vendors submit technical and price proposals. Then the organizations must select the bid that represents the "best value," which includes not only price but also other criteria such as special features, warranty terms, maintenance availability and trade-in considerations.

Finally, the customer places the order directly with the contractor.

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