IT contract overlap under scrutiny

Federal Supply Service

Examining the potential duplication of information technology offerings at the General Services Administration should be expanded to include all federal IT contracts, officials said at an April 11 House subcommittee hearing.

Many in government and industry have expressed concern about the potential duplication of offerings between GSA's Federal Technology Service and Federal Supply Service, and whether that duplication is keeping agencies from getting the best value out of their IT contracts.

However, until an independent study is completed at the end of the month, not enough data is available to do more than express an opinion, said David Cooper, director of acquisition and sourcing management at the General Accounting Office.

"There is no information that will tell you whether we are in fact getting the best value," he testified at a hearing of the House Government Reform Committee's Technology and Procurement Policy Subcommittee.

And although GSA's contracts are the most popular in government, the same questions arise when considering the overlap among all the IT contracts available to agencies across government, experts testified. Other governmentwide contracts include the National Institutes of Health's Electronic Computer Store II and the Transportation Department's Information Technology Omnibus Procurement II.

Initial reviews by GAO and the GSA inspector general showed that the overlap comes mostly in the area of IT services offered on the FSS schedules and the FTS governmentwide contracts, and it is hard to compare services, even when offered by the same vendors, Cooper said. "Overlap is not synonymous with duplication," he said.

GSA is developing new metrics to measure the impact of its vehicles on agencies' missions and has commissioned Accenture to perform a study of any overlap between the services. The results of these steps could be used to expand the review to the rest of government, Cooper said.

GSA's new metrics are intended to get beyond sales figures to the monetary and resource savings agencies realize by using the FSS and FTS contracts, said Stephen Perry, GSA's administrator.

The metrics are under development, but initial ideas include measuring the cost to agencies and the benefits they received by going through the various GSA vehicles in comparison to the time and money they would have spent procuring the IT products and services on their own, he said.

"The goal ought to be to make sure [agencies] can fulfill their missions," said Rep. Tom Davis (R-Va.), chairman of the subcommittee.

However, it will not be easy to put metrics in place to measure the impact on agencies because so much of the information will have to come from the agencies themselves, and they are often unwilling to share that kind of information with GSA, Perry said.

In January, GSA also signed a contract with Accenture to study the potential overlap between the two services and the agency and vendor opinions on that overlap. Accenture will hand over the results of the study April 30, including "strategies to improve GSA's performance," said Dwight Hutchins, a partner in Accenture's U.S. federal government practice.

The subcommittee must wait for the results of the Accenture study before suggesting any other action at GSA, but the information and concerns raised at the hearing could prompt a broader review of governmentwide IT contracts, said Davis' spokesman, David Marin.

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