Letter to the editor
As a consultant who negotiates General Services Administration schedule
contracts for companies with GSA, I have been closely following the proposed
rules for Defense Department information technology services buys as published
in the FCW article, "Rule
would stifle DOD service buys."
GSA schedules are a great vehicle to procure many IT products and services,
but they are not suited for every acquisition. Obviously, when responding
to new rules, each trade group and government agency has an agenda to push
through, but maybe it needs to look at the rules that are already in place
and work them into the schedules program.
If this regulation makes sense for DOD, it should cover the entire federal
government. What is so different in civilian agencies that the rules would
not apply to them? Are time-and-material contracts only a bad idea for DOD?
What I find ironic is that it no one has brought up Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) Part 16. It specifically addresses
"policies and procedures and provides guidance for selecting a contract
type appropriate to the circumstances of the acquisition." Specifically,
Subpart 16.6 deals with the use of time and materials, labor hour and letter
The rules for time-and-material contracts state in part "a time-and-materials
contract may be used only when it is not possible at the time of placing
the contract to estimate accurately the extent or duration of work or to
anticipate costs with any reasonable degree of confidence."
It further goes on to say, "A time-and-materials contract may be used
(1) only after the contracting officer executes a determination and findings
that no other contract type is suitable; and (2) only if the contract includes
a ceiling price that the contractor exceeds at its own risk. The contracting
officer shall document the contract file to justify the reasons for and
amount of any subsequent change in the ceiling price."
The rules for buying from GSA schedules have changed very little in
the past few years with the exception of adding information on the GSA Advantage
online ordering system and the use of blanket purchase agreements. There
is nothing to cover the acquisition of services within these rules, and
anyone who is experienced in procuring services knows that you don't buy
services the same way as product.
Perhaps all agencies should be directed to FAR Part 16 in choosing the
contract type used for services under GSA schedule. A time-and-materials
contract may or may not be the best way to procure services under GSA, but
the guidance already exists for making the determination and documenting
Government Sales Consultants Inc.