ITAA seeks bundling changes

The Information Technology Association of America has added its voice to groups calling for the withdrawal of proposed contract bundling rule changes.

ITAA, in comments filed last week, said the proposed changes would delay procurements and harm small businesses.

Bundling is the practice of pulling several related contracts into one large "bundle" and awarding it to a single contractor, which then may subcontract some of the work. The proposed rule changes, which subject more acquisitions to bundling review and burden agencies to justify bundling, are intended to help small companies compete.

The comments, signed by ITAA President Harris Miller, focus on the General Services Administration's schedule contract system. Under current rules, schedule purchases are largely exempt from bundling scrutiny, but the proposed changes would place them in the spotlight.

ITAA believes that applying bundling review rules to the GSA schedules would be contrary to the statutory authority that governs the program, according to the comments. Schedule task and delivery orders are supposed to be subject to GSA procedures, but the proposed rule change would make them also subject to review by an agency's Office of Small and Disadvantaged Business Utilization or Small Business Administration Procurement Center personnel. The added layer of scrutiny undercuts the purpose of the schedule program, according to Miller's comments.

Further, the rules would make procurement processes slower and more expensive, Miller wrote, while adding minimal benefit at best to small business. The government has not proven that the changes would result in more contracts being unbundled, more contracts going to small businesses, or that agencies have enough small business specialists to handle the increased workload the new rules would create, he said.

Consultant Paul Brubaker, co-founder of ICG Government in Chantilly, Va., said he agreed with the ITAA's perspective.

"I'm not sure that in the final analysis the results are going to be any different [with the new rules], except that it will slow up the government's ability to acquire goods and services efficiently," he said.

There are opportunities for small companies to win federal contracts, Brubaker said, and the bundling debate has too often overlooked the government's need to procure what agencies need efficiently.

"Everybody talks about fairness to the small business, and I say, what about fairness to the government?" Brubaker said.

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