Solicit without a brand

The Office of Federal Procurement Policy’s top official is warning agency officials to follow federal procurement rules that forbid them to request specific brands when they issue contract solicitations except in certain narrow circumstances.

The April 11 memo, co-signed by OFPP Administrator David Safavian and Karen Evans, the Office of Management and Budget’s e-government and information technology administrator, was intended for chief acquisition officers, chief information officers and senior procurement executives at all agencies.

"We are concerned the use of brand name specifications in agency solicitations may have increased significantly in recent years, particularly for [IT] procurements," the memo authors wrote.

As an example, they cited cases in which procurement solicitations have specified brand-name microprocessors, which are used only by certain computer manufacturers. Rather than specify brands, which shuts out some computer makers, officials should set performance benchmarks or specify requirements for applications and interoperability, they wrote.

Officials at chipmaker Advanced Micro Devices (AMD) -- a company that has spent much of its existence battling Intel and its well-known brands -- applauded the directive.

"We are pleased that the OMB is taking positive steps to address government agencies that are increasingly engaged in closed IT procurement bidding practices by stipulating certain brands in contracts," said Sue Snyder, AMD vice president of international policy and relations and executive legal counsel, in a written statement. "Competitive procurement practices help ensure that public authorities have more choices and get the best value for taxpayer money. OMB's efforts to support open and lawful procurement are a positive step in encouraging fair and open competition."

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