Agreement may smooth GSA, DOD relationship

The important relationship between the General Services Administration and its biggest customer, the Defense Department, may improve with a new memorandum of agreement that smoothes out more than 20 problem areas dividing the pair.

The agreement, the first between the two agencies, defines some ambiguous aspects of existing acquisition policy regarding interagency contracting. It also clearly establishes responsibility and clarifies rules applying to acquisitions conducted on DOD’s behalf. Overall, the agreement focuses on numerous aspects of an acquisition, from identifying requirements until the contract closes, according to the agreement.

“This [agreement] sends a strong signal of each agency’s intent to work closely with one another,” said David Bibb, GSA’s deputy administrator.

The agreement sets specific dates and deadlines for GSA and DOD in the coming year. For example, by March 2007, the agencies will have worked out the standard content for interagency agreements, specifically regarding roles and responsibilities, justifications for sole-source procurements, and oversight funding. By September 2007, GSA will have reviewed GSA schedules to ensure competitive market pricing, according to the agreement.

GSA and DOD have met monthly to discuss interagency contracting issues, and those meeting will continue indefinitely, the agreement states.

Federal Acquisition Service Commissioner Jim Williams has said in speeches that the DOD/GSA relationship leaves both agencies dependent on each other. FAS handles about $56 billion in business. About $30 billion of that comes from business with DOD, GSA’s “most important customer by far,” Williams said.

“If we went away today, DOD would probably have a hard time meeting their mission,” Williams said in a Sept. 15 speech at a FedSources breakfast. “If DOD went away from us, GSA would be in serious trouble. That’s a very symbiotic relationship we have.”

The agreement follows months of discussions between the agencies about how GSA could better serve DOD. They will work on areas highlighted in the agreement to best serve warfighters while saving money, according to the agreement.

Officials from both agencies will work to improve adherence to regulations, Williams said.

Bibb led a GSA team chartered by Administrator Lurita Doan to develop ways to better serve DOD. In Doan’s confirmation hearing, she said to get customers back, “a good deal of groveling will be involved, and I am willing to do that.”

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