GSA fights to regain market share

Expected losses in assisted services could hurt the agency’s financial recovery plan

The General Services Administration expects to receive $3.7 billion in revenue this year from its assisted acquisition services portfolio, but that will still leave the agency $46 million below the revenue it needs to cover costs for providing those services, Kathleen Turco, GSA’s chief financial officer, said recently. 

GSA has launched several initiatives to reclaim its acquisition services business, and customer agencies can expect to see additional marketing efforts from the procurement agency that is desperate for their business.

“Overall in government, we are seeing a trend in people putting their own contracts in place, period,” said Mary Davie, assistant commissioner for GSA’s Office of Assisted Acquisition Services.

To counter that trend, GSA officials say they must become more creative. The agency must work with agencies’ own contracts and find small niches in which those agencies might need help in buying goods and services, Davie said.
GSA officials talk about the need to meet new demands and find additional ways to provide procurement support. “In prior years, the way we went to market was by contract,” said Gary Feit, assistant commissioner for customer accounts and research at GSA’s Federal Acquisition Service. “We are going to change our approach. We are going to start bringing to market [complete] solutions.”

Many agencies have set up their own agencywide contracts, such as the Homeland Security Department’s Enterprise Acquisition Gateway for Leading Edge solutions contract, and they want to use those procurement vehicles to
meet specific needs, Davie added. For example, agencies can choose from 200 agencywide contracts when they are ready to buy.

GSA officials publicly say they face a procurement landscape that has fundamentally shifted. Agencies have particular requirements or a pool of market expertise they want to use.

In addition, Defense Department procurement officials have detailed rules to follow. And faced with expanded oversight and tighter budgets, agencies have a greater need to monitor their spending and manage their contracts, Davie said. All of those needs offer new opportunities for GSA to be involved.

“Traditionally, our model has been kind of cradle-to-grave acquisition support services,” Davie said. “In our desire to be very responsive to specific customer needs, we’ve changed our model.” GSA is offering more niche services, such as professional and consulting services.

Feit said Jim Williams, FAS commissioner, told him to “put FAS back on the map and in the minds of everybody in government.”  To achieve that recognition, GSA plans to research and analyze agencies’ spending habits, Feit said. Then it will go to the agencies and tell them how GSA can help them.

Others say GSA should have adopted that strategy some time ago.

Frank Pugliese, a former Federal Supply Service commissioner who is now managing director of government business development at DuPont, said
GSA needs a double-team approach to developing relationships with agencies.
He said Williams must meet with agency leaders to talk about assisted acquisition services.

Meanwhile, Pugliese said, GSA’s customer representatives must continue to push the agency’s services and get to know what the acquisition officials want and expect. “It’s basic customer service 101,” he said.

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