GSA puts schedules in Express lane

A test of the General Services Administration's program to speed the award process for schedule contracts is moving into its second phase, as agency officials see successes and the potential for more.

In Phase 2, GSA's Multiple Award Schedule Express program expands the number of products the schedules offer from five to 15, the agency announced today.

GSA establishes long-term, governmentwide contracts with commercial firms, called schedules or multiple-award schedules, which offer more than 10 million commercial supplies and services that agencies order directly from contractors.

MAS Express is designed to reduce the time it takes to award a business a basic schedule contract. One of Lurita Doan's first promises as GSA administrator was to shrink the time it took to award a schedule contract from months to 30 days.

'I presented GSA with a tall order when I promised we would make these improvements,' Doan said in a statement.

Officials say GSA is now averaging 20 days to award a contract.

Changes in the second phase open MAS Express to electronic offers for selected schedules via the eOffer program. The agency simplified eligibility and streamlined the offer review process. Express' eOffer program is not available to all of the schedules.

Technology is a key ingredient to expediting the program. EOffer takes a potential contractor submitting a proposal through the various steps and marks the required information, unlike the paper forms contractors once filled out. GSA then can return a submission within three days to correct errors. It cuts the time by two or three days from the old process, Michael Sade, Federal Acquisition Services' assistant commissioner for acquisition management, said in an interview today.

GSA considers the program a complete success.

'It works,' Sade said. 'We've demonstrated the concept, and we're ready to roll it out.'

The shortened time for making products and services available to agencies may help keep them from heading elsewhere for their needs, Sade said. Although schedule contracts are popular, GSA sees interagency contracting as a problem for its future success.

MAS Express lets customers buy an array of products including shipping and packing supplies, cameras and furniture. The second phase adds services to the list, although Sade said it will be tougher to determine appropriate prices for services than products.

About the Author

Matthew Weigelt is a freelance journalist who writes about acquisition and procurement.

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