FAR Council endorses SmartBuy

Proposed regulation would give SmartBuy more visibility among contracting officials

Savings with SmartBuy

The General Services Administration and the Army Small Computer Program’s Enterprise Software Initiative signed SmartBuy contracts Oct. 25 that could save the agencies at least 50 percent on enterprise software licenses.

The agencies brokered SmartBuy license deals with BDNA and BigFix that could reduce licensing fees by 50 percent and 67 percent, respectively, compared with prices for the software on the GSA schedule.

In another recent SmartBuy deal, the Agriculture Department bought 180,000 data encryption software licenses from SafeBoot Technology.

That deal netted $23.5 million in savings, about a 90 percent discount compared with the GSA schedule price for the same licenses.

— Wade-Hahn Chan and Jason Miller

The more agencies use the General Services Administration’s Smart- Buy acquisition program, the more money they can save. But procurement experts and SmartBuy vendors complain that too few agencies are participating in the volume-purchasing program. Many contracting officers are unfamiliar with it, officials say, and its use is not mandatory.

Mike Carpenter, senior vice president of public-sector operations at McAfee, said the government should require agencies to use SmartBuy contracts after it awards them. If SmartBuy “had more teeth behind it, it would definitely attract more people into it,” he said.

The Federal Acquisition Regulatory Council has proposed giving the SmartBuy initiative extra fangs. It proposed a rule Oct.

31 that would require contracting officers to acquire commercial software and services through the SmartBuy program. If using SmartBuy does not appear to offer the best value, contracting officers should give the SmartBuy contractor an opportunity to offer a better deal.

The Office of Management and Budget issued a memo that introduced agencies to the SmartBuy initiative in June 2003. The program relies on blanket purchase agreements for large-volume buys. In fiscal 2007, the government used SmartBuy to save nearly $133 million on software licenses, according to GSA.

The proposed rule also would require contracting officers who want to procure software or services outside the SmartBuy program to get approval from their agency’s senior procurement executive and chief information officer and send a copy of the approval to GSA’s deputy associate administrator of technology strategy.

Tom Kireilis, GSA’s senior program manager of SmartBuy, said he has been trying to push the proposal through for almost two years but has been delayed by a long approval process. He said the proposed rule would ensure greater participation in SmartBuy contracts.

High-level agency acquisition officials know about Smart- Buy, but employees who do the ordering often are not familiar with it, Kireilis said.

Having SmartBuy in the Federal Acquisition Regulation would be helpful, he added, because contracting officers are more familiar with it than with OMB memos.

Kireilis said he hoped the proposed rule would help attract more companies to the program. The proposal is circulating for comment.

Carpenter said he likes the proposed rule. He added that McAfee and other vendors expected SmartBuy would be mandatory, and agencies that failed to use it would take a hit on their agency score cards and possibly their budgets.

Ray Bjorklund, senior vice president and chief knowledge officer at FedSources, said the proposal was constructive, but the justification process for using SmartBuy could add delays.

Bjorklund also said SmartBuy hasn’t been as successful as it could be primarily because GSA hasn’t promoted it as much as its schedules program. GSA uses advertisements on public transportation and in magazines to promote its schedules contracts.

“It took kind of a sales job on behalf of GSA and others,” Bjorklund said.

Some SmartBuy vendors say they have worked to fill the promotional gap. Carpenter said he frequently takes time to talk to contracting officers about the SmartBuy process. “You need manufacturers to help relay those processes” to contracting officers, he said.

However, like GSA schedules, SmartBuy might not be the preferred contract for all software acquisitions, Bjorklund said. Blanket purchase agreements sometimes fail to address changes in technology and potential security threats, he said. However, agencies are beginning to factor those considerations into SmartBuy deals. Bjorklund said agencies would be smart to view SmartBuy as their contract of first choice when buying software 

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