Use of brand names in solicitations still a problem

For the second time in a month, the Office of Management and Budget is reminding agencies not to specify brand names in procurements.

The latest memo from Karen Evans, OMB’s administrator for e-government and information technology, and Paul Denett, the administrator of the Office of Federal Procurement Policy, on Dec. 19 also addresses confusion about the Federal Desktop Core Configuration (FDCC) initiative.

Evans and Denett remind agencies that the requirement to implement the FDCC when using Microsoft Windows XP and Vista does not “limit selection and acquisition to only information technology with established security configurations (e.g. the FDCC).”

Operating-systems vendors other than Microsoft expressed concern that some agencies believed they could only buy Windows-based systems under the FDCC mandate.

“Many vendors, including Red Hat, are having discussions with OMB about this misperception of the FDCC,” said Paul Smith, Red Hat’s vice president of government sales operations. It “is absolutely not a mandate, but a suggested image for those deploying Windows on the desktop. In fact, there could and should be an FDCC for other environments that can be deployed on the desktop. This is a huge issue and a huge misperception.”

This memo follows one from OMB on Nov. 28 reminding agencies that using specific brand names or the phrase “brand name or equal” should only be done when agencies consider it advantageous or necessary to meet their goals.

In the November memo, agencies were asked to develop internal controls to monitor the use of brand names in procurements.

In the most recent guidance, OMB wants agencies to be sure they “make use of adequate competition and maintain vendor neutral capital planning and control procedures.”

OMB also said the Federal Acquisition Regulations Council will revise the part of the Federal Acquisition Regulations that deals with IT acquisition. The revision will focus on including appropriate IT security policies and requirements when acquiring technology products and services, including the FDCC.

This is OMB's fourth memo since 2005 repeating the prohibition on brand names in solicitations.

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