Doan seeks advice on schedule program

A new advisory panel will begin an in-depth review of the General Services Administration’s policies and regulations for schedule contracts, the agency announced today.

GSA named 15 acquisition experts — 11 from government and four from industry — to serve on the panel and make recommendations. Elliott Branch, the executive director for contracts at the Naval Sea Systems Command, is the panel’s chairman.

Lurita Doan, GSA's administrator, said at a press conference today she’s open to what the committee recommends. Doan expects to have an initial set of recommendations in several months, and said she can envision receiving the final recommendations in early fiscal 2009 if things go as planned.

Doan said companies nationwide are growing increasingly frustrated with doing business with GSA. That's partly because of the auditing process and uncertainty about what could trigger the price reduction clause. That clause requires a contractor to give the government the same discount as any of the company's other customers.

Because of the price clause and other reasons, contracts have come under scrutiny from Congress and inspectors general. This has caused major companies, such as Sun Microsystems, Canon and EMC, to leave the program.

“I’m concerned that this level of frustration could turn into a growing reluctance of companies to list their products and services on a GSA schedule, and so I believe the time is now for GSA to face this challenge,” Doan said.

David Drabkin, GSA’s acting chief acquisition officer and a member of the new panel, said one of the important issues the panel must consider is how agencies are increasingly buying more services than products. He said GSA has to reconsider its pricing structures, such as the price clause, to adapt to the market.

The panel will review the policy statements, proposed regulations, provisions in solicitations and other issues that affect the structure of the schedules. The panel  will help GSA get the lowest prices for products and services, while promoting fair contract awards and administration, the agency said in a March 28 Federal Register notice that first announced the panel's formation.

The panel has a two-year charter, but is scheduled to disband after submitting its final set of recommendations.

About the Author

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

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