Waldron: Time for a schedule focus

After years of transition, the Federal Acquisition Service has a wonderful opportunity to focus on the multiple-award schedule (MAS) contracts program. The schedule contracts are FAS’ most important and cost-effective contracting vehicle. MAS is the future of FAS.

During the past three years, the schedule contracts have accounted for more than $100 billion in agency acquisitions. Schedule 70, which includes most information technology products and services, accounted for close to $50 billion of the total. In contrast, all of GSA’s IT governmentwide acquisition contracts combined accounted for approximately $10 billion during those three years. Further, while the dollar volume of purchases under GWACs has fallen, Schedule 70 continues to hold its own while overall schedule contract buys have grown at a 3 to 4 percent rate annually. Because of its economic impact, FAS’ top priority should be to invest in the MAS program.

The fundamental strength of the MAS program is its unique statutory authority and ability to bring the commercial marketplace to the government. It includes thousands of contracts that offer millions of products and services. The schedules are more competitive, transparent and flexible than GWACs.

Interestingly, the vast majority of contractors under major IT GWACs — both GSA and non-GSA — are also schedule contractors. These contractors offer the same services, capabilities and level of personnel under the MAS program as under most, if not all, GWACs. Over the years, savvy customer agencies have successfully acquired high-end systems integration work through Schedule 70 using blanket purchase agreements and teaming arrangements.

FAS’ focus should be on the schedule contracts program. Investing in the schedule contracts will give customer agencies and the taxpayer the biggest bang for the buck. It is a strategic imperative.

Here are my top five priorities for the MAS program:
1. Eliminate the Price Reduction Clause. This pricing tool is based on audit and oversight. It increases costs and creates barriers to entry in the marketplace. Task-order competition and sound requirements are the keys to obtaining effective market pricing. Focusing on competition and requirements development rather than audit and oversight will provide better value for the taxpayer.

2. Allow all voice/data transmission services on Schedule 70. Schedule 70 includes wireless services and some data transmission but no long-distance voice. This makes no sense for agencies seeking fully integrated technology solutions via the schedule.

3. Consolidate the number of schedules. Currently there are 39 solicitations creating too many variables in the contracting process. Standardization will reduce government and industry costs.

4. Consolidate management of the schedule contracts into a single office. Splitting the program into three offices increases costs, creates unnecessary duplication, and dilutes overall program effectiveness.

5. Invest in MAS personnel. The sheer magnitude of the program demands incentives to attract the best and brightest.

Waldron (rwaldron@mayerbrown.com) is an attorney at the Washington office of Mayer Brown.  

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