Letter: GSA officials should improve schedules program by learning from mistakes

Regarding "Waldron: Time for a schedule focus": "If opportunity doesn't knock, build a door." [The General Services Administration] and industry executives are fashioning such a door and that is wonderful. Transformation is in the air.  Ingenuity, courage, and hard work will improve the GSA Schedules program.  

However, I offer one big caveat.  The old adage that warns us that those who ignore the lessons of the past are doomed to repeat them in the future is in play here.  From 1983 through 2000, there were over 30 reports authored by Congress, the GAO, and the Office of Inspector General that were critical of the GSA schedules program.   

The two key criticisms distilled from most of these reports were: (1) GSA's inability to obtain volume pricing from its vendors, and (2) Customer agency criticism of late contract awards.  The Most Favored Customer (MFC) Pricing Policy developed in the early 80's and a revised Price Reduction clause rectified the pricing problems.  Multiyear and "evergreen" contracts contracts eliminated the contract coverage problems.  

For GSA executives, you should note that the purchasing departments of some of your largest MAS contractors have MFC, price reduction and audit provisions in their purchasing forms/contracts as do the purchasing departments of the Fortune 100.  For contractor executives, if not careful, precipitously made changes could create more problems than they can solve (the progress trap).  

For everyone, the GSA was formed by Congress in 1949 with the idea of creating an economical purchasing agent for the federal government that effectively leveraged its large purchasing volume.  Indeed, the GSA schedules program has been successful.  Learn from your mistakes and not from your successes.

NIcholas Economou
Retired GSA Acquisition Official

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