Acquisition centers try to cope with a flood of money

Two offices that help agencies with acquisitions are gearing up for a flood of money from the economic stimulus law to flow their way soon, officials from those offices have said.

The law, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, includes as much as $50 billion for information technology and professional services, the business areas of the General Services Administration’s Office of Assisted Acquisition Services. On an average year, the office handles roughly $3.5 billion, said Mary Davie, Federal Acquisition Service assistant commissioner for assisted acquisition services.

“We are scrambling to put processes and procedures in place” to prepare for the work, said John Nyce, associate director of the National Business Center’s Acquisition Services Directorate (AQD). AQD, formerly known as GovWorks, is another office that helps agencies with their purchasing. The center is a part of the Interior Department. Nyce and Davie spoke March 16 at a meeting hosted by the American Council for Technology/Industry Advisory Council.

They’re scrambling because nearly half of the $787 billion of stimulus money needs to be obligated to a project by the middle of June. The law gives agencies 120 days to assign the money from Feb. 17, when the legislation was enacted.

One major concern is finding enough people to handle the work, Nyce and Davie said. Neither is sure where agencies would find people to perform the work. “If I knew that, I’d be a rich man,” Nyce said.

They may seek retired federal acquisition employees with available special hiring authorities, the officials said, adding that they will likely choose to outsource work to contractors.

Their organizations will certainly be looking at existing contracts that have already completed the initial competitive procedures. Nyce and Davie said every available existing contract through which to send the money is an option so they can get the money obligated. There are also potential new indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity contracts and set-aside contracts for small businesses, Davie said.

Agencies, and especially the offices offering help in obligating the money for another agency, have a lot of information to track as they send out the money for their customers. Many of the requirements haven’t been done in the past. As a result, GSA’s Federal Acquisition Service may have to change some of its business systems so it can keep tabs on the reporting requirements, Davie said.

“There’s a lot of work,” she said. “There’s a lot that we need to be aware of.”

“It also has an unprecedented level of transparency requirements,” Nyce said.

About the Author

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

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