Customs agency ponders acquisition storefront

Customs and Border Protection officials are considering opening a new store on the Web for its acquisition employees.

The agency wants to use a “storefront” e-procurement Web site to streamline the purchase of preapproved products and track orders, according to a Federal Business Opportunities notice posted Aug. 5.

CBP plans to allow its buyers to carry out the entire procurement process, from sending out the purchase request and allocating funds to tracking orders. One of the program’s objectives is on-demand reports on order histories and delivery status, the notice states.

Vivek Kundra, the nation’s first chief information officer and an IT reform advocate, has been an early champion of the storefront concept, talking about the idea in various public appearances. He has said it would cut back on the time the procurement process can take -- up to two years in some cases -- and make it simpler.

He has proposed a virtual marketplace where agencies could quickly purchase cloud computing services, for instance. He said the General Services Administration’s Multiple Award Schedules program has many benefits, but there’s a faster way to work.

Some industry experts are skeptical of a storefront, saying it favors incumbent contractors and distracts from competition for contracts — another aspect of procurement that the administration wants to improve.

In the FBO notice, CBP says it already evaluates IT products to see if the products match CBP’s existing enterprise architecture, and the agency then keeps a list of this equipment in an approved list of products.

For its store, agency officials want “shopping cart functionality,” which would require the store to provide estimated shipping costs based on quantity of items, weight and delivery address, and then add the estimated cost to the order’s total price, the notice states.

CBP said the store would generally be limited to its employees and possibly other Homeland Security Department employees. The portal should support as many as 250 concurrent users, the notice states.

The portal will interface with CBPs existing SAP Financial System and Remedy Asset Management system, the notice states.

About the Author

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

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