GSA disaster recovery program could open doors, expert says

The upward trends in sales in the disaster recovery program could help to sway legislators to open all of the GSA schedules contracts for cooperative purchasing

Sales for the General Services Administration’s Disaster Recovery Purchasing Program have been increased by GSA’s marketing and referrals from state and local governments, an expert said today.

“The program is getting its legs, states are more aware of it, and GSA is seeing the benefits,” said Jodi Sirotnak, client development executive at the Washington Management Group.

Sirotnak wrote a report released Jan. 20 that showed spending through program nearly tripled during the last quarter of fiscal 2009, growing from $2.5 million in the third quarter to $6.7 million in the fourth. Companies reported their highest quarterly sales increases from July to September 2009.

Overall, sales for the program grew from roughly $3 million in fiscal 2007, when the program started, to nearly $18 million in 2009, the report states.

Although state and local governments are blocked from buying from most of the schedules contracts, Sirotnak said the trends in sales in the disaster recovery program could help to sway legislators to open the GSA program completely for cooperative purchasing.

The program was launched Feb. 1, 2007, to help state, local and tribal governments recover from federally declared major disasters or acts of terrorism. Those governments can use any of GSA’s Federal Supply Schedule contracts to buy products and services for the work to recover from a major disaster, terrorism, or nuclear, biological, chemical, or radiological attack.

Sirotnak said the recent trends in sales and use under the disaster recovery program alone are arguments for opening up all the GSA’s Multiple Award Schedules contracts to state and local governments. To date, states and localities have spent more than $30 million through the life of the program, the report states.

Also, state and local governments are interested in buying products and services from a wide variety of schedules contracts, most of which are available only when a disaster strikes. Without a disaster, state and local governments currently have access to a select few schedules contracts, including information technology and law enforcement-related contracts. However, under the recovery program, those two schedules don’t grab the top sales.

During the past three years, state and local officials most often buy consulting services, the report states. They spent $4.5 million for services from the Mission Oriented Business Integrated Services schedule, which includes management and consulting services.

Sirotnak said states are likely working on response plans for emergencies.

The scientific equipment and services schedule contracts, which include laboratory equipment and testing and analysis services, rank second overall with $3.8 million in sales, the report states. The Schedule 84 contracts for law enforcement equipment and the Schedule 70 for information technology products and services ranked third and sixth respectively in sales, the report states.

More specifically, aside from the consulting services, state and local governments spent $2.8 million on fire trucks and related products. They also purchased $1.2 million for IT services, according to the report.

However, the program may have a roadblock. Many states can’t use the GSA program to get ready for a disaster until it’s almost upon them. The program opens up after the president declares a disaster, Sirontak said.

“You don’t know if you have a presidentially declared disaster, so you can’t prepare for it” using GSA’s program, she said.

Legislation in the Senate may help with that, she said. The recently introduced Federal Supply Schedules Usage Act (S. 2868) would open GSA’s schedules slightly more to state and local governments and the American Red Cross by allowing them to buy from the contracts to prepare for a disaster, instead of limiting the schedules’ use to recovering from it. The Senate hasn't considered the bill.

About the Author

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

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