GSA aims to consolidate federal IT commodity buys

The General Services Administration plans to award a series of blanket purchase agreements through which federal agencies can buy common IT products at the best prices in government.

GSA might might create as many as 10 BPAs for products, such as laptop, desktop and notebook computers and video teleconferencing equipment, according to a proposal released Aug. 19. Officials estimate the BPAs for laptops, desktops, and notebooks could see at least $276 million in sales over three years.

The program, managed by GSA’s National Information Technology Commodity Program in Atlanta, is an offshoot of the Obama administration's 25-point plan to reform IT management, which calls for the federal government to centralize spending on IT commodities.

“The NITCP has a goal to improve consistency of IT commodity offerings across the federal government,” officials wrote in the proposal.


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Officials would be able to coordinate agencies’ common business needs and adjust as demand changes. GSA has expressed hope that the BPAs will make it easier for the government to negotiate for better volume discounts and improved services. Officials have wanted to make commodity IT products the next stage of strategic sourcing, in which multiple organizations team up on procurement deals.

GSA wants to be the central hub for IT purchasing.

“The NITCP’s vision is to be viewed as the leading source and first choice for providing IT commodity end-to-end solutions for federal customers,” officials wrote.

However, it might not be easy, one expect said.

The government has tried to commoditize IT in the past, and it hasn’t worked, said Larry Allen, president of Allen Federal Business Partners and former president of the Coalition for Government Procurement.

“I don’t know that I see government IT buyers going back to stand-alone product buys,” he said.

Further, most of the government’s IT assets are purchased as an integrated service or solution, he said. GSA’s own Alliant and its 8(a) set-aside governmentwide acquisition contracts are set up to sell commodities as part of a package. GSA also has Schedule 70.

He said it doesn’t make sense to pull everything under one program either, when NASA has its Solutions for Enterprise-wide Procurement. The Navy and the Homeland Security Department, for example, also have their own contracts.

“IT commoditization has been tried before and it hasn’t worked," he said. "I am skeptical that it will work this time around."

About the Author

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

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