Acquisition

GSA works on CAP

Shutterstock image: discussing a contract.

Managers responsible for advancing consolidated contracting practices across government said their efforts are evolving as buying practices change.

The General Services Administration's efforts to build a Common Acquisition Platform (CAP) with product category "hallways" that provide detailed information on products and services for federal buyers will continue into the future, said Kevin Youel Page, deputy commissioner of the agency's Federal Acquisition Service.

"With IT, we will never be done categorizing," he added during a panel discussion hosted by ACT-IAC on Nov. 19.

The evolving nature of technology means the effort to develop CAP doesn't have an endpoint, he said. "There was no software as a service 15 years ago. The way we buy things changes."

CAP, announced in April, seeks to set up an online portal that allows agencies to tap price information and impact analyses in various IT categories. In the larger picture, CAP is a tool in GSA's transition to a "category management" strategy to improve government acquisition by adding transparency and structure to an often baffling process.

The category hallways give agency buyers a matrix of information, including contract vehicles and fees, systems and services associated with the contracts, business analysis and pricing information. Page and Mary Davie, assistant commissioner of the Office of Integrated Technology Services at FAS, said the hallway information can show contracting officers real-world examples of IT buys.

Davie said the first of GSA's IT hallways -- for hardware -- opened Oct. 1. It helps contracting officers get the most functionality for their money and allows buyers to hone their choices by zeroing in on pricing and configuration specifics.

GSA officials have said the hallway development team found the scope of IT categories so broad that they broke them into a series of subcategories for hardware and software.

According to Davie, the agency's next-generation telecommunications strategy, Network Services 2020, could fall into a category of its own. In response to a question about NS2020, Davie said it would be treated in much the same way as its predecessor, Networx.

"The telecommunications category is more mature than other areas," she added.

GSA has a great deal of experience with bulk telecom services. In April, officials said they would release a draft request for proposals for enterprise infrastructure services in the first quarter of 2015, with a final solicitation due in the third quarter of that year.

At the time, GSA asked potential vendors specific questions about cybersecurity, operational support systems, pricing and equipment that were in line with the agency's categorization efforts. GSA's April white paper said the NS2020 transition strategy involves a portfolio of pre-competed contracts with current and emerging network services that will reduce or eliminate the need for agencies to engage in duplicative acquisition efforts.

Page and Davie said the overall aim of CAP and the category hallways is not to limit pricing for vendors or restrict options for buyers, as some critics have said, but to make decisions by both groups easier and more efficient.

"The government has big problems to solve, like world peace," Page said. "We don't need 250 groups trying to solve how to buy office products."

About the Author

Mark Rockwell is a senior staff writer at FCW, whose beat focuses on acquisition, the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Energy.

Before joining FCW, Rockwell was Washington correspondent for Government Security News, where he covered all aspects of homeland security from IT to detection dogs and border security. Over the last 25 years in Washington as a reporter, editor and correspondent, he has covered an increasingly wide array of high-tech issues for publications like Communications Week, Internet Week, Fiber Optics News, tele.com magazine and Wireless Week.

Rockwell received a Jesse H. Neal Award for his work covering telecommunications issues, and is a graduate of James Madison University.

Click here for previous articles by Rockwell. Contact him at mrockwell@fcw.com or follow him on Twitter at @MRockwell4.


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