GSA plans multivendor online buying pilot

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The General Services Administration is getting closer to launching a pilot version of a planned online buying portal designed to make certain kinds of federal acquisitions as easy as online shopping.

The portal, which was required by Congress in a recent defense bill, will test this year with multiple vendors, officials said on a conference call with reporters held to announce the delivery of a report on the plan to Congress.

"It has to be a multiple award" contract for the pilot, said Jeff Koses, GSA senior procurement executive. "There will have to be at least two or we won't award," he said. "We can't be locked into a single" supplier. "I don't know if Amazon will compete" in the pilot program, he said.

GSA's report to Congress details plans for setting up a pilot by the end of 2019 and includes the supporting research that guided GSA's decisions. The report also includes the recommendation that the micropurchase threshold -- the maximum that can be spent on the platform without going to a competitive procurement -- be raised to $25,000. GSA also wants five years to run a pilot. The increase and the pilot duration both must be approved legislatively.

The larger micropurchase level will allow more traffic and possibly be more attractive to suppliers, Koses said.

The report also announces GSA's intention to focus on a multisupplier marketplace. For now GSA is not going to attempt an e-procurement model that would require custom software and interfaces or an e-commerce model based on individual suppliers.

A draft request for proposals will hit the street in the third quarter of 2019 with a launch of the initial proof of concept pilot by the end of the year.

Agencies will initially be able to buy smaller "tactical, commercial" products such as office supplies, tools and hardware in the pilot, said Keil Todd, program manager, Commercial Platforms Initiative, in GSA's Federal Acquisition Services Office of Information Technology Category.

GSA is also contemplating making specialty items, such as health care and IT products, part of the plan, but not at this point. "We decided to hold off on specialty items" in favor of a more simplistic approach, Todd said.

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, 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 [email protected] or follow him on Twitter at @MRockwell4.


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