A new federal acquisition rule is seeking to ensure enough competition for purchases made through General Services Administration schedules.
GSA schedules are long-term programs meant to make the buying process easier on federal agencies by pre-negotiating prices and other terms. Multiple companies can hold a spot on a schedule, but they must compete for individual orders, meaning they have to win twice to see actual work.
Earlier this month, the government issued a rule that ensures that all companies on a given schedule — schedules are sorted by type of purchase — are notified of each opportunity worth between $3,000 and $150,000. Opportunities worth more than $150,000 are already governed by traditional procurement regulations.
These contractors must be given the opportunity to to make an offer and have it considered by the contracting officer.
If the federal agency that is making a purchase from a schedule doesn’t notify all of the contractors, it must receive at least three proposals — or explain in writing why it did not receive three — before making a decision.
The rule is a mixed bag for contractors, said John G. Horan, a partner at McKenna Long & Aldridge. Some companies that already have a particular contract may face more competition, but at the same time, these companies may see more opportunities to win work.
Still, Horan said the rule will likely slow the process.
“The whole idea behind GSA schedule contracts is to streamline the purchasing process,” he said. “They’re complicating the process.”
The rule has already been in place for the Defense Department, said Alan Chvotkin, executive vice president and counsel for the Professional Services Council, an industry group.
There, it “turned out not to be as big an administrative hurdle” or as serious a complicating factor for contractors as PSC had anticipated, he said.
“This is not a big deal,” he said. “It’ll take a little bit of adjustment for some of the civilian agencies [but] from an operational standpoint, this is not hard to do.”