From the GSA Trenches: GSA Digest: Turning Obstacles into Awards

June 7, 2021

Aronson’s seasoned team of GSA experts works with contractors to navigate the complexities of GSA Schedule contracting. We’re here to help contractors make better strategic decisions to maximize government sales in alignment with their short- and long-term goals. Our GSA digest is filled with helpful tips based upon our GSA interactions, negotiations, and successes. Our goal for sharing these updates is to assist contractors in better understanding how to profitably utilize the GSA Schedule and avoid compliance pitfalls. If you are experiencing these or other GSA Schedule contract management challenges, contact Aronson to see how we can help you overcome them!

1. Forewarned is Forearmed:

GSA is exploring at all avenues to cut Schedule pricing. GSA Schedule modification submissions are increasingly triggering across the board reevaluations of awarded pricing – resulting in lowered contractor prices. During the evaluation of modifications such as adding anything; option renewals; and revising terms and conditions – contracting officers are increasingly looking for opportunities to significantly lower prices. Some contracting officers have cited use of a new GSA Operational Manual that directs contracting officers to renegotiate pricing during any contract action.

Forcing prices to fall within an artificial range ignores the significant business and economic differentiators involved in developing rates (geographic, type of service, salary and benefit costs, etc.). Top-tier contractors who employ highly qualified personnel could suffer profit loss. Contractors are being strong-armed into negotiations that are inconsistent with GSAR 538.270-1 and constitute disparate treatment.

Be prepared – do your own market research. Contractors can see competitor pricing on the government’s Contract-Awarded Labor Category (CALC) pricing tool. Stephanie Shutt, Director of GSA’s Multiple Award Schedule Program Management Office, advised that “generic” labor categories can lead contracting officers to compare contractor prices to similarly named, but functionally different, labor categories with lower pricing. Consider if more specific or unique labor category naming can differentiate your offerings for buyers, and protect your pricing. Products contractors can conduct similar market research in GSA Advantage.

Additionally, Stephanie Shutt advises contractors to ask Contracting Officers to explain the source of their comparative market data. If the data does not connect to the awarded Commercial Sales Practices / Basis of Award (CSP/BOA), the CALC pricing tool, or industry norms, contractors should consider elevating the issue to GSA management.

Aronson provides GSA Schedule contract management, including modifications to existing contracts and negotiations with GSA. We help contractors get the best rates to ensure profitability and the provision of their best services/products to government buyers. If you find your GSA contract needs updates, reach out to Aronson’s team of GSA experts today.

2. Scope and Visibility:

Scenario: You lost the award or bid protest. Why? Because your GSA Schedule Special Item Numbers (SINs) and offerings don’t reflect all of your capabilities – and your competitor’s did. Given the events of the last 18 months, the Federal Government is hot to spend money on Cyber Security and Healthcare IT. You may be quick to respond to these RFPs if you have the capabilities to do the work, but that may not be enough if you don’t have the right SINs on your GSA Multiple Award Schedule (MAS/FSS) contract.

Each of these areas fall under specific SINs on the GSA Schedule: 54151HACS Highly Adaptive Cybersecurity Services (HACS) and 54151HEAL Health Information Technology Services. Not having the right SINs and qualifications can leave a contractor vulnerable to protests from competitors at the task order level when the scope of awarded SINs and labor categories are disputed. In fact, the GAO recently sustained a challenge to award of a GSA Schedule task order where the awardee’s quote represented it would provide services exceeding the scope of its underlying FSS contract.

Now may be the right time to considering adding relevant SINs to your contract. Combined, SINs 54151HACS and 54151HEAL have less than 1,000 contractors approved to provide services, compared to the 4x as many contractors approved under more general SIN 54151S Information Technology Professional Services.

Additionally, make sure that you self-certify in GSA eBuy for all appropriate subgroups to highlight your capabilities for buyers. The following SINs now have subgroups that are selectable in GSA eBuy and visible on GSA Advantage: 54151HACS, 561210FA, 541690E, 332311P, 532490P, 333241, 336999, 333318F, 335999, 325612, 325998, 325611, 517312, 54151S, 54151ECOM, 511210, 33411, 339940OS4, 541611, 562112, 541211, 522310, 541330ENG, 562910REM, 541930, 541614, 541620, 561621H, 339113LAB, 334515, 334516, 333997, 332439.

Contact Aronson’s GSA Schedule experts if you need help modifying your contract to reflect your current capabilities, so buyers can find you during their source selection and to avoid losing future bids or bid protests.