The Future of GSA: A Story of Transformation, Part One

April 30, 2019

The General Services Administration (GSA) recently made an important announcement about its schedules program and provided a progress update on Phase II of the commercial platform initiative. GSA and the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) hosted a Federal Marketplace Industry Day to lay out the agencies’ vision for the future of the schedules program and the commercial platform initiative. GSA Administrator Emily Murphy summed up GSA’s actions as part of the agency’s effort to “modernize, simplify, and make it . . . just easier to do business with the federal government.”

In the first of a two-part series, we will discuss GSA’s plan to consolidate the 24 GSA Multiple Award Schedules (MAS) into a single, comprehensive schedule. One of GSA’s goals of the consolidation of GSA schedules is to simplify processes for contractors and customers who purchase from the schedules. Background information on this initiative can be found here.

During Industry Day, some key updates were announced:

  • As part of Phase 1, GSA will be releasing a new single schedule solicitation and closing off all existing schedules to new offers by the end of this fiscal year (FY19).
  • In January 2020, GSA will commence Phase 2 and start issuing mandatory modifications to convert existing single-schedule contract holders to the new contract and conform to the new terms and conditions.
  • After the mandatory modifications are put in place, Phase 3 will begin. Phase 3 will be more complex, as it involves contractors with multiple schedule contracts and could require consolidation of disparate terms and conditions. GSA plans to seek industry input on the best way to accomplish this phase.

Industry professionals voiced two primary concerns about the consolidation during the industry day. A contractor with four schedule contracts asked how the varying regulations in different schedules will be incorporated into the new terms and conditions. Administrator Murphy acknowledged that thorough studies and work are in progress to map the variances among terms and conditions, discover why the variations exist, and figure out the best combination that will continue to work for all contractors. This concern is the reason that the consolidation of contractors with multiple schedules will be tackled in Phase 3.

Another common concern is whether contracting officers who currently specialize in specific schedules will have the necessary experience and knowledge to manage a universal schedule. GSA promised that contracting officers will have access to training and resources to effectively administer contracts. It is GSA’s hope that the consolidation will also bring more consistency across all GSA Schedule centers and among contracting officers. Considering the inconsistency that currently exists, even within Acquisition Centers, the industry will warmly welcome these efforts to improve unity among GSA’s contracting professionals.

Stephanie Shutt, Director of the MAS Program Management Office, also commented on the consolidation phases. She noted that the Phase 1 process includes using an implementation team from GSA to review terms, conditions, and Special Item Numbers (SINs) across all schedules to determine their applicability in a unified solicitation. GSA anticipates that the mandatory modifications issued during Phase 1 will begin to simplify GSA terms and conditions. We’ll have to wait and see the full effect of this change.

Shutt added that she receives a great deal of questions regarding Cooperative Purchasing, which allows state and local governments to purchase from certain schedules, and whether it will be extended across the entire consolidated schedule. Shutt confirmed that Cooperative Purchasing will not change with the consolidation, due to specific “regulatory and legislative restrictions.”

A panel of industry experts who spoke at the industry day were in favor of the move to a consolidated Schedule, but expressed concern that the Price Reductions Clause (PRC) still needs to be addressed. Larry Allen of Allen Federal Business Partners described the PRC as “an anachronism,” adding that the clause “has no place in a 21st century [MAS] Program.” Panel members agreed that the PRC limits the market by discouraging companies from selling new and innovative products to the federal government.

As GSA moves forward with consolidation plans, GSA contractors and all industry stakeholders should follow the process closely in order to adjust to this major change in the GSA Schedule program.

For questions, please contact Shawne Carroll at 240.364.2716.