Continuing the Dialogue is More than Checking the Box!

In Roger’s absence we’d like to build on a previous blog post written by him on the importance of robust communication to maintain a federal acquisition system that responds to the needs of federal agencies, contractors and taxpayers. As GSA develops strategic sourcing vehicles and restructures it Multiple Award Schedule contract vehicles, now more than ever the message that communication requires more than checking a box, resonates with Coalition members.

Thought No. 10: Myth-Busters – Continuing the Dialogue is More than Checking the Box! Given the current budgetary challenges we face, continuing the dialogue among all stakeholders on key acquisition policies, procedures and programs is vital to improving the efficiency and effectiveness of the procurement system. Over the last decade we have seen the growing unease and corresponding reluctance on the part of federal acquisition professionals to take advantage of the communication tools/opportunities available to them as part of the acquisition process. At the same time it is fair to say that companies have grown increasingly frustrated with the lack of communication. To its credit the Administration recognized this unhealthy trend and responded with the Office of Federal Procurement Policy Myth-Buster’s memorandum. Indeed, the “Myth-Busters” memorandum is fundamentally consistent with the President’s focus on transparency in government. What can be more transparent than engaging in dialogue with companies regarding key procurements and programs that support agency missions?

As the central procurement arm of the federal government, the General Services Administration (GSA) is “strategically positioned” to enhance and improve communications among all stakeholders in the procurement system. GSA provides the framework for customer agencies and contractors to work together to support the mission. At the intersection between customers and contractors, GSA can have a profound impact on improving communication and outcomes for all. GSA has been taking steps to increase engagement with its customer base and contractors regarding its new mission statement.

Indeed On May 22nd, GSA’s management participated in the GSA Business Roundtable, hosted by the Coalition. This event provided an opportunity for a cross-cutting dialogue with Coalition members regarding GSA’s new mission statement and government-wide acquisition programs. It was an opportunity to establish an ongoing conversation that focuses on improving the efficiency, effectiveness and openness of GSA‘s procurement programs. The Coalition would like to see that type of two way conversations become an ingrained part of each new acquisition program the agency develops. GSA is heading in the right direction, but has yet to arrive. The agency extensively uses GSA interact and other media to announce changes and solicit comments on post draft documents. Recurring themes have developed across industry responses:

  • To get good pricing the government must have a good statement of requirements and some level of commitment by customer agencies
  • Data reporting and other government unique terms add costs to contractors and those costs will ultimately be passed on to federal customers and taxpayers

While GSA has demonstrated a willingness to adopt and accommodate some changes it has yet to incorporated fundamental strategies that would simplify processes and incorporate commercial practices that would actually lower cost and improve service. These issues strike at the core of the relationship between the government and its contractors. Addressing these fundamental issues is critical to maintaining an active contractor base that provides the level of competition which agency customers anticipate at task order level.

The Coalition believes that GSA’s increased use of commercial practices would significantly contribute to achieving the GSA Administrator’s strategic business goal of capturing 17% market share. We appreciate the opportunity to work with GSA to incorporate changes that work for government, industry and taxpayers.

Carolyn Alston

Vice President & General Counsel

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