The General Services Administration and the Treasury Department are trying to reinvigorate the SmartBUY initiative, yet again.
GSA and Treasury issued a request for information Nov. 8 asking vendors to answer 10 questions about how to improve the enterprise software licensing initiative, known as SmartBUY. The RFI is part of a plan is to move SmartBUY under the Federal Strategic Sourcing Initiative.
“FSSI SmartBUY has gained support from a software advisory team consisting of agency representatives that comprise over 80 percent of the total federal spend on commercial off-the-shelf software,” the RFI stated. “The management of federal IT software spend currently is a laborious process for government agencies that involves complex purchasing procedures for both agencies and vendors.”
The RFI marks at least the third attempt to get agencies to use SmartBUY. Less than a year after it first launched, GSA changed the program to be more flexible to meet agency needs. Then in 2004, after a year into the program, GSA tried to focus on agency-specific needs instead of the applications that were used widely across agencies, and offered agencies the ability to request a waiver to buy software outside of SmartBUY.
GSA also started working more closely with the Defense Department’s Enterprise Software Initiative (ESI) in 2005.
SmartBUY has struggled with widespread adoption
The Office of Management and Budget launched SmartBUY in 2003, but it has struggled over the years to get widespread adoption. The program includes 38 different contracts for popular software titles such as Oracle, VMWare and Symantec. But despite the assortment of options, agencies have not flocked to the program.
OMB reported in the fiscal 2008 agencies could save about $100 million a year through SmartBUY. There has been little mention of the program and its potential for savings since then.
Among the questions the new RFI asks industry to comment on are:
What suggestions do you have to help improve efficiency in awarding a blanket purchase agreement?
What major administrative hurdles do you see that prevent contracting efficiencies between agencies and yourself?
What terms in a BPA would help lower your internal costs?
Based on your experiences, do you believe the role of software maintenance services will change as the federal IT budgets constrict?
Vendors have until Dec. 11 to respond.
Part of broader push on strategic sourcing
Moving SmartBUY under FSSI is part of the administration’s efforts to push for more strategic sourcing. The Government Accountability Office in October found agencies are missing the opportunity to save billions through consolidating contracts.
Joe Jordan, the administrator of the Office of Federal Procurement Policy, also said last month he wants to move 10 more common products and services under FSSI, and GSA will lead contracting effort. OMB is considering making the use of strategic sourcing contracts mandatory.
Additionally, draft legislation from Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), chairman of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee, also would try to strengthen FSSI by the creation of a Federal Commodity Information Technology Acquisition Center to coordinate the buying of commodity IT products to get the lowest cost possible.
Issa also is calling for a governmentwide spending analysis on software products or services to support decisions for strategic sourcing under the federal strategic-sourcing program. OMB also would be required to identify and assess the use of commodity IT in agencies and create a uniform classification system for commodity IT within 180 days of the bill becoming law.
There is growing concern about the impact strategic sourcing will have on small businesses and whether it really saves the government money or limits competition so agencies end up spending more money.
Francis Rose is the host of In Depth, which airs weekdays from 8-10 a.m. on 1500 AM in the Washington, D.C. metro area and online everywhere. Francis has covered all three branches of the federal government as a broadcast journalist since 1998. He joined Federal News Radio in 2006, and launched In Depth in 2008 as a daily show focused on connecting federal executives to the information they need to do their jobs better.