Make the Multiple Award Schedules great again!

This column was originally published on Roger Waldron’s blog at The Coalition for Government Procurement and was republished here with permission from the author.

Over the years, the GSA Multiple Award Schedule (MAS) program has been the leading federal market facilitator, bringing together commercial firms (small, medium, and large) and customer agencies. The MAS program has provided agencies with cost-effective, streamlined access to best value commercial services, products and solutions.

In turn, small, medium, and large businesses were provided streamlined, efficient, and effective opportunities to compete, win, and deliver best value mission support for customer agencies and the American people.

Over the last decade, the focus of the MAS program appears to have been evolving from that of a competitive market facilitator to a platform for centralizing government processes. This evolution has manifested itself in policy initiatives and activities, such as strategic sourcing, category management, and transactional data reporting.

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Despite good intentions, these initiatives have resulted in costly, time-consuming contracting and reporting requirements for both contractors and contracting officials. Interestingly, as OMB and GSA have moved towards centralization, the Department of Defense, as mandated by Congress, has taken steps to decentralize, ceding to the services increased procurement autonomy for their requirements.

The MAS program has been, and can be, a dynamic federal marketplace for commercial services, products and solutions, allowing the government to access state-of-the-art innovation as it becomes available. At its best, the MAS program allows customer agencies to focus on articulating and defining competition-specific requirements through streamlined task and delivery order competitions and Blanket Purchase Agreements (BPAs).

Streamlined processes provide agencies and contractors with the strategic opportunity to focus on requirements and competition, rather than administrative requirements.

There is elegance, efficiency, and power in simplicity, and, in this age of rapidly evolving technology and program needs for short purchasing timeframes, simplicity is desperately needed to make the government more effective that it has been.  Indeed, it is high time we return simplicity and efficiency to the MAS program and allow the power of the commercial market to be leveraged by the government in service to the American people.

To this end, the Coalition sets forth the following recommendations to make the MAS program great again:

  • Resurrect, embrace and utilize the GSA Administrator’s broad statutory authority for the management and operation of the MAS program to innovate and streamline the program.
  • Establish a Multiple Award Chief Procurement Officer responsible for overall management and implementation of policies, procedures, and systems across the program.
  • Create a dynamic, real-time electronic marketplace, evolving existing GSA tools, like GSA Advantage, into a holistic, transparent, user-friendly platform that is easily interoperable with commercial contractor systems.
  • Focus on enhancing transparency and competition at the task and delivery order level, and eliminate burdens at the contract level. Negotiate salient terms and conditions up front in the process, and maximize order competition to allow the market to drive the most fair and reasonable price.  This approach carries with it the benefit of reducing the need for audit, which reduces compliance costs, and, where audits are conducted, permits them to be focused internally on purchasing decisions.
  • Enhance and embrace use of single-award BPAs for agencies seeking to leverage requirements and associated commitments for good deals.
  • Simplify the ordering procedures in FAR 8.4.
  • Eliminate duplicative SINs, which add cost and administrative burden to commercial contracting, across all schedules, and allow contractors to propose, manage, and market their services and products consistent with their commercial practices.
  • Effectively implement flexible Order Level Materials (e., “ODCS”) capability across all schedules to increase the value and utility of the system to user agencies.
  • Maintain continuous open seasons across all schedules, including reopening all SINs under Schedule 75, to assure the platform stays current with market offerings.
  • Terminate the Transactional Data Reporting initiative and eliminate the Price Reduction Clause. Both are non-commercial overlays on the commercial buying process and are obviated by reliance on competitive market forces. As constructed, they add costly purchasing delay and administrative activity, which impede access to market innovation and undermine competition.
  • Rescind the Commercial Supplier Agreement Deviation, which is inconsistent the mandate under current law to utilize commercial terms and conditions to the maximum extent practicable, and truly utilize commercial terms and conditions to the maximum extent practicable.
  • Vest Federal Acquisition Service (FAS) managers with the authority and backing to manage their programs.
  • Ensure the consistent application of procurement policy across the MAS centers and by contracting officers interfacing with MAS contractors.
  • Reestablish the GSA Expo to improve training of GSA customers and contractors on the use of GSA’s procurement programs.

It is critical for the government to access innovation if it is to meet the challenges that face this nation.  The most efficient means to do so is to eliminate its own barriers to leveraging appropriately the terms, conditions, services, and products of the commercial market.

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Coalition members sincerely want to make the Multiple Award Schedules successful because, by doing so, they believe they will help the government maximize value and service to their fellow citizens.  We look forward to working with all stakeholders to create a dynamic 21st-century MAS program built on transparency, competition, and access to the commercial marketplace.


Roger Waldron is the president of the Coalition for Government Procurement, and host of Off the Shelf on Federal News Radio.