A welcome message from GSA

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.

Last week the Coalition was pleased to have Jack St. John, the Chief of Staff at the General Services Administration (GSA), address our 2017 Spring Conference.  St. John’s address marks a turning point for GSA and the procurement community.

The themes in his remarks echo recent executive orders on reducing regulatory burdens, streamlining and government reorganization.  Overall, it was a timely and important public policy statement regarding GSA acquisition programs.

St. John delivered a powerful message that GSA is going to be “proactively business-friendly” —improving the partnership with industry, focusing on streamlining the acquisition process, and reducing regulatory burdens, while maintaining sound policies.  He followed up that statement by announcing that GSA is making Transactional Data Reporting (TDR) optional, meaning that TDR would no longer be mandatory for new offers and when exercising the option to extend the term of a Schedules contract.  In addition, GSA is going to reexamine the burdens and benefits of TDR, and that reexamination will include seeking public input.

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The Coalition strongly supports the decision to make TDR fully optional.

As you know, during the rulemaking process for TDR, the Coalition provided GSA with significant information regarding the administrative and compliance burdens associated with the new reporting requirement.  Thus, we hope GSA’s reexamination will include an assessment of the burdens and benefits of TDR, and we stand ready to provide supplemental information and comment to GSA in this effort.

St. John also highlighted the decision to reopen Schedule 75 for Office Supplies and Services, which has been closed to new offers since 2010, an important statement regarding increasing access to dynamic pricing, competition and innovation from the commercial marketplace.  He also outlined the goals GSA has for consolidating and streamlining the Professional Services Schedule (PSS) to increase the efficiency and effectiveness of the schedule for customer agencies and industry partners.

Here again, the Coalition strongly supports GSA’s streamlining efforts and sees them as an example to be leveraged for further streamlining across the entire Multiple Award Schedule (MAS) program.

Currently, the streamlined draft Professional Services Schedule (PSS) solicitation is out for public comment.  Comments are due Friday, May 26.

Here are three structural recommendations/reforms that will improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the PSS to support customer agency missions and promote sound business opportunities for GSA’s industry partners:

  1. Implement “Other Direct Costs (ODCs),” or “Order Level Materials (OLMs)” on the PSS. Including ODCs functionality on MAS contracts will increase opportunities for customer agencies to acquire, and industry partners to provide, best value comprehensive service solutions.  MAS contracts continue to remain at a competitive disadvantage due to the lack of ODCs at the task order level, which is stunning when one considers that ODCs have been authorized under the Federal Acquisition Regulation for close to a decade!  To the best of our knowledge, the MAS program remains the only commercial item contracting program that affirmatively prohibits ODCs.  GSA should immediately issue the final GSAR rule implementing ODCs/OLMs.
  2.  Rescind the current Commercial Supplier Agreement (CSA) Deviation. Rescinding the current CSA deviation is a proactively business-friendly act that also happens to be consistent with the FAR and the Federal Acquisition Streamlining Act! It would remove barriers to the Federal market and return the MAS program to language that properly allocates risk consistent with the commercial market, which is consistent with the statutory requirement to adopt commercial terms and conditions to the maximum extent practicable.
  3. Incorporate cost reimbursement capability on MAS contracts. The statutory language authorizing GSA’s MAS program does not address or prohibit cost reimbursement contracting. This action would be a game changer, directly addressing contract duplication by reducing the need/demand to create separate, cost reimbursement contract vehicles.  GSA should couple this effort with overall reform of the MAS pricing policy, moving to a dynamic pricing model for commercial items that reduces administrative costs.  Such an approach would efficiently and effectively address the cross-cutting needs of GSA’s customer base.

As recognized by  St. John, the key to best value is reducing costly, outdated procurement processes through streamlining and regulatory reform.

The Coalition looks forward to working with GSA to improve its contract programs, including the MAS program, to deliver best value services, solutions and products to meet customer needs.


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