CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated the changes to the Simplified Acquisition Threshold and the Micro-purchase threshold. The story was updated on Nov. 16.
If you are keeping score at home, chalk one up for industry in the battle to keep Amazon from dominating how agencies buy commercial products. But don’t expect this to be the final score by far.
The Senate convinced the House to modify the so-called “Amazon” amendment in the 2018 National Defense Authorization bill during the conference negotiations. And industry is pleased.
The NDAA includes the provision to set up more than one online marketplace for agencies to buy commercial products using a two-year phased-in approach.
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The bill would require the General Services Administration to develop an implementation plan and schedule within 90 days of the act becoming law. Then a year later, GSA and the Office of Management and Budget should recommend changes to laws to ensure the effective implementation of the online marketplaces, as well as what products should be included in the pilot, a review of standard terms and conditions, including small business and other similar requirements, and what security features are needed to protect data.
Finally, two years after the bill becomes law, GSA and OMB will issue guidance to create the marketplace.
This is a much different approach than what the House initially wrote in the NDAA.
Trey Hodgkins, the senior vice president for the IT Alliance for Public Sector, said lawmakers addressed many of the questions about how the use of online commercial marketplaces would work.
“This establishes a thoughtful approach to creating this capability while ensuring that risks for the government and vendors are fully assessed,” Hodgkins said in an email to Federal News Radio. “Though the provision affords ample time to make these assessments and establish a viable contract, we view these deadlines as caps and we will be encouraging the administrator at GSA to put this option in place expeditiously.”
ITAPS recommended to the Senate Armed Services Committee staff members that technology and communications products be exempted from the initial pilot in the online marketplace.
And because the NDAA now calls on GSA to assess what products would make sense for the online marketplace, ITAPS will have time to continue to drive home its concerns.
Roger Waldron, president of the Coalition for Government Procurement, said the thoughtful and phased-in approach to the online marketplace effort makes more sense than launching it immediately.
“It’s important to see how the government can leverage commercial technologies like e-commerce but also understand how it can be effectively leveraged in a balanced way given all the different stakeholders and touch points when you are dealing with the government. Something like this approach was imperative and Congress recognized that,” he said. “The need to balance the government’s requirements with commercial buying desires requires a thoughtful process to figure it out. They also recognized the critical role data plays. The new provision prohibits commercial providers from using the data for any competitive advantage, and it recognizes there could be an inherent conflict of interest between the marketplace provider and the product provider.”
Experts say over the next few years, House lawmakers and/or Amazon will try to change the 2018 NDAA to speed up the timeline or push through wholesale changes to the online marketplace to get it stood up much more quickly.
This is an estimated $5 billion market, so the lobbyists probably already are working the 2019 NDAA process.
Along with the so-called “Amazon” provision, the conference report included several other interesting acquisition provisions: