On-Line Shopping

February 1996


On-Line Shopping

Electronic Commerce Speeds Federal Acquisitions.

An increasing number of agencies are turning to electronic shopping malls for their procurement needs. On-line ordering systems enable federal shoppers to quickly compare prices, check if products are compliant with certain standards and easily document all transactions. Many products ordered electronically can be shipped within 24 hours-meaning agencies can keep low inventories and eliminate warehouses. And people processing purchase orders no longer have to deal with problems such as illegible handwriting, transposed product numbers or orders placed from out-of-date catalogs.

"We have revolutionized the ability of federal employees around the world to acquire goods and services," says William Gormley, assistant commissioner of the Federal Supply Service's Office of Acquisition. "Now everyone from a State Department executive in Ethiopia to a GSA employee in Washington can easily place orders. It's as simple as surfing the Internet."

The Federal Supply Service recently set up its own on-line procurement system, known as GSA Advantage (http://www.gsa.gov). The system offers 4 million products from 7,000 vendors on 120 government schedules. Buyers can purchase everything from paper clips to automobiles using the user-friendly, point-and-click ordering system. Purchases can be charged on government credit cards.

Like GSA Advantage, the Navy's Information Technology Electronic Commerce Direct Web site ( incorporates a virtual shopping mall theme. Users click on an elevator icon can be clicked to move through different floors of products from indefinite-delivery, indefinite-quantity contracts such as Desktop IV.

The Air Force's Electronic Systems Group offers a country store motif (http://www.hanscom.af.mil/Hanscom/Groups/Cstore) while the Defense Information Systems Agency's Electronic Shopping System ( provides on-line availability of catalogs from dozens of vendors. In addition, several major government resellers, such as Government Technology Services Inc. (http://www.gtsi.com), have introduced procurement-related home pages on the Internet.

On-line ordering systems have become so popular that they even are being used by troops in Bosnia to order supplies such as pharmaceuticals and communications gear. The Defense Department recently set up a dedicated satellite so contracting officers in the field could place orders over the government's Federal Acquisition Network.

The White House predicts on-line ordering systems will help federal buyers cut procurement costs by at least 10 percent and speed delivery times by a third.

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