Acquisition Reforms at A Glance

Next time you need to purchase services or products, check this list before you contact the contracting office. Make sure you know the fastest and easiest ways to buy.

Commercial Items

The government now prefers to buy on the commercial market the same goods and services used by the general public.

  • Government buyers and users are expected to do market research to find commercial solutions to their needs. Contracts should specify what users want, not how to produce or do it.
  • Agencies also are expected to conduct business on line whenever possible. The General Services Administration predicts it will have more than 4 million items from more than 6,000 vendors on its 130 multiple award schedules on the GSA Advantage! World Wide Web home page by October. Many agencies already post their procurements on the Web and on FACNET (Federal Acquisition Computer Network) without paper solicitations.

Simple Procedures

A less complicated process for soliciting and evaluating bids (simplified acquisition procedure) is available for purchases below a threshold of $100,000. This includes relief from the requirement to publish notification of the solicitation in the Commerce Business Daily. Agencies no longer need to seek more than three offers for these simplified acquisitions.

Purchase Cards

Micro-purchases worth less than $2,500 should be made using the IMPAC government purchase card without going through contracting offices. As long as prices are reasonable, such purchases are exempt from competition, small business set-aside and Buy American requirements. You can use the card for purchases of up to $100,000 with agency authorization.

Past Performance

It's relevant and appropriate to consider a contractor's past performance in deciding whether the firm should receive future work and it's required for contracts worth $1 million or more. Low cost does not guarantee best value for the government.

Fewer Competitors, Faster Race

Contract officers now can narrow the field of competitors in negotiated procurements in order to save you, your agency, and vendors time and money. In multi-phase selections, agencies can discourage some bidders based on technical merit and past performance.

Talk Is Cheap

Reform encourages discussions with the private sector before soliciting bids. Issuing draft requests for proposal, holding meetings with interested vendors, talking with vendors one-on-one and using oral contract proposals are approved ways to elicit innovative and cost-effective proposals. It's also OK to review existing product literature in place of unique technical proposals and to test equipment rather than simply reviewing proposals.

Task Orders Agencies can use indefinite-delivery, indefinite-quantity multiple award task order contracts to acquire good and services. A number of agencies have opened their task order contracts to other agencies for a fee. Check these contracts before initiating a procurement; they can be cheaper and faster than conducting an acquisition from scratch.

Blanket Purchase Agreements

The General Services Administration is encouraging agencies to issue blanket purchase agreements (BPAs) under its multiple award schedules, arguing BPAs are faster and cheaper than starting from scratch with new indefinite delivery/indefinite quantity contracts.

Bye, Bye Brooks Act

GSA no longer has central authority over information technology (IT) procurements. The Office of Management and Budget will track, analyze and evaluate all capital investments, including large IT systems. Agencies must evaluate requests for major IT spending using outcome-based planning. These management changes are expected to cut agency IT costs by 5 percent a year.

Bytes in Bits

Major information technology buys should be broken into small bites, each providing a workable product in pursuit of the overall IT system and none dependent on any later increment.

Quelling Protests

Alternative dispute resolution is becoming the favored way for handling contractor bid protests. These procedures can be faster and cheaper than the formal process.

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