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New Acquisition Tool Allows Agencies to Comparison Shop

Contractors and interested members of the pubic will have access to more procurement data as well.

Contractors and interested members of the public may now use the online Acquisition Gateway to view a slice of agency procurement data, the General Services Administration announced.

The new tool advances the Obama Administration’s push, launched in December 2014, to remove procurement duplication across government through category management.

Agencies are encouraged to “act as one” and use the Acquisition Gateway to find side-by-side comparisons of different agency solutions for common procurement challenges such as cloud computing and logistics. The idea is to let agency purchasers connect with like-minded professionals and explore the 10 “hallways” of products and services.

The gateway offers category-related articles produced by federal employees, templates, market-research tools, and prices-paid data organized along the steps of the acquisition life cycle. Opening it to the public was done in the “spirit of data transparency,” GSA said.

“The White House was hugely supportive of this incredibly impressive effort,” Anne Rung, administrator of the Office of Federal Procurement Policy, said following a demonstration for industry employees and reporters last week. “This is truly meant to be a new tool for all of government, not just GSA, to spur growth and greater transparency and competition” while bringing together government and industry partners, she said. “We heard overwhelmingly from industry that they wanted to play a role.”

The goal is to have the tool used by 10,000 acquisition workforce employees by the end of this year, Rung said, stressing that the materials are “neutral,” meaning free of any agency program bias. Metrics for measuring success will include budget savings, smarter information technology efforts, reduced duplication and “meeting or exceeding” small business contracting goals, she said.

“The public will have access to as much of the Acquisition Gateway as possible and will experience the same user-centric design as federal users,” said Tom Sharpe, commissioner of GSA’s Federal Acquisition Service. “The gateway will enable that access while protecting the integrity of critical federal data and the security of private information supplied by contractors and others.”

Among the items the gateway offers are a general “solutions finder” tool, a library of past statements of work, news and events feeds, a “buy online” button and a button that allows users to contribute and share.

“Although the Acquisition Gateway’s primary stakeholder is the federal user, publicity about the tool garnered attention from citizens, the media, industry, government contractors, third-party consultants, and state and local governments,” said Laura Stanton, acting director of strategy management for GSA’s Federal Acquisition Service. “Operational transparency is one of the gateway’s underlying principles, and a public view has been part of the gateway plan since day one.”

The gateway’s entire contents were reviewed by GSA’s Freedom of Information Act Division and the Office of General Counsel to ensure their release would not harm national defense or foreign policy, individual privacy interests, business proprietary interests or governmental efficiency, GSA said. “The gateway content that was analyzed was held to the same releasability legal standards as a FOIA request.”

Similar reviews were performed by Senior Procurement Executives from each agency that provided content for the gateway. They determined what was appropriate for the public portion of the site. Among those items available only to agency employees using their access cards are contracts, community feeds, an electronic purchasing feature, and a portal showing prices paid.

Planners said they hope the site will expand so that within three to six months it will be “very different in appearance and capacity.”

(Image via JMiks/Shutterstock.com)

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