GSA starts second phase of contract streamlining program

Initiative will be expanded to include more contracts and accept electronic submissions.

The General Services Administration has started the second part of an initiative to speed up the process of awarding schedule contracts, tripling the scope of the program and allowing for electronic submission of offers.

The goal of the Multiple Award Schedule Express program is to reduce the time it takes to award companies a place on GSA schedules -- lists of prenegotiated contracts available for use across government -- to 30 days. It has taken companies as long as 120 days to get on the schedule.

Speeding up the schedule contracting process has been one of GSA Administrator Lurita Doan's primary initiatives.

"I presented GSA with a tall order when I promised we would make these improvements," Doan said in a statement. "I'm proud to announce that during [the first phase] of the [program], GSA has met the goal of awarding [multiple award schedule] contracts to eligible vendors in 30 days."

During the first segment of the initiative GSA awarded seven contracts, all in less than 30 days. Michael Sade, assistant commissioner for GSA's Office of Acquisition Management, said the program averaged just over 20 days in awarding those contracts, compared to an average of 88 days for schedule contracts overall.

While the scope of phase one was limited, covering only five product schedules and resulting in only seven contracts, Sade said the program will really establish itself in the second phase. The agency hopes to expand the program to cover all 37 of its multiple award schedules.

The first segment was aimed at testing a reengineered award process and a piece of technology on a limited number of cases, Sade said.

The technology, called the Schedule Program Express Evaluation Desk (SPEED), completes the initial review and qualification of offers and then notifies vendors if they meet the minimum criteria for consideration. If the vendor does not meet the criteria, SPEED presents other available options.

The technology plays a crucial role in enforcing the program's requirements. In order to participate, contractors must complete a "Pathway to Success" educational seminar, either by attending a live or Web-based presentation. The course provides general information on the GSA schedules program and details GSA's vendor expectations and how to build a schedule-specific business plan and submit proposals, among other things.

Vendors must have been in business for at least two years, have a minimum of $100,000 in cumulative sales and have a positive or neutral rating in the past performance system, Sade said. SPEED automatically notifies offering companies if they do not meet the requirements.

GSA hopes that by expediting the initial review and providing feedback early on in the process, it can reduce the time it takes to review, evaluate, negotiate and award schedule contracts.

In addition to the expansion of the program, the second phase will allow vendors to make offers electronically.

"We were not doing that before -- it was all paper-based," Sade said. "It makes it easier for industry to submit the offer, and we actually have electronic tracking so industry can go in and see where their proposal is in the process."

While the program simplifies the process for vendors, Sade said its most important goal is to make top-notch procurements.

"The primary objective was to ensure we had the latest and greatest supplies and services available for customer agencies," Sade said. "We wanted to streamline the process so we can make newer technology and services available to our customer agencies as well as help our industry partners in terms of getting into the federal market space."