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Strategic Sourcing: GSA’s Path of Choice

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Although the federal government will increase the importance of price when awarding contracts for goods and services in an upcoming era of tightened budgets, the government’s lead agency for acquiring resources sees this new era as a “sweet spot” for it to get agencies good value for their purchases according to Federal Acquisition Service Commissioner Steven Kempf.

Kempf told Government Executive he believes the General Services Administration is well-positioned to help federal agencies leverage their resources and help reduce costs when purchasing goods and services. The GSA is using strategic sourcing as its tool to cut costs of supplies, wireless plans, printers and telecommuting according to Charles Clark’s story.

The Office of Federal Procurement Policy introduced strategic sourcing in 2005 to encourage multiple agencies to purchase office supplies and other products on one contract vehicle in an effort to cut costs. The Federal Strategic Sourcing Initiative intends to increase collaboration between the private and public sectors in developing solutions and sharing best practices.

While the Government Accountability Office has questioned GSA’s methods for measuring the savings, GAO said in a December report that interagency purchases cut the government’s spending on printing products when purchases were made on GSA’s multiple award schedule program.

There has been movement on several fronts in Washington to further encourage strategic sourcing. In September, the OFPP directed agencies to develop business cases for establishing or renewing either a governmentwide, multiagency or interagency contract.

OFPP said this measure would prevent duplication of contracts and former OFPP Administrator Dan Gordon said the measure would help agencies better determine if their needs require a new contract or if needs could be met using an existing contract.

Gordon, who left the White House at the end of December, focused much of his tenure on strengthening the federal acquisition workforce to help the federal government better leverage its buying power. The GSA has made use of blanket purchase agreements for acquiring technology products.

“You see the results in the office supplies strategic sourcing effort: agencies looked at GSA’s offerings, and concluded that GSA was offering what they needed at low prices,” Gordon said to Federal News Radio.

In November, President Obama issued an executive order directing agencies to limit technology devices issued to employees and recommending agencies use the FSSI to acquire printing devices and services.

There are still some obstacles in GSA’s path for governmentwide contracts. According to GovExec’s list of agencies participating in the strategic sourcing initiative, 90 federal entities use GSA’s domestic shipping and delivery services and 60 use GSA’s office supplies plan.

However, while only 24 entities use GSA’s print managing tool, 20 use its wireless devices plan and six use its expense management service for telecommunications.

“Over the last 10 years, agencies received more sources and had more in-house capability to do things, so they got used to it,” Kempf said, adding that agency pride may explain the hesitancy.

Now those sources are drying up and agencies to taking a new approach to acquisition, with GSA leading the way.

“If the agencies ever needed a best friend, now is the time,” Kempf said.

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