Intro: Are multiple award contracts out of control?

Thursday - 5/20/2010, 3:50pm EDT

By Jason Miller
Executive Editor
Federal News Radio

The proliferation of multiple award contracts across the government has reached a tipping point. The Office of Federal Procurement Policy is on a listening tour trying to figure out how to tame this unwieldy beast.

The administration's efforts come as several agencies, including the Homeland Security Department, the Department of Veterans Affairs and the Justice Department plan to recompete or issue new procurements for MACs in the coming year.

In our special report, Contract Overload, Federal News Radio's Jason Miller explores all sides of this complex issue.

What is the cost to industry to continually bid on these contracts? How do these costs get passed to agencies? Why do agencies believe they need their own MACs instead of using contracts provided by the General Services Administration, or other governmentwide acquisition contracts? What, if anything, can OFPP do to reel in the explosion in redundant contracts?

The acronyms of MACS are the ABCs of federal contracting. From GSA's Alliant to DHS's EAGLE to Justice ITSS to the Defense Department's Seaport-e and ITES and the list goes on and on.

When OFPP and Congress decided to implement the idea of multiple award contracts and schedules in the mid-1990s, the goal was to speed up the acquisition process, but not at the expense of competition. What has happened in the 15 years since is a surge of these contracts from agencies.

The reasons for the surge are many: agencies don't like paying fees to GSA and others for using their contracts; agencies say they have unique needs that existing contracts don't meet; agency contracting offices want to manage these large contracts because they are high profile and provide a lot of attention; and agencies don't like the customer service provided by GSA.

But at what cost to agencies and vendors is this proliferation happening? Many believe the duplication of contractors on these vehicles is significant. But analysis of four contracts shows the duplication is not as great as many think.

Federal News Radio looked at GSA's Alliant, DHS's EAGLE I, Justice ITSS-3 and Treasury TIPSS-3—all but Alliant are expected to be recompeted in the coming year—and found that the duplication s minimal. Only five vendors—CSC, General Dynamics, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman and Unisys—are on all four contracts. Nine others are on three of the four and eight are on two of the four contracts. This means 50 of the 72 vendors are only on one of the MACS.

View the chart here.

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