Industry presses GSA to keep Schedule 75 open

Thursday - 9/30/2010, 11:59am EDT

By Jason Miller
Executive Editor
Federal News Radio

The Coalition for Government Procurement is asking the General Services Administration to keep Schedule 75 open to new offerors.

In a letter to Steve Kempf, the commissioner of the Federal Acquisition Service, CGP, an industry association, says it strongly opposes the freezing of Schedule 75, which is for office supplies, because it will harm small businesses and there are better ways to address personnel and other issues.

"We are concerned about pressure from outside the agency to close schedules as a result of strategic sourcing awards," the letter states. "The Coalition is concerned that the willingness to close schedules could threaten GSA's win-win into a lose-lose proposition for federal buyers as well as contractors."

GSA announced Sept. 1 that it would stop accepting new vendors on Schedule 75 for two years. The agency said it wanted to analyze the environment for buying office supplies in light of a recent award to 15 companies under a blanket purchase agreement for office supplies. GSA expects to save more than $50 million a year because of the lower prices under the BPA.

CGP joins a growing chorus of vendors and associations expressing concern over this decision.

Chris Bates, the president of the National Office Products Association (NOPA), said that GSA's decision to temporarily suspend Schedule 75 caught his members by surprise.

"We have some significant concerns about scope of GSA's decision and the potential impact on our members," Bates said. "Our concerns deal with those current Schedule 75 contract holders and those whose contracts expire between now and the end of the moratorium. We also are asking for confirmation on how the freeze will affect dealer consortia arrangements. There are three or four of them that potentially could be impacted. There are more questions than answers at this point, and the short notice of the freeze is of concern."

The Coalition, which represents many GSA schedule holders, added to the concerns about restricting new small businesses from tapping into the federal market and depriving agencies of potentially innovative solutions.

"If the schedules are unable to offer the most current innovative solutions from both small and large businesses, the Coalition anticipates that federal buyers will purchase from other contract vehicles or from the open market," the letter states. "This would likely result in the government actually paying more for goods and services with less transparency."

CGP says small businesses accounted for $12.2 billion of the $37 billion spent through the schedules program in 2009.

The Coalition writes that GSA has other options than closing Schedule 75 to new offerors to deal with their challenges, including streamlining the acquisition process, improved training of contracting officers and improved use of technology to improve acquisitions.

"We ask that you reconsider closing Schedule 75 to new offers and issue a proactive statement making it clear to customers and contractors that the schedules program will continue to be the government's ‘go-to' acquisition program for the latest commercial solutions," CGP states.

(Copyright 2010 by FederalNewsRadio.com. All Rights Reserved.)