Feb 25 2021

New GSA Schedules Open More Avenues to Commercial Off the Shelf Purchases

Streamlined buying procedures will help agencies modernize more quickly.

You reach for a pen across your crowded desk and hit your white chocolate mocha instead. It splashes across the keyboard of your laptop, and voila, instant brick. Well, it was on its last legs anyhow, you think, now I can upgrade to the newest model.

Or maybe you’re scrolling through a tech website and spot a new thermostat, the kind that senses how many people are in a room and adjusts the ­temperature accordingly. Fabulous, you think, no more bickering over how hot it is, and we save money at the same time.

That’s all fine, if it’s your ­laptop and your home and you’ve got the money to buy the new gadgets right away. Federal workers know all too well how long it takes to get money for new technology projects approved, appropriated and even allocated. By the time the cash is in hand, the requested equipment may already be outdated.

MORE FROM FEDTECH: How can you best leverage e-commerce tools available for the federal government? 

Pandemic Pushed the Limits of Government Acquisition 

“Most technology projects take more than a year. And they certainly take more time to execute in the government perspective, when you look at the ­time frame for acquisition,” former Federal CIO Suzette Kent recently told FedScoop.

In the past year, federal agencies have sped up IT modernization in order to keep functioning during the COVID-19 pandemic. They’ve increased ­bandwidth, strengthened VPNs, bought additional laptops and even expedited cloud migration sooner than planned, letting employees work remotely to ­protect themselves from the virus.

Agency leaders pushed the limits of current acquisition and procurement rules to get what they needed in ­pandemic times, but the move to a faster purchasing model was underway before that.

Federal agencies have already made major strides in consolidating contracts and purchasing through nontraditional ways in order to purchase commercially proven products off the shelf in a quicker, more streamlined approach.

CDW•G has a portfolio of best-in-class government contracts that enable agencies to efficiently buy ­commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) products. 

Agencies can choose from NASA SEWP V, CIO-CS through NITAAC, and CHESS contracts such as ITES-3H and ITES-SW2. In addition, we have our own GSA Schedule. As best-in-class, contracts have been determined to be most advantageous by ­government standards. The pricing has already been determined to be fair and reasonable, and the terms and ­conditions have already been negotiated, taking those burdens off the agency.

Federal agencies working with CDW•G to purchase COTS products and solutions are predominantly turning to NASA-SEWP, which much like GSA embeds the fee for use in the price of the product. The Army is required to use the CHESS contracts.

Understand Your Options in Government Procurement

With respect to software purchases, for example, GSA will negotiate ­licensing terms and conditions with the software provider, so that the end-user ­agreements are already federalized and your contracting officer won’t have to read hundreds of pages of end-user license agreements — they’re good to go.

For some agencies, existing contracts still aren’t fast enough to get them the cutting-edge solutions not yet available commercially. For them, the government created ­additional buying methods.

The Defense Department relies on Other ­Transaction Authorities (OTAs) and small ­business innovation research grants to fund technology ­projects, to the point where DOD spent $9.6 billion on them in 2019. Only 11 agencies have OTA authority, and of those, DOD uses it the most.

However, OTAs are still a new method of obtaining technology, ­especially innovative new tech that may not be covered by federal procurement regulations.

IT modernization underpins nearly every project and program the federal ­government has and must continue into the new administration. Speed will be of the essence.

Understanding the new options available for procurement, especially those that enable the purchase of COTS equipment, is imperative for agencies still coping with the impact of the ­pandemic and the shift to telework

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