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Competition is a part of doing business...Limited competition is good, depending on which side you're on.

Posted By Guy Timberlake, The American Small Business Coalition, LLC, Tuesday, June 26, 2007
Updated: Sunday, June 29, 2008

Jill Aitoro of GovernmentVAR had a recent blog entry entitled: Federal Agencies Should Learn More From GSA's Mistakes which I decided to comment on. Mind you, Jill is sharp and I like a lot of what she pens (or types, as it is) so this wasn't a situation where I disagreed with her, I just had some additional information which I thought might be useful.

Jill thought I was right. In a follow-up blog entry Mega Contracts Lesson Opportunity? Some Say No Jill took my comments and added to them.

Thank you Jill.

 In the initial blog, Jill discussed the plight of Solutions Providers (which I believe could be applied across the industry) and the massive multiple award contracts issued by GSA, Navy and other federal entities. The gist of the entry, it seemed to me, had to do with competition. Definitely not something unique to that class of contractor/vendor.

I appreciate having my thoughts and perceptions leveraged in a constructive format. 

Here's my feedback to Jill in its entirety:

Hi Jill,

I was just reading your blog entry and wanted to do a counterpoint with you if you don't mind.

Let me first state that I think GSA has made mistakes which have turned off agencies and contractors, but I believe it stems more from the bottlenecks that have been their practices and processes more than the number of potential bidders that exist. Additionally, the program management fees charged by GSA were a significant contributor as well, as I've been told.

Let's talk about competition, since that seems to be the prevailing issue. When the government awards a multiple award BPA or GWAC, it limits competition for the potential requirements to those companies awarded during the initial, unfunded competition. Very much like the GSA Schedule does. This creates a "class" of contractor/vendor that is able to leverage a marketing tool and contracting mechanism that not everyone has or has access to. A hunting license for a specific number of hunters.  It also creates a mechanism by which the government can conduct an acquisition in a much shorter period of time than if they conducted that procurement on the Open Market.

Granted, SeaPorte is crowded now, with 1300 contractors vying for $5.3 billion in orders, but crowded is a relative statement and perspective. How many contractors would that be if those requirements from NAVSEA, SPAWAR, MSC, etc.  were still procured on the GSA Schedule or the Open Market?

How are the solutions providers different from services firms or construction companies competing for business in a significantly smaller landscape with substantially fewer dollars? Since IT is the prevalent product/service/solution procured by the agencies, it seems to make sense that it would be the most heavily populated field of play. The differentiators are the ability of companies to develop relationships, business intelligence, past performance and ultimately be seen as a value to the customer. The contract vehicle, like a socio-economic designation, is secondary at best. You could also compare this to companies that have security clearances, and those that don't.

Why is it that solutions providers say they see fewer opportunities? Is it because of competition? Is it because they are not positioned to pursue a particular piece of business? Could it be contract bundling? Maybe the opportunities are being funneled to a specific socio-economic program where they are not included? All of the above and more.

Should the Government stop allowing companies to enter the arena of federal contracting? What would happen to the entrepreneur that develops a solution for IED's or the company that comes up with a process that cuts federal expenditures in a particular area if competition is restricted further? The head of OFPP recently stated that 52 percent of all federal procurement dollars went to task orders in FY 2005. This means that if your company did not possess a GSA Schedule, BPA, GWAC or some type of pre-awarded delivery vehicle or you were not on one of those teams, more than half of the estimated $350 billion spent by the Government that year blew right by you.

The issue at hand appears to be competition, and I don't understand why this is an issue.

Ultimately, the decision for  why an agency should do business with a particular company is based on a number of factors. Being on the right contract vehicle is just one of them.

Thanks Jill!

Best regards,
Guy J. Timberlake, 
CEO and Chief Visionary Officer 
The American Small Business Coalition

Any thoughts?

-The CVO

Tags:  aitoro  blog  government  gsa  jill  var 

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