The year was 1955. The first transistor radio was made available, the first edition of The Guinness Book of World Records was published, and GSA created the Multiple Award Schedules (MAS) program. Nearly 60 years ago, the Federal Acquisition Service (FAS) stood up the MAS program to make it easier, faster, and less costly for federal agencies to buy products like office supplies and janitorial equipment. Providing access to pre-negotiated contracts with vendors helped agencies get these supplies easier and for a price that reflected the huge volume purchased by the government.
While much has changed in our world since its creation, the MAS program remains a premier buying vehicle for the government. It offers an unrivaled variety of solutions, streamlined ordering procedures, strong assurance of compliance, ease of use, innovative e-tools, and broad commercial offerings.
How the government buys, and what we buy, however, is very different than it was in 1955. While the MAS program has expanded and adjusted over the years; modernizing MAS to enhance this incredibly successful, $38-billion a year program will ensure that it continues to offer the efficiency and value it was created to provide.
Improving Prices and Reducing Variability
With thousands of products and contractors on MAS, buyers get a ton of choices to find the best deal, but price comparisons can be difficult due to a lack of standard part numbers (for products) and skill descriptions (for services). Lack of standardization has resulted in the unintended consequence of price variability, particularly in the products arena. This makes it harder for buyers to find the best deal. Here’s what we’re doing to make it easier:
In June, we’ll be issuing a mass modification to all MAS contractors requesting that they standardize part numbers or Special Item Numbers (SINs). This will allow FAS to reduce price variability at the contract level and is the first step in enabling our customers to make better price comparisons at the order level.
We’re beginning our work with stakeholders and services contractors to figure out the best approach to standardize labor categories for services, and we’ll determine what makes sense with their input.
Knowing What We are Buying
In order for the government to reduce what it is paying for products and services, we need to really understand what we’re buying and how much we are paying. That means government buyers need access to transactional data so they can see the exact nature of the items and number of units purchased, for how much and from whom, on a government-wide scale.
FAS will provide federal agencies with the transactional data they are asking for, including the prices paid by other agencies across government for the same or similar products or services. This will help them make informed buying decisions and negotiate better prices. Buyers having access to transactional data should ultimately drive down the cost of purchasing government-wide as we start to act as one.
We will continually feed transactional data into the purchasing process so that our agency customers have current, quality, pricing data at their fingertips when they are ready to make purchases. GSA is thinking through how to provide customers this data while reducing burden on industry in the process.
Agility and Flexibility to Meet Buyer Needs
We’re addressing a number of other issues that have been floating around for years, including Other Direct Costs (ODCs) for MAS. We recognize that this flexibility is in high demand by our customers and are committed to answering these types of issues one way or another.
We are seeking a change to Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) and General Services Acquisition Regulation (GSAR) rules that will enable ODCs to be included in MAS contracts, and we’re exploring the creation of an unpriced IT and professional services Schedule.
Finally, we plan to do a “white space” look at the MAS Program. We are working with the Federally Funded Research and Development Center (FFRDC), to take a fresh look at what improvements can be made to the MAS program to better meet needs of today’s government. Work on this effort will begin in the Summer and will provide GSA and FAS leadership with a business model analysis of alternatives that can be rapidly deployed and that leverage modern business strategies, processes and technologies.
The MAS upgrades are part of our Business Model Transformation, an essential part of the future of FAS. The guiding principle of this transformation is, to get the benefits of one, we must act as one. For the Federal Government to realize real cost savings and efficiencies while increasing transparency and accountability, we must come together, and act as one of the largest buyers on the planet, leveraging our scale and our buying power.