One of the most common questions we get on a day to day basis has to be: "how soon will we have our Schedule in place?" The party line from GSA is that it takes a Contracting Officer, on average, 120 days to review, clarify, negotiate, and award a GSA contract. However, for many GSA Schedules and contractors, this is not always the case. What distinguishes a proposal that undergoes an "extended" review versus one that follows the traditional timeframe? It has everything to do with submitting a proposal that is fully responsive to a schedule solicitation, right? ....Well, not necessarily.
While it's certainly essential that you submit a complete proposal, the number of days it takes to get a contract award can vary based on the type of GSA Schedule, the number of SINs and your pricelist, the experience of your Contracting Officer, and even the time of year (holidays are the worst!). All of these issues and more can play a critical role in determining how quickly you move through the process. Given the myriad considerations that in many cases call for a consultant's insight, one of the most important factors in speeding an evaluation is, via a "Letter of Expedite," pointing to interest from a specific federal customer in procuring your products or services through your GSA contract. Remember, GSA's Multiple Award Schedule (MAS) program was established to be self-funded, and the "industrial funding fee" (IFF) provides a vast majority of its revenue. The payment of the IFF is a baseline GSA contract requirement, which requires schedule holders to remit 0.75% of quarterly Schedule contract sales within 30 days after the end of each quarterly reporting period. Simply, when GSA contractors make money, GSA makes money. In FY2009, GSA's Assisted Acquisition Services fund reported almost $300 million dollars in IFF payments. By requesting your government customer to write GSA a "Letter of Expedite", GSA can give your offer priority and possibly save 30-60 days.
Many GSA departments, in fact, are shifting their resources to already existing awarded contractors, with newly submitted offers being moved farther down the totem pole. Given the government's heated acquisition climate, it's important you have a focused proposal strategy centered on readily highlighting those opportunities you've been able to identify and asking a government customer to be an advocate to GSA on your behalf. Such an approach can make all the difference in the world in dramatically cutting your evaluation time and ensuring you secure your GSA contract at a pace more in line with your business goals and bid schedules.