Procurement in Commercial E-commerce Portals
In an effort to create a new online portal to procure commercial goods, the General Services Administration (GSA) and the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), issued a notice announcing their interest in opening public dialogue. In the notice, GSA and OMB sent a request for information from industry stakeholders about Section 846 of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for fiscal year 2018. Section 846, dubbed the “Amazon Amendment”, would give government agencies the opportunity to procure commercial off-the-shelf products through online commercial portals such as Amazon, Overstock and Staples. The undertaking would provide agencies with a new alternative to GSA’s decades-old procurement vehicles such as GSA Advantage!, GSA eBuy, GSA Global Supply, and the Federal Supply Schedule.
The notice, sent out shortly after President Trump signed the NDAA for Fiscal Year 2018 into law, stated that the “GSA is providing external stakeholders the opportunity to offer input on the first implementation phase outlined in Section 846, an implementation plan due to Congress within 90 days of enactment.” Along with written comments, the GSA and OMB hosted a modified town-hall style public meeting on January 9th, 2018. The town-hall meeting allowed the two agencies to hear recommendations and concerns about the portal, and how best to implement it. Industry stakeholders advised GSA and OMB on what buying practices should apply, and how to regulate the commercial portal. GSA and OMB intend to keep an ongoing dialogue with all stakeholders throughout the e-commerce portal’s phases
GSA and OMB are stilling discussing how best to carry out the implementation plan, and have until March 12th to formulate the plan for Congress. The public dialogue and the modified town-hall style public meeting were the first steps in framing an implementation plan for the new portal. GSA also sought input on a diverse number of issues involving the overall design of the e-commerce portals, such as how private sector companies can establish pricing, and terms and conditions of sales. For an external stakeholder, it was a great opportunity to discuss the burdens and shortfalls of the government procurement system. For more information on the preliminary steps, the GSA notice can be found here.
NDAA Section 846
NDAA Section 846 states that GSA, along with the OMB, will carry out a three-phase plan for the new e-commerce portal that will streamline the process of procuring commercial products. Likewise, Section 846 recommends the GSA Administrator establishes the new commercial portal “for purposes of enhancing competition, expediting procurements, enabling market research, and ensuring reasonable pricing of commercial products.” Phase I of Section 846 mentions that, with the idea of modernization in mind, GSA should consider accepting exemptions from various federal procurement laws. More specifically, “laws that set forth policies, procedures, requirements, or restrictions for the procurement of property or services by the Federal Government are necessary for effective implementation of this section.” This will give GSA the opportunity to cut regulations and to simplify the process of acquiring commercial items through the proposed e-commerce portal. GSA will also reflect on the feedback from outside stakeholders throughout the process and “whether existing laws, Executive Orders, policies or other requirements may hinder effective implementation of the program.” NDAA Section 846 shows a shift in favorability towards commercial e-commerce portals and an aim to reduce the regulatory burdens on the procurement process.
Throughout the phases, the GSA Administrator will consider a variety of commercial e-commerce portals that could potentially be used as a new commercial procurement portal for the federal government that are commonly used in the private sector. Section 846 requests that the private sector portals taken into consideration should be “configured to have features that facilitate the execution of program objectives, including features related to supplier and product selection that are frequently updated, an assortment of product and supplier reviews, invoicing payment, and customer service.”
This commercial e-commerce portal can potentially restructure how federal agencies procure commercial goods, and allow commercial businesses the opportunity to tap into billions of dollars of government business. For more information on NDAA Section 846 and what it may bring in the future, click here.