To read the first part of this two part series click here.
The set-aside contracting programs within the U.S. Government create havoc with a government employee’s ability to obtain decent products and services. The rules and regulations make the old Soviet Union Five Year Plans seem like models of simplicity and common sense.
The process of obtaining goods and services in the government would boggle the mind of an outsider. It can take, literally, years to get what you need. For example, buying a new copy machine can take, literally, a year or more depending on the type you need. To build a new government building abroad, the process may take up to 3-5 years just to get a construction firm identified. I am only speaking about the contracting process too; if you add in the funds allocation and approval process, it can be over a decade or more.
When I say this, government bureaucrats like to say yes, but you are talking about multimillion dollar contracts. For everyday items, like a copy machine or even a metal detector, you can buy them, quote “easily” end quote, from the General Services Administration GSA Advantage schedule with no contracting involved. Technically true perhaps, but it is not that easy. It certainly doesn’t mean you get the best product at the best price. The catalog is a pain in the ass to use too. That will be the subject of another article on another day, however.
GSA Advantage is a catalog that lists items that a government office can buy without going through the contracting process. There is a dollar limit to what you can buy without putting it out for bid; things like office supplies, small appliances and machines, etc., can be bought from the catalog. If you are a company that wants to sell to the government, you can’t just get listed in the catalog by merely applying. The process to have your company listed on the GSA Advantage schedule is insanely difficult. First, you have to go through a form and approval process that takes, if you are lucky, about six months. I am only speaking about filling out the form and getting someone to approve it. The questions and requirements are, quite literally, asinine.
The form itself, while full of legalize, is not necessarily hard to understand. However, you must provide proof of certain things, and getting anyone to respond and approve, or tell you what you did wrong and need, is maddeningly frustrating. For example, you have to prove that you have never sold whatever the item you want to list is to anyone for a cheaper price than what you price it at in the GSA Advantage catalogue. You have to “prove” this by submitting invoices of the lowest price you sold something for in the past. The evaluators may or may not accept it, and often want you to submit something else, then something else again.
It reminds me of the process, from what I have read, to get Social Security disability approved. The evaluation process is semi-secret, skewed toward denying your application, and frankly, knowing how it works from the other side, and from what I saw, completely arbitrary. If you get through this process and they approve you, then the minimum wait time for them to actually include you in the catalog is 18 months. They claim they are “backlogged,” yet they have products from certain companies (special groups such as minority owned, Alaskan Native American, etc.) who go to the front of the line.
I have not even touched on the government user complaints regarding GSA Advantage. Just remember, the government system is not Amazon or Amazon Prime delivery. It actually functions more like 19th century mail delivery. The products you can buy would likely not be in the five star categories on Amazon either. The system doesn’t work. It is a disgrace that a democratic, supposedly free market country (I have my doubts we have a free market anymore: and if certain political parties get their way we won’t in the near future) like the USA has a system more like what you would expect in the Third World rather than the world’s only super power.
Disclaimer: The content in this article is the opinion of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the policies or opinions of US Patriot Tactical.
As Vice President of a Security Fusion Center, Bill has provided risk management advice and direction to major Fortune 100 defense industry, ultra high net worth and other clients.
As Global Director for Security, Alem International, Bill planned and directed all facets of the security and risk mitigation strategies for the 2004 Olympic Torch Relay that took place in over 34 countries.
Bill was commissioned as an Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) Officer in the US Army immediately after college.
Mr. Gaskill has a Bachelor of Science degree in Ancient History with a math minor from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.He has a current Top Secret/SCI clearance.He has professional fluency ratings in Spanish, Greek, Hebrew and French, and has a working knowledge of Russian.