Declining budgets and advancing technologies can make a city’s mission to serve and protect its citizens challenging. Newly mandated standards and regulations often necessitate purchasing modern information technology (IT), security and law enforcement solutions. In order to help municipalities save time and money on purchases, General Services Administration or GSA is available to provide access to long-term government contracts and competitive pricing of commercial products and services.
What is GSA?
GSA is the centralized acquisition agency of the United States federal government offering quality products and services at volume discount pricing. Established in 1949 by President Harry Truman, the GSA’s mission was to simplify the federal government’s administrative services such as disposing and storing wartime supplies, managing government records and handling emergency preparedness. It also administered the sale of office supplies and provided workplaces for federal employees.
Today its mission is carried out by nearly 12,000 employees and a $26 billion budget. GSA administers $66 billion of procurement annually and oversees $500 billion in federal assets including 9,600 federally owned or leased buildings and 205,000 vehicles as well as 471 historically preserved properties.
Despite the fact that its mission is a tremendous fiscal responsibility, GSA manages to recover 99% of its operating costs through the products and services that it provides and the remainder is paid through congressional appropriations.
How Does GSA Work?
GSA makes sure that the federal government can procure high-quality and reasonably priced goods and services from quality commercial vendors that are listed on organized schedules with special item numbers. These manufacturers and contractors have been carefully screened through a rigorous application process and discounted prices are negotiated before appearing on the GSA schedule or multiple award schedule (MAS).
Most federal offices purchase from the GSA schedule, but state, local, regional and tribal agencies are also eligible to use a GSA contract. While localities should adhere to their specific acquisition rules and procedures, the Cooperative Purchasing Program allows state and local governments to purchase commercial products and services for IT and security solutions. For example, Schedule 84 is a multiple award schedule that covers security and law enforcement products and solutions. Schedule 70 is a general category for information technology equipment, software and services.
What are GSA Benefits?
GSA simplifies the buying process by eliminating the need to obtain several bids, evaluate vendors and approve final selection. GSA has already negotiated the discounts and payment terms as well as assured warranty, expedited delivery and guaranteed that products are American made or designated-country end products. GSA provides a variety of ways to purchase, offering agencies the flexibility of doing business with large multi-user contracts and competitive pricing.
How to Shop GSA?
There are three ways to shop using GSA: online, RFQ or direct. GSA has an online shopping and ordering system called GSA Advantage! that permits agencies to place orders via the internet. However, online payments are limited to credit cards that are issued by local and state government agencies. If an agency would like to set up a request for quote, possibly for volume purchases of special item numbers, they can use eBuy on GSA Advantage! For acquiring a specific item, agencies can look up companies and pricelists on eLibrary in order to purchase directly from the contractor. Vendors typically advertise that they are on the GSA schedule in brochures and on their websites. Purchases can be made directly by specifying the GSA contract number on a purchase order.
GSA Schedules are the quick and easy way of doing business for both government agency customers and commercial contractors. Pre-approved vendors, discounted pricing and online ordering make using GSA Schedule contracts the most efficient way for public agencies to purchase IT and security solutions. Cities and towns can benefit from the same lower costs and better payment terms that the federal government receives with its huge purchasing power.
For more information about GSA’s Cooperative Purchasing Program for state and local needs, visit: http://www.gsa.gov/portal/content/202285