In considering the pursuit of your own GSA Schedule contract vehicle, you may have come across the following text in the Read Me First document of the solicitation:
Currently, the time required to evaluate and award an FSS contract can range from three to six months. Well prepared and documented offers with competitive pricing are easier to evaluate and may expedite the award process.
And while it is absolutely true that a clean and straightforward proposal can shorten the time it takes a Contracting Officer to review any offer, the three to six month turnaround time may well be a thing of the past for many contractors. The ever-increasing amount of new offers and GSA’s inability to keep up, whether due to staffing issues or the addition of more stringent internal procedures, has elongated the award process for many to a range of eight to twelve months!
GSA’s previous estimates of three to six months may have their basis in the solicitation’s requirement that a proposed contractor hold its pricing constant for a six month period during GSA’s review of the offer, after which a contractor would technically be able to propose updated pricing:
A-FSS-12-C PERIOD FOR ACCEPTANCE OF OFFERS (NOV 1997)
Paragraph (c) of the provision 52.212-1, Instructions to Offerors—Commercial Items, is revised to read as follows: The offeror agrees to hold the prices in its offer firm for 180 calendar days from the date of the offer, within which offer may be accepted.
Of course, making changes to the offer mid-review can add further delays and is something contractors may actively avoid in an effort to speed the process; they sacrifice better rates to do so.
In an interesting bit of disclosure the current Refresh of the Schedule 84 Total Solutions for Law Enforcement, Security, Facilities Management, Fire, Rescue includes the following text in its Information and Instructions to Offerors attachment:
NOTICE: The GSA Multiple Award Schedule (MAS) program has recently experienced a tremendous increase in new offers. Due to the large number of new offers currently in process, it could take up to 12 months before your offer is evaluated.
Although the Read Me First attachment still uses the three to six months text, this section is telling. Given that these delays are not limited to the Schedule 84, will it be long before the other solicitations include similar text?
And while it is always a good idea to manage your expectations as a federal contractor, there are still things you can do to help move things along at GSA, beyond having a squeaky clean proposal, as is suggested by the language immediately following the Schedule 84 warning:
GSA’s practice is to evaluate offers in the order in which they are received. However, GSA may give priority to processing certain offers when circumstances dictate, such as when a federal agency Contracting Officer specifically requests an expedited offer review in order to meet a pending requirement that will be procured under the MAS program, or when there is a need for GSA to bring strategically critical new products or services to market in order to meet federal customer needs.
This means you may want to have potential ordering agencies reach out to GSA on your behalf and let GSA know there is a need for you and your services or products to be on schedule.Agency-to-agency requests will get you a lot further along than simply telling a reviewing CO you have a pending piece of business, something they hear all day long from other frustrated applicants anxious to move forward.And if one agency request can help, why not two or three? It never hurts to have as many people pulling for you as possible.
The key to surviving the current backlog is to prepare. Let Global Services ensure you prepare an accurate and spotless proposal while you prepare contacts to champion your offer with GSA, and, most importantly, prepare to wait.