To Aid Hurricane Recovery, GSA Raises Purchase Thresholds

As the New York Times reports, the 2017 hurricane season is likely to be one of the worst on record. The frequency and intensity of storms this year are well above average, and it will “almost certainly be the most expensive season on record for the United States.” Recovery is expected to be even more costly than in 2005, when Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans. AccuWeather estimates the economic damage of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma alone at $290 billion—and the season is far from over.

In order to make disaster recovery purchasing easier, GSA has issued a memorandum announcing the following changes “for direct purposes of the response to Irma”:

  • Raising the micropurchase threshold to $20K
  • Raising the simplified acquisition threshold to $750K or $13M for commercial items.

In other words, GSA is allowing higher value Schedule purchases to be made more quickly, bypassing the complicated process usually required for large Government purchases. The changes remain in effect until December 31, 2017, unless otherwise modified.

Additionally, an earlier memo included the following guidelines for purchasing activities:

  • Preference should be given to local firms in disaster areas by way of local set-asides where feasible
  • Preference should be given to pre-existing contracts like blanket purchase agreements, GSA Schedules, and IDIQs.
  • Contracting officers may “limit competition when needed” in accordance with FAR 6.302-2, which makes an exception to typical purchasing rules for “urgent and compelling” needs. When using this clause, the memo states, the following rules apply:
    • A synopsis is not required if it would cause harmful delay
    • Justifications/approvals may take place after award, if they would “unreasonably delay the acquisition”
    • While “you do need to go to the maximum competition practicable,” this can be accomplished by simply “phoning a reasonable number of sources and asking for quotes and delivery time, on the spot”
    • Periods of Performance should be kept brief.

While the normal requirements surrounding Government purchasing are designed to ensure fair and open competition, they can result in an unacceptably slow pace during disaster scenarios. GSA’s changes are an important step to ensuring that well-intended rules do not further exacerbate the crises facing hurricane-afflicted areas.

If you have questions about how these changes will affect the use of your GSA Schedule, please contact Global Services today.