Studies conducted by the Coalition for Government Procurement and Navy Post Graduate School show that prices for certain goods are cheaper – sometimes substantially so, on GSA Advantage than on Amazon Business. The studies were originally reported last week by the Federal News Network.  While the price difference is not a surprise to GSA Schedule supporters, the study findings do pose challenges for GSA and potential e-commerce suppliers as they move forward the e-commerce portal project.  First, it’s obvious that “faster” doesn’t always mean “cheaper”.  Congress was perhaps under the assumption that commercial providers automatically got better deals from suppliers than did the federal government.  If that’s not the case, then a key foundation for e-commerce program is shaky.  Second, the Navy Post Graduate School report did find that buyers preferred the user experience offered by commercial platforms over GSA Advantage.  How/can does GSA work to update Advantage to match that experience?  One obvious answer would be to outsource the operation of Advantage to a third party since GSA likely lacks the funding and resources to upgrade Advantage internally. That option, however, could face internal hurdles.  Third, for potential e-commerce providers, will they be able to lower their prices to more closely match those on Advantage, or at least come close enough so that their total value proposition makes their platforms a viable acquisition method?  If Congress believes that federal agencies will spend more for items than they can get from existing acquisition sources, they may rescind the project. 

All of these issues are in play as GSA drafts a report due to Congress next month on their progress to date in meeting the existing Congressional requirement.  The report will be in the hands of a different party majority than the one that initiated the project and whether they place the same priority on it as their predecessors is unknown.  Whether and how the questions above are addressed will likely shape the future of the project.