WILL GOVERNMENT CONTRACTING BECOME CENTRALLY MANAGED?
Government acquisition officials at GSA, the Office of Management and Budget, VA and other federal agencies are talking a lot these days about bringing greater centralization to how their agencies, or the government as a whole, purchase IT, services, and other solutions. The Federal Strategic Sourcing Initiative and Category Management programs are just two prime examples of how some government agencies are trying to bring greater central control and have selected organizations be the sole, or primary, buyer for specific items. Taken at face value, these plans would certainly seem to change the face of the federal market. Small businesses, especially those doing good business with regional federal offices, could see a sharp reduction in business if these plans succeed. Before anyone gasps for air, though, let’s be clear: We’ve seen this before and it hasn’t worked. The depth and breadth of federal acquisition is so vast that it’s really not possible to centralize or standardize on all but the smallest of scales. The missions of agencies, even departments inside of agencies, are way too broad to lend themselves to widespread commonality. Consider, too, that there are contracting officers across the country. Their job is to let contracts. Centralization attempts in other areas, like pharmaceuticals, have shown that CO’s don’t like to let their warrants sit on a shelf and gather dust. For better or worse, centralized acquisition attempts will likely succeed only at the margins. Decentralized acquisition is here to stay for the vast majority of federal buying. You’ll notice that one agency has been conspicuously absent from this discussion: DOD. They’ve recently promoted de-centralization for their cloud procurements. And so it goes.