From the GSA Trenches: GSA Digest — Turning Obstacles into Awards

June 7, 2021

Aprio’s seasoned team of GSA professionals works with contractors to navigate the complexities of GSA Schedule contracting. We’re here to help contractors make better strategic decisions to maximize government sales in alignment with their short- and long-term goals. Our GSA digest is filled with helpful tips based on our GSA interactions, negotiations and successes. Our goal for sharing these updates is to assist contractors in better understanding how to profitably utilize the GSA Schedule and avoid compliance pitfalls. If you are experiencing these or other GSA Schedule contract management challenges, contact Aprio to see how we can help you overcome them.

1. Forewarned is forearmed

GSA is exploring all avenues to cut Schedule pricing. GSA Schedule modification submissions are increasingly triggering across the board re-evaluations of awarded pricing – resulting in lowered contractor prices. During the evaluation of modifications (such as adding anything, option renewals, and revising terms and conditions), contracting officers are increasingly looking for opportunities to significantly lower prices. Some contracting officers have cited use of a new GSA Operational Manual that directs contracting officers to renegotiate pricing during any contract action.

Forcing prices to fall within an artificial range ignores the significant business and economic differentiators involved in developing rates (geographic, type of service, salary and benefit costs, etc.). Top-tier contractors who employ highly qualified personnel could suffer profit loss. Contractors are being strong-armed into negotiations that are inconsistent with GSAR 538.270-1 and constitute disparate treatment.

Be prepared and do your own market research. Contractors can see competitor pricing on the government’s Contract-Awarded Labor Category (CALC) pricing tool. Stephanie Shutt, Director of GSA’s Multiple Award Schedule Program Management Office, advised that “generic” labor categories can lead contracting officers to compare contractor prices to similarly named, but functionally different, labor categories with lower pricing. Consider if more specific or unique labor category naming can differentiate your offerings for buyers, and protect your pricing. Product contractors can conduct similar market research in GSA Advantage.

Additionally, Shutt advises contractors to ask Contracting Officers to explain the source of their comparative market data. If the data does not connect to the awarded Commercial Sales Practices/Basis of Award (CSP/BOA), the CALC pricing tool or industry norms, contractors should consider elevating the issue to GSA management.

Aprio provides GSA Schedule contract management, including modifications to existing contracts and negotiations with GSA. We help contractors get the best rates to ensure profitability and the provision of their best services/products to government buyers. If you find your GSA contract needs updates, reach out to Aprio’s team of GSA specialists today.

2. Scope and visibility

Scenario: You lost the award or bid protest. Why? Because your GSA Schedule Special Item Numbers (SINs) and offerings don’t reflect all of your capabilities, and your competitors’ did. Given the events of the last 18 months, the federal government is hot to spend money on cybersecurity and healthcare IT. You may be quick to respond to these RFPs if you have the capabilities to do the work, but that may not be enough if you don’t have the right SINs on your GSA Multiple Award Schedule (MAS/FSS) contract.

Each of these areas falls under specific SINs on the GSA Schedule: 54151HACS Highly Adaptive Cybersecurity Services (HACS) and 54151HEAL Health Information Technology Services. Not having the right SINs and qualifications can leave a contractor vulnerable to protests from competitors at the task order level when the scope of awarded SINs and labor categories is disputed. In fact, the GAO recently sustained a challenge to award of a GSA Schedule task order where the awardee’s quote represented it would provide services exceeding the scope of its underlying FSS contract.

Now may be the right time to considering adding relevant SINs to your contract. Combined, SINs 54151HACS and 54151HEAL have less than 1,000 contractors approved to provide services, compared to the 4 times as many contractors approved under more general SIN 54151S Information Technology Professional Services.

Additionally, make sure that you self-certify in GSA eBuy for all appropriate subgroups to highlight your capabilities for buyers. The following SINs now have subgroups that are selectable in GSA eBuy and visible on GSA Advantage: 54151HACS, 561210FA, 541690E, 332311P, 532490P, 333241, 336999, 333318F, 335999, 325612, 325998, 325611, 517312, 54151S, 54151ECOM, 511210, 33411, 339940OS4, 541611, 562112, 541211, 522310, 541330ENG, 562910REM, 541930, 541614, 541620, 561621H, 339113LAB, 334515, 334516, 333997, 332439.

If you have any questions about the topics covered in this issue of the GSA Digest, contact Aprio today.