FORTH WORTH, Texas - At the five-year anniversary of 9/11 and with the recent apparent foiled attempt to blow up several jetliners in the United Kingdom, homeland security continues to be at the forefront of our consciousness. However, getting involved with federal government work and bidding on projects remains foreign to most security contractors. To help demystify this market, Security Sales & Integration spoke with Alan Searsy of the General Services Administration (GSA).
Searsy serves as director of the MWR and Security Acquisition Division, Southwest Supply Center in Fort Worth, Texas. He has 18 years of acquisition experience, purchasing a wide variety of security systems and related items using both the Multiple Awards Schedule (MAS) and other programs. He has served in his current position since November 2002.
In the following exclusive interview, Searsy provides a wealth of insight on how best to navigate the federal contracting playing field.
What does an installing security contractor need to do to participate in federal government projects?
Searsy: The first way is to obtain a schedule contract for the company. This requires them to download the solicitation, fill it out and send it to the GSA contracting officer. The process takes about 90 days.
A less time-consuming way for dealers to get involved is to check out their manufacturers’ GSA dealer programs. These allow dealers to sell under their manufacturer’s GSA schedule contracts. You will need to contact your manufacturer to see if they have a contract that allows this. Using this option vastly reduces the time and allows small companies to participate within the parameters of their dealer agreements.
Another way to get involved is through subcontracting with schedule contractors, or other federal contractors for that matter, to perform various aspects of projects. Large businesses often seek out smaller businesses to subcontract design, installation or maintenance.
Are manufacturers restricted as to the source of products to be delivered under GSA programs?
Searsy: All schedules contracts awarded must meet the requirements of the Trade Agreements Act. This requires that products provided under the contract must be from the United States or a designated country. Some designated countries include: Japan, United Kingdom, Mexico, Canada, Germany and France. A complete listing is available in the Federal Acquisition Regulation, Part 25, which can be accessed on the Acquisition Central Web site [www.acqnet.gov].
Why would an agency utilize the program?
Searsy: Agencies utilize the program because it allows them to streamline the procurement process. They have the assurance that all the Competition In Contracting Act requirements have been met. It allows them to obtain their requirement from a best-value contractor, rather than limit their award to a low bidder, who may or may not perform as expected. Schedules also allow agencies to obtain the latest in technology since contracts are modified to add new products on a continual basis.
The schedules are a self-service option. What about those who desire additional help with their security projects?
Searsy: Agencies always have the option of having a GSA expert assist them with their purchase. While there is an additional fee with this, many agencies find the expert assistance they obtain more than justifies the small additional cost. GSA will solicit for the task/delivery order, ensuring all procurement rules are followed. Then, we will administer the resulting order to ensure a successful project will be the result.
How do agencies utilize the program?
Searsy: Using the program streamlines the process. In general, agencies must review pricing from at least three schedule contractors and select the best value contractor. GSA even offers a free Web site called e-Buy [www.ebuy.gsa.gov] to help agencies obtain quotes from contractors. All the agency has to do is post their statement of work and evaluate the responses received. Pricing on many products and services can be obtained from GSA Advantage [www.gsaadvantage.gov].
Agencies can always request a price reduction, although contractors are not required to offer them. However, many do since they know they are competing with at least three other contractors. It is even easier for requirements valued under the micro-purchase threshold ($2,500). For more complex requirements, contractors can team together to meet agency needs.
How can more information about the program be obtained?
Searsy: You can check the GSA Web site at www.gsa.gov. Contractors are listed on the e-Library site, which can be located from the main site. Once on e-Library, just click on the scroll bar until you reach the 84 Schedule. From there, listings of contractors are available and there is a link to the solicitation, which is posted at the Federal Business Opportunities Web site [www.fedbizopps.gov].