OMB Says Current Strategy for Acquisition of Laptops and Desktops Does Not Compute

GSA-Schedule ContractingOn October 16, 2015, Anne Rung, Administrator of the Office of Federal Procurement Policy at the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), and Tony Scott, United States Chief Information Officer, announced a new policy for the acquisition of office laptop and desktop computers in the wake of divergent pricing and inefficient contracting practices across agency procurements. The new laptop and computer policy is part of OMB’s larger category management initiative, which aims to leverage the federal government’s purchasing power as the world’s largest consumer by consolidating federal acquisitions under fewer contracting vehicles.

The Workstation Category Team (WCT), an interagency task force, was charged with analyzing and optimizing current laptop and desktop computer acquisition practices. Based on the WCT’s review, OMB identified three critical steps to improve acquisition practices:   (1) establish standard specifications that generally will suffice to meet federal agency computing needs; (2) consolidate federal contracts for laptops and desktop computers under three contracting vehicles; and (3) develop smart management practices for controlling cost and performance.

  • Standard Specifications: The WCT determined that approximately 80 percent of federal agencies’ computing needs could be satisfied through one of five standard specifications. Accordingly, the WCT has identified standard specifications for laptop and desktop computers, and will update these specifications every six months to address new agency needs. Agency Chief Information Officers (CIOs) will be required to procure at least 80 percent of new laptop and desktop computers according to these standard specifications.
  • Consolidation of Contracts: With certain narrow exceptions, agencies will be required to use one of three contracting vehicles to purchase laptop and desktop computers. The three vehicles are: (1) National Aeronautics and Space Administration Solutions for Enterprise-Wide Procurement (SEWP); (2) General Services Administration Information Technology Schedule 70 (“Schedule 70”); and (3) National Institute of Health Chief Information Officer-Commodities and Solutions (CIO-CS). OMB intends for at least 75 percent of laptop and desktop computer acquisitions to be made under approved contracting vehicles by fiscal year 2018.
  • Smart Management: Agencies will be required to phase out existing laptop and desktop computers incrementally rather than all at once to allow for effective acquisition planning. Further, when buying computers in bulk, agencies will be encouraged to make such purchases through mass acquisition events to leverage the federal government’s purchasing power. The WCT will ensure that such events are held with respect to the SEWP, Schedule 70, and CIO-CS contracting vehicles.

The WCT, as the subject-matter experts regarding laptop and desktop computer acquisition, along with agency CIOs, will play a pivotal role in implementing the above policy changes. OMB expects that the above policy changes will allow federal agencies to negotiate superior prices and terms by benefitting from greater transparency into prices paid and cost efficiencies stemming from unnecessarily duplicative contracting efforts. Similar policies pertaining to the acquisition of other information technology goods and services are expected.