GSA Unveils Plan for New Online Shopping Portal.

Author:Cassidy, Susan B.
Position:Government Contracting Insights

Following instructions from Congress to create a new online shopping system leveraging existing commercial practices, the General Services Administration, in coordination with the Office of Management and Budget, has released an implementation plan to begin e-commerce purchases by 2019.

The plan is a first step toward implementing Section 846 of the fiscal year 2018 National Defense Authorization Act, which requires GSA to develop "e-commerce portals"--essentially online shopping sites--for commercially available off-the-shelf item procurements.

The NDAA provision sets out three phases for the e-commerce program.

Phase one requires the development of a plan for implementation, including initial recommendations regarding "changes to, or exemptions from, [existing procurement] laws." GSA's announcement completes phase one.

The organization will now proceed to phase two, which will involve market analysis, "communications with potential e-commerce portal providers on technical considerations of how the portals function," and consideration of impacts on other procurement programs.

Significantly, at the conclusion of phase two, GSA and OMB will be required to submit a report identifying "recommendations for any changes to, or exemptions from, laws necessary for effective implementation of this section," as well as a report on "considerations pertaining to nontraditional government contractors."

Phase three will then entail actual implementation of the program.

The plan identifies three potential types of e-commerce portals, each with different cost incentives and ordering structures.

Under the e-commerce model, a vendor would use its existing online platform to sell its own proprietary or wholesale products to the government. The vendor would be responsible for pricing and delivery.

An e-marketplace model would create online marketplaces managed by a contractor, through which both proprietary products and the products of other vendors could be sold to the government. Vendors would be responsible for fulfilling orders, although GSA held open the possibility that portal providers could be required in certain cases to fulfill orders.

The e-procurement model calls for a contractor to provide an online marketplace--a so-called "portal of portals"--through which other vendors could then sell goods to the government. The marketplace provider would not sell goods and would not be responsible for fulfilling orders.

GSA stated that it anticipates using an...

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