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OMB Tells Agencies: No New Contracts for Desktops, Laptops

Federal Chief Information Officer Tony Scott testifies before the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, June 25, 2015, during a hearing on Federal Cybersecurity and the OPM Data Breach.

Federal Chief Information Officer Tony Scott testifies before the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, June 25, 2015, during a hearing on Federal Cybersecurity and the OPM Data Breach. // AP Photo/Susan Walsh

The Office of Management and Budget is prohibiting federal agencies from issuing new awards or solicitations for laptop or desktop computers and directing them to limit those types of purchases to governmentwide contracting vehicles.

The new policy was announced Friday by federal Chief Information Officer Tony Scott and Administrator of the Office of Federal Procurement Policy Anne Rung.

For years, agencies have purchased basic IT equipment, such as laptops and desktops, using thousands of contracts and delivery orders “resulting in reduced buying power, duplication of contracts and little transparency into the prices that agencies were paying for similar computers,” Scott and Rung said in a post on the OMB blog. (A recent inspector general review, for instance, reported one agency paid 42 different prices for the same desktop model in 2012.)

OMB’s new policy prohibits new awards or solicitations for these basic items and instead directs agencies to transition their expenses for these items to one of three already-existing “best-in-class” governmentwide acquisition vehicles.

“There is no need for thousands of contracts to purchase common laptops and desktops,” Scott and Rung said in the blog post.

The new policy is the first in what’s anticipated to be a series of directives from Scott’s office for improving how the federal government buys and manages common IT purchases. That’s a key element of the 2014 Federal Information Technology Acquisition Reform Act. It’s Rung who has also championed “category management” to curb duplicative IT purchasing.

In addition, Scott and Rung call for governmentwide standardization of laptop and desktop configurations.

“Most federal employees need just basic computing capability to get our jobs done, but we often have hundreds of options – or configurations – to choose from, which further fragments our position in the market,” the officials wrote in the blog post.

Streamlining configuration requirements could reduce duplication and save costs, they said.

“Standardizing requirements will also improve interoperability and IT security and enable easy price comparisons,” they wrote in the post.

A task force led by NASA -- one of the largest civilian agency IT buyers -- will refresh the standard configurations every six months and also evaluate “emerging technologies,” such as tablets.

OMB is also directing agencies to develop “uniform refresh cycles” for their laptops and desktops and is asking agencies concentrate their commodity IT purchases in semiannual buying events hosted by the big governmentwide vehicles.

“These buying events will maximize the government’s collective buying power and drive further price reductions as volume increases,” the blog post stated.

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