GWACs anticipate bump in year end spending over FY2018

One big contract manager said the raised micropurchase limit will likely contribute to a rise in the dollar amount of year-end spending by agencies as fiscal year 2019 draws to a close.

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The largest governmentwide acquisition contracts expect the end of the fiscal 2019 buying season will top last year's and are extending hours of operation to accommodate demand.

Joanne Woytek, manager for NASA's Solutions for Enterprise-Wide Procurement (SEWP) contract, said she anticipates the increase of the federal micro-purchase threshold from $3,500 to $10,000 to have an impact on credit card purchases in the coming month.

"In general, for the entire government, I would expect more usage of credit cards with the micro-purchase limit now set to $10,000 for most of the government and credit card usage having some more flexibility than delivery orders," said Woytek.

A more stable budget is also giving agencies space to better plan and use their funding, she said, but added she won't be able to gauge the exact impact on SEWP until October.

According to Woytek, the calendar could also impact final ordering. "Sept. 30 was on a weekend last year. Just having Sept. 30 on a weekday can make the last-minute ordering more possible, so some orders that were delayed last year would be able to get done this year," she said.

Just a few miles away in suburban Maryland from SEWP operations, another big contract vehicle, the National Institutes of Health Information Technology Acquisition and Assessment Center (NITAAC) also expects a busy few weeks.

"I anticipate the uptick of orders will be comparable to what we have seen in years past. However, we do expect to receive additional work now that we are best in class designated across all three of our GWACs," said Glynis Fisher, deputy director at NITAAC. The center's contracts include CIO-SP3 IT services/solutions, CIO-SP3 small business and CIO CS IT commodities and solutions.

A General Services Administration spokesperson said the agency expects September to be the busiest month of the year for its stable of GWACs, including Alliant 2, 8(a) STARS II and VETS 2.

Orders to Alliant 2 and VETS 2 task orders have increased, and the agency expects several awards before the end of September, the spokesman said in an email to FCW.

Like SEWP, NITAAC is set to work longer hours in the next month.

NITAAC, said Fisher, has extended its hours from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. on weekdays for the coming weeks. It is also open on Saturday, Sept. 21 and Sunday, Sept. 22, as well as Saturday, Sept. 28 from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.

SEWP extended its hours to operate from 7:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. Sept. 3-27 and is open on the last two Saturdays in the month. It will remain open until midnight on Sept. 30.

SEWP has seen orders for IT products and solution running about 25% ahead of last year's ordering, Woytek, told FCW on Aug. 28. A number of factors are converging to potentially jolt spending the end of the fiscal year.

NITAAC, said Fisher, will likely see similar uptick in business compared to last season.

So far, SEWP has had a "pretty normal" year, according to Woytek. Requests for quotations tick up in August, and September sees see a lot of last-minute buys. According to Woytek, 37% of federal dollars at SEWP are spent in September, with 20% spent in the last week of the month.

SEWP hasn't hired additional staff to specifically handle the fall buying volume, said Woytek, but it updated its processing systems to a High Availability System earlier this year and has been steadily adding new personnel over all.

Over the past year, said Fisher, NITAAC has concentrated on improving its e-GOS next-generation customer ordering portal, adding easier access features that give its agency customers a more seamless transition from the research phase of their acquisition through the final procurement process.

The NextGen e-GOS, she said, aims for an online experience more in line with commercial online shopping. The next-generation portal, she said, incorporates built in guidance for the Federal Acquisition Regulation and FAR Part 16 requirements. NextGen e-GOS is more user friendly, mimicking the user experience contracting officers are used to when shopping in their private lives. Customers will now enjoy product pictures, and they can compare items, build a cart and take advantage of other features designed to personalize the buying experience.

"As agencies rush to get in last-minute procurements, the website, along with NextGen e-GOS, will play a key role in helping them streamline the process," Fisher said.