Are best-in-class contracts on the downswing?

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The question was one of the main focuses among acquisition experts at the Professional Services Council federal market forecast conference.

As the White House continues to leverage the federal government’s buying powers to steer investments towards the nation’s small businesses, acquisition forecasters and industry stakeholders are asking: Have we reached a peak for best-in-class contract vehicles?

That was one of the main questions the Professional Services Council acquisition trends team explored on Thursday at the trade association's federal market forecast conference. 

PSC's team of acquisition professionals found that agency-specific duplicative blanket purchase agreements and indefinite delivery, indefinite quantity contracts were once again proliferating as the administration focused its efforts on boosting government contracts among small businesses – which typically get shut out of best-in-class vehicles.  

“The pendulum is kind of swinging back the other way, and contract vehicle duplication is back,” Mark Youman, who serves on the PSC acquisition trends team, said at the conference.”This is reversing a trend that we’ve really seen over the previous three administrations where every year ramping up pressure to have less contract duplication.”

Contract vehicles designated as “best-in-class” by the Office of Management and Budget have long faced criticism for consolidating contracting opportunities to fewer companies and limiting small business involvement. Despite federal agencies awarding a record-breaking $154 billion to small businesses in fiscal year 2021, the number of federal prime contractors featuring small businesses, women-owned small businesses and small disadvantaged businesses continued its years-long decline. 

The council also cited the lack of a permanent leader at the Office of Management and Budget’s  Office of Federal Procurement Policy as part of the reason for the apparent shift away from focusing on improving and expanding best-in-class contract vehicles. 

The result has been a strain on proposal resources among businesses competing for BIC and other various information technology vehicles, which the government has been using scarce resources to create, according to the council’s acquisition trends team. 

OMB has meanwhile continued to step up efforts to boost government spending among small businesses, recently releasing guidance which instructed agencies to negotiate new contracting goals that award at least 12% of their spending to small disadvantaged businesses in FY2023. Last year, the administration announced an overarching goal of delivering $100 billion in federal contracting opportunities over the next five years to SDBs to help close the economic wealth gap.