GSA Wants to Get an E-Commerce Portal Up and Running by 2020

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The agency also asked Congress make some changes to the original legislation to help speed up the process.

The General Services Administration on Friday released the final plans for building a governmentwide e-commerce portal that would make buying commercial products easier and faster for federal agencies.

In the proposal, GSA and the Office of Management and Budget detailed the timeline for rolling out the platform. The agencies also called on Congress to make a handful of legislative changes to open the door for online federal purchasing. Agencies would ultimately use the portals to buy products from pens and pencils to potentially more complex items, like mobile devices or other technologies.

“This opportunity to increase competition and improve transparency in the acquisition process can greatly reduce the burden the current processes place on both our acquisition workforce and industry partners,” GSA Administrator Emily Murphy said in a statement.

GSA and OMB are scheduled to spend the next year conducting market research and working with agencies and companies to hammer out details of the portal, such as terms and conditions for sellers and the products that will be available. The agencies plan to begin testing the platform by the end of fiscal 2019, with a final rollout scheduled for the following year.

The concept for the e-commerce platform sprung from the Defense Acquisition Streamlining and Transparency Act, a section of the 2018 National Defense Authorization Act. Many criticized early versions of the bill, which would have granted a monopoly to a single e-commerce provider, but lawmakers amended the final version to require a phased rollout with multiple contracts and e-commerce providers.

GSA’s proposal recommends four changes to the legislation that are “viewed as necessary” to begin rolling out the portal. The recommended changes are based on feedback from government and industry, as well as an e-commerce industry day GSA hosted in January.

The agency requested Congress to raise the maximum purchase threshold for items on the platform from $5,000 for the Defense Department and $10,000 for civilian agencies to $25,000 for each group, as well as increased sharing of spending data across government. GSA also asked to increase its authority to modernize competition requirements and use various contracting vehicles to make the platform more efficient.

The agency also asked lawmakers to expand the legislation’s definition of “commerciale-commercee portal” to cover future technologies and business models.

“We didn’t want to inadvertently lock out something just because we hadn’t been thinking about it at the time,” said Laura Stanton, assistant commissioner for GSA’s office of strategy management, in a phone call with reporters. “It’s really to give us as many options as possible as we look forward to implementation next year.”

Stanton said meeting implementation deadlines are one of the agency’s “highest priorities,” and each legislative change it highlighted would help speed up the rollout. She added GSA might make additional legislative recommendations in the future based on the market research the agency conducts over the next year.