The project—which has been called “Amazon for government”—will start with a proof-of-concept with two or more vendors.
The General Services Administration is moving forward with a plan to establish multiple e-commerce marketplaces that federal agencies can use to purchase products under the micropurchase threshold of $10,000—or anything they can legally buy with a credit card.
The government’s acquisition arm released a request for proposals Tuesday for the Commercial e-Marketplace Acquisition proof-of-concept. The initial test run will include at least two vendors capable of providing a digital platform with a variety of commodity products, all aligning with GSA’s category management framework.
“As federal procurement continues to evolve, simplifying how we purchase basic commodities will allow agencies to focus more on work that directly serves their missions,” GSA Administrator Emily Murphy said in an announcement. “Federal agencies spent approximately $260 million using online portals last year, and it is critical that we use the Commercial Platforms program to better understand and manage this spend.”
In order to be eligible, the platform providers must sell commercial off-the-shelf products from a variety of third-party vendors. The provider can also hock their own wares but must offer a full suite of products. The goal of the platform is to generate competition among suppliers, according to the statement of objectives.
“These online e-marketplace platforms feature multiple suppliers offering the same product and will allow buyers to decide which supplier/product combination meets their needs,” the document states. “Competition occurs at both the supplier and product levels in the e-marketplace platform model given the access to third-party suppliers’ products and potentially the e-marketplace platform provider’s products.”
The products being offered will fall within one or more of the 10 categories GSA and the Office of Management and Budget have determined provide the most value at scale—i.e., where the government will get the most savings from leveraging its full buying power, rather than having unique contracts.
“Those companies who offer [Product Service Codes] that only align to a single governmentwide category will be deemed a specialty marketplace and thus ineligible to participate,” according to the statement of work. “Specialty marketplaces typically target niche customer segments or buyers requiring specialized knowledge—e.g. healthcare, medical and/or IT components.”
Interested vendors have one month—until Nov. 1—to submit information for the first phase of the bidding process. That phase consists of two volumes: contract data and technical proposals.
Once vendors get the green light from GSA that their Phase I information has been accepted, they will have 14 days to submit a third volume, which also centers on technical proposals, but with fully fleshed-out performance work statements.
By the end of the process, potential awardees will have been assessed across four factors: their ability to provide an e-marketplace, which will be pass or fail; prior experience; the performance work statement; and a live test demonstration. Contracting officials said all four factors will be weighted equally.
Contracting officers said there is no guarantee of an additional open season to onboard more contractors, but that might be considered in the future.