Federal Contracting Community Shreds FBO Replacement Site in Letter to GSA

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“If this had the same notoriety as Healthcare.gov, people would have been fired.”

The transition of the federal contracting opportunities website from Federal Business Opportunities, better known as FedBizOpps or FBO, to the Contracting Opportunities page of beta.SAM.gov caused concern ahead of the migration and frustration after the move. Three months after the transition finished, the government contracting community’s anger has yet to be assuaged.

Last week, the Professional Services Council—an industry group representing 400 federal contractors—sent a letter to the General Services Administration detailing its members’ concerns and asking for immediate action.

“It was … with consternation and concern that PSC watched the dissolution of GSA’s FedBizOps portal and the difficult transition to beta.Sam.gov as its replacement,” PSC Executive Vice President and Counsel Alan Chvotkin wrote in the letter to Federal Acquisition Service Commissioner Julie Dunne. “Regrettably, initial ‘bumps in the road’ have continued beyond the functionality that GSA announced would not be carried over from the old system, and our members asked that we bring their views to your attention.”

PSC members decried the new site, with many telling GSA they would prefer to see the old FBO site recommissioned. The 22-page letter includes detailed breakdowns of users’ issues with the site, leading off with three user quotes that express the feelings described in many of the responses:

“You have forced small businesses to acquire commercial software that costs tens of thousands of dollars for comparable search capabilities, which is going to raise overhead costs to the U.S. government. Please reinstate FBO.gov immediately.”

“If this had the same notoriety as Healthcare.gov, people would have been fired.”

“What scares me most is thinking about what will happen to FPDS when it is decommissioned to the new beta.sam.gov. I use FPDS every day, and I wish GSA would just leave it as-is. I frankly don’t know why these systems need to be combined into one platform. Is there an award for the worst government system launch ever? Truly, the very best thing GSA could do at this point is to put FBO.gov back up.”

The letter includes 17 responses from contractors ranging from small companies to large. PSC summarized the general nature of the feedback in four general categories:

  • Access challenges: Users complained about the dual-factor authentication requirement for sign-on and problems with timeouts and navigation forcing users to sign in multiple times.
  • Insufficient search parameters: The site lacks several desired search options, including timeframes, place of performance and Boolean searches—and, or, not—among others. Users also complained about the inability to transfer saved searches from FBO to the new site and the user interface for the new search function.
  • Receive capabilities: Respondents said they wanted the daily email alert options reinstated, “with opportunities listed by actual text, not ID number.” Users also reported getting “bombarded” with minor updates on solicitations or notices with no information about what changes had been made.
  • Display difficulties: Users expressed a general dissatisfaction with the overall design of the site, including “numerous font sizes, button locations [and] lack of drop-down options,” the lack of a “True Copy” print function and a poor user experience on mobile devices.

“The volume, consistency and detail of the responses we received demonstrate how vital this portal is to your partners,” Chvotkin said in the letter.

A GSA spokesperson confirmed the agency received the letter and plans to work with PSC as the federal team works to improve the site.

“GSA appreciates that the Professional Services Council shared the views of some members regarding the migration of FBO.gov to beta.SAM.gov, as we take the feedback of all users seriously,” the spokesperson told Nextgov Wednesday. “The agency’s Integrated Award Environment team welcomes the opportunity to work with the Council as it conducts a careful review of the input shared with GSA in early February.”