60-Second Sustains: Office Depot, LLC

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Samarth Barot and Elizabeth N. Jochum

Office Depot, LLC
B-420482

  • Office Depot challenged GSA’s attempt to use a single blanket purchase agreement to purchase both hardware/industrial supplies and office supplies, arguing that the evaluation scheme was unreasonable because it was predicated on consideration of incomplete historical sales information for the office supplies.
  • The protester argued that the market basket to be used for evaluation was based on historical sales of hardware and industrial items, to the exclusion of data on office supplies, which resulted in a market basket which didn’t reasonably represent the likely purchases of office supplies.
  • GAO agreed that the Agency had unreasonably relied on limited historical data regarding office supply sales to predict its future buying needs and that it had no (or virtually no) basis for forecasting estimated quantities of office supplies.
  • GAO recommended GSA conduct additional market research and revise the solicitation with a reasonable representative sample of estimated hardware/industrial items and office supply purchases.

GSA Relaxes Price Increase Limitations for FSS Contractors

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Merle M. DeLancey Jr. and Sara N. Gerber


The General Services Administration (“GSA”) Office of Governmentwide Policy recently authorized contracting officers to provide relief to GSA contractors experiencing cost increases due to surging inflation. See Acquisition Letter. To assist struggling contractors, GSA issued a temporary moratorium on the enforcement of certain limitations contained in GSA economic price adjustment (“EPA”) clauses.

GSA issued the moratorium in response to an uptick in contractors’ requests for price increases and removal of items from their Federal Supply Schedule (“FSS”) contracts to avoid selling at a loss. In issuing the moratorium, GSA recognized that inflationary pressures and price volatility, caused by supply chain disruptions, strong demand, and labor shortages, are ongoing concerns unlikely to abate in the near term. GSA acknowledged that it must help contractors weather this “unusual time”—especially small businesses and new market entrants—to ensure a resilient and diverse federal industrial base and the government’s continued access to critical “products, services, and solutions.”

Continue reading “GSA Relaxes Price Increase Limitations for FSS Contractors”

Expect GSA to More Closely Scrutinize Trade Agreements Act Compliance

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Merle M. DeLancey Jr.

On January 21, 2022, the General Services Administration (“GSA”) Office of Inspector General (“OIG”) informed the Federal Acquisition Service (“FAS”) that ongoing monitoring by the OIG found that the FAS failed to properly monitor the sale of products for compliance with the Trade Agreements Act (“TAA”) during the COVID-19 response. Previously, in April 2020, GSA relaxed compliance with the TAA for a limited number of Federal Supply Classes (“FSCs”) to aid the government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The applicable FSCs included those covering N95 masks, cleaners and disinfectants, disposable gloves, and hand sanitizers. After several extensions, the TAA exception policy expired on April 30, 2021.

The OIG identified two deficiencies in FAS’ implementation of the TAA exception policy. First, the OIG found that FAS failed to properly track the addition of non-compliant products to contracts. As a result, after expiration of the exception policy, there was no effective way for GSA to remove the non-compliant products from contracts. Second, the OIG found that GSA improperly permitted the addition of non-compliant products to GSA contracts. For example, some products that were added were unrelated to the government’s response to the pandemic; some products were added to GSA contracts prior to the effective date of the TAA exception policy; and, remarkably, in one case, a product was added to a contract that identified North Korea as its country of origin.

Continue reading “Expect GSA to More Closely Scrutinize Trade Agreements Act Compliance”

GSA Federal Supply Schedules Contracts and the Coronavirus: Risks and Rewards

Merle M. DeLancey Jr.

On March 19, 2020, the General Services Administration (“GSA”) issued guidance regarding its process for issuing Defense Priorities and Allocation System (“DPAS”) Rated Orders. Significantly, however, GSA reminded its contracting officers that “[e]xisting Government sources of supply and contract vehicles should be considered first. Check to see if the required supplies are available.” See gsa.gov/buying-selling/purchasing-programs/gsa-schedules/gsa-schedule-offerings/consolidated-schedule/industrial-products-services-category and gsaadvantage.gov/advantage/search/specialCategory.do?cat=ADV.DR. GSA federal supply schedules (“FSS”) can be a contracting officer’s one-stop shop for protective equipment, disinfectants, hand sanitizers, and other products and supplies to combat the coronavirus COVID-19. The GSA FSS also offers a variety of solutions for agencies looking for teleworking options. See gsa.gov/buying-selling/purchasing-programs/gsa-schedules/gsa-schedule-offerings/consolidated-schedule/professional-services-category.

The largest active buyer in the market right now remains the federal government. FSS is an important tool for the government to get supplies and services, but do not be fooled. With these potential opportunities, there also are potential risks for FSS contractors that fail to follow the terms and conditions of their FSS contracts and/or seek to cut corners.

As is often the case, FSS vendors go above and beyond to provide services or deliver supplies to federal agencies to respond to emergency situations like the COVID-19 pandemic. As is also the case, months later, after the dust settles, agency offices of inspector general arrive to audit contracts. Inevitably, in the effort to expeditiously fill government orders, things get overlooked or ignored, and “but I was helping the agency fulfill its mission in response to a pandemic” is not a defense that will resonate with government auditors.

Based upon our experience, here are some tips for FSS vendors to follow and/or traps to avoid: Continue reading “GSA Federal Supply Schedules Contracts and the Coronavirus: Risks and Rewards”

For Part B of Section 889, Is Compliance by August 13, 2020, Realistic?

Merle M. DeLancey Jr., Justin A. Chiarodo, and Robyn N. Burrows

On March 10, 2020, the Department of Commerce extended the deadline for U.S. companies to stop doing business with Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd. and its non-U.S. affiliates. The deadline has been extended multiple times and is now May 15, 2020. Under the extension, U.S. businesses can continue to work with Huawei on the operation of existing networks and mobile services, including cybersecurity research considered critical for network reliability.

Huawei was added to the Commerce Department’s Bureau of Industry and Security “Entity List” in May 2019. The Entity List includes foreign entities who have engaged in activities sanctioned by the State Department and activities contrary to U.S. national security and/or foreign policy interests.

In addition to the extension, the Commerce Department is seeking public comments through March 25, 2020, regarding the continuing need for, and scope of, possible future extensions concerning Huawei. The multiple extensions and new request for public comments are intended to allow time for companies and persons to shift from Huawei or its affiliates to alternative sources of equipment, software, and technology. Continue reading “For Part B of Section 889, Is Compliance by August 13, 2020, Realistic?”

GSA’s Big Changes in 2020, Part 5: The Mass Mod Is Coming, the Mass Mod Is Coming . . . Wait, It’s Here!

Merle M. DeLancey Jr.

This is the last in a series of posts updating current and prospective Federal Supply Schedule (“FSS”) contractors about the big changes implemented or being implemented by the General Services Administration (“GSA”) in 2020—including consolidation of 24 schedules into one, streamlined schedule (called the Multiple Award Schedule or “MAS”). This post concerns GSA’s recent release of the Mass Modification (“Mass Mod”) implementing the terms and conditions for the MAS. Here is what you need to know: Continue reading “GSA’s Big Changes in 2020, Part 5: The Mass Mod Is Coming, the Mass Mod Is Coming . . . Wait, It’s Here!”

GSA’s Big Changes in 2020, Part 4: DUNS to UEI

Merle M. DeLancey Jr.

In addition to Federal Supply Schedule consolidation, GSA is replacing the official identifier federal government contractors use. Specifically, GSA is transitioning from and will stop using the Dun & Bradstreet (“D&B”) proprietary system for verification and validation of entities registering to do business with the federal government. Effective December 2020, GSA intends to have transitioned all government systems away from using D&B Data Universal Numbering System numbers (“DUNS”) and instead using new Unique Entity Identifiers (“UEI”). The UEI is a new, nonproprietary identifier that will be assigned through GSA’s System for Award Management (“SAM”) registration process.

Since as early as the 1960s, the federal government has contracted with D&B to provide DUNS numbers to companies seeking to contract with the federal government. Just like a CAGE (Commercial and Government Entity) code, an entity seeking to contract with the government must first contact D&B and obtain a DUNS number. A DUNS number is a unique nine-digit identifier for each entity performing or seeking to perform federal government contracts. Only after obtaining a DUNS number can a company then register in SAM. If a company needs to change its legal business name or physical address, it is must make such changes through D&B. Only after D&B updated a contractor’s DUNS record and made the data available to SAM could a contractor update its SAM registration. Continue reading “GSA’s Big Changes in 2020, Part 4: DUNS to UEI”

GSA’s Big Changes in 2020, Part 3: With GSA’s Schedule Consolidation, What Is Changing and What Is Not

Merle M. DeLancey Jr.

This is the third in a series of posts regarding the General Services Administration’s (“GSA”) consolidation of its federal supply schedules into one schedule contract. Our prior posts addressed GSA’s consolidation process in general and its use of Category Management in constructing the consolidated schedule. Here, we answer common industry questions regarding what is and is not changing as a result of schedule consolidation. Continue reading “GSA’s Big Changes in 2020, Part 3: With GSA’s Schedule Consolidation, What Is Changing and What Is Not”

GSA’s Big Changes in 2020, Part 2: Category Management and the New Consolidated Schedule

Merle M. DeLancey Jr.

This is the second in a series of blogs regarding the General Services Administration’s (“GSA”) Multiple Award Schedule consolidation. Previously, we addressed GSA’s three phases of consolidation. In this post, we focus on certain fundamental, structural changes to the consolidated schedule made during Phase I.

Category Management Comes to the GSA Federal Supply Schedule Program

Generally speaking, GSA’s restructuring can be labeled Category Management. Over the last year, the GSA Category Management Leadership Council and the Office of Management and Budget developed a government-wide category structure to support category management implementation across the federal government.

For years, there has been an increase in Special Item Numbers (“SINs”) under the 24 schedules. Schedules and SINs often overlapped. GSA preferred the overlap as opposed to having gaps in product and services offerings. The overlap, however, led to agency and Federal Supply Schedule (“FSS”) contract-holder confusion. And, as a result, contractors made sure to have their products and services listed under all potentially applicable schedules and SINs. This caused increased administrative work for all involved and less efficient agency purchasing as contracting officers sought to make sure contracting opportunities captured all potential vendors. Continue reading “GSA’s Big Changes in 2020, Part 2: Category Management and the New Consolidated Schedule”

GSA’s Big Changes in 2020, Part 1: Federal Supply Schedules Consolidation

Merle M. DeLancey Jr.

2020 may prove to be one of the most active years for federal contractors holding General Services Administration (“GSA”) Federal Supply Schedule (“FSS”) contracts and certain federal contractor registration requirements managed by GSA. This post is the first of a series on GSA’s changes and addresses GSA’s most publicized action—the consolidation of its federal supply schedules into one schedule.

As promised, in October 2019, GSA released a solicitation that consolidated the solicitations for its 24 federal supply schedules into one solicitation to obtain an FSS contract. GSA’s consolidation involves three Phases. Continue reading “GSA’s Big Changes in 2020, Part 1: Federal Supply Schedules Consolidation”

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