GSA certified refers to products and services that meet the requirements set by the United States General Services Administration (GSA) to be listed on GSA contract vehicles. The GSA establishes long-term governmentwide contracts with commercial companies to provide supplies and services to federal agencies.
What is the GSA?
The General Services Administration (GSA) is an independent agency of the United States government that helps manage and support the federal government’s operations. The GSA supplies products and communications for U.S. government offices, provides transportation and office space to federal employees, and develops government-wide cost minimizing policies.
The GSA has two primary functions:
- Acting as a purchaser for the federal government, negotiating prices for products and services on behalf of other agencies
- Providing workplaces for federal employees and managing the preservation of historic federal properties
In its role as a centralized purchaser, the GSA establishes long-term contracts with commercial firms to provide supplies and services to federal agencies. This eliminates the need for agencies to negotiate individual contracts and helps streamline the acquisition process.
What are GSA schedules?
GSA schedules, also known as Multiple Award Schedules (MAS) or Federal Supply Schedules, are long-term governmentwide contracts with commercial firms to provide access to millions of commercial products and services at volume discount pricing.
GSA schedules cover a wide range of products and services including:
- Office supplies, furniture, and equipment
- Software, cloud, and technology services
- Professional services like engineering, accounting, and human resources
- Security and law enforcement equipment
- Medical equipment and pharmaceuticals
- Transportation, logistics, and relocation services
There are currently over 30 different GSA schedules that federal agencies can purchase from. Some of the most commonly used GSA schedules include:
|Schedule 70||General Purpose Commercial Information Technology Equipment, Software, and Services|
|Schedule 84||Total Solutions for Law Enforcement, Security, Facilities Management, Fire, Rescue, Clothing, Marine Craft, and Emergency/Disaster Response|
|Schedule 03FAC||Facilities Maintenance and Management|
|Schedule 72||Furnishing and Floor Coverings|
|Schedule 66||Scientific Equipment and Services|
What does it mean to be GSA certified?
For a company to be eligible to win GSA schedule contracts, they must go through a certification process that verifies they are qualified, responsible contractors capable of supplying the specific products and services to government customers. The steps to becoming GSA certified include:
- Capability assessment – The company demonstrates that they can deliver the proposed products/services.
- Financial review – The GSA reviews the financial health of the company to ensure stability.
- Past performance evaluation – The GSA examines the company’s record on past government and commercial contracts.
- System for Award Management (SAM) registration – The company registers in the SAM database which validates their information and eligibility.
- Letter of supply – The company provides a letter affirming their willingness to offer the proposed products/services.
- Pricing proposals – The company submits competitive pricing consistent with their commercial practices.
Once a company completes the certification process, the GSA grants them approved vendor status for specific GSA schedules. The schedules list all the products/services the company is authorized to sell to government agencies.
Benefits of GSA Certification
There are several advantages for companies that obtain GSA certification:
- Access to government contracts – Being GSA certified allows companies to directly market and sell products/services to federal, state, and local government buyers through GSA schedule contracts.
- Streamlined procurement – GSA schedules eliminate the need for lengthy RFP processes. Government buyers can directly purchase off schedule contracts.
- Product validation – GSA certification validates that a company’s offerings meet government standards and requirements.
- Increased sales opportunities – Companies can gain new government customers that may also turn into long-term commercial clients.
- Expedited payment terms – GSA schedules can provide net 30 or faster payment from the government.
Overall, GSA certification opens the door for companies to access the immense government marketplace and create new revenue streams selling to federal, state, and local government agencies of all sizes.
How to get GSA certified?
The process of becoming GSA certified involves completing the following steps:
- Evaluate fit – Determine if your products/services align with GSA schedule categories.
- Prepare capabilities statement – Highlight qualifications and past performance.
- Register in SAM – Allows the GSA to verify company information.
- Submit required documents – Financial statements, commercial pricelist, etc.
- Complete eOffer process – Provide pricing and finalize schedule proposal online.
- Get approved – GSA reviews application and grants certification.
- Maintain schedule – Follow terms and conditions to retain certification.
The GSA certification process can take 3-9 months depending on the complexity of the offerings. Companies should partner with a GSA schedule consultant to navigate the steps and increase chances of approval.
GSA Schedule Modifications
Once a company is GSA certified, they can modify their schedules through additions and deletions when business needs change. Some common reasons for schedule modifications include:
- Add new products/services to the schedule
- Update pricing/discounts
- Remove obsolete or underperforming offerings
- Reflect corporate transactions like mergers and acquisitions
- Expand to new geographical areas
Schedule holders must submit proposed changes and receive GSA approval via mod requests before altering their contracts. The GSA aims to process mods within 60 days.
How are GSA schedules awarded?
GSA schedules are awarded based on a competitive contracting process designed to provide government buyers with favorable pricing. Steps in the GSA schedule procurement include:
- The GSA issues a solicitation for a specific schedule.
- Interested companies submit proposals detailing their qualifications.
- The GSA negotiates with companies to get the best value.
- Companies are awarded 5-year schedule contracts.
- Agencies issue orders directly from the schedules.
- Contracts can be extended up to 20 years with periodic reviews.
To get the best pricing, the GSA negotiates multiple awards for the same schedules. Government buyers can then compare and select vendors that offer the best combinations of price, quality, and delivery terms.
Key Elements of GSA Schedules
GSA schedules contain standard contract clauses and requirements vendors must adhere to, including:
- Pricing – Must be equal to or below commercial rates with volume discounts.
- Ordering – Agencies can directly purchase off schedules without RFPs.
- Changes – Modification requests must be approved to alter schedules.
- Terms and conditions – Standard clauses cover areas like payments, compliance, reporting, etc.
- Contract administration – GSA provides oversight of schedule contracts.
- Small business – Minimum quota for small business set-asides.
Adherence to schedule terms allows the GSA to deliver compliant buying vehicles federal customers can efficiently utilize. Non-compliance can result in removal from schedules.
GSA Schedules vs. FSSI
The GSA has established separate acquisition programs for commonly purchased goods and services:
- GSA Schedules – Provide customized products/services across many categories.
- Federal Strategic Sourcing Initiative (FSSI) – Consolidates buying for specific commodities like office supplies, IT, and janitorial services.
While GSA schedules offer a wider range of choices, FSSI aims to strategically source routine purchases. FSSI solutions are only open to schedule holders that can meet enhanced terms and conditions.
The GSA eLibrary website provides transparency into GSA schedule contracts and ordering data. Some of the tools available on eLibrary include:
- Contract summaries – Overviews of each GSA schedule, including scope, sales statistics, and top vendors.
- Award information – Lists of schedule contract holders and approved offerings.
- Order data – Reports on government spend through the schedules.
- Authorized catalogs – Searchable product/service listings and pricing from vendors.
- Solicitations – Current schedule RFPs open for bidding.
eLibrary enables government buyers to research schedules, evaluate options, and find the right solutions for their needs. It also helps vendors analyze competition and identify sales opportunities.
GSA Advantage is an online shopping platform that provides government purchasers direct access to schedule contractor catalogs with real-time pricing, product descriptions, and ordering information. Key features of GSA Advantage include:
- Product search and price comparison – Search and compare offerings and pricing from multiple schedule vendors.
- Online ordering – Place delivery orders directly with Schedule contractors.
- Order status and history – Track and manage orders through purchase logs.
- Utilization data – Analyze government spend by agency, schedule, and vendor.
- Requisition lists – Create lists of commonly purchased items.
GSA Advantage makes purchasing off GSA schedules easier for federal buyers while providing vendors with an online sales channel to reach government customers.
GSA and FAR Compliance
GSA schedule contractors must comply with all applicable federal regulations, including:
- GSA schedule terms and conditions
- Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR)
- Commercial supplier agreements
- Environmental and energy standards
- Labor regulations
- Buy American Act
- Trade Agreements Act
Key FAR compliance areas include proper reporting, pricing disclosures, subcontracting procedures, and quality standards. Non-compliance can result in removal from GSA schedules or even suspension/debarment from all government contracting.
Industrial Funding Fee (IFF)
GSA schedule holders must pay an IFF based on total schedule sales to cover the costs of operating the GSA acquisition system. The fee percentage depends on the industry, and averages around 1-2% of revenue.
Vendors must monitor market pricing and provide the government with the same or better discounts reflected in their commercial practices. Schedule holders need to promptly submit requests to the GSA if they offer lower prices to other customers.
Contractors must track all schedule sales and submit accurate quarterly reports to the GSA. This sales data enables transparent tracking of government expenditures through the schedules.
Both the GSA and agency ordering offices can perform random audits to verify schedule compliance in areas like pricing disclosures, reporting, and invoice accuracy.
GSA Schedule Training
The GSA offers extensive training resources to help federal agencies fully utilize schedule contracts, including:
- GSA Schedule Road Show – Multi-city event to educate agencies on schedules.
- GSA Training Center – Online courses on GSA acquisition vehicles.
- Schedules Direct – Guided buying experience for new acquisition staff.
- GSA Procurement Academy – Workshops providing in-depth schedule training.
- FAITAS – Courses on federal IT acquisition best practices.
Educated buyers lead to increased awareness and usage of GSA schedules across government. Vendors also benefit from a knowledgeable customer base.
GSA Schedules History
GSA schedules originated under the Title III authorities of the Federal Property and Administrative Services Act of 1949, which allowed GSA to enter into contracts to support the needs of other agencies. The first schedules focused on products like office supplies, hardware, and paint. Services were later added in the 1970s.
Use of the schedules program has expanded significantly since inception. As of 2022, there were over 20,000 schedule contract holders providing $41 billion annually in products, services, and solutions to government customers.
Some key developments in the evolution of the GSA schedules program include:
- 1974 – Schedules consolidated under a single Federal Supply Schedule.
- 1994 – GSA Advantage launched as an online shopping and ordering system.
- 2005 – All schedules migrated to nationwide contracts instead of regional.
- 2015 – Category management established to strategically source common items.
- 2020 – Commercial e-marketplace pilot created for open market items.
After over 70 years, GSA schedules remain a critical acquisition solution enabling government agencies to efficiently procure billions in commercial products, services, and solutions.
The Future of GSA Schedules
The GSA is focused on continuously improving the schedules program through initiatives like:
- Category management to drive smarter purchasing
- Rolling out e-commerce platforms for easier buying
- Adding more small business contracts
- Further consolidating schedules for simplicity
- Increasing technology and web presence
- Enhancing customer experience and satisfaction
Through process modernization and innovation, the GSA schedules program can continue meeting the evolving acquisition needs of government in the 21st century.