Comparison of Federal Multi-vendor Contracts

It is difficult to be a successful federal contractor without having a multi-vendor contract. The basic types of multi-vendor contracts are summarized below.

Multi-Vendor Contract Comparison

Features/Type GSA Schedules (MAS Contracts) Government-wide
Acquisition Contracts (GWACs)
Other Multi-vendor Contracts
Requirements are specified at time an order is placed Yes Yes Yes
Approved price lists Yes Yes Yes
Term of contract 5 years plus 3, five-year options Usually 5 years 3 to 5 years
When vendor proposals are accepted At any time Usually a 30-to 60-day window and then contract is no longer open Usually a 30-to 60-day window and then contract is no longer open
Number of vendors Unlimited (currently 10,000 plus)
Note - This makes them attractive to small businesses and, in many cases, is there only option.
10 to 40 Varies across agencies
Open to small businesses Yes Some have small business components Varies
Number of contracts 50 or more across most industries 15 or more for information technology only Varies for commodities like office supplies, military material, & information technology
Who is approved to use them All federal agencies plus over 200 quasi-federal agencies

State and local agencies for the information technology schedule only (unless emergency situation exists)
Any federal agency One or several federal agencies

Multi-vendor contracts allow the federal government to use competitive procedures when purchasing products and services with public funds. The question becomes: "Is there enough competition when buying through multi-vendor contracts?" The answer to this basic question is not simple. It depends on the eye of the beholder and whether you are a Katrina victim needing a trailer quickly, a company holding a multi-vendor contract for trailers, or a company selling trailers looking in from the outside.

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