In congressional testimony last week, Daniel Gordon, head of the Office of Federal Procurement Policy (OFPP), sang the praises of government-wide acquisition contracts (GWACs), the Multiple Award Schedules (MAS) Program, and other multi-agency procurement contracts that are used by more than one federal agency.

"All of these tools, when used and managed properly, allow agencies to leverage their buying power and achieve administrative efficiencies that reduce costs and produce savings for our taxpayers," said Gordon in his testimony. Gordon also noted that the OFPP is increasing its attention and oversight on agencies' interagency contracting.

Gordon was appearing before the U.S. Senate's Subcommittee on Contracting Oversight.

Gordon's views mirror those of White House Budget Director Peter Orszag, who wrote in his blog, "We are changing how the federal government does business through government-wide blanket purchase agreements (BPAs), and the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA) awarded the first set of these earlier this month for office supplies."

Orszag explained that the federal government may be the world's largest purchaser, but it does not act like it. "Agency spending is typically fragmented across multiple departments, programs and functions. As a result, the federal government acts more like scores of unrelated medium-sized businesses rather than the world's largest purchaser, and agencies often rely on hundreds of separate contracts for many commonly used items, with prices that vary widely."

Orszag's conclusion: federal agencies often do not get the best price they could in their contracting efforts.

At the same subcommittee hearing, Diane Frasier, director of the Office of Acquisition and Logistics Management at the National Institutes of Health, talked about her agency's role as executive acquisition agent for several GWACs.

In her testimony, she said the GWACs give federal agencies access to the most innovative technologies in both IT and health-related fields. She also noted that the GWAC's offer highly competitive prices; one of the GWACs, in fact, offered pricing at rates lower than the established catalog or market price.