Increasing military spending and expansion of homeland-security capabilities translate into greater need for electronic test and measurement equipment. For the test-equipment procurement taking place on the part of the US military, and by Federal and some state agencies, buying equipment through the General Services Administration (GSA) offers the opportunity to reduce costs while avoiding duplication of efforts in the procurement process. In particular, the GSA Schedules Program, which is also available though government pricing vendor sites such as TestMart (www.gsa.testmart.com).

The GSA Schedules Program was established on July 1, 1949, under section 101 of the Federal Property and Administration Services Act as the result of a Presidential Commission chaired by ex-President Herbert Hoover. The program establishes government-wide contracts with commercial firms to provide ordering offices with more than 4 million commercial services and products that can be ordered directly from GSA Schedule contractors or from the GSA Advantage (www.gsaadvantage.gov) online system.

Test equipment purchased through the GSA Schedules Program conform to the Federal Acquisition Regulations (FARs). Essentially, the GSA Schedules Program provides a long listing of available test gear (and other goods) with direct delivery and volume discount pricing. This includes a broad selection of RF and microwave test equipment.

Orders are considered issued using full and open competition. Ordering offices do not need to seek further competition, synopsize the requirement, make a separate determination of fair and reasonable pricing, or consider small business programs. By placing an order against a GSA schedule, the ordering office can conclude that the order represents the best value.

GSA schedule buying makes most sense for buying small quantities or single pieces, for commercial-off-the-shelf (COTS) items, and for equipment that is fairly standard (not custom). It makes less sense for those buying multiple quantities or more than $100,000, when buying against a particular specification, and when competitive bids (even for GSA products) are needed.

For those interested in GSA test equipment (without the other millions of items listed on the GSA Schedule Program), TestMart offers all relevant GSA test gear on their website. All GSA products are clearly identified by a special logo linked to explanatory text. GSA products are searchable by model, manufacturer, and category. TestMart, 550 Taylor Ave., San Bruno, CA 94066; (650) 624-0525, FAX: (650) 624-0535, Internet: www.gsa.testmart.com.