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(The Intercept)   Buried deep In the must-pass NDAA Defense spending bill, is section 801, which, in effect, outsources almost all government procurement to Amazon   ( theintercept.com) divider line
    More: Obvious, Local government, Amazon, Federal government of the United States, Federal government, Amazon Business, Procurement, Purchasing, Business  
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1779 clicks; posted to Politics » on 09 Nov 2017 at 10:48 PM (36 weeks ago)   |   Favorite    |   share:  Share on Twitter share via Email Share on Facebook   more»



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2017-11-09 06:22:44 PM  
And? The current method is extremely prone to cronyism, wasted spending, and overcharging. Maybe this system will work better. And it should leave a nice paper trail as well.
 
2017-11-09 07:23:23 PM  
This is not a bad idea.
 
2017-11-09 10:11:01 PM  
So......buy stock?
 
2017-11-09 10:49:40 PM  
If it's at Amazon Prime speeds, at least it wouldn't take months to get office supplies.
 
2017-11-09 10:50:36 PM  
Seems odd that Trump would allow this, he HATES Bezos.
 
2017-11-09 10:50:41 PM  
I'm already drafting my one star review of the local DMV.
 
2017-11-09 10:51:55 PM  
Can't wait to hear Alex Jones' take on this sinister development.

img.fark.netView Full Size
 
2017-11-09 10:56:22 PM  
For non-critical things like office and cleaning supplies, by all means, open up a bidding war and see who gives you the best price for product + delivery.
 
2017-11-09 10:56:49 PM  
Gonna be beyond awesome when Amazon offers free 2day shipping on 120mm tank ammunition.
 
2017-11-09 11:00:40 PM  

Snarcoleptic_Hoosier: For non-critical things like office and cleaning supplies, by all means, open up a bidding war and see who gives you the best price for product + delivery.


Grainger is pissed about it, but to be honest, the venn diagram for things I look for from Grainger vs things I look for on Amazon have very little overlap.
 
2017-11-09 11:02:49 PM  
Subby and the author of TFA sure are into speculation.

"If the bill passes, purchases must be made through an 'online marketplace' that sources from multiple vendors.  Obviously that means Amazon.  DUH."

Of course, Walmart qualifies...so does eBay...hell, the company I work for would qualify since they have an online store and source their shiat through Dell, Lenovo, HP, Brother, Intel, and a fark ton of others.  But, yeah, obviously Amazon is the only game in town.
 
2017-11-09 11:02:58 PM  
As someone that has been subject to federal procurement rules for IT (in its current state; it used to be easier), 50%+ of all our budget options have been relegated to smaller, "preferred" (minority, veteran, or women-owned) firms that have structured their product schedules to be lucrative for government contracts but not at all competitive on the open market.  These suppliers are knowingly playing the system and will continue to leech until the game changes.  Yes, this will push purchases to big bad Amazon and the like, but shoehorn budgets are going to leap for joy at the fact that their dollars are going to go so much further.  Like 100% further territory.
 
2017-11-09 11:04:31 PM  

Snarcoleptic_Hoosier: For non-critical things like office and cleaning supplies, by all means, open up a bidding war and see who gives you the best price for product + delivery.


There are a couple of websites that already do that for corporate purchasing. You order through the website and whoever is cheapest at the time of the order (WB Mason, Staples, Office Depot, etc) gets the order and ships it. It avoids cronyism as long as there is a broad enough pool of competitors to keep each other honest.
 
2017-11-09 11:07:29 PM  
img.fark.netView Full Size


"'Amazon is not happening to bookselling,' Jeff Bezos of Amazon likes to say. 'The future is happening to bookselling.' And what the future wants just happens to be exactly what Amazon wants. What an amazing coincidence."
 
2017-11-09 11:08:55 PM  
I'm not actually angry about this, nor is anyone who's had to spend any amount of time browsing GSA advantage.  Or the DOD e-mall.
 
2017-11-09 11:10:47 PM  
Why doesn't the government run a bidding website open to all eligible companies where they ask for (say) 50 mil paper clips and companies then put in their bids, lowering the price as the 'auction' goes on?

Seems to me it would be a cheap site to develop and run.  Make it the only place were tenders for general goods happens, the public can watch the bidding, companies can undercut each other in real time - seems a win win to me.
 
2017-11-09 11:10:57 PM  
Expect to see a lot of blind and disabled people shifted to the dole. Skilcraft is a major supplier of office products to the federal government.

The pens aren't quite as good as a Pilot G2, but it's a good second choice and you can replace the inkwells. (Yes, we actually had replacement cartridges in the supply closet)
 
2017-11-09 11:21:46 PM  
Headline: Government hand money directly to Amazon!!!!

Story: Any online retailer can be purchased from, but since Amazon is the biggest, it's more likely that they will get increased business.
 
2017-11-09 11:23:09 PM  
It's a horrible idea. This top down edicts make a great deal of work hopelessly complicated.

An engineer working on some design will now have to source components from Amazon or spend half a day explaining why it's better or have a custom part machined at a local shop. The explanation is that you're making a modification to a design to fix a the test rig and it requires something with non-standard dimensions. So the guy in procurement comes back and demands to know why you didn't build everything with standard dimensions. So you need to re-explain that you did, but this is a modification to your testing equipment based on things you learned in the first few tests. And then you get into a debate with a non-engineer (or a failed engineer who wound up in procurement) about why you don't then redisign the test rig using standard components. You patiently try to explain that rather than rebuilding the whole rig which would cost close to a million dollars once you redid all the drawings and got them processed and approved and then rebuilt from scratch you can modify this one if you just get this one custom part machined. But the procurement person is stubborn because they get a bonus if they keep a very high percentage of all orders as coming through Amazon so they ask you to get the machine show that you know has the right tools to quickly build you the custom valve to put up their value on Amazon so you can buy it from via Amazon. Except the expert machinist hates working with the idiots at Amazon that make things too hard for a guy who doesn't do a big volume of standard parts, the model is just wrong. So eventually your boss gets involved and that gets the procurement guys boss involved, who also is looking for his bonus for having everything done through Amazon and then it bumps up to the next boss who suggests you that get the value ordered for a different project where he's got special discretionary powers because you can use the subcontractor to order some parts but then you order two and use an intradepartmental transfer option to use a surplus part. It will still take you 3 extra days but that's preferable to the alternative. All because efficiency experts have decided that the most efficient thing is to funnel procurement through Amazon.
 
2017-11-09 11:23:35 PM  
How does Amazon expect to service the government when they can't deliver a CD with an unbroken case or a tower speaker without trying three times to do it.
 
2017-11-09 11:26:01 PM  
What's Amazon's return policy?  I have a few hundred F-35s we need to send back.
 
2017-11-09 11:27:07 PM  
On the one hand, it'll save money.

On the other hand, they've already said they want to spend more on defense and they're sure as hell not going to give it to enlisted folks.

And I don't view the idea that "we'll only pay those who can afford to sell things for the lowest price" as a particularly useful goal. Again, this enriches the already wealthy, who can undercut smaller businesses and ruin them.
 
2017-11-09 11:29:20 PM  

wademh: It's a horrible idea. This top down edicts make a great deal of work hopelessly complicated.

An engineer working on some design will now have to source components from Amazon or spend half a day explaining why it's better or have a custom part machined at a local shop. The explanation is that you're making a modification to a design to fix a the test rig and it requires something with non-standard dimensions. So the guy in procurement comes back and demands to know why you didn't build everything with standard dimensions. So you need to re-explain that you did, but this is a modification to your testing equipment based on things you learned in the first few tests. And then you get into a debate with a non-engineer (or a failed engineer who wound up in procurement) about why you don't then redisign the test rig using standard components. You patiently try to explain that rather than rebuilding the whole rig which would cost close to a million dollars once you redid all the drawings and got them processed and approved and then rebuilt from scratch you can modify this one if you just get this one custom part machined. But the procurement person is stubborn because they get a bonus if they keep a very high percentage of all orders as coming through Amazon so they ask you to get the machine show that you know has the right tools to quickly build you the custom valve to put up their value on Amazon so you can buy it from via Amazon. Except the expert machinist hates working with the idiots at Amazon that make things too hard for a guy who doesn't do a big volume of standard parts, the model is just wrong. So eventually your boss gets involved and that gets the procurement guys boss involved, who also is looking for his bonus for having everything done through Amazon and then it bumps up to the next boss who suggests you that get the value ordered for a different project where he's got special discretionary powers because you can use the subcontractor to order some parts but then you order two and use an intradepartmental transfer option to use a surplus part. It will still take you 3 extra days but that's preferable to the alternative. All because efficiency experts have decided that the most efficient thing is to funnel procurement through Amazon.


Having worked in a government machine shop and with the government engineer designing experiment apparatus, I can state the above story is accurate.

Thankfully we didn't have too much trouble within the lab since most everyone was a scientist or an engineer. But I'm the time we spent discussing whether to make something or buy something, I could have just made it for less money anyway. But w/e.
 
2017-11-09 11:37:14 PM  
It's not just Amazon. Walmart, Staples, and Office Whatever can compete for product sales. Left out are local businesses that can't mount a cost effective online business. And since Amazon has basically puppeted the USPS into a subsidiary, it's a little governmental self serving.
 
2017-11-09 11:37:34 PM  

buzzcut73: Snarcoleptic_Hoosier: For non-critical things like office and cleaning supplies, by all means, open up a bidding war and see who gives you the best price for product + delivery.

Grainger is pissed about it, but to be honest, the venn diagram for things I look for from Grainger vs things I look for on Amazon have very little overlap.


Ebay?

Obselete equipment replacement?
 
2017-11-09 11:41:53 PM  
Grainger has always been about the industrial things no one would normally keep in stock. They have a great internet portal amd should probably just switch to FBA. It's the first place you'll look for a manhole surround, and even if you found it through Amazon it would then be FBA, with the 15% fee and other costs added in.
 
2017-11-09 11:46:23 PM  

ValisIV: Seems odd that Trump would allow this, he HATES Bezos.


Trump doesn't care what's actually in the bill, he just wants to be able to say he signed a huge tax cut.
 
2017-11-09 11:49:07 PM  

ValisIV: Seems odd that Trump would allow this, he HATES Bezos.


Its almost like the Executive branch doesn't craft legislation or something.
 
2017-11-09 11:52:02 PM  

wademh: It's a horrible idea. This top down edicts make a great deal of work hopelessly complicated.

An engineer working on some design will now have to source components from Amazon or spend half a day explaining why it's better or have a custom part machined at a local shop. The explanation is that you're making a modification to a design to fix a the test rig and it requires something with non-standard dimensions. So the guy in procurement comes back and demands to know why you didn't build everything with standard dimensions. So you need to re-explain that you did, but this is a modification to your testing equipment based on things you learned in the first few tests. And then you get into a debate with a non-engineer (or a failed engineer who wound up in procurement) about why you don't then redisign the test rig using standard components. You patiently try to explain that rather than rebuilding the whole rig which would cost close to a million dollars once you redid all the drawings and got them processed and approved and then rebuilt from scratch you can modify this one if you just get this one custom part machined. But the procurement person is stubborn because they get a bonus if they keep a very high percentage of all orders as coming through Amazon so they ask you to get the machine show that you know has the right tools to quickly build you the custom valve to put up their value on Amazon so you can buy it from via Amazon. Except the expert machinist hates working with the idiots at Amazon that make things too hard for a guy who doesn't do a big volume of standard parts, the model is just wrong. So eventually your boss gets involved and that gets the procurement guys boss involved, who also is looking for his bonus for having everything done through Amazon and then it bumps up to the next boss who suggests you that get the value ordered for a different project where he's got special discretionary powers because you can use the subcontractor to order some parts but then you order two and use an intradepartmental transfer option to use a surplus part. It will still take you 3 extra days but that's preferable to the alternative. All because efficiency experts have decided that the most efficient thing is to funnel procurement through Amazon.


This is undoubtedly accurate. As someone who worked for a SDVOSB and HUBzone business that purchased IT hardware from other VAR's at above retail prices and THEN resold it to the government on reserve bids, I also know that your illustration is not exclusively correct.

Let me know when federal employees accidentally order product that ships directly from China and misses thelack of a Pride window.
 
2017-11-09 11:56:30 PM  
img.fark.netView Full Size
 
2017-11-10 12:26:23 AM  

basemetal: So......buy stock?


AMZN or BABA?
 
2017-11-10 12:35:53 AM  

thismomentinblackhistory: I'm already drafting my one star review of the local DMV.


Have you ever read the Google reviews of your local dmv office? I live in DFW, but I imagine it's common in any decently sized city. There are some real gems out there.
 
2017-11-10 01:30:01 AM  
Hell I would have LOVED to have a resource like Amazon to order supplies and non aircraft specific parts while I was in. The old way was clumsy, terrible, over priced, terrible, and did I mention how terrible it was???
 
2017-11-10 01:37:51 AM  

Natalie Portmanteau: thismomentinblackhistory: I'm already drafting my one star review of the local DMV.

Have you ever read the Google reviews of your local dmv office? I live in DFW, but I imagine it's common in any decently sized city. There are some real gems out there.


After nine years of Nevada and California I moved back to Canada. I loved living in both states, but the DMV sucks the souls of of private vehicle registrants and/or drivers. In Saskatchewan, not a province I expected a great system, I walked into a local agency (privatized), turned over my Nevada permit, received a SK DL (no test or quibble - they would send the Nevada permit back to the USA) and my license plates, plus a continuous tag good as long as the car was registered in my name and the payments were deducted from my bank account. Total transaction time, from the moment I walked in the door to when I walked out: ~20 mins. No waiting. My insurance payments were about 1/8th of Cali rates because it is a crown corporation and the risk is spread across all drivers.
 
2017-11-10 02:31:17 AM  

Farxist Marxist: Natalie Portmanteau: thismomentinblackhistory: I'm already drafting my one star review of the local DMV.

Have you ever read the Google reviews of your local dmv office? I live in DFW, but I imagine it's common in any decently sized city. There are some real gems out there.

After nine years of Nevada and California I moved back to Canada. I loved living in both states, but the DMV sucks the souls of of private vehicle registrants and/or drivers. In Saskatchewan, not a province I expected a great system, I walked into a local agency (privatized), turned over my Nevada permit, received a SK DL (no test or quibble - they would send the Nevada permit back to the USA) and my license plates, plus a continuous tag good as long as the car was registered in my name and the payments were deducted from my bank account. Total transaction time, from the moment I walked in the door to when I walked out: ~20 mins. No waiting. My insurance payments were about 1/8th of Cali rates because it is a crown corporation and the risk is spread across all drivers.


long live the queen ?
 
2017-11-10 03:41:27 AM  
Jeff Bezos Amazon Washington Post F-35s?
 
2017-11-10 08:05:26 AM  
This looks like the type of section put into a law that is made to look legal and above board because it does not specify one particular company but in reality can only benefit one company.  I would not be surprised if a lobbyist for Amazon had a hand in writing the language and getting it put into the bill.
 
2017-11-10 08:51:02 AM  

robbrie: Gonna be beyond awesome when Amazon offers free 2day shipping on 120mm tank ammunition.


And then hear complaints after the box is stolen off the DoDs doorstep.
 
2017-11-10 11:16:30 AM  
From the bill summary: This section would require the General Services Administration (GSA) to contract with multiple commercial online marketplaces for the procurement of certain commercial-off-the-shelf (COTS) products. Marketplaces would be limited to those that are commonly used in the private sector; provide a dynamic selection of products and prices from numerous suppliers; provide procurement oversight controls, such as two-person approval for purchases; and can screen suppliers and products to ensure compliance with suspension and debarment, domestic sourcing, and other similar statutes. Online marketplaces primarily provide streamlined and automated access to various suppliers; suppliers therefore would be considered prime vendors for purposes of the Small Business Act. This section would require the Comptroller General to provide a report to the relevant congressional committees on small business participation in the marketplaces not later than 3 years after a contract with an online marketplace provider is awarded

wademh: The explanation is that you're making a modification to a design to fix a the test rig and it requires something with non-standard dimensions. So the guy in procurement comes back and demands to know why you didn't build everything with standard dimensions.


This seems a strawman; TFA specifies this is to be used for "commercial off-the-shelf products". It does not say that off-the-shelf must be used.

Also, this isn't a single-source through Amazon proposal. The institution I work at uses a state-wide e-marketplace for most crap. Our server backend talks to various other corporate e-commerce servers about what they're offering, and presents it all in one interface. Last I checked Amazon is actually NOT one of the sites available. They don't want to support the common API, dislike some rules limiting how frequently prices can change, and other stuff.

There are several reasons it sucks; mainly, the cheapskates haven't thrown enough server power at this, so the site tends laggy, especially for anyone used to shopping at Amazon.

wademh: But the procurement person is stubborn because they get a bonus if they keep a very high percentage of all orders as coming through Amazon


I'm not seeing where section 801 has that. To the contrary, that would effectively seem to violate section 801(c)4.

The possible poison pill I am seeing is this (emphasis added):
The committee expects that by contracting with numerous marketplaces, there will be competition between marketplaces for procurement of COTS products, and government personnel will have streamlined access to suppliers, products, and prices from varying marketplaces. The section therefore would not require GSA to use competitive procedures to contract with each marketplace.

There's a lot to scream about when it comes to government procurement procedures. However, most of the rules are in place because someone at some point in the past found some way to defraud the government... and it's a lot easier to recover money that was never handed over in the first place. This looks like it will short-circuit that. Anyone here ever found out that a deal from Amazon that seemed to be too good to be true... wasn't true? (To give the devil his due: Amazon is quite good about refunds in such cases. However, sometimes it takes a little longer than the return period to determine that a product is substandard.) There's some stuff in section 801(d) that might help, but I'm not sure it will be enough.

Additionally, they really do need to make sure that they do have multiple vendors in their marketplaces, and probably take steps to prevent cartel price agreements among suppliers. But the idea isn't completely defective, merely suspect.
 
2017-11-10 12:51:52 PM  
Does this mean we can finally get a hammer for less than $600?
 
2017-11-10 01:28:16 PM  

Stibium: Expect to see a lot of blind and disabled people shifted to the dole. Skilcraft is a major supplier of office products to the federal government.

The pens aren't quite as good as a Pilot G2, but it's a good second choice and you can replace the inkwells. (Yes, we actually had replacement cartridges in the supply closet)


Fellow fed here and our office too buys Skilcraft.  I spend most of my workday marking up documents by hand and most of their stuff is crap. I'll quietly spend $75/year or so out of my own pocket at amazon prime or Office Depot for name brand pens, markers, and highlighters that actually work and are comfortable to use.

I have some old Skilcraft 0.5mm mechanical pencils which I still use. They're the exception rather than the rule.
 
2017-11-10 08:19:46 PM  

abb3w: From the bill summary: This section ...


You looked far deeper than me. Nevertheless, the theme is an oft repeated one pressed by auditors and accountants. They tend to press for as many commercially standard components as possible to simplify the auditing process. A noble effort to be sure. It can and does however produce cart before the horse priorities.

As should be obvious, simplification of the auditing and accounting process is an artificial goal to anyone but auditors and accountants. And it has produced the equivalent of "Build us a space shuttle, but build it exclusively with components you can pick up at the local Home Depot". There's certainly something to be said for designing to use components that are already mass produced, avoiding designs that require parts to meet precision specifications greater than are generally commercially available. In the give and take of a design, don't require that key piece to be within 30 parts per billion ID if it requires extreme manufacturing techniques to achieve it and there are more forgiving alternatives. All wonderful.

But these principles get codified in ways that become counter-productive in their simplistic rigor. They may have begun as ways to avoid fraud and waste but they commonly produce waste. That's simply a fact of life with attempts at one-size-fits-all. Often there are sensible corrective work arounds until you run up against Rules over Reasons for the Rules individuals.

Your point about obviating competitive bidding because of a presumption of an innate competitive landscape is a separate manifestation of the same kind of simplistic top-down failure of policy edicts.
 
2017-11-10 09:54:37 PM  

Teufelaffe: Subby and the author of TFA sure are into speculation.

"If the bill passes, purchases must be made through an 'online marketplace' that sources from multiple vendors.  Obviously that means Amazon.  DUH."

Of course, Walmart qualifies...so does eBay...hell, the company I work for would qualify since they have an online store and source their shiat through Dell, Lenovo, HP, Brother, Intel, and a fark ton of others.  But, yeah, obviously Amazon is the only game in town.


I like Rakuten, gotten some great deals on there.
 
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