Since 2002, the General Services Administration (GSA) has been offering several programs to allow state and local governments to purchase from GSA’s Multiple Award Program. In this article, we will shine a spotlight on one of the top programs: Cooperative Purchasing.

About the Cooperative Purchasing Program

The Cooperative Purchasing Program, allows state, local and tribal governments to purchase from vendors offering a variety of information technology products and services (offered through GSA Schedule 70) as well as security and law enforcement products and services (offered through GSA Schedule 84). These entities, like their federal counterparts, can utilize GSAAdvantage!, GSA eBuy and the GSA ReverseAuctions platform under Cooperative Purchasing.

History of Cooperative Purchasing

Cooperative purchasing was born from Section 211 of the E-Government Act of 2002. In 2003, the GSA published a proposed rule to amend the Federal Property and Administrative Services Act. The proposed rule focused on GSA Schedule 70 to “allow states and local governments to order supplies via information technology (IT) contracts negotiated and secured by the federal government.” In 2007, the “Local Preparedness Acquisition Act,” was filed allowing the purchase of Security and Law Enforcement Products and Services through Schedule 84.

Goods and Services Available under Cooperative Purchasing

Schedule 70 (IT Products and Services) and 84 (Security and Law Enforcement) are two of the largest GSA Schedules. When you combine them, this makes for a large pool of products and services available to state and local governments. Here is a short description of each category:

  • Schedule 70 features a wide variety of information technology products and services including mobile device and mobile application management (MDM/MAM) tools, automated data processing equipment (firmware), software, cloud computing services, hardware, support equipment and related professional services.
  • Schedule 84 features alarm and signal systems, facility management systems, firefighting and rescue equipment, law enforcement and security equipment, marine craft and related equipment, special purpose clothing and related services.

Who Can Use Cooperative Purchasing?

All GSA contract holders in Schedule 70 and 84 may participate in the Cooperative Purchasing Program. Most vendors choose to participate in the program, but some opt-out because they do not know the strength of cooperative purchasing in the state and local markets, or those vendors take issue with the terms and conditions of the Cooperative Purchasing Program. To give you an idea of how widely-accepted cooperative purchasing is, of the 1,031 contractors listed under Schedule 70 SIN 132-8, 852 have chosen to participate (83%).

From the purchasing side, the term “state and local government” has been meticulously defined for state and local entities. The General Services Administration Acquisition Manual (GSAM), Part 538.7001, Definitions, offers the following definition of state and local governments:

"The States of the United States, counties, municipalities, cities, towns, townships, tribal governments, public authorities (including public or Indian  housing agencies under the United States Housing Act of 1937), school districts, colleges, and other institutions of higher education, council of governments incorporated or not), regional or interstate government entities, or any agency or instrumentality of the preceding entities (including any local educational agency or institution of higher education), and including legislative and judicial departments. The term does not include contractors, or grantees, of state or local governments.”

There are many benefits for state and local governments through the Cooperative Purchasing Program, however, it is not fully adopted. Many entities are unable to overcome a number of legal as well as administrative barriers to take advantage of the GSA Schedule contracts.

Cooperative Purchasing Annual Sales for State & Local Governments

Overall, cooperative purchasing has been successful if you look at the sales numbers. Since 2010, the program has seen gains in every year but one.     

Fiscal Year Annual Sales Growth
2010 $482,309,006 -
2011 $641,227,199 32.9%
2012 $616,578,130 -3.8%
2013 $664,881,007 7.8%
2014 $846,857,705 27.4%

* This data was sourced using the GSA Schedule Sales Query Report Generation System and a custom query request for cooperative spending data from the GSA.

Despite a tightening budget within all state and local governments, the annual sales are creeping closer and closer to the $1 billion mark.

The Future of Cooperative Purchasing

There is obviously room for expansion in the Cooperative Purchasing Program because only two of the GSA’s 31 Schedules are being offered. State and local governments could benefit greatly from Schedules such as Facilities Maintenance (03FAC), Building Materials Goods and Supplies (56), Office Products (75), Food Service (73), Furniture (71 & 72), and many more. It is noteworthy that the Disaster Purchasing Program allows state and local governments to purchase from all GSA Schedules, but only in a disaster or preparedness setting.

There does not seem to be any increased efforts from the Schedule 84 department, but the Schedule 70 folks are pushing hard for success with the Cooperative Purchasing Program. Since late 2012, the GSA IT Schedule 70 has been focusing efforts on increasing cooperative purchasing adoption among state and local governments. This effort has been directed at spreading the word, because many state and local government buyers still do not know that they can purchase from GSA Schedules through cooperative purchasing. IT Schedule 70 is providing essential information about GSA’s Cooperative Purchasing Program via resources, webinars, training, and general Q&A support. State and local outreach has been strategically divided into three tentative waves, currently being implemented. This approach has proven successful in outreaching state and local buyers, as you can see in the cooperative purchasing annual sales figures above.