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Sun Microsystems Drops GSA

In a move that surprised many of us who procure, manage and upgrade Sun systems hardware and software technology solutions, Sun Microsystems informed the GSA in September that the company is canceling its GSA multiple-award schedule contract, effective October 12. The timing of the cancellation seemed to surprise even GSA Administrator Lurita Doan who had just solicited outside help to facilitate the long running contract dispute between the GSA and Sun.

In a follow-on statement by a Sun spokeswoman, "We took this step reluctantly, as we have always valued our relationship with GSA." However, Larry Allen, President of the Coalition for Government Procurement probably better said what most of us are thinking, "That sets a dangerous precedent for government acquisition." Allen's follow-on comment spoke to what may be the underlying issue with Sun, "It doesn't matter if you make a good faith effort to comply, if an official or the [inspector general] has it in for you, you're in trouble. You can dot all your I's and cross all your T's, if there's a vendetta against you, it won't matter one bit."

This GSA cancellation is really a story of politics and egos. Not the least of which is Senator Charles Grassley's insistence to cancel the Sun GSA contract, thereby, escalating the battle of egos between himself and Sun Chairman Scott McNealy who two months prior to the GSA cancellation requested a meeting with Grassley to discuss the dispute. The meeting never took place.

While Sun products remain available on other GWACs (Governmentwide Acquisition Contracts) such as NASAs Solutions for Enterprisewide Procurement (SEWP) contract, SEWP has dramatically less vendor representation than the GSA schedule, thereby, inherently making Sun products more difficult to buy and potentially making them more expensive to buy as SEWP GWAC members may charge premiums for other contractors to work through their contact vehicle (SEWP is a closed membership).

Doan has escalated this unfortunate issue to the President's Council on Integrity and Efficiency for an independent review. However, once the ego's of politicians and CEO's set the stage, there will be no common sense solution or other resolution forthcoming. The end result of this competition of egos is a loss to information technology civil servants, and ultimately a loss to taxpayers.

Posted November 13, 2007 in Information Systems
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