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Robert Burton, Partner & Expert Witness at Crowell & Moring, discusses e-marketplaces and Congress’ request for GSA to put together a centralized marketplace for federal agencies

The General Services administration is planning to unveil a pilot program soon for e-marketplace micro-purchases. Robert Burton, former Deputy Administrator of the Office of Federal Procurement Policy in the Executive Office of the President, wrote in a Nextgov op-ed that federal agencies are looking to e-marketplaces to fulfill key procurement needs by directing critical supplies to those who need it most.

Burton told “Government Matters” that every federal agency is utilizing the flexible opportunities of purchasing from e-marketplaces. “Congress has asked GSA to take the lead in putting together a central place to go, where Congress has mandated there be three to four marketplaces that you could choose from.”  Currently, agencies have the freedom to choose the marketplace of their choice based on best price and value, which creates competition amongst thousands of suppliers.

“My advice to the government is ‘keep this simple’,” said Burton. “Let the marketplace dictate the prices; you’re going to have competition, and you’re going to be able to choose and look for the lowest price, but of course that’s not the only thing you’ll want to look at…”

Online marketplaces have played a critical role during the COVID-19 global pandemic. Federal agencies were tasked with acquiring essential supplies for first responders, and the e-marketplaces offered quick and easy purchasing processes. Burton equated the use of e-marketplaces during the pandemic as “a great success story” in federal procurement.

“Bottom line is that we’re going to see the government moving to the use of e-marketplaces more than ever before,” said Burton.

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