GSA received the authority from the John
Warner National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal year 2007 (Public
Law 109-364), after the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) concluded
that all products and services available on FSS schedules could
potentially help states and communities recover from a natural disaster
or an act of terrorism.
To that end, states can buy with impunity from
any GSA schedule when they are in disaster recovery mode, said Peter
Ostrow, president and CEO of Technical Communities Inc., based in San
"That is valuable to the homeland security
effort," Ostrow told HSToday.us. "There was a lot of gouging during
[the recovery from Hurricane] Katrina. The government needed a product
or service right away. They were less interested in what the cost was.
They focused on how quickly they could get it and how effective it
would be. This ruling really creates a much better solution, which is
that you can get it right away but you can get a good price."
A company like Technical Communities becomes
very useful to industry and government officials who do not have a
great deal of knowledge about GSA schedules in the response to or
recovery from a disaster. Technical Communities essentially provides
businesses with a place to outsource their GSA contract management;
pre- and post-sales efforts, including order management; and marketing
to government buyers.
Ostrow and his company use their vast data
resources to tap into the companies best suited for specific operations
to provide government buyers with the best quotes on specific products
or services. This visibility into government suppliers enables
Technical Communities to respond to customer requests very quickly in
the event of a terrorist attack or natural disasters.
Indeed, after the attack on the World Trade
Center on 9/11, Technical Communities assisted with getting equipment
for a major test of interoperable communications.
"Directly after that, there was a move toward
a single radio standard. We provided the equipment that tested that
radio standard and it was deployed right away," Ostrow revealed.
Industry uses vehicles like the upcoming
GovSec Conference and Exhibition in Washington, DC, on May 9-10 to
market to government. But some companies may not know all of the
avenues for marketing to government or they may suspect government
would have use for their products or services but would rather focus on
their core competencies in running their businesses.
Technical Communities, then, basically offers
companies the ability to give those headaches to someone else. Ostrow
explained that his company operates on a transaction fee basis. So
after a small upfront cost and annual fee, his clients only pay when
they make a specific order.
"Our approach to selling to the government
through GSA is that this isn’t some completely unknowable process,"
Ostrow elaborated. "It isn’t fraught with disaster and harm and damage.
It’s a very straightforward process. You have to learn it. For most
companies, it is not a core competency. But it is ours.
"So collecting from the government requires
understanding where to collect from, how to fill out the paperwork, who
to talk to, and if you don’t do it on a regular basis, it becomes
costly, less knowable and anxiety producing," he added.
Technical Communities represents many
companies that manufacture technical equipment that is high in demand
for disaster recovery and security operations, including many companies
in the business of producing precision instrumentation for the
measurement of microwaves, cellular service, satellite service, and
electricity as well as spectrum analysis.
The reach provided by Technical Communities
also is very valuable to large businesses that hold contracts that
require niche support.
So, as a purely theoretic example, The Boeing
Co., prime contractor for the DHS Secure Border Initiative-Network
(SBInet) system, might turn to Technical Communities as it places
sensors and cameras along the southern US border. The equipment used in
SBInet requires a lot of cable and wiring, and Technical Communities
represents companies like Anixter International, which provide Corning
fiber and cabling.
"If I were a Boeing and I were looking at who
I could potentially partner with or what products and services I might
require, Corning would show up immediately and Anixter would show up
because of its pricing advantage," Ostrow remarked.