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Tech Industry

Government suppliers miss B2B deadline

Thousands of business-to-business suppliers that miss the July 1 deadline are prompted to make their goods available online.

Although some contractors missed a federal deadline for registering to list their products on the government's online exchange, the deadline prompted thousands more to make their goods available online, according to the U.S. General Services Administration.

Before the July 1 deadline to have their goods available online, there were only 4,000 contractors who sold supplies online to the government. Now there are about 7,000 contractors out of an estimated 9,000 that are registered to sell through GSA Advantage, where suppliers sell government agencies everything from office supplies, tools and equipment to information technology.

"We are happy with the result," said Pat Mead, director of acquisitions for the Federal Supply Service at the GSA. "We are now working with those who are still trying to get their products listed online."

The agency has notified the suppliers who failed to meet the deadline that they have 60 days to get online or have their contracts canceled.

The GSA Advantage Web site is one of the first federal government online exchanges. After launching the site in 1995, the GSA first pushed to bring its information technology contractors online and then moved forward with its other suppliers. Although it initially asked contracted suppliers to list their products on the site in 1999, the agency put the July deadline in place last fall.

Analysts say vigorous business-to-government e-commerce is still far from a reality. Even with the initial 4,000 Web-enabled suppliers, only 0.2 percent of GSA contract orders were handled online, according to a recent survey by New York-based Jupiter Media Metrix.

But GSA officials say bringing all contracted suppliers online is a major step toward making business-to-government purchasing a reality for the federal government. Although the GSA does not handle all government purchases, most federal agencies rely on the agency to provide support in their individual procurement efforts, officials said.

However, Gartner analyst Christopher Baum said he doesn't think this is the best way to go about bringing federal purchasing online. The GSA hasn't done enough to provide adequate support to make business-to-government work, Baum said. The agency hasn't provided best-practice tools and services to their contractors, yet it is still requiring them to get their catalogs online.