The federal government purchased $53 billion in commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) items in 2016, according to a memo from the Coalition for Government Procurement, a nonprofit association of commercial contractors.

If the government reduced those costs by just 5 percent, it would save $2.5 billion annually. And those savings are just the low-hanging fruit from the purchasing part of a multipart equation.

As an example, four Xerox printer toner cartridges—magenta, yellow, cyan and black—cost $1,102.34 on the U.S. General Services Administration’s (GSA) Advantage portal. However, through the Amazon Business portal, the same Xerox cartridges were, at this writing, $962.99. The difference may not seem that enormous, but given the volume at which the federal government buys such products, that savings of $139.35 adds up fast.

In a high-volume office, where printer cartridges may be replaced monthly, the total savings for a year would be $1,672.20. Even if that replacement rate were halved to just six times a year, there would still be a savings of $836.10 a year for a single printer. But we are not talking single printers.

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