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Reach the last mile with Connections II

In today’s high-tech world, finding the right contract vehicle can mean the difference between getting a task done efficiently and tediously searching the procurement landscape.

Much can be said for an existing contract with a pre-vetted pool of qualified industry partners and efficient ordering procedures. Agencies can depend on Connections II, whether focused on present needs like supporting the demands of a 100% mobile workforce, or future goals, like using 5G networks to coordinate a galaxy of devices.

Opportunities like this do not last forever. In this post we will take a look at one of our proven contracts that is now entering its final phase. Agencies that act now can realize some serious savings!

Connections II is a global, multi-year indefinite delivery, indefinite quantity (IDIQ) contract. This contract makes it easy and cost effective for government agency officials to find, acquire, and implement network infrastructure solutions, including:

  • Infrastructure design, installation, and implementation.
  • Professional services to support existing networks.
  • Upgrading network equipment, standards (including IPv6), and systems.
  • Transition planning and integration services.
  • Customized client-specific systems.

All without the need to create a new contract.

After many years of service, Connections II is approaching the culmination of its period of performance. However, task orders in place by January 18, 2021 can extend for up to five years.

Why Connections II?

With Connections II, you’ll have access to convenient, one-stop shopping to meet agency needs for labor, equipment, and solutions to support telecommunications, networking and network-centric applications at the LAN, building, campus, and enterprise level.

Save Time and Money

Use the inter-agency contract to reduce agency costs and acquisition time, allowing your agency resources to focus more on mission-critical operations. Strong competition means competitive prices. Additionally, your agency may be eligible for tiered pricing.

Integrate Your Enterprise, Worldwide

Connections II helps federal agencies integrate building and campus networks as part of a global infrastructure transport telecommunications solution. It also supports traceability of equipment sources to aid in managing your supply chain.

Get Full-Service Contractor Support

Contractors help agencies determine requirements and support their business goals. Incidental construction is permitted, including integral trenching, wall repair, related electrical, and HVAC.

Access Pool of Qualified Contractors and Small Businesses

Customers have access to a highly qualified set of 19 pre-qualified/pre-selected contractors. You’ll also have the choice among 9 small businesses for making socioeconomic set-asides.

Enjoy Flexibility

As a Connections II customer, you’ll have access to multiple types of task orders. You can choose between self service or GSA-assisted task ordering. Choose from priced contract line item numbers (CLIN) or add unpriced items (anticipated and expected) that are within scope. You can also set your own timelines.

Get Expert Help

Our team understands your technical needs. We have documented sample statements of work (SOWs) and other helpful information on our Resources page. We’ll walk you through the options available as your acquisition strategy develops.

Enable Transition

While the window for Connections II is closing, the door to Enterprise Infrastructure Solutions (EIS) is open wide. Included among the resources we offer is a SOW dedicated solely to managing the transition of services from one platform to another or from an old contract to a new contract. Agencies can update their infrastructure using the services provided under Connections II and smooth the way for their transitions to EIS.

For assistance anytime, please contact ConnectionsII@gsa.gov. Ask us how your agency can realize savings and reach the last mile with Connections II!

Please follow us on Twitter @GSA_ITC and LinkedIn to join our ongoing conversations about government IT.

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The New Cloud Information Center Is About More Than Just Looks

Cloud Information Center

The enhanced Cloud Information Center is designed to help users intuitively navigate the cloud adoption process, leverage best practices, and find training opportunities.

“The mind is not a vessel to be filled, but a fire to be kindled.” The ancient philosopher Plutarch first proposed this analogy nearly 2,000 years ago in his essay On Listening to Lectures to help his students learn. Though the means by which we convey knowledge have expanded, the same didactic concept can be applied to educating the Federal IT workforce about cloud computing.

Last year, the government updated its Federal Cloud Computing Strategy. Known as Cloud Smart, the strategy identified three key pillars of successful cloud adoption—security, procurement, and workforce—and directed actions be taken to strengthen them. Number one on the list was the creation of “a central location to share guidance and best practices on cloud-related topics with [government] agencies.

GSA created the Cloud Information Center (CIC) to serve as this cloud computing knowledge hub and frontline resource for Cloud Smart acquisitions. It contains a comprehensive collection of up-to-date cloud computing best practices, guidance, and templates from across the government. For the past year, the CIC has been actively educating government cloud stakeholders and demonstrating how federal agencies can leverage the technology to effectively enable their respective goals and missions.

As Plutarch’s insight into human learning demonstrates, putting all the information in one place is not enough, it must be presented in a way that is approachable and sparks interest. Having accomplished its first goal of centralizing the government’s cloud knowledge, the next iteration of the CIC delivers a positive digital experience that prioritizes accessibility and learning.

The enhanced CIC joins 18F, Centers of Excellence and FedRAMP in leveraging the Federalist platform and U.S. Web Design System to deliver rapid deployment and modern design. Visitors will enjoy an improved user experience: a cleaner interface, more intuitive navigation, and content organized in sequence of the cloud adoption lifecycle. The enhanced CIC follows the core user experience requirements set forth in the 21st Century Integrated Digital Experience Act, making it:

  • accessible and usable
  • based around user needs and tasks
  • consistent in appearance
  • securely hosted and connected
  • original, not duplicative
  • searchable
  • mobile-friendly

By embracing these human-centered design principles, the CIC will be more accessible to individuals with disabilities and better positioned to serve a wider audience.

The CIC is a collaborative effort. It will continue to promote and enable governmentwide adoption and deployment of cloud technologies without bias towards any particular contract vehicle, vendor or solution. It incorporates information and experiences from government agencies, industry, academia and other cloud-involved entities. If you are a cloud stakeholder who is interested in contributing to the CIC, making suggestions, listing a cloud contract vehicle or otherwise improving the tool’s comprehensiveness and accuracy, the GSA Cloud Team wants to hear from you.

Email cloudinfo@gsa.gov to contribute a cloud resource, share your feedback or to reach a cloud subject matter expert.

Please follow us on Twitter @GSA_ITC and LinkedIn to join our ongoing conversations about government IT.

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STARS II, Taking Action

The federal government places great importance on providing opportunities for small, disadvantaged businesses to gain experience and learn how to compete in the federal marketplace. In partnership with the Small Business Administration, GSA is helping the federal government provide a level playing field for small businesses owned by the socially and economically disadvantaged. Competition is intentionally limited on certain contracts to businesses that participate in SBA’s 8(a) Business Development program.

As a small disadvantaged business set-aside that provides flexible access to customized IT services and IT-services based solutions from a large, diverse pool of 8(a) industry partners, 8(a) STARS II has been a critical mission-enabler for agencies. We couldn’t be more proud of our 8(a) partners and their long track record of success. STARS II has exceeded our expectations at every turn and has been increasingly successful in serving the IT solutions needs of the federal government. As a result of the important work that agencies are doing through STARS II, we recently reached the contract’s ceiling for the third time.

Partnering closely with the SBA, GSA took quick action and raised the contract’s ceiling by $7B to $22B. This will help preserve the IT services supplier base during a national crisis, minimize disruption to agencies purchasing during the pandemic, and provide agencies continued access to STARS II until STARS III is available. SBA has been a great partner throughout this process. They see the unprecedented health and economic emergency caused by COVID-19 and how the pandemic is threatening the survival of many small businesses. Sustaining America’s small businesses, and ensuring maximum, practicable opportunity for small businesses, is at the heart of SBA’s mission. Their support was critical in meeting the statutory requirements under the Competition in Contracting Act that made this modification possible.

Without this much-needed increase, no new task orders could have been awarded on STARS II and all businesses on STARS II would have been ineligible for any additional business through this GWAC. The ceiling increase allows each of the 787 businesses on STARS II to continue offering Best-in-Class IT solutions to agency clients through the current contract ordering period ending August 30, 2021.

Unexpected Consequences of Demand

If GSA and SBA had not increased the ceiling, agencies could not have responded to COVID as quickly and none of the STARS II firms would have received new awards. We quickly determined that the only way to help enable a rapid agency response to the pandemic and to protect the industrial base was to increase the ceiling and keep all firms eligible during the response to the crisis.

GSA and SBA only had two viable options to raise the ceiling: 1.) to only allow firms in the SBA 8(a) program (excluding contract holders who had graduated) to receive directed task order awards, or 2.) to raise the ceiling for all industry partners, but reduce the Period of Performance (PoP).

GSA in coordination with SBA determined raising the ceiling and decreasing the PoP to 2 years was the best business decision for several reasons:

  1. GSA and SBA anticipated the 2-year PoP would permit agencies to respond to the immediate agency needs for the COVID-19 pandemic.
  2. All of the 8(a) STARS II vendors will now have the opportunity to pursue $7 billion in new business. Approximately 538 vendors have graduated from the 8(a) Program and, thanks to the ceiling increase, are still benefiting from the opportunities on 8(a) STARS II. In addition, the 204 current 8(a) firms and 45 Joint Venture firms also now are able to compete for up to $7 billion in new opportunities.
  3. A 2-year PoP will allow 8(a) program graduates the opportunity to transition out of the STARS II program. Both GSA and SBA provide a wide variety of training courses and other resources to assist small businesses that have graduated from the 8(a) Program with positioning themselves to win Federal contracts. Examples include training and guidance on finding Federal procurement opportunities, pursuing small business set asides, and becoming a mentor-protege. More information is available at SBA Learning Center and GSA Small Business.

STARS II is a flexible and high-performing contract that agencies need now more than ever as we navigate new ways of providing employee and citizen services. This contract vehicle is doing a lot of good and important work for industry and government during the pandemic and, as a good partner to the 8(a) community, we’re pleased to ensure that it can continue.

For more information, you can view a recording of our recent town hall with industry on the topic of the ceiling increase on YouTube.

What’s Next: The Future of the 8(a) STARS GWAC Program

We are excited to move forward to the next phase of the STARS franchise as we prepare for 8(a) STARS III. The solicitation for 8(a) STARS III was released on July 6, 2020.

We have developed an aggressive solicitation and evaluation timeline to make awards for 8(a) STARS III as soon as possible. The 8(a) STARS III GWAC will continue GSA’s commitment to providing world-class information technology solutions, and also add innovation in the areas of emerging technology and Outside Continental United States (OCONUS).

We expect STARS III to remain a go-to contract vehicle for agencies wanting to work with small, disadvantaged businesses, trusted for responsiveness to the IT solutions demands of our customer agencies.

Please follow us on Twitter @GSA_ITC and LinkedIn to join our ongoing conversations about government IT.

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How can GSA improve future Small Business GWACs? Join us virtually on Thursday, August 27th at 3 pm Eastern to help.

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GSA IT Acquisition University – Train On Demand!

GSA IT Acquisition University

The IT Acquisition University is designed to increase access to on-demand information technology training for interested IT government professionals.

Federal acquisition can be a murky topic. When procuring IT products that can’t be seen, are hard to quantify, and are on the cutting edge of innovation, federal acquisition becomes even more difficult. To make things easier, we launched a new training tool, the IT Acquisition University (ITAU), that aims to cut through and demystify the challenges of government IT acquisition.

Hosted on GSA’s Acquisition Gateway, ITAU is a public, on-demand platform that gives users access to training on such topics as cybersecurity, cloud migration, and federal IT modernization. A library of videos, slideshows, audio, and other media will be at the fingertips of those looking to increase their IT acquisition skillset. Government users seeking Continuous Learning Point (CLP) opportunities can take advantage of short quizzes after each completed training to earn CLPs on their own schedule. Whether you are a contracting professional, program manager, or a federal IT stakeholder, the breadth of material aims to appeal to all program levels and positions.

GSA’s ITAU sources its content from many of GSA’s own training and events. Access recordings of recent GSA Information Technology Category (ITC) programming to stay up-to-date with best practices, acquisition tips and tricks, and more. The portal also has GSA-specific training available for many of its contracts, such as Enterprise Infrastructure Solutions (EIS). Regular content refreshes will ensure that the site’s training material stays relevant and useful.

We hope that the federal IT acquisition community will take advantage of this exciting educational tool. GSA ITC welcomes user feedback and questions at the following email: ITAU@gsa.gov.

Please follow us on Twitter @GSA_ITC and LinkedIn to join our ongoing conversations about government IT.

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