As we celebrate Veterans Day, we want to take a moment to appreciate all of the men and women who contribute to this great nation through their service in our military. America’s veterans are one of our most valued resources. Veterans bring a unique skill set, knowledge, and experience to everything they do; and GSA has been able to tap into their valuable expertise through our Service-Disabled Veteran-Owned Small Business (SDVOSB) contract for IT Services, VETS 2.
GSA’s VETS 2 Governmentwide Acquisition Contract is available to all federal customers. Agencies purchasing IT services through the VETS 2 contract demonstrate how prevalent veterans are in supporting mission-critical IT services needs across the federal landscape. One of the important core capabilities of VETS 2 is Cybersecurity. The SDVOSB firms on the contract have done the work, and 77 percent of the firms have extensive experience in cybersecurity. More than 60 of the VETS 2 industry partners have a secret or top-secret facilities clearance. These companies are well established in the IT industry. The background they bring with their previous military experience has been key to their success.
The IRS, Treasury, DHS, DoD, Army, and Air Force have all tapped into the expertise of our VETS 2 Industry Partners. They have placed task orders on the contract for IT Security and Cybersecurity requirements. Since the inception of the VETS 2 contract in February of 2018, there have been 21 task orders specifically to support IT Security needs within the government. This shows that veterans can provide the specialized knowledge, skills, and abilities that are needed today.
The single largest task order that has been issued on the VETS 2 contract was completed by GSA’s Federal Systems Integration and Management Center (FEDSIM) on behalf of the United States Army Pacific (USARPAC). This task order will help USARPAC in providing a quality-focused process and capability that enables effective sustainment and modernization of critical Command, Control, Communications, Computers (C4), and IT systems. These services include site surveys, engineering, design, procurement, logistics, implementation, operations and maintenance, knowledge management, cybersecurity, and training of new and existing C4 IT systems. This is an excellent example of the broad capabilities available through VETS 2.
2020 has been hugely successful for the VETS 2 contract, with 97 task orders worth more than $1 billion. This contract is only in its third year and is already surpassing expectations. There are 69 industry partners on the contract with a variety of specialized IT services core capabilities. VETS 2 is also a Best-in-Class contract as designated by the Office of Management and Budget. Federal customers using VETS 2 will receive socioeconomic credit toward small business goals as well as credit toward their Spend Under Management goals.
On Veteran’s Day each year, we reflect on the hard, mission-enabling work our veterans continue to deliver for our government every day, and I couldn’t be more proud of our VETS 2 team and industry partners.
For more information about the industry partners on the contract, check out our VETS 2 website.
Please follow us on Twitter @GSA_ITC and LinkedIn to join our ongoing conversations about government IT.
To close out National Cybersecurity Awareness Month, here are some steps federal agencies can take to protect their IT systems from cyber attacks and cybersecurity vulnerabilities using the Authorization to Operate (ATO) process.
An ATO demonstrates that a federal agency has gone through a federally approved, detailed process to protect an IT system from incidents such as cyberattacks, security breaches, malware, and phishing attempts. Many federal IT systems are required to obtain an ATO to process government data and federal regulations recommend that agencies follow the Risk Management Framework (RMF) to become authorized.
GSA’s Highly Adaptive Cybersecurity Services (HACS) Special Item Number (SIN) provides solutions for all of an agency’s cybersecurity service needs, including RMF. The HACS SIN connects agencies with vendors who have passed oral technical evaluations for cybersecurity services performed within the RMF, and who are ready to assist agencies with the RMF process for a successful authorization.
All of the steps, tasks, and activities that precede the “Authorize” step of the RMF help to prepare the information system for the authorizing official’s appraisal. The authorizing official is not a contractor, but a federal employee of whichever agency is seeking ATO.
The HACS SIN connects federal agencies with contractors who can help in each stage of the RMF. Contractors can assist agencies in producing the deliverables associated with each RMF step listed in the chart below.
Once an agency has successfully completed the first four steps of the RMF (“Categorize” through “Assess”), an authorizing official will evaluate the system. The authorizing official for the federal agency in question evaluates residual risks identified during the security control assessment, and makes the decision to authorize the system to operate, deny its operation, or ask the agency to address any issues.
When granting an ATO, authorizing officials look for the following checklist of items:
Plan of Action and Milestones (POA&M)
Final Risk Determination and Risk Acceptance
The POA&M is one of the most important deliverables produced in the RMF process. It reflects organizational priorities for addressing any remaining weaknesses and deficiencies in an information system and its environment of operation. The Authorization Package includes all key documents including the security plan, security assessment report, and the POA&M.
Following the RMF steps helps your agency to achieve ATO, but the work does not end after an ATO is issued. Agencies must also continuously monitor their systems to ensure that security controls remain effective over time.
In addition, many federal agencies must reauthorize their information systems every three years by going through the RMF process again. This is where the final step of the RMF, “Monitor Controls,” is important. As part of continuous monitoring, a sample of the applicable security controls are tested annually, periodic vulnerability scanning is performed, and security impact analysis of changes are performed. If an agency continuously monitors its systems over those three years by documenting specific technical changes, environment changes, or changes to the organizational risk management strategy, it may be easier to renew an ATO because any security risks can be mitigated at the time they occur.
As an organization, GSA places a lot of importance on guiding IT service providers in forming relationships and doing business with the federal government. GSA is also here to assist agencies as they navigate the marketplace of emerging and transformative IT solutions that will help them achieve their missions and perform efficiently.
With that in mind, we’re naming our next-generation Governmentwide Acquisition Contract (GWAC) “Polaris,” and we’re developing it with these important attributes as our guides.
Polaris is also known as “The Guiding Star” in the night sky. This GWAC represents another step forward for the next generation of IT services based solutions from GSA. Polaris will not only guide small businesses through the federal market, it will also help GSA customer agencies through the acquisition of IT service-based solutions, and give GSA a chance to improve our offerings and set the agency on a solid course for the future.
GSA recognizes the value of collaborating with our industry partners, customers, and other stakeholders. The only way to improve the quality and availability of IT services in the marketplace is to know exactly how agencies and industry partners feel about current products and processes, as well as opportunities for innovation. For that reason, we solicited feedback from industry partners prior to and during the industry forum. At that time, we also vowed to keep the conversation going.
To facilitate that dialogue, we launched the SB GWAC Community of Interest (COI). The COI is a webpage that allows for an exchange of thoughts on topics related to all of GSA’s small business GWACs. This input will be taken into consideration as we develop a plan forward. Additionally, engagement with agency and industry partners will continue through additional market research.
Broadening the Industrial Base
Pricing Strategy: GSA is considering new strategies to increase our pool of qualified small businesses that serve federal agencies. One of the most ambitious approaches involves the potential employment of Section 876 of the Fiscal Year 2019 National Defense Authorization Act in the next-generation vehicle, through FAS’s “Enhancing Competition at the Order Level” initiative under the Federal Marketplace Strategy. Section 876 gives GSA authority to award contracts to qualifying offerors without considering prices for services acquired on an hourly rate basis.
As this would shift the focus to pricing competition at the task order level – it is important that we continue our efforts to increase competition in the marketplace by creating opportunities for qualified small businesses.
On-ramps: By offering open season on-ramps, the industrial base could be expanded as technology changes, the market evolves, and to improve competition at the task order level. This would be a great benefit to federal agencies. On-ramping could allow agencies continuous access to top performing industry partners that offer the latest advancements in technology. On-ramping will also allow vendors the opportunity for consideration to be on the GWAC following the initial award period.
Additionally, small businesses with fresh ideas could have the opportunity to participate in the federal IT services marketplace. This approach could also improve overall federal government efficiency and might potentially help close the age-old government/private sector technology gap.
Opportunity Expansion: GSA’s small business GWACs have supported agencies in meeting their small business goals for more than two decades. We want to build on this success by looking at small businesses without socio economic status as well as options to increase opportunities for HUBZone and woman-owned small businesses. GSA is also eager to engage with industry about the possibilities of providing lifecycle opportunities on GSA contract vehicles for small businesses as they grow and mature.
Embracing Technology to Maximize Efficiency: Polaris aims to provide customers with streamlined access to emerging technology providers including those offering artificial intelligence, automated technologies (like robotic process automation), blockchain, 5G implementation (including edge computing), cyber security, and cloud.
Efforts to Ease the Process
In hopes of optimizing performance, GSA is improving existing business practices. Recent industry feedback has made it clear that we must work even harder to ease the strain that prospective future GWAC holders experience while trying to partner with us. For that reason, we are working on improvements to the proposal submission and evaluation processes. We’re currently exploring the use of an online proposal submission tool to expedite the award process. We’re also looking at an evaluation strategy that aligns with customer requirements, while using objective evaluation criteria to the maximum extent possible. Additionally, as a result of positive feedback received on the self-scoring approach used on VETS 2 and Alliant 2, a similar strategy for the new vehicle is being considered.
Power in Knowing
GSA’s Office of Small and Disadvantaged Business Utilization (OSDBU) has long been a valued resource to the small business community. We recognize that small businesses fuel the nation’s economy and sincerely welcome our responsibility to provide the support the community needs and expects. As with past GWAC launches, GSA is equipped to help prospective GWAC partners familiarize themselves with the process. GSA’s OSDBU team helps small businesses better position themselves for available opportunities by providing training and resources. This includes free virtual training on creating a federal marketing plan, and identifying federal customers through the Federal Procurement Data System (FPDS). For more information, regional OSDBU contacts can be accessed by visiting GSA’s small business support page.
We plan to host regular engagement events to keep all stakeholders up-to-date on the path to the new Polaris solicitation and award. Details about our future engagements will be made available on the COI web page.
What’s the Timeline?
We are in the very early stages of the process and are looking forward to continuing dialogue with our industry partners and agency customers. We’re working to release a request for information this month and we’re hopeful that we’ll be able to get a draft request for proposals out within the next few months.
We are enthusiastic that our new, next-generation small business GWAC has the potential to not only increase the industrial base and pool of qualified vendors, but also vastly increase the quality and diversity of IT services available to federal agency customers.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 email@example.com 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.
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:
GSA and SBA anticipated the 2-year PoP would permit agencies to respond to the immediate agency needs for the COVID-19 pandemic.
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.
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.
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.
If you’ve scrolled through social media or watched live TV lately, you’ve likely seen an ad for 5G. If you find yourself wondering why there is so much conversation about 5G –you are not alone. Is it worth all of this attention?
We think so. 5G is set to revolutionize the world’s telecommunications infrastructure, paving the way for even greater use of autonomous devices and expanding the number of interconnected devices in the Internet of Things (IoT).
In October 2019, GSA held its first public event about 5G, where government and industry experts gave us a compelling look at the rollout of next generation networks, discussed how they’ll support IoT applications, and outlined the steps necessary to secure this new hyperconnected future.
Going forward, we’ll be sharing a series of posts outlining how we expect 5G will drive change across government, and what agencies should do to prepare. 5G means different things to different people, so our “5G for Government” strategy is best visualized as a wheel composed of six core concepts:
This post will look at the evolution of the technology enabling 5G, and more importantly, the types of devices, applications, and services that will soon depend on it.
New Tech, Same Trends
The first cellular telephones hit the market in the mid-1970s and offered wireless voice calling over an analog network. In the early 90s, this first generation cellular technology, using analog telecommunications standards, transitioned to a 2G digital network, allowing both voice and data to travel wirelessly between devices.
3G and 4G gave us mobile internet and streaming video, respectively, leading to the rise of the smartphone and entirely new industries, such as mobile application development and cross-platform analytics.
Remember when you couldn’t open an email attachment on your phone or send a photo—let alone a video—over a wireless network? When did that change?
Most people could not tell you which network generation enabled what feature, only that devices became faster, applications more data dependent, and new services arose as capabilities increased.
The same will be true for 5G, but due to its engineered flexibility and vast capacity for high-speed data transfer, the changes will come sooner and reach far beyond communications.
Why 5G Is Different
Since 5G is still new to the market, what we can say about its current technology is limited. Indeed, many experts will tell you that 5G was designed to support applications and services that are still largely confined to a laboratory setting. For now, when we look at the technology, we can only compare it to what’s currently on the market, but when we do, it becomes apparent that we’re just seeing the tip of the iceberg.
Take the smartphone, for instance. Right now, a phone on a 4G network downloads data at approximately 12-36 megabits per second (Mbps). A 5G enabled phone clocks in at 50 Mbps at minimum. Phones on the fastest commercial networks can reach 1,000 (1 gigabit) per second, and average speeds are expected to exceed 10 Gbps as the technology matures.
How does it reach these speeds? 5G transmitters use higher frequency radio waves, some in or near the millimeter wave band of the electromagnetic spectrum. Bandwidth is much more plentiful there, which greatly increases the capacity and speed of data transfer. Instead of a single cellular antenna, the 5G phone contains multiple receivers, allowing it to process all this data over multiple streams, in parallel. You could liken it to filling a glass of water from the bottom up, and the top down, at the same time.
Smaller, More Flexible Networks
Like their predecessors, 5G networks are digital cellular networks, in which the service area covered by providers is divided into a mosaic of small geographical areas called cells. While conventional cell phone towers are hundreds of feet tall, millimeter wave antennas are only a few inches long. Though an individual antenna may only cover a small area, multiple antennas can work together as phased arrays to beam data straight to the user. This technique, known as beamforming, is one of many ways that 5G networks can be optimized to improve performance while it serves huge numbers of devices.
Open To Innovation
Small but mighty, 5G networks could be used to provide general home and office internet connections. A technique called network slicing could be used to segment a larger 5G network into highly customizable “slices,” managed and operated independent of the infrastructure owner, tailored to unique business needs. When used in conjunction with software-defined wide area networking (SD-WAN), 5G could replace outdated cable connections in government offices, campuses, and military bases.
Edge computing is another exciting concept made practical by 5G. This technique involves creating a cloud-based IT service environment at the edge of the cell, leveraging its unique properties and raw power to move computational workloads physically closer to the user. Theoretically, sophisticated edge computing could eliminate the need for physical hard drives and bulky device components, as the actual computing would occur in the cloud and beam compiled data directly to a screen or user interface. Battery sizes would shrink, ushering in new opportunities for wearable and drone technology.
Hypercharged wireless internet and robust cloud computing are just the start. The high data rate and low latency of 5G are envisioned as opening up many new applications in the near future. The use of data-heavy virtual and augmented reality applications in healthcare and research is one promising example. Another is 5G’s facilitation of fast machine-to-machine interactions in the coming Internet of Things . For example, computers in vehicles would continuously communicate with each other, sensors on the road, and real-time, artificial intelligence) generated directions using 5G. This is the kind of “smart grid” cities will have to deploy to support self-driving cars. Over time, communication capabilities and computing power will combine and extend across networks and devices, and information and computing power will be instantaneously available. This will encourage a wave of innovation in applications, services and functions built to run on the new infrastructure.
Lightning speed, expanded capacity, and massive connectivity are the defining characteristics of current 5G networks and enabled devices. These conditions are ideal for emerging technologies to take root.
More than that, 5G is widely expected to be a defining stage in the global evolution of IT in general, affecting almost all parts of industry and society. In subsequent posts, we’ll take a look at the standards on which it will all be built and explore the security considerations around its deployment.
Until then, please follow us on Twitter @GSA_ITC and LinkedIn to join our ongoing conversations about government IT.
Here at GSA, we couldn’t be more proud of our small business partners – they are critical to our ability to deliver mission-enabling technology products, services, and solutions to agencies.
We’re also proud of the various paths to success we provide to small businesses of all types through our contract solutions. While the COVID-19 pandemic continues to present new challenges and obstacles to many of GSA’s partners in the small business community, we are doing all we can to help keep this important part of the federal IT ecosystem vibrant and successful. As we all navigate new realities and requirements, GSA is working to ensure small businesses have the opportunities to thrive; and that we’re fully supporting them.
The Importance of Small Businesses
The numbers drive this home. In fiscal year 2019, the federal government spent over $68.1 billion on IT, with approximately $47 billion allocated to the IT Services sub-category. Federal agencies awarded $15.6 billion in IT services alone to small businesses. $5.3 billion of that went through GSA contracts. That’s not a small chunk of change.
Considering that almost a third of IT services spend was conducted through GSA and 75 percent of companies on GSA’s Schedule are small businesses; not to mention the nearly 1,000 small businesses on GSA’s Governmentwide Acquisition Contracts (GWACs), the data show that customer agencies continue to rely on GSA and our small business partners’ solutions as invaluable tools to meet their acquisition requirements.
Long History of Supporting Small Businesses
Our small business GWACs have a long history supporting stakeholders – going back to the late 1990s. The GWACs have been focused on assisting customers in meeting statutory and other small business goals while meeting mission outcomes. The first GSA 8(a) GWAC, 8(a) FAST, was awarded in 1997. Since that time, customers have relied upon GSA’s small business GWACs to fulfill over $27B in task orders. Given their direct material contributions to the small business industrial base, the SBGWACs have been supported by every administration since their inception, having iteratively evolved through continuous improvement across each generational sprint.
Given this history, the popularity of these contracts, and the government’s reliance on GSA to deliver these solutions; we take our commitment seriously. Supporting small businesses has always been, and will continue to be, a key driver for GSA going forward.
Looking to the Future
Built with the future in mind, all of GSA’s GWACs have been designated as best-in-class (BIC) – preferred governmentwide solutions capable of supporting Tier 3 spend, a focus of the governmentwide category management strategic plan. We’re focused on ensuring our solutions meet the needs of our customers with a robust number of small businesses of all types.
GSA’s IT Category Small Business Vehicles
GSA’s MAS – Information Technology has approximately 4,000 small business industry partners with periods of performance for up to 20 years.
8(a) STARS II GWAC has approximately 800 8(a) firms, supporting the most common IT services NAICS codes; it allows for direct buys up to $4 million, through the end of FY21.
VETS 2 GWAC has 70 service-disabled veteran-owned small business contract holders. The initial period of performance through February 2023 with an additional five-year option.
Enterprise Infrastructure Solutions (EIS), has three (3) small businesses supporting enterprise telecommunications and networking solutions with option periods through 2032- a first-ever for our flagship telecom contracts.
8(a) STARS III Update
The 8(a) STARS II GWAC has exceeded all of our expectations. We’ve raised the contract’s ceiling more than once to accommodate demand. In fact, it’s at its ceiling again and demand continues to be through the roof; we’re working on remedies now to ensure the government can continue to benefit from this easy to use and effective solution
As we move into this contract’s fourth generation we can say for certain that this program is a huge success. The 8(a) STARS program has served as a small business accelerator into the competitive government contracting marketplace, with a significant number of prior 8(a) STARS program participants growing their business so much that we now see them thriving with the big companies on GSA’s Alliant 2 GWAC.
Following that unprecedented success, we’re working on the release of the final solicitation for STARS III. The STARS III GWAC will increase opportunities for agencies to meet socioeconomic goals through our innovative solutions that, in addition to the great 8(a) STARS II foundation, will facilitate emerging technology and OCONUS requirements through specific master contract sub-areas. We plan to issue the final RFP for the 8(a) STARS III GWAC this fiscal year.
Planning The Way Ahead
As we look to the future, we intend to continue to support a large, diverse, and highly capable base of small business IT providers. GSA is pursuing creative strategies to increase the opportunities available to small businesses and expand the pool of small businesses on GSA contracts.
Emerging technology and security are key enablers for good government and GSA is looking at how we can provide more opportunities to innovative small and socioeconomic businesses (Women-Owned, HUBZone, 8(a), and Veteran-Owned), so customer agencies can tap into their expertise to drive IT modernization and improve service delivery.
We’re working to:
ensure that contract holder capabilities meet the evolution of technologies and refresh as needed via onramps.
remove small business barriers to entry by simplifying submission requirements for future GWACs.
further increasing engagement with industry prior to the release of solicitations via industry days and targeted conferences.
host regularly scheduled GWAC Program Meeting Reviews (PMR).
provide industry partner training.
encourage the establishment of an Industry Council for each SBGWAC.
As our nation faces COVID 19, telehealth services are more important than ever – GSA can help. GSA’s Health Information Technology (IT) solution was established in 2016 in partnership with the Defense Health Agency (DHA) to advance IT systems and services for agencies with a health mission.
Digital health tools can help providers stay on top of the virus’ spread.
With telehealth solutions, we can help keep people safe and healthy. Patients can interact with doctors and their health information remotely while avoiding crowded hospitals or public transit. Telehealth can also map the spread of outbreaks and identify hot spots.
GSA Health IT Services on GSA Schedule
GSA’s Health IT Services Special Item Number (SIN) provides access for federal, state, and local governments to a wide range of health IT services to include telehealth, innovative health IT solutions, emerging health IT research, and other health IT services.
The SIN advances the Federal Health IT Strategic Plan in:
Expanding the adoption of health IT products and services;
Advancing interoperable health information solutions; and
Strengthening healthcare delivery systems.
Given the current healthcare climate and recent advances in health IT, the government will have an increasing need for industry experts who have strong health IT-specific qualifications.
The right health IT tools, now
The Health IT SIN, with close to 500 industry partners, provides a great selection of experts, who are non-traditional system integrators focused on clinical and business-related health IT. They have the skilled staff best suited to implement solutions for healthcare environments. With labor categories that include medical doctors, nurses, and other health professionals, GSA’s Health IT SIN is here to help with emerging government Health IT requirements.