Bringing GSA’s Polaris GWAC to Life

Posted by Laura Stanton
on September 22, 2021

We’re proud of the work we do to support agency missions at GSA, and we recognize the very important role small businesses play in making that a reality.

GSA’s GWAC heritage

We’ve promoted the growth of the small business community in the US for decades. Through GSA’s Governmentwide Acquisition Contract (GWAC) program, we have built a solid foundation that connects the small business community to the federal IT market, promoting access to innovation, and supporting job creation nationwide. For decades, the GSA GWACs have served as a springboard for companies to grow and create jobs and opportunities.

Since the late 1990s, GSA’s GWACs have served as a gateway for federal agencies to access highly qualified information technology (IT) vendors. And, since their inception, customers have relied upon our small business GWACs to fulfill over $27 billion in IT requirements for agencies across government.

Small Business GWACs serving your mission

We want to keep improving on these important solutions to ensure they remain the contracts of choice for our industry partners and customer agencies. We’ve been hard at work on our current and next generation of contracts.

8(a) STARS III successfully launched (with more awards to come) this summer with a 5-year base period, 3-year option, and a $50 billion ceiling to give agencies plenty of runway into the future. This is a big deal for the Small Disadvantaged Businesses (SDB) community and we’re excited to see how they turn these opportunities into great outcomes! Even though 8(a) STARS II has officially sunset, existing task orders will continue being worked for several more years.

VETS 2 is humming along. With a little over three years of performance so far the contract already has $1.68B in total estimated value from 122 task orders. Agencies depend on VETS 2 every day to meet their missions.

With the creation of Polaris, our next small business GWAC, we’ll build on the success of these programs and become the first GSA GWAC to feature multiple socioeconomic groups through a single offering.

Polaris, a bright future

Polaris will bring innovation to the small business community, federal agencies, and the acquisition workforce leading to substantial benefits to small businesses, improved technology for federal agencies, and greater flexibility for acquisition professionals across government.

Polaris will also drive progress on important public policy objectives including the President’s Executive Order 13985 On Advancing Racial Equity and Support for Underserved Communities Through the Federal Government. Initial priorities on Polaris will be the creation of pools to accommodate set-asides for small businesses; women-owned small businesses (WOSB); service-disabled, veteran-owned small businesses (SDVOSB), and businesses located in HUBZones to help deliver on their mission and meet their socio-economic goals.

We are developing a dynamic contracting program that provides flexibility to establish additional industry partner pools on Polaris in the future as we continue to assess technology trends and changing customer needs.

The resulting approach incorporates feedback from agencies and industry, and includes ways to ensure that the technology remains relevant and the latest acquisition policies are used.

Through Polaris, we will:

  • Establish a pre-qualified industrial base that government agencies can tap into with confidence and ease
  • Bring multiple socioeconomic categories onto one vehicle to provide agencies with convenient access to small disadvantaged IT service providers
  • Enable agencies to acquire state-of-the-art IT services in a compliant and cost-effective manner

The overarching strategy shaping our approach to Polaris includes:

  • Providing greater opportunities to small businesses by removing barriers to entry and providing additional training and engagement with industry
  • Supporting greater equity in government contracting
  • Connecting agencies with highly qualified technology providers
  • Improving ease of use for agencies, industry partners, and GSA employees

Key Polaris features that we’re aiming for:

  • Periodic refreshment of the industrial base through on-ramps
  • Access to emerging technologies
  • No-price awards with pricing negotiated at the task order level — to promote competition.
  • Inclusion of a technical refresh clause that can be triggered as needed to adapt to customer needs.
  • Support for IT modernization and emerging technologies capabilities by offering the latest in cloud offerings from storage services to quantum computing services
  • Catalog of service offerings
  • A maximum 10-year ordering period
  • No contract ceiling
  • Leverage the cloud business model for service offerings

Polaris will also include supply chain risk management (SCRM) and cybersecurity requirements similar to those that were included in the 8(a) STARS III GWAC.

Polaris will support GSA’s goals to help agencies reach their sustainability goals, reduce the environmental impact of the federal government, make the work environment more sustainable and environmentally friendly, and protect the environment by fostering markets for sustainable IT technologies and services.

Many of you have had questions about how teaming arrangements and joint ventures will work on Polaris. In a soon-to-be-released update to our draft solicitation, we’ll be including guidance on how joint ventures will be scored.

Navigating the Future

As we work to bring Polaris to market we have a very busy fall season lined up.

We’re working to release an updated draft of the Polaris solicitation for sections L and M and the scorecard, and we’ll welcome your feedback on those. Keep an eye on our Small Business GWAC Community of Interest page for that.

We met with our VETS 2 Industry Partners about the inclusion of an SDVOSB pool on Polaris and we’re actively gathering their input.

GSA’s Office of Small and Disadvantaged Business Utilization is hosting an event on Wednesday, September 29th: Small Business Works 2021: Level Up & Network Series. Be sure to catch it.

We’re also planning a focused GSA Polaris Industry Forum for Wednesday, October 20th, and we encourage our small business industry partners to attend. Register Here

Finally, we’re aiming for the final Polaris solicitation to be released in short order with a pre-proposal conference to follow shortly thereafter.

I’m so proud of the work that our team has done on our small business GWACs, and we really couldn’t be more excited for what the future holds. Stay tuned to our Small Business GWAC Community of Interest page on GSA Interact for the latest updates.


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8(a) STARS III GWAC Phased Awards Will Support Maximum Opportunities for 8(a) Businesses

Posted by Laura Stanton
on May 5, 2021

GSA takes its commitment to the small business community very seriously, and we’re excited about the progress we’re making toward the award of the 8(a) STARS III Governmentwide Acquisition Contract (GWAC).

We’re happy to announce that we intend to move forward with phased awards to different cohorts as outlined in the solicitation. Over the last week, GSA notified STARS III offerors of their inclusion in the competitive range. Awards to an initial cohort are planned for June 2021 with awards to another cohort planned later in the calendar year after discussions.

In the spirit of the 8(a) program, GSA is pleased to hold discussions which will afford firms an opportunity to revise their offers in order to qualify for an award.

As GSA’s fourth-generation 8(a) GWAC, STARS III is a multiple-award indefinite-delivery/ indefinite-quantity (MA-ID/IQ) contract designed to provide federal agencies with innovative IT services-based solutions from vetted 8(a) small disadvantaged businesses, in support of meeting their socioeconomic contracting goals. Through STARS III, agencies can access award-winning 8(a) firms through an established contract vehicle, saving time and taxpayer money over open-market methods.

Agency customers who are interested in using the 8(a) STARS III GWAC are encouraged to monitor GSA events for upcoming delegation of procurement authority training available to both contracting and requirements personnel. Customers may also register to receive notifications regarding upcoming training.

Visit our website to learn more about STARS III or use our IT Solutions Navigator to find the vehicle that’s right for you.

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

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FY20: Exceptional Work in an Exceptional Year

Posted by Laura Stanton
on March 30, 2021

The Numbers Are In – Biggest Year on Record for GSA ITC!

In Fiscal Year 2020, the Information Technology Category (ITC) recorded more than $30 billion in business volume across its portfolio. For context, this accounts for nearly a third (33%) of the $89 billion total that was spent on IT across all federal agencies in FY20.

Accordingly, this past fiscal year proved to be a record year in other categories as well:

  • IT spending through the Multiple Award Schedule accounted for an impressive $18.1 billion of the $30 Billion total, bolstered by its $12.7 Billion in new obligations. In FY20, MAS IT impressively posted 18% annual growth in new obligations.
  • On the Small Business front, ITC accounted for $7.1 Billion in utilization from Government Wide Acquisition Contracts (GWACs), Schedules, and Telecommunications
  • ITC issued a single award via its telecommunications branch to the tune of $2.5 Billion, using the Enterprise Infrastructure Service (EIS) Contract. The award was made on behalf of the Department of Health and Human Services, and over the lifetime of the contract, the agency estimates it will save more than $700 million.
  • ITC accounted for more than $2 billion in savings and cost avoidance to their customers

FY20 Efforts in Review

The 2020 Fiscal Year drove change through every part of our lives. COVID-19 spurred dramatic change in government work culture and led to rapid technological adaptation across all agencies. A good deal of ITC’s increased business volume can be attributed to agencies transitioning to mobile-friendly technology. However, this unprecedented spending is also due to agencies acknowledging that GSA is a solid partner as they make big IT changes and choices about how to invest. We’re out front and focused when it comes to customer service, agile response to emergency needs, and delivery of mission-enabling and emerging technologies.

In 2020, customer agencies turned to GSA’s schedules program, assisted acquisition services and governmentwide acquisition contracts (GWAC) to fulfill pandemic-driven requirements as well as regular demand for products and services. Our success embodies the trust that federal agencies have put in us and our ability to address elements that our customers most care about:

  • Speed of acquisition
  • Assistance with mobile-friendly technology adoption
  • Technical and market expertise
  • Data transparency
  • General customer service

Agencies have turned to and relied on us to ensure their mission continuity and transition to a more untethered workforce.

In FY20, ITC launched the Information Technology Acquisition University (ITAU) to make it easier to learn about GSA’s products, IT solutions available through GWACs, MAS, and more. ITAU is a digital training platform for emerging technologies, their acquisition, GSA-specific contract training and more.

Additionally, ITC enhanced the Cloud Information Center, the GSA-curated federal resource hub for all things cloud, continuing to place valuable cloud computing resources in the hands of agencies.

These resources are ways that GSA is meeting the rise in demand for virtual access to our subject matter experts and more online learning platforms.

Looking Forward

In FY21, GSA is doubling down on emerging technologies as the way of the future. The 8(a) STARS III and Polaris government-wide acquisition vehicles will have Artificial Intelligence offerings (Machine Learning, Robotic Process Automation, Natural Language Processing), edge computing and more. As the Cybersecurity Maturity Model Certification (CMMC) effort ramps up and Supply Chain Risk Management (SCRM) principles are emphasized, GSA will continue to prioritize security as a core tenet of acquisitions.

As my Deputy Assistant Commissioner Keith Nakasone likes to remind me, agencies are coming to GSA to leverage our IT expertise and the buying power of the government. They want to know that the products they’re adding to their IT footprint aren’t jeopardizing their networks. To that end, the CMMC level can be designated as needed at the task order requirement level. Large contracts such as the 2nd Generation Information Technology (2GIT) hardware/software Blanket Purchase Agreements, have SCRM built in as a key operational component. Ultimately, GSA understands it plays a crucial role and has a considerable responsibility for an agency’s IT health.

Going into FY22, ITC will continue to provide the tools needed to successfully modernize while prioritizing cost-efficiency, expediency, and security. Leveraging Best In Class (BIC) contracts is one way. Taking advantage of online resources like ITAU and the CIC is another. Give your agency a reason to acquire with confidence — work with GSA for your next IT acquisition.

As always, follow us on Twitter @GSA_ITC and LinkedIn to join our ongoing conversations about government IT.
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GSA Driving Success in the Small Business Community

Posted by Laura Stanton
on June 10, 2020

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.

Visit our website to learn more about our IT solutions or use our IT Solutions Navigator to find the vehicle that’s right for you.

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

To get updates for this blog, please sign up on the right-hand side of the page where it says Sign up for Blog Updates.

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