FAR Rule Change Makes Buying IT Quicker

Posted by Bill Zielinski
on July 9, 2019

Recent changes to the Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) now make it easier for federal agencies to use GSA contract vehicles or assisted acquisition solutions to fulfill their IT needs.

Effective June 5, 2019, GSA, with the Department of Defense (DOD) and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), issued a final FAR rule amendment, previously implemented in FAR 17.502-1(a). It uses section 875 of the John S. McCain National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) to amend section 865 of the Duncan Hunter NDAA for fiscal year 2019.

In the past, the FAR required agencies to go through an extra step to justify the use of GSA’s IT Schedule 70, Government-wide Acquisition Contracts (GWACs), or assisted acquisition solutions as the best procurement approach to fulfill IT acquisition needs.

Rule Change Benefits

This FAR rule change removes this step in the acquisition process. Federal customers now face reduced administrative burdens, making it quicker and easier to buy IT solutions through GSA.

Specific impacts of this rule change include:

  1. removing the requirement to justify the best procurement approach if issuing orders against contracts under the GSA Schedules Program such as IT Schedule 70, or through GWACs such as 8(a) STARS 2 and Alliant 2; and
  2. removing the requirement to justify the best procurement approach if using GSA for assisted acquisitions.

End-of-FY Spending

As a result, this rule change removes burdens from federal customers. They can now identify and quickly use GSA IT Category (ITC) contracts and acquisition solutions, especially as they embark on their end-of-year IT spending and acquisition efforts.

What We Offer

Our contracts and acquisition solutions are dedicated to providing federal agencies with a full range of IT and telecommunications products, services, and solutions. We maximize customer value and mission productivity.

We support 98% of federal agencies, facilitating more than $24 billion in IT purchases annually. Our customers have saved nearly $2 billion from using our solutions.

Best-in-Class Fair

We currently offer 10 acquisition vehicles that the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) has labeled as Best in Class (BIC). Our BIC acquisition solutions include hardware, software, telecommunications, and professional services.

Come meet our BIC representatives at OMB’s Best in Class Fair on July 11, 2019, in Washington, D.C. Sign up now!

To find the contract solution that’s right for you, use our IT Solutions Navigator.

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

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OMB Marks More GSA Tech Solutions as “Best in Class”

Posted by Kay Ely
on October 30, 2017

GSA’s Office of Information Technology Category (ITC) received some exciting news at the end of Fiscal Year (FY) 2017: five more of GSA’s Governmentwide Acquisition Contracts (GWACs) and one Blanket Purchase Agreements (BPA) based on IT Schedule 70 SIN 132-53 have been designated by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) as “Best-in-Class” (BIC).

BIC designations signal to the acquisition community that these vehicles meet rigorous category management performance criteria and confirm that we’re offering solutions and processes necessary to meet government’s IT requirements not just today, but well into the future.

The six new additions to ITC’s BIC offerings are all pre-vetted, governmentwide contract solutions supporting the governmentwide move to mature, market-proven solutions:

With these additions, GSA has a total of eight BIC IT offerings—our Government-wide Strategic Solution (GSS) Laptop/Desktop and IT Schedule 70’s Hardware & Software SINs were part of the first group OMB recognized in the IT category.

We see these new BIC designations, as proof that GSA is developing the programs and contracts that will shape and lead future IT category management efforts. What’s more, they’re evidence that we use taxpayer funds efficiently and productively, enabling our customers to better fulfill their missions.

BIC Benefits

How does BIC benefit government agencies?

BIC contracts are recognized as being “good-for-government” purchasing solutions which should be used by all agencies. To be named BIC, contract vehicles must satisfy five key criteria defined by OMB:

  1. Rigorous requirements definitions and planning processes
  2. Appropriate pricing strategies
  3. Data-driven strategies to change buying and consumption behavior (i.e., demand management)
  4. Category and performance management strategies
  5. Independently validated reviews

BIC GWACs

Alliant, Alliant SB, and VETS 2 GWACs offer fixed-price, cost-reimbursement, labor-hour, and time-and-materials task order types, providing greater flexibility in procuring a broad range of IT services. These solutions provide access to new and emerging technologies designed to help government agencies meet their mission requirements. Our BIC GWACS can also help agencies save between 4 percent and 19 percent on average. Again, GSA expects to award the second iteration of Alliant and Alliant SB (Alliant 2 and Alliant 2 SB, respectively), by the end of the calendar year.

BIC BPA

Our FSSI Wireless BPAs are based in GSA’s IT Schedule 70 SIN 132-53, which improves the procurement and management of wireless services across government. And the good news is that the market opportunity for government wireless services is currently estimated to be $945 million annually.

Going Forward

These BIC designations let agencies and industry know we are meeting our own high standards of customer service and acquisition expertise. Whether they are using contracts officially recognized as “Best-in-Class” or another solution, our customers and partners can expect the same quality and excellence in all of our products and services. As I wrote in an earlier blog, “We believe a BIC designation is not the end state, but rather an important milestone on a journey to help agencies improve their buying strategies.”

Learn more about GSA’s BIC designations on Acquisition Gateway.

Follow us on LinkedIn and Twitter to join the conversation.

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GAO Denies Pre-award Protests Against Alliant

Posted by Mary Davie
on January 17, 2017

I am pleased to announce that we are continuing with the evaluation and award (planned for Fall 2017) of GSA’s $50 billion Alliant 2 Governmentwide Acquisition Contract (GWAC). Our decision follows the recent decision by the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) to deny four companies’ protests to our new source selection methodology and the number of contractors to be awarded.

Alliant 2’s innovative evaluation methodology is characterized as  “highest technically rated, with fair and reasonable price.” It achieves best value under Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) part 15.101 by identifying offerors with the most relevant technical expertise who propose fair and reasonable pricing.  The method was pioneered by GSA’s OASIS (One Acquisition Solution for Integrated Services and further developed under the Human Capital and Training Solutions (HCaTS) and Alliant 2 programs.

In their decision, GAO stated that they found “…no basis in the FAR to object to a proposed source selection process that contemplates award to the highest technically rated offerors without using a tradeoff process.”

GAO further commented that FAR Section 1.102(d) permits reasonable exercise of the contracting officer’s discretion, recognizing that if a procurement strategy is in the government’s best interest, and is not explicitly prohibited, then the innovative procurement process is permissible.

GAO Decision Impact

GSA’s innovative source selection methodology on the Alliant 2 solicitation was directly challenged through several pre-award protests to GAO. However, GAO found that the methodology is valid, not objectionable, and supported by the discretion afforded contracting officers when they use the FAR. This decision affects IT acquisitions significantly.

This unprecedented decision reinforces the fact that government has the flexibility to try new and innovative source selection methodologies, among other things. As a proactive partner with federal agencies, GSA is always willing to try new ways to better serve government and improve mission delivery.

Our goal is to create comprehensive IT solutions available from the very best companies.

Ongoing Partner Engagement

We engaged both government stakeholders and industry partners from the beginning of the procurement process, and conducted extensive acquisition planning and market research to determine how to best structure the Alliant 2 GWACs. We always strive to maximize our collaboration with federal agencies and industry in order to identify the most advantageous structure for our contracts and to incorporate their ideas.

You may also remember a previous blog about Alliant 2 (including Alliant 2 Small Business) describing how much effort the team put into ensuring robust transparency, collaboration, and innovation at each phase of the process, especially during Alliant 2’s pre-solicitation phase.

These outreach efforts included:

  • Establishing an Alliant 2 Interact community with more than 8,000 members,
  • Providing a government-wide reviewed business case on OMB MAX,
  • Conducting meetings/presentations for interested agencies.
  • Coordinating agency customer and industry working groups,
  • Hosting five separate pre-proposal conferences attended by over 1000 people, and
  • Publishing seven Requests for Information (RFIs) through FedBizOpps (FBO) with two official industry days, and two separate fully comprehensive and complete draft Requests for Proposals (RFPs).

I know that the Alliant 2 and Alliant 2 Small Business contracts will meet the needs of federal agencies for IT services and will include a diverse set of highly qualified industry partners.

Download and read the entire GAO decision.

Read more about Alliant 2/Alliant 2 Small Business and the A2/A2SB Interact Community.

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

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Alliant 2: Shaping the Future

Posted by Mary Davie
on August 18, 2016

The Alliant & Alliant Small Business Governmentwide Acquisition Contracts (GWACs) have been a remarkable success for our customers, for our industry partners, and for GSA. Over the last eight years, more than 60 federal agencies have awarded over $36 billion in work to Alliant & Alliant SB partners.

Alliant has also taught us the importance of partnerships, education, training, and customer service in developing and delivering successful contract vehicles.

The Alliant success story is demonstrated in the loyalty we see from our customers. The U.S. Department of Navy, Defense Health Agency, and U.S. Special Operations Command selected the Alliant GWACs as their primary vehicles for IT services.

Having a broad-based scope built on Federal Enterprise Architecture (FEA) that allows for “anything IT anywhere” plus the ability for all contract types to be performed, the Alliant GWACs streamline the acquisition process for federal agencies, resulting in time- and cost-efficient acquisitions that lead to savings for U.S. taxpayers.

Shaping the Future Alliant

Looking to the future, GSA’s GWAC Program, is working on the next-generation GWACs: Alliant 2 (A2) and Alliant 2 Small Business (A2SB).

A2/A2SB will continue to build on our success supporting federal agencies that have mission-critical, complex IT services requirements for long-term programs.

The A2/A2SB’s pre-solicitation phase has raised the bar in terms of transparency, collaboration, and innovation, by engaging with and involving both federal agencies and industry partners in each step of the process. The A2/A2SB team performed thorough market research for over three years and laid significant groundwork in the pre-planning phase with efforts including:

  • An A2/A2SB Interact community with more than 8,200 members
  • A publically reviewed business case on OMB MAX
  • Hundreds of meetings/presentations for interested agencies
  • Customer and industry working groups
  • Seven Requests for Information (RFIs) through FedBizOpps (FBO) with two official industry days, and two separate fully comprehensive and complete draft Requests for Proposals (RFPs)
  • Five separate pre-proposal conferences attended by over 1000 people

We’re excited when we consider the future for our GWACs. The collective input and feedback toward developing A2/A2SB this past year has been our major contribution to an outstanding product.

What’s New

Here are some of the notable improvements included in A2/A2SB that will give our customers greater value:

  • scope improvements,
  • new information technology (IT) service labor categories,
  • new cybersecurity standards,
  • new environmental standards,
  • incorporation of required Defense Federal Acquisition Regulation Supplement (DFARS) regulations/provisions into the master contract so they automatically flow down to the task order level on any/all task orders issued by a Department of Defense (DOD) agency

Collaboration is Key

I’ve always been impressed by the amount of collaboration that goes into the Alliant GWACs among all parties: GSA, the procuring agencies, and the companies performing the work under Alliant task orders. The relationships we’ve built with our government and industry partners have been, and will be, critical to the GWAC program’s continued success.

I’m confident that our stakeholders will be pleased and I cannot overemphasize how important the collaboration is to ensuring we develop and provide a superior GWAC solution for the government. While doing market research and in planning future solicitations and innovations we want to be sure that our intentions are vetted, are on the right track, and cover all angles. The collaboration from customer agencies and industry partners helps us do that.

The final official Request For Proposals (RFPs) for A2/A2SB are on FedBizOpps now with deadlines of September 13 (A2) and September 12 (A2SB), 2016

More information is available at the A2/A2SB website and the A2/A2SB Interact Community page.

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

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ITS Builds Partnerships Improve Health IT

Posted by Mary Davie
on June 22, 2016

In February 2016, we started a strategic seven-year partnership with the Defense Health Agency (DHA) that represents an estimated $5.4 billion in spend for critical Health IT services and solutions (GSA-DHA Health IT Partnership, 2/4/2016. In just a few short months, it’s already succeeded and proven a model of how we can work across federal agencies to foster collaborative, integrated partnerships to create innovative IT solutions for various mission areas, such as healthcare.

I’m proud to recognize three GSA employees and their DHA counterparts who were recently nominated for the 2016 AFFIRM Leadership Award for their leadership in developing the DHA/GSA Health IT Partnership. The DHA/GSA Health IT Partnership will be recognized and honored at the 2016 AFFIRM Annual Leadership Celebration, Thursday, June 23, 2016.

We continuously strive to grow customer relationships and serve as a trusted advisor to help federal agencies make smarter, more strategic decisions. We work across agencies to foster collaborative, integrated partnerships to not only improve IT acquisition and procurement for our government customers, but also to leverage current IT services and solutions to meet their unique mission and operational requirements.

Jennifer Auble, a customer engagement manager; Larry Hale, director, IT category customer engagement division; and Michael Williams, national account manager with GSA’s Customer Accounts and Research, along with their DHA partners, have worked hard through many political and organizational barriers facing government procurement to achieve a groundbreaking partnership between GSA and DHA that is in the best interests of the federal government and the American taxpayer.

This partnership began when GSA’s Federal Acquisition Service (FAS) and DHA entered into a strategic seven-year partnership representing an estimated $5.4 billion in spend for critical health IT services and solutions. Through this partnership, DHA will direct new health IT procurements to GSA IT contracts, including IT Schedule 70 and the Alliant, Alliant Small Business, 8(a) Streamlined Technology Acquisition Resources for Services II (STARS II), and Veterans Technology Services Governmentwide Acquisition Contract (VETS GWAC).

DHA uses these vehicles as the primary means of procuring supplies and services to support their existing and emerging health IT requirements. In addition, DHA has entered into partnership with GSA’s One Acquisition Solution for Integrated Services (OASIS) program and with the Assisted Acquisition Services organization.

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

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Improving Government Cybersecurity

Posted by Mary Davie
on February 1, 2016

(This blog post is part of a multi-week series reviewing data and trends from GSA’s IT acquisition vehicles for FY15. Read previous posts at http://gsablogs.gsa.gov/technology/)

As many are aware, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) is putting in place tactical and strategic cybersecurity measures in response to threats and events including the recent Office of Personnel Management (OPM) breach. The General Services Administration (GSA) Office of Integrated Technology Services (ITS) is active in this response. In FY15, GSA ITS continued to support government efforts to improve cybersecurity by developing and improving upon the following initiatives:

Supply Chain Risk Management (SCRM)

This initiative supports the IT Security Category Management Plan to establish a Supply Chain Risk Management capability to:

  • Develop FAS ITS Cybersecurity SCRM guidance and controls;
  • Conduct contract reviews of IT Schedule 70 vendors;
  • Manage incidents within FAS ITS contracts;
  • Establish and maintain contact with both internal GSA stakeholders and external agencies on cyber incidents; and
  • Maintain awareness of government-wide supply chain policy/trends.

The implementation of a SCRM capability will give customers confidence that our IT products come from original equipment manufacturers, their authorized resellers, or other “trusted” sources. A policy of buying IT products from trusted sources supports a customer’s ability to strengthen their IT security posture.

Cybersecurity Strategy and Implementation Plan (CSIP)

The CSIP directs GSA, in coordination with OMB and DHS, to research contract vehicle options and develop a capability to deploy incident response services that can quickly be leveraged by federal agencies, on a reimbursable basis. ITS is currently working across GSA and with OMB and DHS to do this in accordance with the timeline established by OMB.

Cybersecurity and Information Assurance (CyberIA) Project

As part of the Federal Acquisition Service (FAS) Category Management Initiative, the Office of Integrated Technology Services (ITS) initiated the Cybersecurity/Information Assurance (CyberIA) Project. The scope of the project is to categorize CyberIA products and services based on the NIST “Framework for Improving Critical Infrastructure Cybersecurity”, which aligns with Executive Order (EO) 13636 “Improving Critical Infrastructure Cybersecurity” and OMB M-16-04 “Cybersecurity Strategy and Implementation Plan (CSIP) for the Federal Civilian Government”. It will also allow federal agencies to more easily identify CyberIA products and services, and offer better access to support market research, acquisition planning, and category management.

US Access

GSA’s USAccess program supports improving government cybersecurity by providing over 100 civilian agencies with credentialing solutions: a vital nationwide, economical, secure, shared service facilitating identity credential issuance, maintenance, and lifecycle management. These identity credentials are used to control access to federal information and facilities. The program currently manages over 600,000 active credentials and has been able to significantly reduce the cost of credentialing for customer agencies of all sizes through the shared service platform.

Federal Public-Key Infrastructure (FPKI)

The Federal Public-Key Infrastructure Management Authority (FPKIMA) enables the best and most cost-effective identity management practices for secure physical and logical access, document sharing and communication across the federal government and with the private sector. The FPKIMA enables agencies to achieve their e-government and identity management goals. The FPKI Trust Infrastructure has helped agencies reduce document handling, shipping, and processing costs as well as reducing network intrusions. In addition, the Trust Infrastructure enables interoperability between the over 5 million issued HSPD-12 credentials and other industry approved digital certificates.

Alliant 2 and Alliant 2 Small Business Cyber Security Requirements

GSA has baked in minimum-security standards for select contractor systems, the handling of government sensitive data and information technology, contractor security clearances, and homeland security in our GWACs at the contract level. At the task order level, contractors must comply with all GSA IT Security Policies, all applicable GSA and NIST standards and guidelines, and other government-wide laws and regulations for protection and security of information technology, e.g., Federal Information Security Management Act (FISMA) of 2002.

Network Services

Cybersecurity has always been a key aspect of GSA’s Network Services Programs, and we’re stepping it up in the Network Services 2020 era. Today, Networx includes baseline standards and security services, such as the Managed Trusted Internet Protocol Service (MTIPS) that currently provides Trusted Internet Connections-compliant managed security services to over 60 agencies.

Tomorrow, NS2020 will enable interoperability and further the migration from legacy technologies to a converged IP environment, ensuring cybersecurity is built in and inherently part of the government’s telecom infrastructure. Programs in the portfolio will specify cybersecurity requirements and include an even broader range of pre-defined, flexible security services.

For the Enterprise Infrastructure Solutions acquisition, we worked closely with DHS and ensured state of the art cybersecurity measures are applied to all applicable services. In addition to provisions to facilitate the implementation of EINSTEIN 3A for all agencies, EIS contains MTIPS, a range of Managed Protection Services, and Intrusion Prevention Services. And cybersecurity considerations appear throughout the NS2020 portfolio. For example, the recently launched Mobility 2.0 initiative will encompass managed mobility, including Mobile Device Management and Mobile Application Management, both critical aspects of mobile security.

Moving Forward

ITS is committed to help government as a whole improve cybersecurity. We stand ready to work with agencies to explore ways our IT solutions can help reduce costs, minimize duplications and redundancies, and save money. Our job is to help support you to focus on your missions while maintaining quality and reducing costs.

And remember to follow us on Twitter@GSA_ITS to join the conversation.

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GWAC Program Expanding Opportunities for Small Businesses

Posted by Mary Davie
on January 28, 2016

(This blog post is part of a multi-week series reviewing data and trends from GSA’s IT acquisition vehicles for FY15. Read previous posts at http://gsablogs.gsa.gov/technology/.

Small Business GWACs: Year in Review

I’m proud to say that FY15 was a banner year for our Small Business Governmentwide Acquisition Contracts Center. The Center, which supports agency efforts to meet socioeconomic goals through IT services acquisitions, received 755 task orders in FY15. These acquisitions, and exercised options, represent a total government spend of $2.6B in obligations. Projects on these acquisitions represent a wide range of IT services, from technology consulting to cloud computing.

As the Center moves forward into FY16 with a number of new contract opportunities, its focus remains steadfast on helping small businesses succeed in the federal marketplace. Let’s take a brief look at the current contracts and what’s on the horizon.

Current Contracts

The Small Business GWAC Center currently operates three contracts with specialized socioeconomic designations. Each contract is designed to provide a streamlined method for agencies to utilize highly qualified small businesses to meet their IT needs, while achieving U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) and agency socioeconomic contracting goals. Additional information on SBA goals may be found on the SBA website.

The 8(a) STARS II GWAC is a set aside contract for 8(a) technology firms (as designated by SBA). This contract is available for use through 2024, and includes nearly 600 skilled 8(a) IT service providers. In FY2015, more than $1.6 billion was obligated against more than 650 new task orders on the 8(a) STARS II GWAC. This represents the most successful year for 8(a) STARS II. More information on the 8(a) STARS II GWAC, including its directed order authority, can be found at 8(a) STARS II site.

The Alliant Small Business GWAC focuses on providing government contract opportunities to a wide range of highly qualified small businesses. This small business contract provides flexible access to customized IT solutions from a diverse pool of nearly 50 industry partners. With availability through 2024, Alliant Small Business allows for long-term planning of large-scale program requirements, while strengthening opportunities for small businesses. During FY15, Alliant Small Business received 90 task orders and over $1.2 billion in obligations. This is an increase of 8% in obligations from FY14. Details on how the Alliant SB contract can help your agency meet its goals are available at the Alliant SB website.

The VETS GWAC is a contract designed to strengthen federal contract opportunities for our nation’s service-disabled veteran-owned small businesses. Agencies receive SDVOSB credit when issuing tasks on the contract, which is available through 2020. The VETS GWAC continues to be a successful program, with nearly $139 million obligated on the contract in FY2015. The GSA VETS website has a wealth of information on how this contract assists in developing opportunities for SDVOSB firms.

Our small business industry partners, across all three SB GWACs have been very successful. On 8(a) STARS II, 378 out of 562 small disadvantage businesses (67.3%) have at least one award.  On Alliant SB, 63 out of 68 primes (92.6%) have one or more awards. On VETS, 100% of the current SDVOSB contract holders have an award.

Next Generation Contracts

In addition to a focus on current contracts, the SB GWAC Center is currently working on three new acquisitions:

  • 8(a) STARS II (set-aside for 8(a) firms) is currently conducting evaluations on an open season held in mid-FY15. This open season will provide opportunity to additional 8(a) firms to join the contract, increasing the pool of quality vetted 8(a) firms to meet federal agency requirements.
  • VETS 2 (set aside for service-disabled veteran-owned small businesses) issued a draft RFP in 2015. This follow on contract will build upon the success of the original VETS contract, and include the capability to issue cost-type task orders. A final solicitation for VETS 2 is anticipated in FY16. For those interested in more information on the VETS 2 procurement, visit our VETS 2 Interact community.
  • Alliant 2 Small Business (set aside for small businesses) held industry one-on-one sessions in FY16 for to develop the draft RFP. This next generation contract solicitation is anticipated to be issued in the spring of 2016. GSA invites interested government and industry partners to join our Alliant 2/Alliant 2 SB Interact community.

We are thrilled with agency interest in and use of the SB GWAC programs and are predicting a very successful FY16 as well. For more information on the SB GWAC program and how it brings small businesses and federal agencies together, please visit the SB GWAC website.

And, as always, please follow us on Twitter @GSA_ITS to join the conversation.

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Collaborating for Better Government

Posted by Mary Davie
on September 16, 2015

Wikipedia defines “collaboration” as “working with others to do a task and to achieve shared goals.” According to the Free Dictionary, collaborating is a partnership, working as a team, or being in concert.   

For GSA, collaboration is more than just a buzzword or standing at a podium talking to stakeholders. It is a dialog a give and take that includes understanding and respecting everyone’s needs, goals, and values.

Successful collaboration happens when everyone is committed to the core principles of trust, understanding, and compromise– and the end result is a better outcome for all parties.

Creating the IT Portfolio of Solutions

At GSA, collaboration is a driving force as we re-shape many of our government-wide programs and contracts. For those of you working with GSA, you’ve seen or been part of any number of working groups, industry days, interagency meetings, and requirements teams. You’ve contributed thousands of ideas and comments on our RFIs, draft RFPs and in our Interact communities.  You’ve rolled up your sleeves and helped shape our offerings from adding a new Special Item Number (SIN) on IT Schedule 70, to developing OASIS, Alliant 2, Enterprise Infrastructure Solutions (EIS), Network Services 2020 (NS2020), cloud strategies, identity management solutions, mobility and wireless solutions, satellite solutions, software, hardware and so much more.  

The Government’s shift to Category Management (CM), has also guided our planning and resulting solutions. We have experts that know telecom, software, IT hardware, IT services and IT security. The category hallways within the Acquisition Gateway provide access to many government-wide contracts, tools, pricing information, buying guides, templates, best practices and access to other buyers across government so you don’t have to figure things out on your own and are able to leverage work others have already done.

Our collective work has led to a very clear strategy for GSA’s next generation of IT and telecommunications solutions.  As a result, GSA is implementing solutions that better meet agencies’ needs, provide flexibility in acquiring IT/telecom, provide savings, reduce duplication and are reflective of technology market offerings. The graphic below shows exactly what we’ve mapped out and what we’ve used to guide our solutions development. 

This graphic shows exactly what we’ve mapped out and what we’ve used to guide our solutions development.

Reducing Duplication While Providing Flexibility

Our category management approach ensures that our contract solutions provide different ways to buy technology based on agency collaboration and feedback. We’ve been asked why you see similar technology or services available on more than one of our contracts. Some might say this also results in “duplication” or confusion, but our customers are telling us that they  need flexibility to buy technology products and services in different ways based on what I refer to it as, “the nature of the buy.”  

ITS prides itself on providing both general and niche solutions for IT and telecommunications products and services to federal, state and local agencies.  These solutions draw on GSA’s acquisition and IT expertise and they help our customers by allowing them to direct more resources into focusing on their core missions. About 30% of federal IT spend flows through ITS contracts and programs. We hold ourselves accountable for increasing federal procurement efficiency, reducing costs for both government and industry, and helping government achieve better results.  Reducing overlapping and redundant contracts is important to ITS. We’ve taken a true portfolio approach to planning our solutions and ensuring we provide maximum flexibility for government buyers as they make complex procurement strategy decisions.   

For example, agencies today are procuring wireless services and devices in a number of ways.  Our FSSI Wireless BPAs offer certain terms and conditions, plans, features (such as aggregated pooling of minutes and data) and pricing for services with devices provided as part of the overall solution. On IT Schedule 70, agencies have the option of buying just devices or service plans and devices and constructing their own terms and conditions.  If an agency were to use Networx for the wireless services/devices, they may be doing so to consolidate mobile services on a broader enterprise platform implementation.  

Cloud is another great example. We have cloud-based services available on IT Schedule 70, on our IaaS and EaaS BPAs, through GWACs (especially where integration or transition services are also needed) and through our network services contracts (off premise hosting or data center solutions are examples).  Our network services contracts are telecommunications focused but also recognize broader, related products and services may need to be part of the overall solution. EIS will provide best in class virtual private network services, Ethernet, voice, and managed network services at significant discounts.  These services may also be related to an agency’s enterprise implementation of data centers or call centers — either on-site or cloud-based.  While these are just a few examples, you can see it really doesn’t make sense to try to define, “bucket,” and limit technology solutions to individual contracts.

Guiding Agencies to the best choice

GSA’s job is to understand the market, listen to agency and industry partners, and use what we’ve learned to create solutions. While creating solutions will involve some overlap, we want to act as an honest broker and help agencies get to the best solution for them. Sometimes that includes guiding agencies to other non-GSA enterprise contracts that might be a better fit for their requirements.

We are making it our responsibility to help agencies through the process, especially when overlap could cause potential confusion about which vehicle is optimal for certain requirements. We will accomplish this through our continued proactive management approach with both customers and vendors. Through collaboration, scope reviews, and relationships, we want to better understand the core requirements and make the best acquisition recommendation.

As I pointed out earlier, we don’t take a “one size fits all” approach. If an agency has a cloud requirement that is within the scope of multiple contracts, we will work with that customer to understand their requirements and help assess their acquisition choices. We will make the best recommendation to ensure the agency requirements are being met in the most efficient and effective manner with the highest quality vendors possible.  On contracts such as our GWACs, Networx, and EIS, GSA performs pre-award and post-award scope reviews ensuring requirements are not only within the scope of the contract but that the contract is being used most effectively.  In addition, on our GWACs and on EIS, training is mandatory for contracting officers who use these contracts prior to GSA issuing them a delegation of procurement authority.

Final Thoughts

Even with slight overlap, these vehicles will deliver flexibility to buyers across government through pre-existing, pre-vetted contracts, which ultimately saves government and industry from investing time and money on new and redundant open-market contracts.

A few final, important thoughts I want to share with you about collaboration:

  • Collaboration allows us to be responsive continually to existing and emerging needs of government agencies and industry
  • Continual collaboration is always a goal, often a challenge, and clearly an opportunity
  • We always look for ways to make IT acquisitions seamlessly support agency missions, rather than hinder them. We also work to align to industry partners’ business goals, when they do not detract from government goals
  • Customer convenience, flexibility, and choice will always matter

Please follow us on Twitter @GSA_ITS to join GSA’s ITS’s overall acquisition conversations.

Join us for a live webcast demonstration of the Acquisition Gateway with Q&A on Wednesday, October 07, 2015 at 2 p.m. ET, 1 p.m. CT, Noon MT, 11 a.m. PT. There’s no charge for this training, and you can earn one Continuous Learning Point (CLP). This webcast is open to all and only federal government agency personnel. Register today!

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Next Generation GWAC Programs

Posted by Mary Davie
on June 3, 2015

Our governmentwide acquisition contract (GWAC) Program has been busy working on a number of updates and all of the hard work is starting to pay off. Each of our current GWACs has important milestones taking place:

  1. Alliant and Alliant Small Business announced draft Requests for Proposal (RFPs) for the sequel GWACs: Alliant 2 and Alliant 2 Small Business
  2. 8(a) STARS II notified stakeholders of open season and option initiatives
  3. VETS issued the initial Request for Information (RFI) for VETS 2

Federal agencies use GSA GWACs for a variety of IT services requirements including: data center consolidation, software development, systems integration, cloud computing, cybersecurity, and help desk support. Our GWACs have been prominent leaders in government and industry collaboration for many years, offering complimentary scope reviews, sample statements of work, acquisition templates and improved delegation of procurement authority (DPA) training.

Alliant 2 and Alliant 2 Small Business (A2/A2SB)

In looking to the next generation, our GWAC Program published the Alliant 2 and Alliant 2 Small Business (A2/A2SB) draft RFPs to FedBizOpps (FBO) on March 31st. These GWACs will be the sequels to the successful Alliant and Alliant Small Business (A/ASB) GWACs. The draft RFPs will be open for comments by industry and government on FBO for 90 days, so I highly encourage you to contribute.

A2/A2SB’s pre-solicitation phase has raised the bar in transparency and collaborative processes, involving both federal agencies and industry partners. The A2/A2SB team performed thorough market research and laid significant groundwork in the pre-planning phase with efforts including:

  • An A2/A2SB Interact group with more than 7,000 members
  • A publically reviewed business case on OMB MAX
  • Numerous presentations to interested agencies
  • A customer working group with 30 members from 11 agencies
  • An industry working group with more than 500 participants
  • Two RFIs through FBO
  • Two official industry days with more than 500 attendees
  • Face-to-face, one-on-one meetings between Industry and A2/A2SB staff with 350 registrants

Notable enhancements proposed in A2/A2SB include: scope improvements, new IT service labor categories, new cybersecurity standards, new environmental standards, and the inclusion of requirement contracting types.

8(a)STARS II Open Season and Option

As a result of the 8(a) STARS II GWAC’s success within the first four years of operation, our Small Business GWAC Division has begun planning for the future of the program. Activities began this Spring to enhance the contract and secure the ability to provide socioeconomic credit to federal agency users.

On May 19th, 2015, GSA’s Small Business GWAC Division issued an RFP for an open season for the 8(a) STARS II GWAC. The open season will allow additional firms to submit proposals to be evaluated for a contract award. GSA intends to add new awardees to the contract in late FY16 or early FY17.

In May, the SBGWAC Division also provided early notice to current 8(a) STARS II contract holders of the requirements for the August 2016 option period

This early notice allows stakeholders to make determinations about future activities:

  • Industry partners who will not receive an option can plan ahead for partnering opportunities on existing task orders
  • Government partners can determine the best course of action for tasks issued to firms who will not receive their option and
  • The Small Business GWAC Division can provide education and training to all stakeholders on next steps

Veterans Technology Services 2

Our Small Business GWAC Division posted on March 19th an RFI survey to FBO requesting feedback from the SDVOSB IT community for the VETS GWAC follow-on contract. The RFI remained open through April 4th and we will use feedback from the survey to develop VETS 2. Join the VETS 2 GWAC Community on GSA Interact to participate further in the conversation.

While our GWAC Division is planning ahead to ensure a bright future for this important vehicle, the ordering period for the current VETS GWAC isn’t set to expire until February 1, 2017 so there is plenty of runway on the existing contract.

To The Future

We couldn’t be more excited about the future of our GWAC Program. The relationships that we’ve built with our government and industry partners have been critical to the program’s success. The number of agency missions our GWACs have facilitated demonstrates GSA’s ongoing commitment to our government partners, the small business community and the American people. Our next generation of GWAC programs are a testament to that commitment.

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Small Business GWAC Program

Posted by Mary Davie
on January 27, 2015

(This blog post is part of a multi-week series reviewing data and trends from GSA’s IT acquisition vehicles for FY14. Read previous posts at http://gsablogs.gsa.gov/technology/)

Small businesses are the backbone of job growth and constitute a major force in the U.S. economy. They generate a vital portion of our gross domestic product (GDP) and contribute to growth and vitality of economic and socioeconomic development. In particular, small businesses create jobs and spark innovation, which complement the economic activity of large organizations by providing them with products and services that contribute to their bottom line.

Here at GSA, we pride ourselves on helping the government utilize small business. We have multiple acquisition vehicles that connect government to small business. This provides agencies the flexibility to choose the best acquisition vehicle to meet their need. Some of these vehicles reside in our Governmentwide Acquisition Contracts (GWAC) program.

Small Business (SB) GWACs provide powerful and flexible contracts that support agencies’ complex projects and requirements. These contracts experienced a tremendous amount of growth in FY 2014. Total business volume growth increased by approximately $400M on our three active SB GWACs, comprising 8(a) STARS II, Alliant Small Business, and VETS, from FY13 to FY14; an increase of approximately 19%.

Scope Reviews: Lowering risk and increasing customer support

Part of that increase is due to our complimentary scope reviews for statements of work (SOW). The team works with agencies to help determine whether requirements are within scope of a GWAC within two to five business days. This service reduces the risk of protest.  The Small Business GWAC Pre-award Scope Review Team recently analyzed the pre-award scope review process to see how our contracts are being used.

The number of pre-award scope reviews conducted on our active small business GWAC increased by 12% (253 to 287) from FY13 to FY14.  Across all three of the small business GWACs, IT Support Services is the predominant type of work being considered.

During FY14, GSA conducted 285 reviews and performed those reviews in 1.3 days on average. Retrospectively, the scope review process provides a clear understanding of the requirements, establishes a baseline for proposal evaluation, reduces evaluation and negotiation time, and most importantly minimizes the need for future changes. Understanding the trends of these scopes gives us a better understanding of how to promote small business contracting and satisfy our customers’ needs.

Buying Trends

Some of the most popular uses were for IT Support Services like Help Desk, software maintenance, and system operations.

Small Business GWACs represent 45% of GSA’s total GWAC obligations for FY14.

  • The Alliant Small Business Program experienced a 17% increase in obligations for FY14 compared to FY13.
  • 60 of 80 Alliant small business primes have at least one task order award
  • The 8(a) STARS II GWAC is the follow-on to the very successful 8(a) STARS GWAC.  The contract was awarded August 31, 2011 and resulted in 645 awards in FY14 with over $641 million in obligations.
  • The 8(a) STARS II Program has seen a 41% increase in obligations for FY14 compared to FY13.
  • The Veterans Technology Services (VETS) GWAC has obligations from 16 different federal agency customers.  All contract holders have received task orders totaling over $1 billion in obligations. In FY14, VETS added 14 task orders with $17.1 million in obligations.

Looking Ahead

The future of Small Business GWACs is bright. We’ve seen agencies increase the use of our GWACs to reach their small business goals and meet their IT demands, and we’ve seen businesses grow beyond their small-business designation due to their participation on our program.

This next year is going to be an exciting time for our Small Business GWACs. We’re going to continue to exceed customer expectations by bringing additional value like our complimentary scope reviews and prices paid data. Our flexible vehicles and focus on customer service should help us continue to expand the usage of these vehicles as we look into the future toward our next generation Small Business GWACs.

Please follow us on Twitter @GSA_ITS to join the conversation.

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