GSA cooks up new contract mix

Officials at the General Services Administration recently announced plans to phase out several governmentwide acquisition contracts and have begun to discuss the new vehicle that will replace two of the GWACs.

Officials expect to issue a request for proposals for the vehicle, to be called Alliant, in June. Alliant will replace Millennia and Applications 'N' Support for Widely Diverse End-User Requirements (Answer). Millennia is an information technology vehicle designed to enable agencies to acquire the newest technology. It includes provisions for technologies that did not exist or were not on the market at the time the contract was awarded. Answer covers IT services. GSA originally awarded the contracts in 1999.

Although Bill Archambeault, GSA's procurement contracting officer for Alliant, has begun meeting with vendors informally to discuss the new vehicle, the details are still in flux. GSA has scheduled formal industry days to discuss specifics of the contract for Feb. 18 in Oakland, Calif., and March 29 in Washington, D.C.

Archambeault said GSA officials are considering a 15-year term and a $150 billion ceiling, reserving 25 percent of the contracts for small businesses. Agency officials plan to award the contract by May 2005.

The agreement will include common IT products and services, such as security, information assurance, business process re-engineering, communications, Web development, and modeling and simulation, he said (see box).

GSA officials want to eliminate contracts that duplicate the capabilities of other contracts. It's an effort that began a year ago when GSA officials realigned the Federal Supply Service and Federal Technology Service and formed the Contract Vehicle Review Board.

Some critics of the initiative say that the specialized contract vehicles give agencies the means to procure specialized products and services with a wider range of payment options than the more generalized GSA schedule contracts offer.

"It seems you lose flexibility," said consultant John Ortego. "I sense they're fixing a problem that didn't exist. The contract vehicles were well used. The industry seemed to be happy with them."

"Some of the specialized vehicles were very good contracts," said Steve Kelman, a professor of public management at Harvard University. "The idea of GSA having subject matter expertise on some specific areas is a good one."

Some analysts are worried that consolidating vehicles will reduce competition among vendors by shrinking the pool of companies. But that may not be a problem. Millennia and Answer have eight vendors each, but because of overlap, only 12 companies total. Alliant will have about 20 prime contractors, Archambeault said.

The contract will also feature "ramp on, ramp off" options, which allow GSA officials to add or remove businesses during the contract's term. The flexibility allows newcomers to join and also guards against a dwindling field of players if some of the prime contractors merge.

It's also protection from underperforming companies, Archambeault said.

"To put it bluntly, if you don't perform, you're gone," he said. "There are plenty of people who can do the work. It's not fair for us to carry deadwood when they're waiting in the wings."

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What's in the mix

Alliant, a new program designed to replace two governmentwide contract programs, will provide the following:

Computer systems design services.

Custom computer programming services.

Computer facilities management services.

Data processing, hosting and related services.

Software.

Computer training.

Satellite telecommunications.

Other telecommunications.

Internet service providers.

Web search portals.

Other computer-related services.

Source: General Services Administration

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