Draft proposals stir interest

Vendors scrutinize Alliant RFPs

Draft Alliant RFP

General Services Administration officials have created a buzz with the release of documents related to two new governmentwide acquisition contracts.

Because the new contracts, known as Alliant and Alliant SB, will replace widely used but older contracts, interest in the Alliant draft requests for proposals is high, industry officials say.

Alliant and its small-business companion, Alliant SB, will replace older GWACs, including Millennia and Applications 'N' Support for Widely Diverse End-User Requirements (ANSWER).

The RFPs are open for public comment until June 3, and some procurement experts have predicted that GSA officials will receive plenty of feedback from industry.

GSA officials expect to award up to 20 Alliant and up to 40 Alliant SB contracts in mid-2006, said Neal Fox, GSA’s assistant commissioner for commercial acquisition.

Although GSA officials have worked on the contract requirements for more than a year, some parts of the RFPs remain unclear, said Phil Kiviat, a consultant at Guerra, Kiviat, Flyzik and Associates.

"I anticipate GSA receiving a large number of comments and questions from potential offerors," he said.

"We invite comment on these important acquisition efforts because GSA wants to provide our government customers with the best information technology services available," Fox said.

Some industry observers have said the $2,500 guaranteed minimum revenue under both Alliant contracts is too small to be significant for most companies.

But the small-business subcontracting goal for the larger Alliant contract is unusually ambitious, said Karen Wilson, vice president of consulting at Federal Sources.

The goal is for small businesses to win 50 percent of the subcontract awards. Accordingly, company officials should have a plan, but they do not need a team of small-business subcontractors in place when they bid.

"This is something [GSA officials] want to happen over the life of the contract," Wilson said. "That raises a lot of questions. How on earth can they guarantee that?"

Wilson said the subcontracting provision will be hard to audit and could put an unwelcome burden on agency and company officials.

"The incumbent vehicles certainly prove that there is a market there," Wilson said. "But if they make Alliant too burdensome for the agencies, they will look elsewhere."

Wilson said the ease of use will determine whether Alliant becomes widely used.

"GSA's hope, obviously, is that they’ll attract new customers," Wilson said. "Customer interest will be based entirely on how easy it is for them to use the vehicle. The agencies certainly will have other choices."

She said GSA officials must try to find a balance between eliminating redundancies among contracts and maintaining a diverse range of competitors.

"You've got a set of 12 primes between ANSWER and Millennia, which is not a lot of companies," she said. "The field for Alliant is said to be 20, which is a bit better."

Only larger companies are likely to win Alliant contracts, Wilson said. But for small companies, the small-business companion contracts — about 40 will be awarded — are attainable, she said.

"The midsize companies are the ones that may really get squeezed a little," Wilson said. "The larger primes will be well positioned to handle it themselves, and the small businesses have their protections. It is the midtier companies that are going to struggle a little bit."

Based on the degree of influence that company officials have had on developing Networx, another major GSA procurement, Wilson said GSA officials are taking industry feedback seriously.

Some potential bidders, however, say the draft RFPs are strong and attractive business opportunities as they are now written.

"By far, for a draft, the Alliant RFP is the most comprehensive, complete draft I've ever seen," said Rosanne Satterfield, senior vice president for GSA customer relations at ITS, a midsize information technology services provider.

Satterfield said ITS officials expect the final Alliant RFP to be similar to the draft. Although they have to wait until the final document is released, "we're ready to go," she said.

GSA readies GWAC for veterans

Agency officials could find it easier to meet contracting goals for businesses owned by service-disabled veterans when a new governmentwide acquisition contract is awarded.

General Services Administration officials released a request for proposals for the Veterans Technology Services contract March 31. Proposals are due June 3.

The contract will have a five-year base period and one five-year option. The guaranteed minimum revenue for winning contractors is $2,500. The ceiling is $5 billion.

John Moliere, president of Standard Communications, is a leading proponent for the contract. But he said he is concerned that large companies might be misinterpreting the contract's purpose.

"When we have a procurement that’s full and open, and all of the big guys are bidding on it, they can pretty well dictate who gets to be their subcontractors," Moliere said.

But now that small companies will have a chance to be in the prime contractor role, "large businesses are viewing it as big business," he said. "We have been besieged by companies [proposing partnerships], but none of them want to commit themselves to being exclusive to us."

Moliere also said he is puzzled that GSA officials plan to make the contract awards in 2006. "Why in the heck is it that this is going to take so long for awards to be made?" he asked. "I can't believe it will take from June until next year to award this."

— Michael Hardy

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