Alliant contracts move ahead

Draft RFPs still need details, industry groups say

Editor’s note: This story was updated at 11:15 a.m. June 15, 2006, to correct that the current Alliant draft requests for proposals are 95 percent identical to each other, not to the last set of drafts.

New draft solicitations for the long-awaited Alliant governmentwide acquisition contract and its small-business companion vehicle offer a solid framework but need more clarifying details, according to industry groups.

Under the new requests for proposals, which the General Services Administration released June 1, the two information technology contracts are expected to be worth as much as $65 billion in 10 years. Alliant will generate as much as $50 billion, while Alliant SB will have a ceiling of $15 billion, said John Johnson, GSA’s assistant commissioner for service development and delivery.

Compared side-by-side, the new draft solicitations are about 95 percent identical to the each other, said Lisa Akers, director of GSA’s Federal Systems and Integration Management Center.

Speaking at the Coalition for Government Procurement’s Spring Conference June 6, Akers said the RFPs’ scope has changed. GSA wrote the statement of work to align Alliant with the federal enterprise architecture and the Defense Department’s enterprise architecture, she said. Moreover, the RFPs have three sections: IT management services, applications and infrastructure.

“That helps us keep this scope alive and well over the whole course of the contract,” Akers said. She said GSA wants to bring the best companies into Alliant, no matter what size they are. To entice more bidders, GSA officials made changes in the new RFPs centered on evaluation factors, such as company participation, past customer performance and contract plans.

“We heard a lot of comments from companies that were worried that they couldn’t check every box under every task order,” she said. “Looking back at excellence in one area is really going to be better than being mediocre in all.”

GSA wants bidders to submit contract plans showing how they will work to make Alliant a success, she added.

The draft RFP for Alliant SB also removed functional areas so companies will have an opportunity to compete for an award in all contract parts, Akers said.

“Functional areas are always a great idea, right up until you get to awards,” she said. “Then the first task order that comes out under one functional area and your company is sitting on another functional area, you’re not going to think so highly of functional areas anymore.”

Larry Allen, executive vice president of the Coalition for Government Procurement, said the improvements to the RFPs compared with the previous drafts are so significant that for the first time the coalition’s position is that Alliant is on the right track.

However, he pointed out that Alliant’s rule for time-and-materials contracting is confusing. The rule states that prime contractors cannot charge the government any more than their subcontractors charge them, a provision that has arisen in other contexts, too.

“That issue is a problem for our members,” Allen said. The coalition plans to submit comments to GSA on the issue. Opponents argue that by barring contractors from adding to the base price of subcontracted services, the government makes it hard for prime contractors to recover administrative costs that they incur in providing subcontractors.

Phil Kiviat, a partner at Guerra Kiviat, said GSA should clarify the evaluation criteria by replacing subjective terms with objective measures.

“Qualitative [evaluation] is not often good enough, and that’s why I think this requires a little more thoroughness,” he said.

The contracts are an important part of the agency’s planned contract portfolio, Johnson said, adding that the dialogue with industry and agencies during Alliant’s development has yielded draft RFPs that reflect the needs of the groups that will use the contracts.

“I think we have had an ongoing dialogue that’s been very productive and allowed us to produce a set of draft RFPs that are very close to the mark,” Kiviat said.

“It’s good to see Alliant getting more definition,” Allen said.

GSA seeks feedback

The General Services Administration is seeking public comments on the latest round of draft requests for proposals for the Alliant and Alliant SB contracts.

GSA wants feedback on the following elements of the RFPs:

  • The requirements’ alignment with the Defense Department’s enterprise architecture and the federal enterprise architecture.

  • The clarity of the offer requirements.

  • The alignment of labor categories with industry practices.

  • The specified minimum order size.

  • Source: General Services Administration

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