Health IT, one-stop convenience pitched as NITAAC advantages

Sorting out the alphabet soup of federal acquisition options means focusing on what your agency values most.

a man grouping items by shape

Considering the interweaving IT offerings of the General Services Administration, NASA's Solutions for Enterprise Wide Procurement and the National Institutes of Health's GWACs, it can be confusing to figure out which acquisition vehicle fits a given purpose. At the June 2 Federal IT Acquisition Summit, NIH officials explained some of the aspects that make their version attractive, calling it a "one-stop shop."

The NIH developed the National Institutes of Health Information Technology Acquisition and Assessment Center, so it makes sense it would have a health IT component. "It's the only GWAC that has a task area specifically set aside for health IT," said Michelle Street, management analyst of the IT Acquisition and Assessment Center. "That means that every single firm on these contracts has that capability."

Street stressed, however, that health IT isn't the only type of health procurement available. NITAAC has nine other task areas, including CIO support, imaging and outsourcing.

NITAAC officials also highlighted cost savings. Street said, for example, that NITAAC'S CIO-SP3 has average ceiling rates that are 10 to 15 percent lower than those of comparable GWACs. And when an agency places a task order, competition through the eGos program – an electronic system for government orders -- drives the rates down further, according to Street. (CIO-SP3 stands for Chief Information Officer - Solutions for Partners 3. There a small-business-only version of CIO-SP3 as well, and NITAAC also manages the Chief Information Officer - Commodities and Solutions, or CIO-CS, vehicle.)

When asked to describe what makes NITAAC's vehicles distinct from SEWP and GSA GWACs, Street said it comes down to the range of services. "One of the main distinctions has to do with scope. When you use the NASA program, which is a top-notch program … they're commodities. That's their scope. And they do very well with commodities. If you want services, you come to NITAAC or GSA."

She also highlighted customer service and convenience for buyers. NITAAC, she said, offers "one system [where] you can come in and see everything from your IT commodities to your IT services and solutions, so everything is right there." Right now, NITAAC can provide contracting support to any agency except the Department of Defense.

And with agile software development at the forefront of the IT world, NITAAC is working on ways to do agile contracting.

"I think that desire is out there, but nobody says how you do it. One of the things with task and delivery order contracting is that it is quick," Street said. "You can take small bites of the apple. If you take advantage of all the efficiencies … you can do this in an agile way in less than 30 days where your program office can still get their needs met."

NEXT STORY: HHS Buyers Club tees up second RFP

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