20 companies to share $1B services prize

The Transportation Department, with the National Performance Review as a backdrop, last week awarded 20 contracts under a $1.13 billion services program, which it hailed as an example of "new" information technology procurements possible under recent federal acquisition reform.

The Information Technology Omnibus Procurement (ITOP), which took only four months to award, provides a governmentwide contract that covers nearly every aspect of information resources management-related services.

"It brings to information technology the same types of reform that are making other areas of government work better and cost less," said Mortimer Downey, deputy secretary of Transportation. "In taking this action, we now won't have to repeat the lengthy process of procurement every time [we need IT services]."

DOT awarded ITOP contracts in three functional areas: information systems security, systems and facilities management and maintenance (SFM), and information systems engineering (ISE). ITOP contracts have three-year bases with two two-year options.

ITOP is one of the most prominent examples of the multiple-award task-order contract, which the Office of Federal Procurement Policy has been promoting heavily over the last several years.

As part of this approach—spelled out in the Federal Acquisition Streamlining Act of 1994—a "contract" under a multiple-award program gives a vendor the right only to compete for future task orders.

"We developed a very streamlined, commercial-style, informal competition that keeps [contractors] hungry for our business," said Steven Kelman, administrator of the Office of Federal Procurement Policy.

In ITOP, most task orders will be competed in the appropriate functional area. However, each vendor can bring in as much as $3 million in business a year.

As the program progresses, performance on past task orders will become an important factor in awarding new work, said Diane Litman, the ITOP project sponsor at DOT.

ITOP is expected to become the primary services vehicle for DOT, including the Federal Aviation Administration and the Coast Guard.

"For the Coast Guard, this is a nice umbrella contract that will allow us to do a lot of things without going out and building our own contracts," said Tom Willis, a staff member at the Coast Guard's computing center in Martinsburg, W.Va.

The Coast Guard plans to consider ITOP when its current procurement for facilities management expires.

The FAA said it plans to use ITOP for most of its IT services. The omnibus contract was a factor in the FAA's decision to cancel a planned $400 million procurement of office automation products and services.

However, DOT also expects to see a lot of business from other agencies, Litman said.

The program office at DOT will provide a range of services for building ITOP task orders, if needed. Either way, the agency plans to make it an affordable vehicle, according to Litman.

"The contract will be administered on a fee-for-service basis, and the fees will be competitive with everything else out there," she said.

In the long run, the ITOP approach will prove to be the norm, said Irving Zaks, vice president and general manager of the Information Systems Division at GTE Government Systems, Chantilly, Va.

"This is the way government buying behavior has changed and will change" with future procurements, Zaks said.

GTE is a prime contractor for ISE and a subcontractor for SFM on ITOP.

Half of the 20 prime contracts—and more than half of about 100 subcontracts—were awarded to small businesses or 8(a) firms.

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