SBA shuts out Pulsar from role on NOAA procurement

The Small Business Administration denied a contract award to Pulsar Data Systems Inc. after the company was selected by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration as one of four 8(a) companies to supply scientific workstations, networking products and services.

SBA determined that Pulsar was unable to meet the technical requirements of the contract, according to sources. Pulsar's status as an 8(a) company apparently was not called into question.

Meanwhile, Pulsar has appealed the decision to SBA headquarters. A ruling on that is expected as early as this week. SBA had no comment on the issue.

In April, NOAA selected four 8(a) vendors - Sylvest Management System Inc., Data Procurement Corp., McBride & Associates and Pulsar - to supply products under its three-year, $20 million Scientific Workstations II contract. Each firm was guaranteed $100,000 worth of business.

The contract is modeled after NASA's Scientific and Engineering Workstation Procurement, which features multiple contractors supplying workstations, software and networking gear. The NOAA contract is intended to tide the agency over until SEWP II, which is open to all federal agencies, is awarded in the fall.

The contract is open to the rest of the Commerce Department, up to 20 percent of the value of the delegation of procurement authority.

Because the contract is an 8(a) set-aside, SBA, which acts as a prime contractor to NOAA on the deal, must review each contract. The agency already has approved awards to the other three vendors chosen by NOAA, but it remains unclear how the Pulsar decision will affect those companies.

"I can't speculate on what the far-reaching impact" of the decision will be on the contract overall, said Marguerite Brown, a contracting officer at NOAA. "It's out of the purview of NOAA."

Other vendors have been delivering products under the contract, and that is "running smoothly," she added.

While it is not clear whether SBA will again review the contracts held by Data Procurement, McBride & Associates and Sylvest, which is the incumbent on the contract, it does not appear likely.

"SBA does not go looking for business, so it would not undertake a review unless someone complains," said Bob Dornan, senior vice president of Federal Sources Inc. He added that it is a relatively "rare occurrence" for SBA to deny a contract, as in the case of Pulsar, "but that is one of [SBA's] jobs."

Other vendors on the contract do not appear too worried.

"We're not concerned," said Norman Chung, vice president of complex systems at McBride & Associates. "We've had [SBA] people tour our facility, and we've been inspected for other contract [awards]. We're supporting the efforts to meet the objectives of this contract."

McBride & Associates will provide workstations from Digital Equipment Corp., IBM Corp., Silicon Graphics Inc. and Sun Microsystems Inc.; networking products from Bay Networks Inc., Cabletron Systems Inc. and Cisco Systems Inc.; and software from Oracle Corp. and Computer Associates International Inc., among others.

Sylvest's offering includes Hewlett-Packard Co., Sun, Silicon Graphics and Digital workstations. Data Procurement is providing Digital and Sun workstations, among other products.

In May, Pulsar was one of three 8(a) vendors chosen by the Federal Emergency Management Agency to provide PCs and networking products under its $30 million Program for Acquisition of Current Technology contract, which is currently under review at SBA.

Pulsar did not comment by press time.

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