GSA pushes small firms to compete

The General Services Administration's Federal Telecommunications Service has adopted a new approach advocated by the Small Business Administration to allow small and disadvantaged businesses to compete among themselves for federal contracts.

FTS intended to use the approach in its solicitation for the Technical and Management Support contracts scheduled for release late last week. Agency officials said they would evaluate all TMS proposals and conduct separate competitions for small businesses and 8(a) firms respectively as long as the agency receives two or more "reasonable" offers from companies falling into each of these categories.

Al Olson assistant commissioner at the FTS Office of Acquisition said FTS would first evaluate proposals from small businesses and 8(a) firms against those submitted by other vendors. If they are unable to compete against the big guns of larger businesses small and disadvantaged companies would then be pitted against each other for awards.

"These contracts are pretty broad so we're not sure that a small disadvantaged business will have the capability to play [against larger companies] " Olson said.

TMS will offer a range of telecom support services including planning acquisition support installation and operations and maintenance. Contracting officer Trudi Bailey said the number of contracts awarded under the program will depend on the number of acceptable proposals received by GSA.

Because agencies will select from multiple vendors each time they buy services from TMS small and disadvantaged businesses that win contracts will have a better shot at obtaining business Bailey said."This is the first time we've done multiple awards on a service contract " she said. "Hopefully it will give agencies a chance to select vendors that will give them the best value."

Valerie Perlowitz president and chief executive officer at Reliable Integration Services Inc. called GSA's approach "refreshing" and credited the agency with acknowledging what small businesses like hers could bring to Post-FTS 2000.

Perlowitz added that FTS should take steps to ensure that even bidding teams headed by large vendors include substantial participation by small and 8(a) firms.

FTS commissioner Bob Woods confirmed that companies not classified as small or disadvantaged will be evaluated on the degree to which their proposals incorporate services offered by small or 8(a) firms.

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