NIH to launch ECS follow-on

The National Institutes of Health plans this week to launch the recompete of its popular Electronic Computer Store contracts this time as a five-year program potentially worth several hundred million dollars.

The current ECS program has far surpassed the $96.8 million in sales that NIH anticipated when it awarded 17 two-year contracts in September 1995. In its first year alone the pacts which are open to the entire government generated $199.5 million in sales according to figures NIH reported last fall.

Federal Sources Inc. McLean Va. estimates the upcoming contracts might be worth $250 million over three years but if current sales trends continue they could generate far more revenue than that. The new contracts are expected to be awarded before the existing ones expire at the end of September but the agency has not released an estimated award date.

Virtually Identical

Leamon Lee associate director of administration for NIH said the follow-on procurement ECS II will be nearly identical to the current program. A draft statement of work provided by the agency indicates NIH seeks the same types of products currently offered through the virtual computer store: desktop and notebook computers workstations file servers and software for a range of computing platforms.

Paul Collins vice president with ECS vendor BTG Inc. said the agency is likely to call only for commonly used office computing equipment as opposed to cutting-edge technology.

The proposed work statement also indicates that the NIH Information Technology Acquisition and Assessment Center (NITAAC) the office that runs the program is continuing to pursue electronic commerce capability that will allow customers to place orders using the Internet.

Many of the vendors who now hold ECS contracts are expected to bid for new contracts. Depending on the offers it receives NIH may make multiple awards again including at least one each to an 8(a) company and another small business. Small businesses and small disadvantaged firms captured slightly more than half the sales from the contracts in fiscal 1996 according to NIH.

The current program includes awards to seven small businesses seven 8(a) firms and three large companies.

Several vendors said they have been pleased with how NIH has been running the current program.

Collins whose company has captured $75 million in business from its ECS contract so far said the program is "probably as innovative as any [contract] in the business."

"I wish everyone did contracting this way " said Kevin Adams program director for civilian programs with Government Technology Services Inc. which pulled in $35 million from its contract during calendar 1996.

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