NIH taps 45 to share $2B ECS II business

The National Institutes of Health awarded contracts last week to 45 vendors who will now compete for a potential $2 billion in business through the Electronic Computer Store II program.

NIH chose the winners from an unprecedented 78 bidders who sought a piece of the governmentwide hardware and software procurement. The agency planned at first to award less than 30 contracts but added to the list in order to make more awards to small businesses.

In all NIH selected 10 large companies 21 small businesses and 14 small and disadvantaged firms. They include BTG Inc. CompUSA Digicon Corp. Fuentez Systems Concepts Inc. Government Technology Services Inc. Logicon MicroAge Federal Planning Technologies Inc. Pulsar Data Systems Inc. and Worldwide Technology Inc.

"The real issue was how do you achieve parity for small and small disadvantaged businesses in a procurement environment where you have past performance breadth of product offering consistency of performance and best value as your award criteria " said Robert Guerra a consultant who is president of the Armed Forces Communications and Electronics Association chapter based at NIH. "I think large companies have a dominant position. To be fair to the small-[business] community they had to award twice as many contracts as they intended to."

"In our case we have a bunch of loyal customers that would like to buy from us and would like to buy from ECS " said Robert Sturm capture manager with Cordant Inc. a subsidiary of Tracor Information Systems another winner.

The five-year pacts replace 17 expiring contracts awarded two years ago under the ECS I program. To date those contracts have captured about $350 million in sales mainly from agencies outside NIH and the Department of Health and Human Services.

Out of the 17 ECS I vendors only two - Electronic Data Systems Corp. and International Data Products Corp. - did not receive an ECS II award. IDP submitted a proposal but EDS did not. IDP executives could not be reached for comment.

Among the other winners five hold contracts under NIH's ImageWorld contract or Chief Information Officer Solutions and Partners programs.

Patrick Williams deputy director of NIH's Information Technology Acquisition and Assessment Center said the agency selected vendors based on past performance warranties and support services as well as the range of products they offered. "We're not looking for one company that can provide a single [brand of] PC " he said.

In addition Williams said vendors' electronic-commerce capabilities were important to winning a contract. "That's the wave of the future " he said and NIH rejected firms that did not measure up to its standards for World Wide Web-based catalogs and online ordering. Williams declined to say how many companies failed to make the final cut because they lacked EC credentials.

"Many civilian agencies are looking to take advantage of electronic ordering capabilities that make [ECS] convenient " said Pete Racine program capture manager with Hughes Data Systems.

As with most indefinite-delivery indefinite-quantity contracts today how well vendors do will depend on their marketing skills said Terry Kelly who teaches courses on federal procurement practices. "This is a beauty contest and these people passed the talent competition " she said.

Jim Dunn director of business development with GTSI said not all vendors will market their pacts aggressively but will "fill some niches here and there."

He predicted agency customers would not consider every contract when they buy but focus instead on vendors that are targeting specific markets such as Intel Corp. platforms or networking equipment.

"It's good for the end user it's not so good for vendors " said Deborah Gordon president of GCG Computers Inc. who has been involved in marketing all three NIH governmentwide programs as an ECS I contractor. "But our customers are our customers and as long as they know they are getting the best possible price and service they stick with you."

For a complete list of ECS II winners visit our Web site at www.fcw.com.

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