Vendor group asks Congress to kill ITOP II

Maintaining that agencies have created too many similar acquisition vehicles, an industry group last week asked Congress to terminate a $10 billion government-wide contract planned by the Transportation Department.

In a letter to Rep. Steve Horn (R-Calif.), chairman of the House Subcommittee on Government Management, Information and Technology, the Coalition for Government Procurement said it has "serious concerns" about the Information Technology Omnibus Procurement II contract, which is scheduled for award this fall. The coalition represents more than 300 companies that sell products and services to the federal government and has been a vocal supporter of the General Services Administration's multiple-award schedule program.

The coalition said in its letter that ITOP II duplicates other programs already in place—- particularly the schedules program, which offers a wider variety of services with reduced lead times and acquisition costs. In addition, ITOP "has been proven to be an improperly administered contract," with agencies paying more than necessary for products and services, and it is "clearly outside the core mission" of DOT. The General Accounting Office has criticized ITOP for failing to compete task orders, the letter said. "Our members are seeing the proliferation of government contract vehicles," said Larry Allen, executive director of the Coalition for Government Procurement. "They don't have the time or resources to chase down every [solicitation]. Members want a couple [of] good methods to get their product to market. At the time it was awarded, ITOP served a unique purpose; now there are other contracts that do more and charge less of an administrative fee than ITOP."

ITOP was targeted in part because plans for a follow-on are under way, Allen said. "Some of it is a timing issue," he said. "With all the talk about duplicative contracts, [we] thought it was time for someone to say, 'Stop the insanity now.' "

Allen cited the GSA schedules program and the NASA Scientific and Engineering Workstation Procurement program as examples of successful contract vehicles.

Richard Lieber, manager of DOT's ITOP program, said, "This letter shows me I'm doing something right. It shows GSA is afraid of some real competition out there. We are providing a unique type of service that our customers seem to like, and they are voting with dollars as to which type of services and vehicles suit their needs."

The original, 2-year-old ITOP contract has been successful, nearly reaching its $1.13 billion ordering ceiling, Lieber said. "Obviously, I think ITOP should not be terminated given the benefits the taxpayer and federal agencies are receiving," he said. ITOP and its follow-on cover nearly every aspect of information resources management-related services.

Bert Concklin, president of the Professional Services Council, which has many of the same members as the coalition, said he thinks the letter "is ill-advised and a nonproductive piece of communication. To single out ITOP is without foundation and disruptive.... I think this is a thinly disguised effort to shift business over to the GSA schedule."

However, some vendors support limiting the growth of governmentwide acquisition contracts, said Olga Grkavac, senior vice president of the Information Technology Association of America's Systems Integration Division. "There certainly is a general concern that not every agency [should] have its own GWAC," she said. "They have to be held to a manageable number."

Bill Gormley, the Federal Supply Service's assistant commissioner for acquisition, said the Office of Federal Procurement Policy should re-evaluate the growth of GWACs. "I think this is an opportunity for [OFPP] to see if this is what GWACs are all about," Gormley said. "If someone is setting up a GWAC that duplicates what GSA does, I have to ask, 'How does that benefit the government and industry?' " By the end of this fiscal year, GSA expects to do $1 billion in sales for IT services.

Meanwhile, OFPP continually is looking at how to improve multiple-award contracts, including ITOP, but it has no immediate plan to step in and limit the number of GWACs, said Allen Brown, acting OFPP administrator. "There is a lot of experimentation, and we don't want to snuff it out," Brown said.

A congressional source said Horn has not yet considered the issues raised in the letter but said, "It's good to have competition between ITOP and GSA.... We're creating a market where if agencies or vendors don't like [a contract], then it will go away."

Lee Cooper, vice president of business development for Unisys Federal Systems, an ITOP contractor, said Unisys supports ITOP and other programs, such as the GSA schedule. "In each case the customer decides which contract and contractor they use," Cooper said. "Reducing the number of vehicles would restrict competition."

Mary Ann Elliott, president and chief executive officer of Arrowhead Space&Telecommunications Inc., which is an 8(a) company on the current ITOP contract, said companies need a variety of procurements "to stimulate the procurement process and give many [8(a)] companies the opportunity to bid as primes."

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