AF set for wholesale move to service BPAs

In one of the largest initiatives to buy services through the General Services Administration schedule, the Air Force this week plans to award blanket purchase agreements to 40 teams under a three-year, $750 million program for a broad range of information technology support services.

The Information Technology Services Program (ITSP) will establish the GSA schedule as the primary source of IT services for the Electronic Systems Center at Hanscom Air Force Base, Mass., and various ESC sites nationwide. ESC spearheads the development of high-tech command and control (C2) applications for the Air Force.

Using BPAs and the GSA schedule in this way "allows us to react to dynamic changes in the mission, given that we're not locked into any specific [indefinite-delivery, indefinite-quantity contracts]," said Steven Linchey, the ITSP contracting officer. ESC plans to award another 20 BPAs later this month.

The ITSP awards will act as follow-on contracts to all of ESC's Systems Engineering Technical Assistance and Technical and Engineering Management Support contracts, which focused on ESC's C2 requirements.

The BPAs will address a broad range of technical support services, including development planning analysis, testing and evaluation, integrated logistics support, configuration and data management, and various specialty engineering services.

"A lot of folks are interested in this," said Capt. Lloyd Blackmon, the ITSP program manager. "It's kind of a radical way of doing business."

The BPAs will "allow us to translate what's on the contractors' schedules into something that's usable to ESC," Blackmon said.

Chip Mather, senior vice president at Chantilly, Va.-based Acquisition Solutions Inc., a firm that provides acquisition support and best-practice guidance to federal agencies, said, "In light of the complexity and scope of services being sought, this [will be] an interesting experiment."

However, Linchey downplayed the complexity of what ESC is trying to do, describing the BPA effort simply as a way to establish an "access account" to the GSA schedule.

According to Linchey, a March 1997 Defense Department guidance memorandum specifically pointed out that the GSA Federal Supply Schedule (FSS) was available for services "when the situation seemed appropriate." By using the GSA schedule, ESC is able to avoid the up-front need to conduct a competitive-award contract, Linchey said.

However, there have been examples in which other agencies have added too much complexity to the process and "have gotten into trouble," Mather said.

For example, during a recent protest over a Health Care Financing Administration initiative, the General Accounting Office determined that the agency had added enough complexity to the process that it was no longer conducting a simplified FSS acquisition, Mather said.

ITSP also may be complicating the process through the addition of 27 Federal Acquisition Regulation clauses that, according to a knowledgeable source, are not allowed under the GSA schedule.

Clauses attached to the BPA terms and conditions included, but were not limited to, payment under time and materials, workman's compensation, cost-contract no fee and payment for overtime premiums.

According to Linchey, ESC is unaware of any potential problems with FAR clauses included under the BPA terms and conditions. "We haven't heard that, and we haven't had any concerns brought to us by GSA," Linchey said.

A spokesman for GSA said GSA officials also were not aware of any potential problems but added that they had not conducted a detailed examination of the clauses.

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