25 tapped for ITOP-II

Anticipating a growing need for services, the Transportation Department earlier this month awarded 34 prime contracts to 25 companies under a $10 billion information technology services follow-on contract.

The seven-year Information Technology Omnibus Procurement-II (ITOP-II) contract will provide a wide range of IT services to federal agencies and, for the first time, state and local agencies. ITOP-II is a follow-on to the 21/2-year-old ITOP contract that already has processed $900 million worth of orders, to nearly reach its ordering ceiling.

"We're building on the concept of reinventing government," said Richard Lieber, manager of DOT's ITOP program. "We believe what's good at the federal level will be good at the state and local levels as well."

Other new features on ITOP-II include the ability of a government customer to set aside a contract specifically for competition among small businesses and 8(a) companies. In addition, ITOP-II gives a prime vendor the flexibility to work with any subcontractor based on the expertise needed to bid for a specific task order.

This time around, Lieber said, DOT hopes to either match or surpass the amount of work that went to small businesses or 8(a) firms under ITOP, which amounted to 43 percent of task orders. Under ITOP-II, 15 contracts went to small or 8(a) businesses compared with 10 under ITOP.

Stanley Associates Inc. was a small business under ITOP, but it graduated from the government's small-business program last year. This month it won two contracts under ITOP-II. George Wilson, vice president of Stanley Associates, said the company plans to use ITOP-II to make its foray into the state and local government market. Using a hockey analogy to describe the opportunity, Wilson said, "We're not going to where the puck is. We're going where the puck will be. ITOP-II is a great vehicle to [help us] do this."

Although ITOP has been very successful, the program faces more competition than it did in 1996 because of the appearance of the General Services Administration IT products and services schedule. However, Lieber is not concerned, saying the market will decide who is successful. "Competition is a good thing if we can all play on a level playing field," he said. "I think we have a good product and excellent service, and that's our niche."

Jim McGuirk, senior vice president and president of Unisys Federal Systems, said the company plans to use ITOP-II to support seat management initiatives and intelligent transportation systems for state governments.

Bob Woods, president and chief operating officer of Federal Sources Inc., said more competition among governmentwide contracts is a good thing for users, but it also means more work for agencies. "[Agencies] understand that there is market research and analysis to be done," Woods said. "They will have to be better at that and at serving customers' needs. I think they will have to reach out."

McGuirk said he likes the flexibility of being able to choose different subcontractors for a particular client. "I really think this will benefit" Unisys and DOT, he said. "If we can make ITOP-II half as successful as ITOP-I, I know we'll be talking about ITOP-II as being the foundation of federal procurement."

Other features under ITOP-II include the ability for customers to submit their requests to the ITOP special project office over the Internet to try to streamline the process. In an effort to enhance the competition for task orders, the ITOP-II minimum guarantee for each contractor has been reduced, and the provision under ITOP for sole-sourcing $3 million per year per contractor has been removed.

Under the first contract, DOT awarded 20 contracts to 17 companies, which compete for business within three functional areas. Similarly, there are three functional areas under ITOP-II: Information Systems Engineering; Systems Operations and Management; and Information Systems Security. ITOP-II is an indefinite-delivery, indefinite-quantity contract, and it includes some hardware and software.

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