Engineering vendors gear up for new sked

The General Services Administration is moving quickly to put in place a new engineering services schedule that could be worth more than $100 million over five years.

GSA's Federal Supply Service released the draft request for proposals for the Multi-Disciplined Engineering and Technical Services (M-DETS) schedule this month, and although many modifications are expected, the agency wants vendors to submit their proposals as soon as possible.

"Our customer agencies are as eager as you are to get awards made for their contracting needs," Bernice Harris, FSS' contracting officer for the M-DETS solicitation, told vendors last week at a pre-solicitation conference.

The engineering services to be available on the contract range from aerospace and geological to logistics and systems safety. Tasks can include life-cycle costing, migration strategy, support services, and testing and evaluation. At present, the schedule program is expected to run five years, with one to three five-year options.

Agencies, finding themselves with a shortfall of talent and money after cutbacks the past several years, have been pushing FSS for a schedule contract from which they can easily procure these services, Harris said.

"Many activities have come to GSA and requested that GSA create a vehicle where they can meet their engineering needs," she said.

FSS wants the schedule to come as close as possible to mirroring the way that vendors sell their engineering services in the commercial market. FSS is looking for comments and suggestions for improving the solicitation.

The first major change already has occurred. In the draft statement of work released in January, the special item numbers (SINs) describing the categories of services on the contract all were based on engineering disciplines.

But the number of questions received from agencies and vendors showed that those descriptions were too specific, so the SINs now are based on the phases that an agency will go through when putting together an engineering services project.

"We realized more and more just how vast this acquisition is...and we felt it would be best to go to a phased or cycle approach," Harris said.

"We've been working very closely with the GSA formulation team," including suggesting the change in the SIN descriptions, said Bert Concklin, president of the Professional Services Council, which represents federal contractors. "The SIN structure reflects the government culture...but GSA wants to, to the maximum extent, use the commercial experience and the commercial price structure," he said.

The initial "guesstimate" for the estimated sales on the new schedule, currently set at $100 million, most likely will change before the final RFP is issued, Harris said. GSA knows that interest is high, based on federal focus groups held over the past few months, but the agency does not want to set any unreachable goals, she said.

But some see the $100 million projection as unexpectedly small considering the value of other services contracts recently awarded by GSA's Federal Technology Service.

"I'm surprised at the small number," said Bob Dornan, senior vice president at Federal Sources Inc. "Look at [FTS'] Millennia; that's got a value of $25 billion."

One reason Millennia is seen as having such a large market is that it was specifically created to provide the high-demand, large information technology services projects. FSS, meanwhile, deliberately has specified that M-DETS is not to be used for IT services unless those services are part of an engineering services project because FSS already offers IT services on its Group 70 IT schedule.

But there is plenty of interest in engineering services, and GSA should have no trouble finding customers for the new schedule, Dornan said. "There's a lot of this work going on, and if there is an easy-to-use vehicle, a path of least resistance, the government will flock to it," he said.

One key thing to look at as the engineering services schedule moves forward is whether it takes off the same way that the IT services schedule did over the past year, especially if Defense Department contract shops take advantage of the engineering schedule as much as they have the IT services on the main GSA schedule, Concklin said.

"It may take off fairly quickly the way IT did because there are no fundamental differences," he said.

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AT A GLANCE

Proposed categories

* Strategic planning for technology programs/activities* Concept development and requirements analysis* System design, engineering and integration* Test and evaluation* Integrated logistics support* Acquisition and life-cycle management* Privatization

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