PTO gears up for small-biz acquisition

The Patent and Trademark Office earlier this month briefed vendors on a new follow-on acquisition specifically set aside for small businesses that will provide the agency with a variety of hardware including PCs and laptops.

Through the $171 million Desktop Acquisition ReMap Team contract (DART), PTO will purchase up to 24,000 desktop computers over the potential five-year life of the contract. The computers will be used by employees to access mission-critical systems and other office automation applications.

"We're a very IT-intensive organization," said Dennis Shaw, chief information officer at PTO. Patent examiners and trademark attorneys have access to searchable databases from their desktops, he said. "We are not using a governmentwide type of contract primarily because we do have some unique resolution requirements for monitors and video drivers and high local storage."

PTO is asking for desktop computers running Microsoft Corp.'s Windows 98 or Windows NT operating systems, with 450 MHz or faster processors, 17-inch or 21-inch high-resolution color monitors and a minimum of 9G of hard disk space.

The agency also plans to buy up to 1,198 laptops for employees on the road, as well as printers, peripherals and other components, under the indefinite-delivery, indefinite-quantity contract. The products will replace existing equipment with faster computers used to search large collections of patent and trademark databases and to perform other traditional applications such as word processing, project management and spreadsheets.

This is the second PTO-wide desktop workstation procurement, Shaw said. "We planned for periodic replacement," he said. "It is a three-year cycle for workstations."

PTO received a waiver from the Small Business Administration that will allow small businesses to partner with large manufacturers to meet the contract requirements.

DART will help meet the Commerce Department's small-business contracting goals, which were set at 44 percent for small businesses, 18 percent for small and disadvantaged businesses and 8 percent for woman-owned small businesses for fiscal 1999. "[DART] is really in harmony with the Commerce Department's goal to rely more on small businesses," Shaw said.

While there is the potential for a small company to act as a front for a large company under this scenario, this does not happen very frequently in the 8(a) program, said Bob Dornan, senior vice president at Federal Sources Inc. "Agencies are trying to give small businesses more business," he said, adding that set-asides may be the only way to do it.

Rick Dovala, president of Dovala, Urbancsik & Larson LLC, Anaheim, Calif., which is the incumbent contractor, would not comment on whether the company would bid on the follow-on DART acquisition.

The original desktop contract was awarded to Hughes Data Systems in 1996 for $152 million. Hughes later merged with Raytheon Co., which then awarded the contract to Dovala, Urbancsik & Larson in January of this year with the approval of PTO. The addition of laptop computers is new to the DART acquisition, Dovala said.

PTO expects to award a contract for DART in October.

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