Commerce starting over with Commits
- By Colleen O'Hara
- Jul 03, 2000
The Commerce Department has suspended an estimated $1.5 billion governmentwide
information technology services contract and has asked interested vendors
to revise and resubmit their proposals.
Almost exactly one year ago, Commerce awarded 29 contractors pieces
of its Commerce Information Technology Solutions (Commits) program, which
was hailed as the first governmentwide IT services contract specifically
for small businesses.
However, on June 29, Commerce officials told vendors that had originally
bid on Commits that they must revise their prices and technical information
and resubmit their proposals by July 7 (later changed to July 14) in order
to be considered as a Commits vendor.
Potentially, all 209 of the contractors and subcontractors that submitted
proposals could resubmit a bid, said Michael Sade, acting director for acquisition
management at Commerce. The department has not decided how many awards it
will make this time, he said.
The department had no choice but to suspend Commits after the Court
of Federal Claims late last month upheld a protest filed by a losing vendor,
Computer & Hi-Tech Management Inc. (CHM). The company wanted Commerce
to stop awarding task orders until it completed the proposal re-evaluation
process — a process mandated by the General Accounting Office in December
when it upheld protests filed by CHM and Kathpal Technologies Inc.
Commerce has awarded 12 task orders under Commits for a total of about $100 million,
and those will continue. This week the department expects to make two additional
awards that were approved by the court. However, there are 17 awards that
have been put on hold or redirected to another vehicle, Sade said.
Although the problems mean a slower start for Commits than originally anticipated,
Sade said he is optimistic about its future. "[Commits] is a welcome addition
to the acquisition and procurement community," he said. "People love the
program. And this is a program, not just a [governmentwide acquisition contract]."
Commits is designed to funnel work to small, minority-owned businesses.
Raul Perea-Henze, deputy assistant secretary for administration at Commerce,
said Commits has the "full commitment of those up the chain." The nominee
for Commerce secretary, Norman Mineta, who is expected to receive Senate
confirmation, is a strong supporter of small and minority-owned businesses,
However, additional staff and money are needed to keep the Commits momentum
going, said Bob Welch, former procurement executive at Commerce and now
vice president of government operations at Acquisition Solutions Inc. Earlier
this year, Alan Balutis, former deputy chief information officer at Commerce
and one of Commits' biggest proponents, moved to head the department's Advanced
Technology Program. "Alan working with Mike [Sade] could have prevented
this problem," Welch said.
As in the original solicitation, Commits will provide systems engineering,
systems security, and systems operations and maintenance. The original winners
were chosen based primarily on past performance, which will still play a
prominent role when the department evaluates proposals. But this time, Commerce
will also factor in price proposals.
Of the original winners, 50 percent were 8(a) companies; 20 percent were
woman-owned firms; 15 percent were small, disadvantaged businesses; and
15 percent were other small businesses.
Although it is unclear how many companies will resubmit proposals, the door
is open for losing vendors to try again. Joyce Broiles-Hill, a director
at Turner, Harper & Associates Inc., an IT consulting, World Wide Web
development and security firm in Gaithersburg, Md., said she plans to do
just that. "We bid as a joint venture with another security company, and
we intend to bid that same way again," she said.
Like many vendors at the pre-proposal conference last week, Broiles-Hill
said she hoped Commerce would extend the July 7 due date, considering the
holiday and the amount of time it takes to write, review and edit a proposal.
Her firm must convert a document used for its oral presentation last year
into a written proposal.
As expected, Commerce posted amendments June 30 at www.commits. doc.gov,
which included an extension to 4 p.m., July 14. The department expects to
complete proposal evaluations July 21 and make awards Aug. 4.