USPTO launches desktop buy

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office is taking another crack at a multimillion-dollar small- business set-aside acquisition to supply agency employees with desktop, laptop and handheld computers.

April 16 is the deadline for companies to submit bids for USPTO's Strategic Microcomputer Acquisition Recompete Team (SMART 2001) contract. Over the life of the contract, USPTO could potentially buy 24,500 desktop, 6,300 laptop and 7,000 personal digital assistant computers for its employees and contractors.

"This is the next generation of contract through which we will buy our desktop equipment," said Ken Giese, director of USPTO's Office of Acquisition Management. Each employee — including patent examiners, trademark attorneys and some contractors — would get one or two machines over the life of the contract depending on budget, he said. USPTO has about 7,500 employees and around 1,000 contractors.

The systems would give employees access to intranet- and Internet-based applications. "The pressure to use the latest generation of machine comes from our need to process images quickly," Giese said. "We need fast computers with large memory stores. We also have large monitors to view images."

Already, many USPTO executives use handheld devices, Giese said, but SMART 2001 would be the first consolidated buy for the machines. "If we at least had a single source of supply and baseline software on them, they would be easier to manage," he said.

The SMART 2001 contract will be awarded to a small business that will partner with a large PC manufacturer in order to supply the quantity of machines USPTO could end up purchasing over five years. USPTO received a special waiver from the Small Business Administration that would allow it to make the award to such a team.

SMART 2001 is a follow-on to a contract held by Dovala, Urbancsik and Larson LLC, Anaheim, Calif., which expires in August. It also represents the second attempt by USPTO to kick off the desktop recompete.

Almost two years ago, USPTO was forced to cancel plans for the desktop recompete, which was called the Desktop Acquisition ReMap Team (DART) contract. SBA had granted and then rescinded a waiver to allow a small business to partner with a large PC manufacturer for the DART award. At the time, SBA said that several small businesses presented it with proof that they could supply products called for under DART.

But times have changed, and it appears that the same waiver rescinded under DART will stand for SMART 2001. The market today is different from what it was two years ago, Giese said. "We wanted small-business resellers to have the flexibility to offer any manufacturer's components. The contract has so many components on it, and we did not think any single manufacturer could produce all of them." Today, Intel Corp. and Advanced Micro Devices Inc. produce the motherboards on PCs, which are the most expensive parts. "It just didn't make sense for us to limit our architecture," Giese said. Besides, resellers offer order and inventory management and help determine the best time to upgrade to the next generation. "These are all the kind of things that a small business can provide very well," he said.

This time, SBA and USPTO research showed that a small business could not provide the depth, breadth and volume of products that would meet USPTO's requirements, which could total 200 computers per week, said Edith Butler, program analyst at the SBA's Office of Government Contracting.

"We worked closely with [USPTO] to ensure there were no small-business manufacturers to provide these services," she said. The waiver ensures that a small business will participate in the contract without "jeopardizing the contract with the agency."

USPTO expects to make an award by the end of the summer. It did not release a potential value for the contract, but the existing contract has a ceiling of $152 million, which has not yet been reached.LINKS:

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