Small-biz reseller wins SMART 2001

After two years of on-again, off-again efforts to get a multimillion-dollar small-business set-aside acquisition for desktop, laptop and handheld computers on track, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office has awarded the contract to Technology Integration Group.

The award, for $328 million over five years, fulfills USPTO's Strategic Microcomputer Acquisition Recompete Team (SMART) 2001 contract. Over the life of the contract, USPTO could potentially buy 24,500 desktop and 5,000 laptop computers for its employees and contractors.

USPTO made the award Jan. 3 but declined to discuss it publicly until now. "We've been finishing up the 'process of the award,' setting up the ordering process," Ken Giese, director of the agency's Office of Acquisition Management, said Feb. 27. "Now we're transitioning from our old contract. We hope to place our first order [with Technology Integration Group] in March."

SMART 2001 is a follow-on to a contract held by Dovala, Urbancsik and Larson LLC that expired in August 2001. Executives of San Diego-based Technology Integration Group were not available for comment. TIG is a full-service system integrator with annual revenues of more than $200 million and 15 locations nationwide.

President Bush's fiscal 2003 budget proposal calls for USPTO to receive $239 million, or 21 percent more than it received in fiscal 2002, in order to hire 950 more patent examiners and reduce the current two-year wait for patent application approvals.

The SMART 2001 contract will be used to buy new equipment for the new patent examiners, Giese said.

In addition to computers, equipment to be purchased under the contract includes printers, monitors and bar-code readers. How many of each item will be bought is a decision that will be "driven by budget," Giese said. "We have a goal of replacing our desktop technologies every three years, but the budget seldom supports that."

Almost two years ago, USPTO was forced to cancel plans to recompete the desktop contract because the Small Business Administration had granted and then rescinded a waiver to allow a small business to partner with a large PC manufacturer for the award. At the time, SBA said that several small businesses presented proof that they could supply products called for under the recompete terms.

The back-and-forth between USPTO and the SBA resulted from "an honest debate [over] whether it made sense to limit the contract to equipment manufactured by a small business," Giese said. "SBA's mission in life is to maximize the money and time that goes to small businesses, so they wanted to hear all the arguments for and against the idea."

Normally, under a small-business set-aside, "the small business is expected to both sell and manufacture the products," Giese said. "We didn't want to limit the flexibility we had [about the kinds of products USPTO could buy]. So we ended up with a small-business reseller."

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