NIH awards ECS III vehicle

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The National Institutes of Health's Information Technology Acquisition and Assessment Center (NITAAC) has selected 66 vendors with high-level security clearances to be part of a new contracting vehicle it hopes will become the choice for agencies seeking homeland security products and services.

NITAAC named the 66 vendors (see list) to be part of the Electronic Commodity Store III, the latest governmentwide acquisition contract under the NIH banner. The 10-year ECS III contract is worth an estimated $6 billion, NITAAC officials said today in announcing the award.

"We want to make this the homeland security vehicle of choice," said Elmer Sembly, communications director at NITAAC.

Thirteen large, 29 small, and 24 small, disadvantaged businesses were selected. Nearly 90 companies applied for the contract, and procurement officials took an extra two months to come up with the final list and run vendors through a technical checklist.

"This contract is very important to a lot of vendors out there.... This contract has the Office of Management and Budget behind it," said Leamon Lee, associate director for administration at NIH and director of the Chief Information Officer Solutions and Partners 2 contract.

Alan Bechara, president and general manager of PC Mall Gov, a reseller of microcomputer products, says he is ecstatic that his company was selected for ECS III. Although PC Mall lacks a security clearance, it has arrangements with partners that do.

"It means a great deal for us. This program is designed to take advantage of our strength," Bechara said. "Our comfort zone is in the delivery of high-speed competitive processes. [Buyers] can shop for whatever they need without leaving their desks."

The contract vehicle is designed to have a quick turnaround on purchases — as little as seven days — an important issue as the federal government sets up homeland security, according to Lee.

The contract could include many off-the-shelf products for homeland security, such as biometric tools and handheld electronic devices, Sembly said.

The vehicle is likely to attract a large customer base. The ECS II contract, which expired in September, made $1.2 billion over five years. Federal agencies pay a 1 percent fee when buying from the contracting vehicle.

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