Too many primes?

The National Institutes of Health's Electronic Commodity Store contracts have been hailed as among the government's best.

Ironically, this success may be a drawback in the case of NIH's ECS III. ECS' reputation is such that 90 suitors pursued ECS III. NIH last year eventually awarded 66 prime contracts. A few vendors have privately expressed concern that such a sizable field may dilute the vehicle, turning it into a General Services Administration schedule of sorts.

But officials at the NIH Information Technology Acquisition and Assessment Center say this ample roster is part and parcel of the office's effort to encourage niche companies to bid as prime contractors. And some industry observers believe the wider field will benefit agency customers.

"If you're the government, you have a broader range of service providers and a wider range of products and services from which to draw," said David Nadler, a partner with Dickstein Shapiro Morin & Oshinsky LLP in Washington, D.C.

For prime contractors, ECS III provides a license to hunt for business, which could total $6 billion over 10 years. But the high-ticket estimate is no guarantee, Nadler said. He noted that a handful of vendors typically grab the lion's share of the revenue on governmentwide acquisition contracts.

As for ECS III becoming another GSA schedule, Nadler believes the program's homeland security orientation is an attempt at differentiation. The more this branding strategy works, the further ECS III will separate itself from GSA, he said.


  • Defense
    Soldiers from the Old Guard test the second iteration of the Integrated Visual Augmentation System (IVAS) capability set during an exercise at Fort Belvoir, VA in Fall 2019. Photo by Courtney Bacon

    IVAS and the future of defense acquisition

    The Army’s Integrated Visual Augmentation System has been in the works for years, but the potentially multibillion deal could mark a paradigm shift in how the Defense Department buys and leverages technology.

  • Cybersecurity
    Deputy Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas  (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Lora Ratliff)

    Mayorkas announces cyber 'sprints' on ransomware, ICS, workforce

    The Homeland Security secretary announced a series of focused efforts to address issues around ransomware, critical infrastructure and the agency's workforce that will all be launched in the coming weeks.

Stay Connected