Commerce readies COMMITS NexGen

COMMITS information

The Commerce Department is preparing a solicitation for the successor to its Commerce Information Technology Solutions (COMMITS) governmentwide acquisition contract.

The new vehicle will give smaller companies a better chance of winning work, and it will incorporate changes in an effort to provide agencies with better value, said Michael Sade, director of Commerce's Office of Acquisition Management.

COMMITS is designed for small businesses and is largely geared toward technology firms. The sequel, to be called COMMITS NexGen, will continue that tradition.

The proposed changes are not final, Sade cautioned. Commerce has sent the GWAC's business case to the Office of Management and Budget and expects to issue the formal solicitation later this month.

Several strong themes emerged, however, as the department considered what it had learned through the first COMMITS contract, he said at a meeting of the GWAC special interest group of the Industry Advisory Council.

The follow-on contract will not evaluate a company's teaming arrangement with other firms when determining if the company will win a place on the contract, he said. It makes little sense to judge the capabilities of teams before the companies are hired to solve a specific agency problem, he said.

"We formed teams around tasks that we had no idea what they were going to be," Sade said of the first COMMITS effort. "What we will evaluate is your capability to build a team. I think that's more important than who are you bringing to the table for unknown tasks."

Commerce officials also plan to create a tiered system, so the smallest of the small businesses won't have to compete with larger small businesses. "Small companies will be able to compete up," he said. "Large companies will not be able to compete down."

This decision is partly a response to the Small Business Administration's proposal to require small businesses on GWACs to recertify their size annually, an idea Sade dislikes.

"Small businesses don't become large businesses overnight," he said. Fostering business growth is "our mission, and I don't think you take a company's business away just because they are successful."

Sade plans to watch the companies on the new contract to ensure they use it well. Some companies on the current vehicle have ignored counsel from Commerce or other advisors on ways to make more sales.

"I'm not sure we need to be spending government funds to help companies that don't what to grow, that don't want to help the government find solutions," he said. Commerce may choose not to exercise optional extensions of the contract for companies that behave that way on the new vehicle, he said. Sade also envisions maintaining a "second string" of companies that narrowly miss the cut for the new vehicle and a mechanism to add some of them as vacancies occur.

The new contract's ceiling has not yet been established, but Sade said it will be higher than the $1.5 billion limit set for COMMITS.

Although Sade is enthusiastic about the new contract, he cautioned that federal agencies may be too quick to look to GWACS or General Services Administration schedule contracts to avoid holding full and open competitions.

The multiple-award contracts have their own limitations, he said. They limit competition to the firms already on the contract, meaning the government may miss a broader range of technology options. The contracts also make it difficult for agencies to use contracts with performance-based incentives for companies.

The multiple-award vehicles "should not always be first choice, which they often are today," he said.


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