FAA small-biz pact gets off to fast start

BITS II Information

The Federal Aviation Administration has awarded the first task orders under its new Broad Information Technology Services (BITS) II contract, selecting Optimus Corp., a minority-owned technology firm in Silver Spring, Md., to develop a system to prevent runway collisions.

The FAA awarded BITS II, a multiple-award governmentwide contract set aside for small businesses, in June and has been moving some tasks initiated under the first BITS contract to the new one, said Carmen Molina, BITS II program manager.

The new contract is capped at $800 million and runs for a maximum of eight years, with a 1 percent administrative fee. The first BITS was awarded in 1998 and capped at $1.5 billion over five years, but the FAA awarded only about $500 million in task orders under it, she said.

The FAA gave 35 prime contractors a place on the new vehicle, with more than 300 subcontractors on the company teams, Molina said. The teaming arrangements are intended to make the smaller companies more likely to get work, she said.

"We understood that a lot of the small businesses didn't have the resources to bid on their own," she said. "So we said, 'OK, primes, why don't you join forces with some of those smaller companies?' It worked great under BITS I."

Agencies are taking various approaches to solving that problem. The largest small businesses can have 500 or even 1,000 employees, depending on the industry they're in, with resources that a five- or 10-person start-up firm could never compete against.

Another option is to create tiers within the contract, which the Commerce Department is pursuing for the successor to its Commerce Information Technology Solutions contract.

FAA officials promise that BITS II task orders will be awarded within 14 days, Molina said. Ordering organizations visit a Web site to fill out a statement of work and other forms, which Molina's office then processes.

"There's very, very little red tape," said Eric Adolphe, chief executive officer at Optimus. "An agency can select us to do work and get that solution very quickly. We got our first task order awarded, and it was mind-boggling how fast they processed it."

Optimus officials predict that more than half of the company's revenue during the coming years will come through BITS II, Adolphe said. Getting onto the contract in the first place was very competitive, he said. "We began working on it about a year before it was awarded. It was a very good vetting process. They selected based on quality and strength of the proposal and the team."

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