Doan declines Snowe's request for GWAC restriction

A senior U.S. senator asked the General Services Administration to place restrictions on which businesses can bid on a large information technology contract, but GSA said no, according to correspondence between GSA and Capitol Hill.

In a letter dated Oct. 25, 2006, Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine), as chairwoman of the Senate Small Business and Entrepreneurship Committee, asked GSA to limit its $500 million GSA Information Technology Global Operations (GITGO) governmentwide acquisition contract to businesses certified in Historically Underutilized Business Zones. The contract, which will centralize GSA’s IT systems as the agency reorganizes, is already set aside for 8(a) firms on GSA’s Streamlined Technology Acquisition Resources for Services GWAC. HUBZone businesses are on the GWAC.

Snowe said in a press release that GSA’s failure to set this contract aside runs contrary to the HUBZone provisions of the Small Business Act and harms job opportunities in low-income, high-unemployment areas. Snowe mentioned her state of Maine specifically.

The arrangement “creates an uneven playing field for small businesses operating in HUBZones across the country, putting these small businesses that drive our nation’s economy at a strong disadvantage,” Snowe wrote.

GSA Administrator Lurita Doan responded in a Dec. 7 letter, saying the agency had considered such suggestions but believes, based on analysis and market research, the current arrangement will achieve the desired outcome.

“I feel strongly that our current strategy will open future federal acquisitions of similar size and complexity in the information technology world to the small-business community,” Doan said. She is the former owner of a small IT business and has advocated for small businesses.

GSA has added other provisions favorable to small business for subcontracting on GITGO. The agency will not exercise annual options if the prime contractor does not subcontract half of the work to small-business employees, Doan wrote.

GITGO aims to merge GSA’s three major services -- the Federal Technology Service, the Federal Supply Service and the Public Building Service -- as GSA’s reorganization plan dictates. The IT infrastructure operations must now work agencywide.

Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) replaced Snowe as committee head when the Democrats took control the Senate. Kerry will not take sides in the debate over whether a particular contract should be set aside for 8(a) or HUBZone businesses, a committee spokeswoman said.

However, Kerry will make sure that small businesses are getting the contracts and the chance to do the work, she said.

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