Alliant awarded

Alliant change makes winners feel like losers

The decision to give the Alliant contract to essentially every company that bid isn’t sitting well with some company leaders, especially those that were among the original winners before some of the losers successfully protested the General Services Administration's first try at awarding the contract.

Johnson retires

John Johnson, assistant commissioner for Integrated Technology Services at the General Services Administration’s Federal Acquisition Service, announced his retirement March 30.

Johnson’s last day is May 2. Ed O’Hare, FAS’ chief information officer, will take over.

Johnson’s nine-year GSA tenure “was very tough at times, and we had a lot of work to complete with both limited resources and competing pressures, but together we did it!” Johnson wrote to his employees.

The agency’s award of the Alliant governmentwide acquisition contract made for an opportune time to step down, Johnson said. Johnson came to GSA in 2000 and moved to his current position in 2006 when GSA created the office.

Johnson said he has no specific plans, except to do some soul-searching.

GSA originally awarded the governmentwide information technology contract to 29 companies, which “seemed exactly the right number,” said Carleton Jones, president of Indus, a midsize corporation.

GSA announced last week it was awarding the contract to 59 companies. Although there’s no magic number of contractors that suits a governmentwide acquisition contract, 29 was appropriate based on the length and dollar value of the 10-year, $50 billion GWAC, Jones said. “Fifty-nine awardees seem to be too many.”

Having a spot on GWAC when many companies weren’t good enough to win gives the winners a certain cachet, according to some of the original winners. When the GWAC goes to almost everyone who bids, they say, much of that edge vanishes. 

“The exclusivity of Alliant has vanished,” said one senior manager at a corporation that won in 2007 and 2009.

The 59 awardees are essentially the entire lot that bid. It’s more than twice as many as the initial pool, which GSA awarded in July 2007. After the losing bidders filed protests and, eventually, successfully took GSA to court, the agency started the awards process fresh.

What Alliant does

The Alliant contract offers:

  • A range of information technology services and solutions.
  • Technologies that align with federal and Defense Department enterprise architectures.
  • Flexibility to add emerging technologies to the contract as the definition of IT evolves.
  • Provisions to ensure a pool of highly qualified contractors.
  • Support of regional and global IT requirements.

U.S. Federal Claims Court Judge Francis Allegra ruled that GSA had not evaluated the bids carefully enough. In redoing the awards, “we followed, to the letter, the weaknesses that were identified by the Court of Federal Claims,” said Mary Powers-King, GSA’s director of GWAC and IT schedule programs.

Officials took care as they reviewed bids, and they opened discussions with companies so they could fix the weak points in their proposals.

Some procurement observers credited GSA with taking the judge’s admonitions to heart. “On the retest, they all got a 100,” said Larry Allen, president of the Coalition for Government Procurement.

But TiTi McNeil, president and chief executive of TranTech, said the contract is so big that 59 companies won’t make a difference. “You just have to start by being hungry,” she said. Her company was one of the ones that only recently earned a spot on Alliant.

With hungry companies, “expect the Wild, Wild West on Alliant for the first six to nine months,” when orders come out, Allen said.

TranTech, a small woman-owned business among giant corporations, spent more than $700,000 to get its Alliant award. An executive from a larger company said that company spent $1 million and expected to start taking orders in 2007.

McNeil said she expects to make a lot of money during the next 10 years. She will certainly recoup her investment and, at the same time, get her name in among the big prime contractors, she said.

“We wanted and needed this,” she said. “I won’t complain.”

About the Author

Matthew Weigelt is a freelance journalist who writes about acquisition and procurement.

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