'Tis the season for multiple award contracts

Shutterstock image (by Julia Tim): businessman receiving a bag of money.

(Julia Tim / Shutterstock)

Call it what you want -- the "budget flush," "federal Black Friday," or the "federal holiday spending season" -- but the government's unofficial spending deluge is underway.

For more than four decades, federal agencies have been federally mandated to spend all of their allotted budget or face having it taken away. From August through the end of September have traditionally seen the heaviest spending by federal agencies.

"There are 55 shopping days left this year," Bill Gormley, president and managing partner at the Gormley Group, said in a conference panel at a Bloomberg Government conference in McLean, Va. The next three months will see the heaviest spending of the year for federal agencies, he said.

Jorge Uquillas, quantitative analyst at Bloomberg Government, said that 32 to 34 percent of large federal agency contract obligations are made in the fourth quarter.

According to Cameron Leuthy, senior analyst at Bloomberg, federal multiple award contracts like NASA's Solutions for Enterprise-Wide Procurement (SEWP) government-wide acquisition contract and the General Services Administration's Schedule contracts will see almost 42 percent of their contract orders in the fourth quarter. In September, the final month of the fiscal year, they will see 25 percent of that. That means SEWP and GSA's multiple award contracts are in a deluge of requests for quotations from agencies looking for quick turn-around.

SEWP, which opened its fifth iteration in May, is set to handle even more volume with its new capabilities and contractor lists, said Roger Waldron, president of the Coalition for Government Procurement.

The same goes for portions of NIH Information Technology Acquisition and Assessment Center (NITAAC) that have been recently renovated, he said.

SEWP V Program Manager Joanne Woytek said she expects the NASA GWAC to pull in $1 billion in September as the end of the fiscal year looms. She said $150 million of that will come on the final day of the month, as agencies complete their procurement commitments.

SEWP V, she said, has been very busy since opening its doors in May. Of the 147 companies awarded contracts under the GWAC, 110 got orders within two months. By September, she predicted 130 to 140 of those contractors will get orders. SEWP contractors are adding 10 to 15 companies a day as partners or subcontractors, further expanding the range of products under the GWAC, she said.

Tim Dempsey, systems chief in the Office of Acquisition Management at GSA, said emerging electronic systems there will help both federal buyers and contractors better determine who's looking for what. The agency's Ebuy tool, launched in June, is an electronic Request for Quote/Request for Proposal system that lets government buyers request information, find sources, and prepare RFQs/RFPs online for millions of services and products offered through GSA's schedule and contracts. Government buyers can use it to get quotes or proposals for services, large quantity purchases, big ticket items, and purchases with complex requirements.

Dempsey offered some tips to schedule contractors in the busy season. He advised them to search daily by the agency contract number and to respond to RFQs where appropriate.

"The average RFQ," he said, "gets 3.1 quotes back. Not 31. 3.1. Those are good odds" that the contractor may get the business," he said. "There are 80,000 RFQs issued under Ebuy."

About the Author

Mark Rockwell is a senior staff writer at FCW, whose beat focuses on acquisition, the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Energy.

Before joining FCW, Rockwell was Washington correspondent for Government Security News, where he covered all aspects of homeland security from IT to detection dogs and border security. Over the last 25 years in Washington as a reporter, editor and correspondent, he has covered an increasingly wide array of high-tech issues for publications like Communications Week, Internet Week, Fiber Optics News, magazine and Wireless Week.

Rockwell received a Jesse H. Neal Award for his work covering telecommunications issues, and is a graduate of James Madison University.

Click here for previous articles by Rockwell. Contact him at or follow him on Twitter at @MRockwell4.


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