GSA's Jim Ghiloni says that "with OASIS, we cracked the nut for large" IDIQ contracts.
The General Services Administration’s $60 billion One Acquisition Solution for Integrated Services (OASIS) contract was one of the most anticipated agreements the agency has produced in the past decade. And despite being barely a year old, the service-oriented acquisition vehicle is already reshaping the way GSA handles other massive multiple-source procurements.
From the beginning, GSA wanted to use OASIS to show how the agency was reinventing itself as a more efficient smart shopper for its government customers. Observers say it has succeeded and the OASIS DNA can already be seen in other big upcoming contracts, including the Enterprise Infrastructure Solutions contract that is the cornerstone of the agency’s buying strategy for next-generation telecommunications services, the Alliant 2 IT governmentwide acquisition contract (GWAC), and the Human Capital and Training Solutions contract.
OASIS allows agencies to buy a wide range of vetted goods and services under one contracting vehicle.
Alan Chvotkin, executive vice president and counsel at the Professional Services Council, said OASIS is a valuable model that has demonstrated the importance of working with a broad coalition of federal agency and industry leaders to create large, complex contracting vehicles.
“OASIS is among the most significant outreach efforts” GSA has ever undertaken, he added.
A pioneering approach
The agency collaborated with industry for two years before issuing a request for proposals. During that time, GSA officials gathered comments, ideas and suggestions from meetings with stakeholder groups and individual companies. They also launched an online interactive community to solicit even more input.
“GSA was willing to attend just about any meeting,” Chvotkin said.
Officials repeated that open, collaborative approach when they created the RFP for the Enterprise Infrastructure Solutions contract, which is due by the end of September. As it did with OASIS, the agency held numerous face-to-face consultations and on-the-record, open meetings with vendors. GSA also hosted an online community for interested parties where it posted proposed changes and news about the contract.
In addition, OASIS officials pioneered a new approach to accepting vendors into the various service pools in each contract. Instead of the pass/fail grade typically used to assess vendors, GSA opted to rely on a quantitative, point-based methodology that scored vendors’ proficiency and sought bids with the highest technical rating and acceptable pricing.
GSA officials said the point structure better weighed the various capabilities, experience and performance of potential offerers to identify the 40 best in each of the contracts’ pools of awardees.
The framers of Alliant 2, GSA’s GWAC for total IT solutions, have said they are using the same methods for that vehicle.
“We watched all the protests be resolved,” said John Cavadias, the GSA senior contracting officer responsible for the Alliant 2 RFP. The standard of highly technically rated and fair and reasonable pricing “was found to be innovative, but within the rules, allowable.”
The OASIS contracts were awarded in May 2014 but were delayed by a tangle of protests that took a few months to resolve. Some experts were concerned that the delays might sap OASIS’ momentum, but all the protests were ultimately resolved in GSA’s favor.
Attracting civilian agencies
Jim Ghiloni, the OASIS program director at GSA, said the agency’s efforts, even with the protests, are building steady momentum, and early commitments from the Air Force and Army were a big help.
“With OASIS, we cracked the nut for large” indefinite-delivery, indefinite-quantity contracts, he said.
In 2013, the Air Force signed a memorandum of understanding with GSA that committed the service to spending an estimated $472 million over five years under OASIS. The Army followed suit soon after with its own agreement. Those early commitments helped the contract “hit the ground running,” Ghiloni said.
However, he added, those agreements also meant OASIS ran the risk of being viewed as a Defense Department-centric contract. Although he said the numbers could be higher, civilian agencies have made nearly 80 awards under OASIS Small Business, with $160 million in obligations so far. The unrestricted OASIS vehicle has seen 13 awards totaling $56 million in obligations from civilian agencies. Ghiloni said some large task orders are still under evaluation and are due by the end of the fiscal year.
The contract got a valuable bump in July when the largest civilian agency of all, the Department of Homeland Security, signed a memorandum of understanding to use OASIS. DHS has also said it will not issue a follow-on contract for its Technical, Acquisition and Business Support Services contract and will instead rely on OASIS and other resources.
Ghiloni said agencies’ OASIS task orders receive an average of five bids and generally take 90 days to 120 days to be completed. Anecdotal data indicates that customers save about 10 percent through OASIS compared to other contracts, he added.
Building better tools
To help agencies with the decision-making process, GSA is expanding its online tools and making it easier to sort through pricing, purchasing and market research data, he said. GSA unveiled a dashboard tool in early July that allows federal procurement professionals to customize OASIS data by federal agency and industry partner, and use it to build individualized, downloadable reports that can be exported to spreadsheets.
Ghiloni said the dashboard provides interactive, near-real-time information on the status of OASIS and OASIS Small Business task orders, including obligation values, the receiving agency and the industry partner for individual orders. Users can filter the data in multiple ways, drill down from the agency to the bureau level, and look at both the number and dollar value of task orders awarded to a particular industry partner.
Ghiloni said he intends to add even more electronic tools to help OASIS users and potential users see more deeply into the contract’s data when making their buying decisions.
He added that it has been a challenge to build systems that are better at capturing data because OASIS is breaking new ground. “We’re building this stuff from scratch,” he said. “It’s gone pretty well. The tools are good. They’ll be better in two years.”
According to Chvotkin, however, the toughest challenge facing OASIS might be its own success. “GSA’s biggest competitor is GSA,” he said.
He said the agency’s myriad other contract efforts, including its schedule contracts, might pale in comparison to vehicles like OASIS that have electronic tools to tabulate data on what products are being bought and who’s buying them, then spit out pinpoint reports. Additionally, some vendors might have to make difficult decisions about which of the new and old contracts they want to pursue and how they pursue them, he added.
Chvotkin said the next few months are crucial for OASIS because the contract has to show it is viable for a wider federal audience. DHS’ agreement is “a bellwether test,” he said.
If other civilian agencies find value in OASIS in the coming months, it could pave the way for wider acceptance, he said, adding that if a significant number of agencies don’t show up by the end of the year, it might mean they’re not coming anytime soon.