$50B Alliant 2 brings big management challenges

Shutterstock image: vector of managerial skills utilized throughout a project. 

The General Services Administration worked hard with private industry to get its Alliant 2 government-wide acquisition contract for IT services and service-based solutions contract right, including the creation of on- and off-ramps for tech vendors, said one of the agency's top managers.

Bill Zielinski, GSA's deputy assistant commissioner for IT category management operations, said the agency had "heavy engagement" with industry in developing Alliant 2 -- much as it did with other successful multiple awards contracts such as One Acquisition Solution for Integrated Services -- to produce a contract that can give federal agencies aide in modernizing their networks in the coming years.

The five year contract, which has a five year extension option, is aimed at accommodating new technologies, Zielinski said on a Nov. 20 call with reporters. "Network modernization is center stage. … It's important to have a GWAC that meets future needs."

GSA originally said it intended to award 60 contractors spots on the unrestricted portion of Alliant 2, and ended up awarding 61. Alliant 2's small-business component, which has not yet been awarded, is expected to have 80 awardees.

GSA expects to award Alliant 2 Small Business by the end of the calendar year, Zielinkski said.

With so many contractors involved, experts told FCW, GSA, federal agencies and contractors will have to work to insure the GWAC is used effectively.

"As with Alliant and OASIS, the key is in the strategy with which you leverage the contract," said Mike Hettinger, a former House staffer who now consults and lobbies on government technology and contracting issues. "It's a competitive environment" that requires guidance from GSA to be successful.

Hettinger added that 170 companies submitted bids.

Larry Allen, president of Allen Federal Business Partners, made a similar point. "GSA has an experienced team to manage Alliant 2," he said. And with 61 vendors GSA will need that team -- which is led by Casey Kelley, director of GSA's Enterprise GWAC Division -- to ensure the vehicle works for federal users and the contractors.

Zielinski said that Alliant 2's on-ramps and off-ramps will assist in that management effort, letting the agency add and subtract technologies that could shift dramatically over the potential 10-year life of the contract.

Although big GWACs have become an important part of the acquisition landscape, being a contractor on them doesn't necessarily mean a guaranteed return on the investment it took to win a spot.

"If I was a new contractor on Alliant 2, I'd be a little concerned about how to capture business," said Allen. "They need skills sets beyond being able to write bids and proposals. They need business development skills."

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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