9 ways to streamline EIS choices

As federal agencies prepare their fair opportunity task orders for the General Services Administration’s massive Enterprise Infrastructure Solutions telecommunications contract, the head of the Department of Homeland Security's innovation lab says he has a list of nine innovative contracting techniques that can help.

The list, said Eric Cho, project lead at DHS' Procurement Innovation Lab (PIL), can help agencies significantly streamline their process for selecting from among the contract winners.

For instance, agencies should shoot for three-hour oral presentations from vendors to explain their offerings, Cho explained at ACT-IAC’s Networks and Telecommunications Community of Interest Aug. 27 meeting. Agencies also shouldn’t be afraid of asking the vendors specific follow-up questions immediately afterward, he said. Cho also suggested throwing in a “twist” for vendors, asking them for immediate answers for a specific situation.

DHS contracting officers used the technique when the agency was choosing a security guard contractor for its Nebraska Ave. headquarters. During potential vendors’ oral presentations, Cho said contracting officers interrupted with a fictional scenario describing two attackers who climbed a fence at the building and were hunting down the DHS secretary. The contracting officers asked the vendors what they would do. “It’s up to them to sink or swim” in answering that, said Cho. Some sank, he added.

Other techniques, he explained, included skipping asking for vendors’ past-performance references. Those can be a waste of time and produce meaningless data from vendor-chosen references. Instead, he said, contracting officers should ask about specific prior experiences with specific technologies and techniques.

Cho has advised DHS components on using the techniques, and he said the White House’s Office of Federal Procurement Policy asked him to brief other agencies on the them as well. He enrolled 133 employees from 22 agencies in his recent “PIL Boot Camp.”

Cho was a little cagey when asked if he’d be willing to officially work with GSA to help other agencies apply the techniques specifically to the EIS contract. “We’ve talked to GSA,” he said, but since agencies’ missions and operations can be so different, he suggested it’s probably better for them to decide which services to use and how.

“This is not a policy dictation,” Cho said of his list of techniques.

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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