After early surge, pandemic buying stabilizes for GWACs

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Two of the federal government's largest multiple award contracting vehicles report that after a surge in acquisition of hardware and software to support telework, federal agency buying patterns are returning to normal.

Now, federal contract managers are prepping for the annual end-of-year spending spree.

In March, NASA's Services for Enterprise-Wide Procurement shortened its order times to help with agencies' COVID-19 response needs. SEWP manager Joanne Woytek said an early 2020 rush for hardware and software has slowed as agencies catch up to demand, but how much isn't yet clear.

"Interestingly, after the first six months where some virtualization and security companies moved up in the usage chart, 10 months in, we are seeing a mostly traditional usage pattern with just minor changes for the top 15 manufacturers," said Woytek.

Cloud and virtualization vendor Citrix moved from the 54th most used company in fiscal 2019 to 18th this year. Adobe and Red Hat made similar gains Woytek said. However, the traditional large manufacturers such as Cisco, Dell, HP, Oracle and Microsoft continue to dominate orders.

Overall, by the end of July 2020, SEWP orders were 50% up year over year. Woytek is predicting "over $9 billion in funding for new orders plus [modifications] for existing orders."

The National Institute of Health Information Technology Acquisition and Assessment Center (NITAAC) saw a similar early surge among its stable of GWACs. It also expects a busy, but stable, end of year buying season.

"We expect an uptick as agencies work to meet their category management/SUM [Spend Under Management] goals but pandemic- related procurement has stabilized," a NITAAC spokeswoman told FCW.

NITAAC's initial rush from agencies looking for remote solutions at the beginning of the pandemic has steadied as agencies have become accustomed to having remote workforces, said the spokeswoman.

Current end-of-year buying patterns at NITAAC's GWACs were spread across seven key areas—cloud, artificial intelligence, cybersecurity, robotics process automation, end-to-end security solutions, IT infrastructure, and data analytics, she said.

NITAAC's GWACs generated almost $5 billion in spending in fiscal 2019 and anticipate fiscal 2020 to be comparable, she said.

As the end of fiscal year closes in, both SEWP and NITAAC have put their traditional extended operating hour plans in place.

SEWP will extend business hours beginning on Aug. 31, operating Monday-Friday 7:30 am to 8 pm eastern time. It will remain open until midnight on the last day of the fiscal year to take in last-minute orders.

NITAAC will also extend hours in the coming weeks to accommodate the end of fiscal year buying surge.

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 [email protected] or follow him on Twitter at @MRockwell4.


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