Providing Government-Wide Flexibility Value in Satellite Services
GSA and DISA partner to streamline the delivery of satellite services
The General Services Administration (GSA) and the Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA) have released the first contract awards under a combined IT Schedule 70 commercial satellite communications acquisition program, with more awards being rolled out daily.
Part of an effort that began more than two years ago, the combined GSA/DISA venture, called Future Commercial Satellite Communications (COMSATCOM) Services Acquisition (FCSA), consolidates how federal – as well as some state, local, and tribal – organizations procure satellite-based services. GSA’s IT Schedule 70, along with two indefinite delivery indefinite quantity contracts, are being used, the value of which is expected to exceed $5 billion over 10 years.
The agencies in charge of the program agree the consolidated satellite delivery capabilities benefit users and providers alike. “This innovative partnership will provide customers with a single platform for accessing critical communications services,” said Jim Russo, GSA’s FCSA and SATCOM-II Program Manager. “This will result in significant savings for taxpayers,” he added.
One big benefit will be improved information assurance. Under the FCSA program, GSA is making sure industry partners meet federal Information Assurance (IA) requirements, demonstrating how they comply with IA standards now or how they will comply before accepting task orders.
DISA already has three dozen task order competitions underway in the transponded capacity space, and has awarded a few contracts already, Russo explained. “Moving from the older defense agency contracts to the new FCSA contract in a timely fashion only underscores how DISA and GSA are following through on the promise of this two-year old agreement. We now offer a path for all agencies to use in acquiring satellite services,” Russo said.
The federal government relies on commercial satellite communications to provide essential, secure communications to disaster recovery teams, domestic emergency responders, and war fighters. “DoD is a major buyer of commercial satellite services,” Russo explained. Satellite services are also used to support distance learning and remote access to global government networks, he added.
The partnership between GSA and DISA is just one example of how GSA is working with customer agencies to meet their current needs while preparing for the future.
A Little History
Over the past decade, federal government customers have procured COMSATCOM services through an array of DISA and GSA contract vehicles.
To increase government-wide cooperation and meet the ongoing demand for satellite services (multiple contracts expire in 2012), DISA and GSA announced the FCSA program to replace expiring contracts. Committed to President Obama’s agenda for cooperation among federal organizations, DISA and GSA ultimately sealed the deal to ensure a common marketplace for satisfying the majority of the federal government’s future commercial satellite communication requirements. Lt. Gen. Carroll F. Pollett, Director of DISA, and GSA’s then Federal Acquisition Service Commissioner James A. Williams signed a memorandum of agreement in July 2009 to combine acquisition efforts in this area.
The combined GSA and DISA common marketplace for commercial satellite communication services is finally ready to start delivering significant savings to defense and civilian agencies, as well as state, local and tribal governments, officials said.
FCSA centralizes the procurement of commercial satellite communications for both civilian and military agencies. Instead of individual groups putting out their own requests for proposals, all organizations can now go through the GSA to place task orders under IT Schedule 70 or two related IDIQ contract vehicles. The GSA and DISA have been working to vet all industry partners of satellite services, certifying their offerings before industry members can bid on specific agency task orders.
IT Schedule 70 Satellite Services Available Now
FCSA incorporates satellite services that fall under the following special item numbers (SINs):
• 132-54 – Commercial Satellite Communications Transponded Capacity. This refers to owning/operating or reselling dedicated bandwidth and power on a communications satellite in any available COMSATCOM frequency band.
• 132-55 Commercial Satellite Communications Subscription Services – This is used for pre-existing, pre-engineered Fixed Satellite Service and/or Mobile Satellite Service solutions, typically including shared or dedicated satellite resources, ancillary terrestrial components, and contractor-specified networks and equipment in any available COMSATCOM frequency band.
• Separate End-to-End Solutions are also available to meet custom requirements as they arise. The two indefinite delivery/indefinite quantity (IDIQ) contract vehicles will include one called Custom SATCOM Solutions (CS2), a full and open competition. The second, CS2 Small Business, is a small business set-aside. Deadlines for these proposals expired last year. GSA is currently in source selection and expects to make awards in the fourth quarter of FY2011.
According to GSA’s Russo, the IDIQ contracts will help with specialized requirements and create even greater flexibility for agencies. He said there is talk now of efforts to build an Ancillary Telecommunications Component (ATC) that would combine terrestrial cellular phone capabilities with satellite telephony. This solution would allow users to make either satellite or terrestrial calls using one handset, switching coverage from terrestrial to satellite, when necessary. “If a user is in the desert or without commercial wireless services, they can go to satellite service instead,” he said. Although this type of all-in-one wireless communications solution is not yet available, it would fit into GSA’s subscription services using the IDIQ vehicle down the road.
In another example, other prior satellite contracts were stymied by specific frequency bands. Now if there is a new frequency band or further deregulation in frequency bands in the future, GSA can add those new bands in its transponded contract SIN, Russo explained.
At the time of this contract guide’s publication, nine companies have received approval to be eligible to bid on task orders that serve the requirements of at least one of the two GSA SINs. GSA officials are already using Schedule 70 for customer task orders that fall under the scope of the Transponded Capacity and Subscription Services SINs.
The industry partners approved so far include: Artel Inc., Segovia Global IP Solutions, CapRock Communications Inc., Hughes Network Systems LLC, and Intelsat General Corp., among others.
Satellite services offered through the combined FCSA contract vehicle will replace those currently available through DISA’s Defense Information Systems Network (DISN) Satellite Transmission Services-Global (DSTS-G), along with others, which will all expire by 2013.
FCSA makes contracting for satellite services far more flexible, even for long-term planning, Russo said. In the past, each agency only had the ability to authorize funding for a specific length contract term. Without the ability to make a long term commitment, federal agencies really were not able to get the biggest discounts for commercial satellite services. Currently, broadcasters are the anchor clients for most industry partners, Russo said. The FCSA will allow agencies to extend long-term satellite leases to earn greater discounts, he explained. “As we look at ways to do longer term leases, the length of our contracts will not be a sticking point, as we have set up the FCSA as an evergreen contract, with a five-year base term period and up to three, five-year extension options,” he explained.
A website for FCSA has been set up. Anyone can visit www.gsa.gov/fcsa to learn more about the current contract vehicles available for satellite services, Russo said. For smaller organizations, or agency departments, GSA’s new contract vehicle offers the advantage of bulk discounts to help them realize greater savings in satellite services as well, he added.
How it Works
For military organizations, the ordering process remains the same. Troops gain more solutions and technologies than were previously available under the DSTS-G contract. So far, the IT Schedule 70 award process has achieved all major milestones about five months ahead of schedule. “The combined team has achieved its goal of prioritizing this program, through a concerted effort to review industry proposals and get contracts awarded promptly so that federal agency buyers can access new FCSA services now,” Russo said.
Under FCSA, military customers will continue to work with the Regional Satellite Support Center and DISA customer account managers to identify and develop requirements. Once requirements are refined, the DISA Program Management Office SATCOM will coordinate with the Defense Information Technology Contracting Organization to release the solicitation to vendors who are contracted under the FCSA program.
On the civilian side, GSA officials will continue to provide the same level of support to customers with the development of requirements and selection of contract vehicle, when requested, as they now do under SATCOM-II. For the FCSA SINs, agencies may use any of the tools and mechanisms available to purchase services on GSA Schedules, such as eBuy and GSAAdvantage!, Russo explained.