Alliant SB does more than talk
Small businesses demonstrate capabilities on wide range of IT programs
The Alliant Small Business (Alliant SB) is building on its record of success to erase doubts about small business capabilities and forge strong partnerships among federal agencies.
“In the early days, we had the challenge of overcoming notions about small businesses,” said Stephen Triplett, director of GSA’s Small Business GWAC Center. “But now, we have three years of solid performance, and so instead of talking about what small businesses can do, our small businesses have been demonstrating what they can do.”
Since the contract launched in February 2009, the Alliant SB team has been working closely with its industry partners to educate prospective agency customers about the contract, and those efforts are now coming to fruition, Triplett said. In addition, the Department of Defense (DOD) is taking stronger steps to support Alliant SB and other governmentwide acquisition contracts (GWACs) that are set aside for small businesses (see article, p. xx). During the past 12 months, Alliant SB issue 63 task orders worth $768 million, compared to 58 task orders and $952 million over the previous 24 months. To date, Alliant SB has generated 121 task orders worth $1.74 billion for U.S. small businesses providing IT services and solutions to government agencies.
A Comprehensive Contract
Alliant SB has 69 small businesses that compete for task orders to provide IT services and solutions to federal agencies. The 10-year contract has a ceiling of $15 billion. Triplett and his staff at the Small Business GWAC Center manage Alliant SB and GSA’s other small business GWACs, including 8(a) STARS II and Veterans Technology Services (VETS).
Alliant SB charges agencies a fee of 0.75 percent per task order to purchase IT services and solutions through the contract. The fee, which covers the costs of the Alliant SB self-funding program, gives agencies access to qualified small businesses that have already been vetted and qualified to perform the work. It also allows agencies to take advantage of the contract’s streamlined acquisition processes. Both Alliant and Alliant SB offer a fee cap of $150,000 annually per task order on orders in excess of $20 million per year.
“If agencies are looking for a small business vehicle that is comprehensive, flexible, and gives them the assistance they are looking for, then Alliant Small Business is the answer,” Triplett said.
Federal program and contracting officials can obtain training and authorization to use the Alliant SB contract—called Delegation of Procurement Authority (DPA)—through multiple avenues. Webinars are the most popular means of training, because people can participate remotely, but the Alliant SB staff will also train people through conference calls, onsite presentations, and at GSA events. “We are very flexible,” said Jean Oyler, director of the business development division at the GWAC Center. “We can accommodate individuals or groups, and if someone has an urgent need, we can provide the training quickly.”
Thus far, the GWAC Centers have issued DPAs to more than 660 people, and trained nearly two thousand people on both Alliant and Alliant SB
Streamlined Acquisition and Services
The Alliant SB office is constantly updating and enhancing the services it provides to agency customers. Last year, the program established the Small Business GWAC Source (www.sbgwacsource.gov) providing resources, statistics, and information about Alliant SB and other GSA GWAC programs, including the work performed under each task order. The data can be manipulated with a dashboard tool to help agencies zero in on the information they need to conduct research on contractors and perform due diligence as they plan procurements.
“It’s a tool to help you make the right decision,” Triplett said.
Alliant SB also provides agencies with extensive past performance information. “Contract ordering officers have access to every task order award and the performance of individual contractors to help them in their research,” said Greg Byrd, a contracting officer with the program.
Another valuable service offered by Alliant SB is its Statement of Work (SOW) compatibility reviews. The staff will review agency SOWs within 48 hours to ensure that the proposed work falls within the scope of the contract. More and more agencies are requesting these reviews, which are free, Alliant SB officials said. Thus far, the program has conducted more than 150 SOW reviews for 32 different agencies.
The Small Business GWAC Source, past performance information, and other tools help agencies feel more comfortable using Alliant SB because “they don’t feel like they are the first ones to venture out into the water,” Oyler said. “They know which agencies have used the contract, the locations, and how it was used.”
Matt Verhulst, contracts branch chief at the center, agreed with this assessment. “We are sharing more information than ever before to help people evaluate the contract, look at its profile and advantages, and make informed decisions,” Verhulst said. “And the more we have done that, the better have been the results for our customers.”
Small Business, Big Projects
The average size of the 121 Alliant SB task orders is nearly $14.4 million, including a number of large, complex enterprisewide projects. For example, during the past year, InfoZen Inc. was awarded a $90 million task order to provide engineering services and support to the Department of Homeland Security. Previously, TechFlow Inc.won a $102 million task order to perform IT operations and maintenance services and provide program and applications management for the Office of the CIO within GSA’s Federal Acquisition Service, while Janus Research Group Inc. won a $98 million task order to provide programmatic services, including systems engineering and technical assistance, supporting the Army’s Warfighter Information Network–Tactical (WIN-T) program. Other recent awards include:
• $43 million task order to n-Link LSG JV to provide network and telecommunications support to the Department of Commerce’s Office of the CIO.
• $36 million task order to Applied Information Science Inc. to provide mission IT support services to DOD.
• $59 million to Phacil Inc. to provide IT services to the DOD Office of the Inspector General.
• $22 million to Alliant SB CTA to provide operations and maintenance for the Department of Health and Human Service’s (Indian Health Service) National Patient Information Repository System.
To date, 49 of Alliant SB’s 69 companies have won task order awards. Many of the Alliant SB contract holders are joint ventures among small businesses, which enable them to offer the same range of services that a large company can bring in systems integration, applications, security, and other areas.
Giving Small Business Prime Contracting Opportunities
Although a recent regulatory change allows agencies to use other GSA vehicles and schedules to contract with small businesses and meet small business contracting goals, Triplett and his staff say that Alliant SB will still have an important role to play—for both agencies and small businesses. “Our major focus is to advocate on behalf of small businesses and give them opportunities to demonstrate their capabilities as prime contractors,” said Triplett, who supports the changes expanding agencies’ access to small businesses. “We realize that we are in competition and that agencies have many choices, but the growth of our contract shows that customers find value in what we are offering.”
Looking ahead, Alliant SB is launching several new initiatives to improve its services to customers and its support for contract holders. The program office is working with industry to identify SOWs that can serve as examples to agencies that have similar requirements and need similar solutions. They also will be collecting Alliant SB success stories and creating new ways to profile contract holders to better promote their capabilities and offerings.
“Our goal over the next year is to grow the contract, make sure we meet our customers’ needs, continue collaborating with our industry partners, and provide tools, not just for our customers but for our industry partners as well,” Triplett said. “And we will keep spreading the word about what small businesses can do.”