Netcents-2 Boosts Staff, Reaches out to Vendors and Users

The NETCENTS-2 program is significantly bigger, with many more moving parts than NETCENTS-1 and the program has reacted by boosting the size of its central office, by using extensive outreach to communicate better with both vendors and users, and through improved Web-based services.

The most obvious difference in the contracts is the number of vendors that will be competing for business, with 100 spread among the six contract categories on NETCENTS-2 compared to just eight for the whole of NETCENTS-1.

That, in itself isn’t unusual, according to market researcher Deltek. With the increase in the number of contract compared to those on NETCENTS-1, the NETCENTS-2 program fully intended to expand its bidders’ pool, Deltek analysts said.

This is also a more common phenomenon among most IDIQs and Governmentwide Acquisition Contracts (GWACs) in today’s acquisition environment, they said. The Air Force needs to maintain a certain level of competition in order to capitalize on the cost savings associated with that.

However, they said, this increase in contractor numbers is often seen as a reaction to protests lodged by companies who lost out on contracts the first time around, and both agencies and contractors lose money when the acquisition period is prolonged due to protests. For NETCENTS-2, therefore, competition will truly begin at the task order level.

In fact, that’s where much of the dirty work on NETCENTS-2 will happen. Though the NETCENTS program office is staffing up to handle the increase in oversight and program execution at the centralized level, said Robert Smothers, the NETCENTS-2 program manager, task order execution is decentralized and handled at the tactical, base level by individual contracting officers.

Much of the manpower intensive processes will therefore be addressed by the ordering organization, he said. That should be to his advantage since, while he said the program office is continuing to seek additional manner authorizations, overall Air Force IT acquisition requirements “have been limited by current budgetary limitations.”

Meanwhile, the program office is “well underway” with an effective communications campaign to educate both agencies and vendors in how to use NETCENTS-2. “We use all forms of electronic media, including a rapid response team for inquiries,” Smothers said. “Video teleconferences are used as much as possible to save funds, and our NETCENTS website is full of information.“

The response to the program office’s RSS feed has been particularly strong, he said. The office has also established an “express lane” for contracting officers that will be open in the final quarter of the year, and he expects that also to be a big hit with field customers.

Finally, he said the program office is continuing to automate the IT purchasing portal, called AFWAY, with new releases, business-to-business transfers, and management dashboards for contractor performance and customer responses that Smothers said will ensure the NETCENTS program office keeps pace with the expected volume of business.

So far, much of the industry’s response has been favorable. Jaime Albizures, senior director of federal sales for NETCENTS-2 vendor PCMG, thinks the Air Force is doing “an outstanding job.”

“(Our customer) response has also been outstanding,” he said. “We see nothing but positive growth, and are looking forward to servicing more commands.”