For SEWP, Change Has Been the Only Constant

SEWP was a contract born of frustration. Even back in 1993, when it began life as the Scientific Engineering Workstation Procurement, the 12-month cycle needed to buy anything IT in government was giving people at NASA fits.

Goaded on by this, a normally contentious bunch of policy, contracting and technical people at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center got together to come up with contracting language they thought would help break this drawn-out process, while complying with procurement regulations.

It eventually got the okay from the Office of Management Budget, and the GSA asked NASA to initially try it out as a governmentwide acquisition contract.

Over the 20-plus years of the contract, there are three definable periods:

February 1993 to April 2007: These years span the first three versions of SEWP, when it grew from a fairly simple $800 million, four-year contract aimed mainly at the purchase of Unix systems to a $4 billion, five-year vehicle from which users could buy a range of computing and software products. It also tried to expand the number and types of companies who could sell through SEWP with various small business and 8(a) set asides.

May 2007 to April 2015:The first version to carry the current Solutions for Enterprise-Wide Procurement designation. By its end, it had produced $17 billion in total sales, included both IT products and engineering services, and spanned a range of large, medium and small vendors with one set aside devoted specifically to small businesses owned by service-disabled veterans. It was processing some 25,000 orders a year—at an average of $85,000 per order—for more than $2.4 billion a year in sales. It had customers at every federal agency.

May 2015 to April 2025: SEWP V starts off with an expectation of doubling the business done on the contract over its 10-year term, following the experience with SEWP IV, which more than doubled the business it did from beginning to end. This will also be the first time SEWP has built in an expectation of increased business from agencies other than NASA, even though that use has been a reality for a large part of its history. To accompany that, the range of products and services has also expanded and now includes technology specifically for cloud-based solutions.

Over time, the technology focus of SEWP has changed as IT itself has changed. When SEWP first started up in 1993 there was a big difference in the various workstations that handled such things as graphics, databases and printing. Now, hardware is more or less the same and it is software that defines the difference.

Putting together any contract that government users will come to for IT over a span of 10 years will always be something of a guess, given the pace of IT innovation these days. But SEWP officials think they have it right.

“We tried to make sure our contract was flexible enough when we put it together that we can grow in the way that technology is going,” said Joanne Woytek, SEWP program manager.

Woytek has been in IT for a long time, and, she said, she doesn’t believe they’ve missed anything; and if it turns out they have, they’ll have to try and accommodate that for the future.

“But I think that where technology is going is where SEWP is going also,” she said.