SEWP V Adds Vendors and Technologies

The SEWP contract vehicle has grown in size and stature over the years. By the time SEWP V was finally launched at the beginning of May 2015, it was a year late and considerably heavier than first expected in terms of the companies that had been awarded contracts. That’s both good and bad.

It’s bad in the sense that a contract greatly anticipated by both industry and government users had been held up for a year by a raft of protests from vendors who had lost out on contracts in initial awards. That left a sour taste with many people; not least of whom was long-time SEWP program manager Joanne Woytek. She had directed previous SEWP awards that had not drawn nearly the same ire from vendors.

Looking back, it’s clear many of the protests were driven by the need some vendors felt to have SEWP V in their portfolio. SEWP has become one of those contracts that if you aren’t part of it, it’s going to be much tougher to sell IT products to many government buyers.

The number of potential contract awards fluctuated over the final stages of the protests, but by the time SEWP V opened for business, it had 148 contract holders on board. That has been whittled down during the first year SEWP V has been active to 145, including 119 small businesses. In the end, the greater number of contract holders did cause some heartburn, as the program scrambled to get newcomers up to date.

“The ability of the SEWP staff was put to the test, along with the overall customer service and industry partnership philosophy that have been SEWP’s foundation from the start,” says Woytek. “[But] the program made it through that first year with amazing success.” She now sees the high number of companies as a plus, driving more competition and better prices for SEWP’s government customers.

SEWP V is divided into five groups of contracts, each lasting for a base term of five years with another five year option. Each contract has a $20 billion limit:

  • Group A is primarily for large and small OEMs and manufacturers, and was full and open competition.
  • Group B(1) is a set-aside contract for small HUBZone (Historically Underutilized Business Zones) businesses.
  • Group B(2) is a set-aside contract for Service Disabled Veteran Small Businesses (SDVOSB).
  • Group C is a set-aside contract for small businesses.
  • Group D is for both small and large businesses, and was also full and open competition.

Each group has the same scope, which provides overlap among all contracts and groups. At one time SEWP offered the lowest surcharge of all the Governmentwide Acquisition Contracts (GWACs). At 0.39 percent for all orders, it’s still one of the lowest. But it could go even lower at some point. Woytek wants to make the fees as meaningless as possible and “would be ecstatic” if it could get to 0.25 percent.

“We are currently at one of the lowest levels in the government, and will focus for now on improving our services and functionalities,” she says. The fee is now also included in the product price and payment is the responsibility of the contract holder.

The technology focus of SEWP has also changed dramatically over time, as the needs of government itself have changed. Hardware is still a big part of the sales, but an even bigger part may eventually be software. Agencies are turning toward the cloud to deliver services and cut costs, for example, and cloud-based services are one of the new additions to SEWP V offerings.