New Contract Shows Small Business Success

While boosting small business participation in Air Force procurement was a major goal for NETCENTS-2, it wasn’t clear what the response would be to the expanded opportunities. A major vehicle to test that was the Applications Services Solutions small business IDIQ.

As with any IT deployment, much of its success depends on the support expertise needed to integrate and secure the various systems, and then test them to make sure they keep running. With NETCENTS-1 those kinds of services were available; included as part of the duties task order winners had to do to provide net-centric IT.

This was seen as one area where small businesses stood out, since they tended to specialize in certain areas. In fact, they provided many of those application services as subcontractors to NETCENTS-1 primes. The Applications Services IDIQs in NETCENTS-2—one full and open, and the other for small businesses only—were designed with that in mind.

Awarded in June 2012 with an initial ceiling of slightly less than $1 billion, task orders on the seven-year small business only contract were already over $130 million after just two years of operation. Throughout the first quarter of FY 2015, they were close to half of the ceiling total. By May of 2015, the order total was tracking close to $1.8 billion. Orders are due to close in June 2019.

The final RFP for the Application Services follow-on contract, called Small Business Enterprise Application Solutions (SBEAS), released at the end of September. It demonstrates the potential in the small business side of the IT universe. With an initial ceiling just shy of $13.4 billion and a period of performance of 10 years (a five-year base period with one five-year option), it promises a big return for its final list of nearly 40 vendors. This represents a big leap beyond the 12 vendors on the NETCENTS-2 contract.

It won’t be easy for companies bidding on the contract, however, as the Air Force has set some stringent requirements for eventual winners. They’ll have to achieve a minimum Capability Maturity Model Integration (CMMI) level of at least two, get to at least 4,200 points on a maximum 6,000 technical experience scorecard created by the Air Force specifically for the SBEAS competition, and be able to show extensive past performance expertise in the kinds of work they will have to complete on SBEAS task orders.

A “very relevant” rating for a bid, for example, would mean the bidder is either performing now, or has performed, work of essentially the same scope and magnitude of the effort required for the NETCENTS-2 Application Services task orders. At the bottom end, a bid will get a “not relevant” rating if the bidder fails to demonstrate any past performance in SBEAS areas of expertise.

Having past performance expertise won’t be enough in itself, however. The Air Force will also evaluate the quality of that performance from exceptional to very good, satisfactory, marginal, and unsatisfactory. Although the SBEAS contract will be established within the Air Force Business Enterprise System Directorate and made mandatory for Air Force units, as with the NETCENTS-2 contract, all other government agencies can also use the SBEAS contract as long as they can show its use supports an Air Force requirement.