Alliant 2 Drives Competition and Accountability
To Stay on the Contract, Vendors Must Meet Stringent Performance Metrics.
John Cavadias, procuring contract officer for the General Services Administration’s new Alliant 2 governmentwide acquisition contract (GWAC), dove into his new role in June 2014. For two years, he and his team of technologists, contracting professionals and program officers conducted market research and attended every conference that invited them. The objective was “to understand what was working with Alliant 1, what was not working,” Cavadias said.
During that time, Cavadias produced about 100 drafts of the follow-on contract, publicly releasing seven Requests for Information (RFIs) and two complete draft Request for Proposals (RFP) prior to the official RFP in June 2016. “We made changes based on feedback,” he said. GSA’s biggest customer, the Department of Defense, “wanted more competition” from vendors seeking to provide IT services, fewer sole-source contracts. Cavadias accommodated them, designing Alliant 2 to consistently encourage effective competition on task order requests, providing federal agencies with multiple quality contracting proposals and quotes.
Cavadias embedded performance metrics into the vehicle that measure engagement and hold contractors to minimum standards for issuing bids (three, on average) and the dollar value of task orders awarded. “Those metrics have a lot of bite,” Cavadias says. “If a contractor doesn’t perform within the first two years, they’re going to lose the master contract.”
For vendor selection, Alliant 2 assigned points to a range of performance standards, including the size and complexity of vendors’ task orders, cost type contracts, foreign locations and multiple agency experience. In total, relevant experience accounted for about 50 percent of aspiring vendors’ overall scores. “We took the subjectivity out of that evaluation criteria,” he said.
Industry providers nonetheless complained that the duration of the contract (five years with the possibility of a five-year option extension) essentially locked out vendors who failed to make the initial cut. Cavadias answered by including a provision that allows for holding competitive “open seasons” during which GSA can expand the roster of IT service providers on the contract.
On the agency side of the equation, Alliant 2’s master contract makes it possible for acquisition professionals to “accomplish more in less time,” a boon to harried contracting officers whose ranks have diminished in recent years, Cavadias said. “The vendors have already been vetted,” Cavadias said.
Above all, Alliant 2 has builtin flexibility to accommodate the evolving federal IT space:
Aside from basic guidelines, the contract doesn’t dictate how contracting officers award task orders.
- Alliant 2 doesn’t interfere with COs’ creation of task orders. It, however, does offer one-on-one assistance to agencies seeking advice and guidance on task order creation.
- As new technologies emerge, the master contract permits task orders to include future IT services that are integral and necessary.
- The contract supports all IT development methodologies, including agile software development.
- Alliant 2 has very aggressive small business subcontracting goals that are part of the contract’s assessment metrics.
- It provides contractors flexibility to select their subcontractors.
“It’s the nature of IT to change, so we made sure [accommodating] it is covered in the master contract itself,” Cavadias said.