Rigor and Flexibility
Competing Values Exist
At first glance, the new technology-focused Alliant 2 procurement vehicle might look like a competing mashup of rules and flexibility, but it is a carefully crafted blend of both.
On the one hand, companies selected to provide IT services to the nascent government-wide acquisition contract (GWAC) – federal agencies – survived an “extremely difficult” vetting process to become Alliant 2 industry partners, says Omar Saeb, program manager for Alliant 2. The General Services Administration’s process for developing the contract was a study in thoroughness, accuracy and exacting standards. Putting prospective vendors through their paces was done to ensure that companies on the Alliant 2 contract have a broad range of IT competencies, he said.
Yet Alliant 2 is also flexible, incorporating all types of contracts and task orders, including hybrids, and providing agencies the ability to use a multi-phased approach and task orders of different durations as part of their acquisition strategy. Using a streamlined source selection process, agencies can award task orders in less time. In addition, the contract’s users have multiple options for acquiring training in how to “properly use the vehicle,” Saeb said. Despite the contract’s ease of use, “you have to have in-depth contracting knowledge to do these things.”
Moreover, Alliant 2 also allows for adding new industry partners to the contract, as needed. “Information technology is ever-changing, so we built the contract with maximum flexibility,” Saeb said.
What’s in the contract and what it means.
|A $50 billion dollar program ceiling and a five-year base period with
one five-year option
|Allows for long-term planning of large-scale program requirements
|Scope aligned with Federal Enterprise Architecture (FEA) and
Department of Defense Enterprise Architecture (DODEA)
|Conforms to Office of Management and Budget (OMB) policy
mandates for IT investments and is consistent with the current IT
definition at any given time
|All contract types, e.g., fixed-price, cost-reimbursement, labor-hour
|Offers flexibility of contract types for optimal risk mitigation
|Ancillary support permitted when it is integral to and necessary for
the IT services-based outcome
|Facilitates integrated IT solutions
|Access to exceptionally qualified industry partners
||Enables innovative solutions from experienced providers
|Aggressive subcontracting goals set at 50% of subcontracted dollars
||Provides subcontracting opportunities for small businesses.
|Pre-competed, easy-to-use contract with streamlined ordering
procedures based on FAR 16.505
|Saves time and money by reducing procurement lead time
|Complimentary scope-compatibility reviews
||Promotes contract compliance and reduces risk of adverse audits
|Requires fair opportunity under FAR 16.505 Ordering
||Supports competition among highly qualified Industry Partners
|No protests on orders $10 million and under; except on the grounds
that the order increases the scope, period of performance, or
maximum value of the GWAC
|Minimizes protest risk and supports timely order award for optimal
Next Level Contracting
Alliant 2 is a continuation of the original Alliant GWAC, yet it strives to be much more. Taking a forwardthinking approach to an extent that isn’t always evident in government initiatives, the General Services Administration built Alliant 2 to be the go-to contract for IT innovation, a vehicle of IT modernization.
Looking toward the innovation horizon, Alliant 2’s developers explicitly included “multiple areas of leading-edge technologies that we believe will be prevalent in the government over the next 10 years,” Saeb said, citing biometrics, artificial intelligence (AI), and autonomic computing.
“We made our best-educated predictions on the types of things that will come out” of the IT pipeline and into the mainstream in the next decade, Saeb said. “Ten years ago, cloud was the leading edge. Now it’s incorporated everywhere.”
“We believe biometrics will be more widespread in the next 10 years,” Saeb said.
Future needs notwithstanding, Alliant 2 covers virtually every IT service that federal agencies might need today. Companies on the Alliant 2 contract “have a little of everything with regard to leading edge technologies to meet the requirements we perceive in government now and in the next 10 years,” Saeb said. “That in and of itself is a selling point to customers. You know Alliant 2 can meet your goals because to get on the contract vendors need to have broad experience. They had to meet a lot of stringent metrics.”
“The competition was stiff, ”he said. “To get on Alliant 2 is extremely difficult.”
|Alliant 2 – Too Far Afield
The Alliant 2 GWAC was designed to cover a breadth of IT services, but the contract isn’t equipped to handle everything. Here are some types of acquisitions for which A2 isn’t appropriate. (This is not an exhaustive list.)
- Orders for which IT services are not the principal purpose
- Renting/Leasing – an Industry Partner, as a private party, may enter into rental or lease agreements for real or personal property in order to fulfill order requirements as a service, but the government will not be a signatory to such agreements
- Blanket Purchase Agreements – consult with a Small Business GWAC PCO for alternatives
- Oral Orders and Orders for which supplies or software/ hardware are the principle purpose
Making the Cut
Alliant 2 vendors have proven expertise in 31 standard IT labor categories as defined by the Department of Labor. Awardees completed a matrix that cross references the government’s IT service categories and industry partners’ corresponding labor competencies, allowing “government contracting offices to build better cost estimates and overall requirements documentation,” Saeb said.
For Alliant 2 vendors, the contract’s rigor is ongoing. Vendors must meet annual goals for submitting proposals to RFQ’s and winning competitions to deliver IT services to Alliant 2 customers “to insure that all contractors are engaged with the customer base,” Saeb said. “There are a lot of contractor participation metrics. If contractors don’t meet them, they can be removed from the GWAC.” At the same time, Alliant 2 also allows for holding open seasons and adding vendors when doing so will provide federal agencies with access to innovative IT. “We have the ability to incorporate new technology if something comes out that needs to be added,” Saeb said. “We have the ability to add labor categories that aren’t on the contract added to the GWAC if necessary.”
“If we deem it to be within the scope of Alliant 2 and the IT realm, there’s the ability to add it,” he said.