GWAC: Today’s Go-To Contract Vehicle
More than ever before, agencies need fast, reasonably priced IT products and services to address continually changing mission requirements. More often than not, they are turning to
one of several increasingly popular Governmentwide Acquisition Contracts (GWACs).
During the past 25 years, agencies have relied on GWACs to procure technology and services quickly and effectively. These pre-competed contracts are designed
to be easy to use and cost-effective, providing agencies with the IT products and services they need quickly.
The majority of Governmentwide Acquisition Vehicles are managed by three agencies: the General Services Administration (GSA), the National Institute of Health (NIH), and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). In general, the contract access fees for GWACs are lower than GSA Schedules or other types of contract vehicles.
Over the past several years, GWACs have become more popular as agency- specific contracts have lost steam. According to Deltek, agency-specific contracts now represent 20 percent of government IT dollars, as opposed to 31 percent in FY2015. At the same time, GWACs have grown from 12 percent of the spend in 2015 to 20 percent in FY19.
Cost and convenience are two very good reasons why GWACs have grown in popularity, says Keith Johnson, a veteran contracting officer currently working with the NITAAC group of GWACs.
“GWACs are very expensive to establish, but the GWAC holders incur those expenses. That means that agencies don’t have to spend the money and time of going through a complex and expensive procurement process,” he says. In addition, GWACs leverage agency buying power across the government, resulting in lower ceiling rates or prices compared to agency-specific contracts, he adds.
The best of the best
One way some GWACs distinguish themselves from others is through a Best-in-Class designation. Contracts designated as BIC by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) meet rigorous category management performance criteria as defined
by OMB. According to the NIH Information Technology Acquisition and Assessment Center (NITAAC), acquisition professionals can confidently use and recommend BIC solutions, knowing they have undergone thorough vetting processes.
One example of an increasingly successful BIC contract is Chief Information Officer-Commodities
and Solutions (CIO-CS), a ten-year multiple-award IDIQ GWAC providing IT commodities including hardware, software, compute infrastructure, storage, Platform as a Service (PaaS) and telecommunications. CIO-CS is
a mandatory BIC governmentwide solution for desktops and laptops.
As agencies become more familiar with the benefits of CIO-CS, more agencies have embraced it. According to Deltek, agencies spent a total of $765 million on CIO-CS in FY2019,
about double what they spent during
the previous year. One reason for the increase, according to Deltek, may be the reduction in contract access fee to .35 percent, one of the lowest of all GWACs.
When it comes to flexibility, the CIO- CS contract is in a class of its own, says Sheryl McCurnin, senior manager for federal programs at CDW•G. CDW•G is the largest CIO-CS contractor and has been involved with the contract and its previous iterations since 2002.
“The contract is so flexible. It allows for various contract types with the exception of cost-reimbursable. It allows for time and materials, firm
fixed price, and fixed price level of effort. That by itself gives agencies the flexibility to manage their budgets easily without having to go to several different contracts,” she says. “Everything COTS is allowable. It’s the most flexible, resilient GWAC contract available.”
Year over year, GWACs continue to dominate, and there are clearly plenty of reasons why.
“GWACs are a critical component
of category management, which
was established to drive savings
and efficiency, eliminate contract redundancies and increase small business participation,” says Deniece Peterson, Deltek’s director of federal market analysis. “Federal agencies are motivated to reduce costs and support small business solvency which, given the economic and business environment that we’ll be dealing with for years to come due to COVID-, is even more critical now than it was when they began.”