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By Nick Wakeman

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Nick Wakeman

$15B ITES-3: Just the latest of too many IDIQs?

A fiery debate is underway on our site over the proliferation of multiple-award contracts.

It got kicked off with our story about a request for information being issued for the Army’s IT Enterprise Solutions 3 Services contract, known as ITES-3S.

Comments on that story sparked a blog on whether the government needs another $15 billion contract.

The debate there has focused on a variety of issues with some defending ITES 3, which is the third iteration of a successful vehicle.

Others attacked it because there are so many other IDIQ contracts selling much of the same products and services.

“Should any firm pay several times to bid several different IDIQs that could be done through two or three government wide vehicles? You know who foots the bill in the end. It's wasteful,” wrote Mike of Fairfax.

There also were attacks on the large primes, who tend to dominate these big vehicles. The large companies have the resources to bid and win multiple large contracts, which squeezes small and mid-size businesses, the argument went.

But even that view was attacked. “You might just be another [small business] whiner who deserves to fail because you cannot compete,” wrote one commenter. That really wasn’t nice.

A lot of the comments centered on whether more or fewer large task order contracts are better for the market.

One side argued that more contracts equals more competition, “which theoretically, should help to lower prices. It also gives a wider variety of companies to compete on task orders,” J wrote.

“Someone said more vehicles make for more competition. False. More vendors on one contract make more competition,” another countered.

But J also pointed out something that I should have made clear in my blog; “You can't point out just the Army without pointing out other agency IDIQ's,” J wrote.

The impression that I was ganging up on the Army and ITES was unintentional. ITES is just the most recent example.

One thing that struck me about the comments was that, whatever position one took, almost all the commenters were arguing for increased efficiency and savings for the taxpayer. That they disagreed on how you reached that goal speaks to the complexity and difficulty of reforming procurement.

I don’t know what the answer is. I’m not against ITES or any other contract, I just think that agencies should justify why an existing vehicle can’t work for them. It shouldn’t matter if it is a recompete or not.

Maybe it’s needed to preserve competition, or meet some special requirements, but the agency should be able to spell that out. And saving money and being more efficient needs to be a justification.

As one commenter wrote: “What people need to realize in government and in industry is that getting more efficient is not an option. We have deferred it too long, and now we are going to get it the hard way.”

Posted by Nick Wakeman on Feb 14, 2013 at 7:24 PM


Reader Comments

Mon, Feb 18, 2013

Begging the mayor's pardon, but OASIS appears to be the twin sister of the highly successful Alliant contract. Alliant already collects the same data and there is nothing "union" nor mysterious, nor necessarily LPTA about the way those contracts are run. It seems to me that some firms are so afraid of lowering prices that they are prepared to throw the OASIS baby out with the mildly LPTA-tainted bathwater. Keep in mind this data can be collected only on the Time and material jobs. Also, note that GSA's FSSI rep see no connections between FSSI and OASIS. My advice to all who fear OASIS, calm the devil down! GSA is moving a good thing forward!

Mon, Feb 18, 2013

John of Maryland SBs have their own Alliant and the plan for OASIS is they will also have their own also. Where is the mystery in that? Just compete for a spot if you can. I am so tired of SB reps roaming around acting like they deserve a freebie!

Fri, Feb 15, 2013 Bill Rockville

As a "salaried industrial bureaucrat," which means I have to do exactly the same things I did at smaller businesses, I can't help but point out that IDIQs don't really make things more or less efficient. The only thing it really does is have the terms and conditions agreed for a bunch of task orders up front. You still have to bid for each task order, and companies with large bid and proposal budgets will still be at an advantage. If you want to protect SBs, you have to set aside work only they can bid, and ensure the ones bidding aren't just shells that front for large companies. The real way to guarantee efficiency is to plan the work better, and have cohesive strategies for implementing them. Good luck, under a system that can't even agree on a budget.

Fri, Feb 15, 2013 SPMayor s

OASIS, originally called Integrations and initiated well before strategic sourcing was in vogue, had a shadow cast over it when it was 'additionally' identified as a strategic sourcing action. SSI, while intellectually reasonable and maybe even needed, does scare the pants of many companies because it smacks of exclusion - from a current competitive market. When applying it to services it further aggrevates existng concerns the Government intends to 'commoditize' services including those perceived being the most complex and of greatest value [where in today's world value is perceived to be equated with lowest price]. Until the draft RFP is released and the many questions answered [will they be?], idustry will continue to express its many concerns with a contract opportunity that continues to change before their very eyes.

Fri, Feb 15, 2013 John Maryland

"If you agree that more competition is good, how can you not get that IDIQs with a handful of repeat vendors can be better? ...you might just be another SB whiner who deserves to fail because you cannot compete." Whoever wrote this anonymous post surely cannot be an entrepreneur. He or she must be a salaried industrial bureaucrat at NG, LM, SAIC, CSC or some other behemoth. May I remind you that every firm started out as a small business. Mr. Northrop, Mr. Martin, and Mr. Beyster all had to claw their way to the top. I know of no real entrepreneur that is afraid of a fight and is willing to compete fiercely to get what we win. On an even playing field our firm and teammates will take on any of you. But if you slam the door and essentially say that no small businesses can apply to even bid, then the LMs and NGs will always dominate. By hiding the work in inaccessible GWACs only available to large companies instead of full and open competition, small business has no point of entry. Don't tell me to be a sub. I've been a sub. And 9 times out of 10, the large firms fail to keep their promises to original teammates and either give the work to a few favorite SB's, or more commonly try to keep all of it for themselves. Sounds to me like the big primes are the ones whining because they don't want to share the pie.

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