Alliant extends reach across government
Agencies tap GWAC for major IT projects, new technologies
The General Services Administration’s Alliant governmentwide acquisition contract (GWAC) has generated more than $5 billion in sales during the last 12 months. Despite an initial slow start, the Alliant program for IT solutions and services has issued 132 task orders to 39 companies worth more than $6 billion through mid-March of 2011.
“Alliant has literally gone viral in the last six months,” said Mimi Bruce, Alliant’s director of client support. “People are calling us, telling us they’ve heard about Alliant and asking how they can get access to it.”
Many agencies are also using Alliant to implement new and innovative technologies. For example, GSA is using the Alliant program for both its cloud computing initiative and smart-building program. The Department of State recently awarded a $2.5 billion task order through Alliant to consolidate and maintain its critical information technology infrastructure. Most recently, the Navy’s strategic sourcing initiative identified the Alliant and Alliant Small Business contracts as candidates for use by all Navy organizations, along with the Navy’s own SeaPort-e contract, to help save money and shorten the acquisition cycle on Navy IT programs.
Alliant can support a wide variety of IT services programs, including new technologies such as virtualization and cloud computing, because the contract is aligned with the Federal Enterprise Architecture (FEA) and Department of Defense Enterprise Architecture (DODEA), GSA officials said. “Alliant gives you access to anything IT, anywhere,” said Casey Kelley, Alliant program manager.
A strategic solution
Alliant is a competitive multiple-award, indefinite-delivery, indefinite-quantity GWAC contract with a $50 billion ceiling. The 10-year contract began in May 2009 and replaces GSA’s expired GWACs, ANSWER, Millennia and Millennia Lite. All federal agencies can issue task orders through Alliant to obtain information technology services and solutions from Alliant’s 58 prime contractors.
GSA also offers technology services through the Alliant Small Business (Alliant SB) GWAC, which has 73 certified small businesses.
The self-funded Alliant program charges a nominal fee of 0.75 percent for its services, but this contract access fee (CAF) is capped at $150,000 annually per task order. Consequently, once a task order reaches $20 million in annual spending, it will not incur any additional fees that year. That’s a great deal, said Mary Davie, assistant commissioner of the Office of Integrated Technology Services (ITS) in GSA’s Federal Acquisition Service (FAS). The work the Alliant program has already undertaken to qualify contractors could take up to two years and millions of dollars for an agency to do on its own.
“All of that work’s been done, and so now all an agency has to do is compete a task order under Alliant, which shortens the time frame and reduces the acquisition cost significantly. The agency can instead focus its resources on meeting it specific requirements rather than trying to put in place yet another IT contract,” she said.
Davie oversees ITS programs and offerings, including the IT Schedule 70, Network Services, Strategic Solutions and Security Services, and GWACs. The GWACs portfolio includes Alliant, Alliant SB, 8(a) STARS and STARS II, COMMITS NexGen, and Veterans Technology Services. Alliant is the largest GWAC in the GSA portfolio.
“Alliant is a strategic solution. It allows enormous flexibility in terms of what agencies can procure in IT, and it allows us to help them as technology changes,” Davie said.
Giving customers what they want
GSA CIO Casey Coleman, whose agency procured cloud-based e-mail and collaboration tools through Alliant, said her agency selected Alliant because the contract was flexible and offered a wide range of capable firms to compete for the work. “The Alliant GWAC provided just what we were seeking,” Coleman said.
The State Department selected the Alliant vehicle for its multibillion dollar Vanguard 2.2.1 IT infrastructure program for similar reasons, State officials said. They knew that Alliant contractors had competed to get on the contract and so had the required capabilities; in addition, all of the fees, terms and conditions of the contract were established. “It would have been expensive and time-consuming for us to do the work that had already been done to create this contract,” a State Department official with the program told FCW.
Sean Gleason, GWAC program manager for Alliant contractor Smartronix, said his agency customers like the contract’s ease of use, clarity of rules and strong customer support. His federal clients always receive swift responses to questions or concerns from the Alliant program office. “I’ve never walked out of a customer site where the customer didn’t immediately get someone at Alliant on the phone when they wanted to talk about the program,” Gleason said.
Under Alliant, agencies can choose the contracting approach that best fits their needs, such as firm-fixed price, cost plus or time and materials. Thus, with the contractor already prequalified, they can initiate a rapid procurement. “Alliant streamlines the lead time from competing the task order to awarding the contract,” said Paul Martin, a senior contracting officer in the Enterprise Acquisition Division.
Michael O’Neill, director of GSA’s GWAC Program, said Alliant provides contracting personnel with acquisition templates to help guide them through various steps in the process. “We have proven templates that are easily understood,” O’Neill said. “Alliant’s ease of use makes it a vehicle of choice.”
Another popular feature of the program is the scope review of agencies’ statements of work (SOWs). Under this program, an agency can submit its SOW to Alliant experts, who review the document to ensure that the agency’s requirements fall within the scope of the Alliant contract. The review, which occurs every Tuesday and Thursday, is free of charge and is typically completed in one to two days. Agencies receive a written statement from Alliant that the requirements are within scope of the contract.
The SOW reviews serve as a best practice that helps to ensure discipline in the acquisition process, said Ray Bjorklund, senior vice president and chief knowledge officer for the IT consulting firm FedSources. “Alliant is reaching out to agencies and demonstrating that if they want a good task order, then they need to write a good set of requirements,” he said.
The Alliant staff had expected that as the program matured, they would receive fewer requests for scope reviews. But just the opposite has occurred. Alliant has now conducted more than 200 reviews and continues to get several requests each week. “Agencies like the idea of running their SOW by the team and getting our opinion,” said Richard Blake, a GSA business management specialist and an Alliant technical adviser, who sits on the review panel.
Kelley added, “It’s reassuring for contracting officers to have a document from the program office of the contract that says the requirement they have solicited and awarded is within scope.”
The Alliant program office boasts a strong relationship with it industry partners, who have formed a Shared Interest Group (SIG) to work with Alliant officials to promote the contract among federal agencies. The 58 industry partners provide a powerful marketing arm and resource for Alliant officials. “The SIG is helping us with outreach to customers as well as providing suggestions and assistance to improve the program. Our collaboration with the SIG has been wonderful,” Kelley said.
For some agency officials, the large number of Alliant contractors initially raised concerns that they would be swamped with proposals if they issued task orders through Alliant. But this has not occurred. Agencies have received an average of about 3.5 bids per solicitation on the 132 task orders that have been issued thus far under Alliant. In addition, the program has had only two protests, and one of those protests was withdrawn soon after.
“I think it’s been proven that agencies just don’t have to worry about protests or getting too many proposals,” Kelley said.
Alliant’s rapid growth suggests that agencies now understand this, and many are turning to the GWAC to meet their IT services requirements. “This is a robust contract,” Kelley said. “You can do anything IT under Alliant.”