NIH prepares to fight for contract authority

NIH plans to meet with OFPP about its GWAC authority, but NIH's acquisition director expresses confidence that it will keep its governmentwide contract.

The National Institutes of Health is confident it can survive the scrutiny of the Office of Federal Procurement Policy as OFPP reviews the agency's governmentwide contracting authority.

“We feel very confident that we have a successful program,” said Diane Frasier, director of the NIH Office of Acquisition Management and Policy, said April 7. "We are tried and true.”

NIH has come under some increased scrutiny as reports have surfaced that the General Services Administration has asked OFPP to not extend NIH's GWAC authority.


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Fraiser would not explicitly say whether NIH’s governmentwide acquisition contract would receive the blessing from Office of Management and Budget procurement officials, but she said her program has been around for 14 years and has received OMB’s designation as a GWAC host since 2000.

To be a GWAC, OFPP must grant an agency the designation. And few are given. Agencies with designations must get OFPP’s approval whenever one of their GWACs comes up for renewal. Compared to the number of multiple-award contracts surfacing throughout the federal government, government-wide contracts are a rarity. Only NIH, the General Services Administration, NASA and the Environmental Protection Agency now have the designation.

NIH’s Information Technology Acquisition and Assessment Center (NITAAC) has submitted its materials to OFPP. Frasier expects to sit down this month with Daniel Gordon, OFPP administrator, and his staff, to discuss NITAAC’s status as an executive agent of GWACs.

“We have to assure them that we have a well-run program,” Frasier said. One proof of its success is its sales. Since January NITAAC has had more than $100 million in orders on its Chief Information Officer-Solutions and Partner2i (CIO-SP2i) GWAC.

She also said agencies trust NITAAC enough to send their big orders to the center. Agencies, such as the Defense Department, have looked to CIO-SP2i for demands with engineering and program support, security information management systems and Internet-accessible database services. The Obama administration’s drive for a more open government may even bring more customers to NITAAC, Frasier said.

If NITAAC gets the designation from OFPP, Fraiser can take the next step in getting bids for its CIO-SP3 and CIO-SP3 Small Business contracts. NITAAC has already released a draft request for proposals and in March formally responded to questions about the contract. Fraiser said she expects business to continue growing, and to that end, NITAAC has put the ceilings for each CIO-SP3 contract at $20 billion.

Still, NITAAC has lost business as agencies, such as the Homeland Security Department, launched their own department-wide IDIQs or as other agencies set up multiple-agency contracts, Frasier said.

Despite agencies’ efforts to launch their own vehicles, Frasier said they should realize the GWACs have strict standards and reporting requirements for OMB. They are held to a higher standard, unlike the other contracts popping up.

Multiple-agency contracts are similar to GWACs in that both are interagency contracts. However, GWACs are specifically for information technology products and services, and agencies interested in awarding a GWAC must first get OFPP’s permission. They don’t need that approval to award MACs.

Facing OMB's review of her program, Fraiser said she’s not running a “fly-by-night operation.”

“NIH has 14 years of experience in running a major IT program, and was one of the first programs to earn OMB’s designation as a GWAC,” Frasier said.