NIH Readies Follow-On CIO Deal for Vendors

NIH Readies Follow-On CIO Deal for Vendors

By Nick Wakeman, Staff Writer

The National Institutes of Health is set to unveil the new, improved version of its Chief Information Officers Solutions and Partners contract, a $15 billion, 10-year contract for agencies to buy a wide range of information technology solutions.

When CIOSP I was awarded to 20 companies in 1996, it broke new ground in that it was one of the first multiple-award contracts open to all government agencies that focused on sets of solutions rather than selling products and services separately.

But since the $10 billion CIOSP I made its debut, other federal agencies have unveiled their own large contracts, so NIH officials have worked to keep the innovations coming with CIOSP II.

Even though there are more governmentwide contracts today, "this is still going to be one of the top four or five acquisition vehicles," said Jeffrey Westerhoff, vice president and director of governmentwide acquisition contracts at SRA International Inc., Fairfax, Va. SRA did about $300 million in business under the CIOSP I.

The other major governmentwide contracts on Westerhoff's list are the General Services Administration's Millennia and Millennia Lite contracts and the Transportation Department's Information Technology Omnibus Procurement contract.

The request for proposals for CIOSP II is expected by July 17. Responses from interested prime contractors are expected a month later, with awards expected by the end of September.

NIH, which expects to award 15 to 20 contracts under CIOSP II, is taking steps to increase small business participation in the project, said Leamon Lee, NIH associate director of the Office of Administration.

Companies that are part of the 8(a) program for minority and economically disadvantaged small businesses can bid on three of the nine task order areas and will compete only with other 8(a)s for an award, according to NIH documents. A small business that is not an 8(a) can bid on six areas and will only compete with other non-8(a) companies. Large companies will have to bid on all nine areas.

Large companies that hold a position on CIOSP I and are likely bidders on the follow-on include Andersen Consulting, BAE Systems Inc., Computer Sciences Corp., IBM Corp., Logicon Inc., OAO Corp., Orkand Corp., Science Applications International Corp., SRA and Unisys Corp.

The NIH CIOSP II contract has improved in several areas, industry officials said. The new contract is for 10 years, rather than the five years under the first CIOSP. The contract also has more services geared toward supporting CIOs in meeting policy requirements, and it allows for the leasing of products and equipment, said Cathy McGrane, Unisys customer relationship executive for Health and Human Services. NIH is a part of the Department of Health and Human Services. Unisys did about $176 million in business under CIOSP I.

The extra length of the contract is a plus, because most agencies want to award task orders that can run for five years, Westerhoff said. If the CIOSP II were for only five years, fewer task orders would be awarded after the first year because they could not be awarded for five years, he said.

Adding the leasing feature will allow the contract to be used for more outsourcing types of projects, McGrane said.

The contract also has 71 labor categories compared with 49 under the old contract, Westerhoff said. "This will allow the contractors to more closely align their people to the work," he said. With more labor categories, the contractors will have better control of their costs, he said.

The contract is structured around nine task areas:

• Chief information officer support

• Clinical support, research and studies

• Contract and task order management

• Critical infrastructure protection

• Digital government

• Enterprise resource planning

• Information technology operations

• Integration services

• Outsourcing

CIO support, critical infrastructure protection, digital government and enterprise resource planning are new categories for the contract and show how NIH has tried to keep the contract current.

The CIO support category was added specifically to help CIOs, who are responsible for the IT functions of their agencies, deal with new laws and regulations, such as the Paperwork Reduction Act, Computer Security Act and the Government Performance and Results Act, according to NIH documents.

The added support services for CIOs is a recognition by NIH officials that the role of the CIO is growing, McGrane said.

NIH also wanted to stay on the cutting edge of technology by adding the ERP, electronic government and critical infrastructure protection, Westerhoff said. But what will help CIOSP II be as successful as its predecessor is not the new task order categories, but the quality of the customer service NIH provides, he said.

"You want to go to a contract where the people help you and that is easy to use," Westerhoff said.

While there is a perception that there are too many governmentwide task order contracts, it would be a mistake for only one agency, such as GSA, to issue all governmentwide contracts, said Chip Mather, senior vice president of Acquisition Solutions Inc. of Chantilly, Va., which provides consulting services to the government on acquisition issues.

"Competition is a good idea even in the government," he said. "The marketplace will sort it out."

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