Small biz gets big seat at Alliant table

<@VM>Davis fears overlap in Networx, Alliant services

Valerie Perlowitz, chairwoman of the small business subcommittee at ITAA and a small-business owner, sees Alliant as a mechanism to provide contracting opportunities for small businesses.

Olivier Douliery

At $15 billion, the General Services Administration's Alliant Small Business contract is the biggest vehicle ever developed just for small businesses.

But the high ceiling is about more than ensuring a robust round of competitors, industry officials said. It also shows that small companies have proven their technical competency, and that government recognizes they are hotbeds of innovation.

"Alliant provides a mechanism to ensure prime contracting opportunities for small businesses to bring this innovation to the government in support of their mission," said Valerie Perlowitz, chairwoman of the small business subcommittee at the Information Technology Association of America and a small-business owner.

"It's one of the best opportunities for small business to come down the road in a long time, because small companies can come in and get task orders and grow," said Charles Viator, president of C.H. Viator and Associates LLC, a Springfield, Va., telecom and technology consultancy.

The Alliant Small Business contract combines the small-business portions of several expiring governmentwide acquisition contracts, including Millennia, Answer and ITOP 2. The large-business portions of those contracts are being combined in Alliant Full and Open, which has a $50 billion ceiling. Both contracts are for 10 years.

Interested vendors have until June 3 to comment on draft requests for proposals. Final RFPs are expected in July, with awards to come in summer 2006.

About 1,400 people from about 700 companies attended conferences GSA held on the East and West coasts. About 70 percent were small businesses, said Tina Burnette, deputy assistant commissioner of commercial acquisitions for GSA's Federal Supply Service. For the Alliant Small Business procurement, a small business is defined as a company with $21 million in annual receipts over three years, she said.

GSA's overarching goal is to ensure small businesses have an opportunity to meet its small business goals, said Neal Fox, assistant commissioner for commercial acquisitions for GSA's Federal Supply Service. The agency has worked closely with the Small Business Administration and the Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship on the Alliance procurement.

"This is truly a partnership to make sure small business is well taken care of," Fox said.

GSA's Enterprise GWAC Center in San Diego manages the Alliant Full and Open procurement, and its Small Business GWAC Center in Kansas City, Mo., manages the Small Business contract.

About 20 awards under Alliant Full and Open, and 40 under the Alliant Small Business contract will be issued. GSA also has stipulated that half of subcontracting dollars must go to small businesses under Alliant Full and Open. Of that amount, 6 percent will go to small, disadvantaged businesses, 5 percent to women-owned small businesses, 3 percent to service-disabled veteran-owned small businesses, and 3 percent to HUBZone small businesses.

"There was a strong movement in the business community to ensure that small businesses received a significant percentage of the total Alliant ceiling program," said Ed Silva, chairman of the small business shared interest group at IT professionals' group, the Industry Advisory Council.

As part of the Alliant program, GSA will hold twice-a-year forums for small businesses to network with primes and with the program manager.

"We didn't do this with our other GWACs, but we think this is a great way to bring small businesses in a forum and allow small businesses to hear about opportunities we have coming up or to meet with our program manager," said Paul Martin, Alliant contracting officer. He said one meeting will probably be planned for the West Coast and one for the East Coast.

Large contractors are concerned about meeting the requirement that 50 percent of subcontracted work be given to small businesses, but GSA believes it is achievable, Burnette said. The Millennia and Answer GWACs had requirements of 42 percent to 45 percent, she said.

"GSA has made a serious commitment to supporting the small business community," Martin said.

Staff Writer Roseanne Gerin can be reached at
Rep. Tom Davis (R-Va.) has urged the head of the General Services Administration to review acquisitions that may overlap with the agency's $20 billion Networx telecommunications procurement, fearing that GSA does not have the resources to manage all the programs.

In a letter sent April 27 to GSA Administrator Stephen Perry, Davis said he's concerned by what he sees as a lack of management coordination among related GSA programs and a drain on its limited resources.

Davis expressed concern that Networx and the GSA Alliant program would confuse federal agency customers as to which program would offer the best telecommunications and IT solutions to meet their needs.

GSA does not need to press ahead with its plans to conduct acquisitions for local telecommunications services that appear to encroach upon requirements being solicited through the Networx program, Davis said.

The local acquisition programs would send the "wrong signal that it is acceptable for GSA regions to go off on their own," he said.

"It appears that GSA will be strained to manage all of these moving parts, and it will likely affect its ability to serve customer agencies."

Davis asked Perry for a full-scale review of the acquisition programs to determine whether GSA has the capacity to manage them at the same time.

A GSA spokesman said the agency is working on a response to Davis' letter.

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