DISA, GSA preview $3.5B satellite opportunity

Agencies cooperating on how the government will buy services

Large- and small-business contractors came to Washington on April 7 to hear details of the draft request for proposals for $3.5 billion in commercial satellite communications services that the federal government plans to buy between 2011 and 2016.

Custom SatCom Solutions, dubbed CS2, is the third and final part of Future Commercial Satellite Communications (FCSA), a joint procurement that the Defense Information Systems Agency and the General Services Administration have been planning for more than three years.

“Think of it as the glue for the other two,” said Bruce Bennett, DISA’s director of satellite communications.

DISA and GSA in February released the final solicitation for the two new special item number (SIN) Schedule 70 multiple awards, which cover transponded capacity and “plug-in” subscription services.

In Wednesday’s FCSA Industry Day presentation, DISA and GSA gave companies a heads up on what services and solutions, the two-part CS2 acquisition will specify, what its requirements and spending ceilings will be, and how the fixed-price task orders will be divided between CS2 and CS2 Small Business.

“The way we procure SatCom services over the next years is going to be vastly different than we have before,” Bennett said. FCSA encompasses three expiring SatCom contracts: DISA’s Defense Information System Network (DISN) Satellite Transmission Service-Global (DSTS-G) and Inmarsat contracts, and GSA’s SatCom II.

But FCSA will “be broader than any of those,” Bennett said, because it will be serving both DISA and GSA customers. It will also include new technologies, services and custom solutions.

The acquisition’s scope will make it crucial that solutions are compatible with commercial SatCom applications, especially in situations such as post-Hurricane Katrina, said Charles Edwards, DSTS-G deputy program manager.

Solutions for interactive services, for example, will include distance learning and telemedicine, continuity of operations, broadcast satellite services, emergency responder operations, direct warfighter operations and steady-state operations.

CS2 details

CS2, a full-and-open competition IDIQ for large-scale requirements, will have a ceiling of $2.6 billion.

CS2-SB, a small-business set-aside IDIQ for remaining requirements, will have a ceiling $900 million.

The dividing line between large and small scale requirements won’t be a sharp one, said Kevin Gallo, GSA SatCom services program manager. Sample task orders provided in the draft RFP are intended to indicate the kind of division likely.

“But if you look at SatCom II,” Gallo said, “a lot of it is for end-to-end solutions, while with DSTS-G, a lot of that is for transponded capacity.”

In fiscal 2009, ComSatCom services expenditures totaled $496 million for DISA’s DSTS-G ($360 million) and Inmarsat ($88 million), and GSA’s SatCom II ($48 million).

Under both parts of CS2, master contract-holders will deliver “ComSatCom end-to-end solutions requiring, but not limited to, any combination of bandwidth, throughput, terminals, other user equipment, teleports, tail circuits, networks, other terrestrial infrastructure, integration and engineering services, installation, operations and maintenance,” the agencies said.

Some engineering services will be required on both acquisitions, but only CS2-SB will include a specific satellite professional services category, said DISA’s Edwards. What is expected of contractors winning in either CS2 category is “turnkey solutions,” he said.

Security also will be an overarching concern. “You’ll always see, on every task order, information assurance addressed,” Edwards said. The requirements, he said, are “really just good, solid network management practices that you see done everywhere, not just password management.”

The draft RFP will contain four sample task orders for each of the two CS2 acquisitions. Each will include information assurance requirements, and one will require the full information assurance checklist. The IA checklist measures compliance against requirements of the Committee on National Security systems Policy (CNSSP) 12 and the Federal Information Processing Standards Publication 200 (FIPS 200).

“Now, we’d love it if you’d absolutely comply, but reality tells us that’s not possible,” Edwards said. For example, “one requirement of CNSSP 12 addresses encryption of telemetry tracking and control, which is only possible if the satellite that we need to provide the services from is launched with the encryption capability aboard.”

Each task order will specify minimum security requirements. All information assurance requirements need not be in place to bid on a task order, GSA’s Gallo said, but they must be in place before award.

Some ordering activities or agencies may accept self-reporting on compliance with the IA checklist, but others may want further assurances.

CS2’s relatively short duration — five years: a three-year base and two one-year options — came as a direct result of requests from the Pentagon and from congressional oversight. It makes sense, Edwards said. “We’re in a field where technology is changing dramatically.”

Providers on the contract will be the only source of supply for five years, he said. With such a short period of performance, “if we have new technology emerging in year six, we’ll have an opportunity to have new competition bring that new technology.”

The IT Schedule 70 awards allow addition of new providers throughout the life of the acquisition, but the IDIQs have no such onramps. “We considered how we could do on-ramps — we considered it for six months,” Edwards said. But in the end, no good solution was found and the idea was rejected, albeit somewhat reluctantly, he said.

Industry day briefing slides are posted at www.gsa.gov/fcsa.

DISA and GSA will be accepting feedback on their draft until 3:00 p.m. April 21. E-mail responses should be sent to futurecomsatcom@gsa.gov with “FCSA IDIQ draft RFP feedback” in the subject line. 

FCSA program milestones

Schedule 70:
Draft solicitation: October 2009
Final solicitation: February 2010
Initial awards: Fiscal 2011, 2nd quarter

IDIQ draft RFP: March 2010
Final IDIQ RFP: Fiscal 2010, 3rd quarter
IDIQ awards: Fiscal 2011, 4th quarter

Source: DISA and GSA

About the Author

Sami Lais is a special contributor to Washington Technology.

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