NIH confronted OMB about multibillion dollar contract — and won

Agency presented the facts to OMB

In the beginning there were naysayers and a nagging question: Why does the National Institutes of Health need a governmentwide acquisition contract? 

But officials at the NIH were confident in their Chief Information Officer Solutions and Partners 3 (CIO-SP 3) GWAC. As they sought recertification as a holder of a GWAC, they were sure Office of Management and Budget officials would recognize the importance of NIH’s IT Acquisition and Assessment Center. And in July, OMB again certified NITAAC as a designated holder of a GWAC.

How did NIH do it? It presented OMB with sales figures from previous versions of CIO-SP in addition to the program's infrastructure to show that it meets the strict criteria demanded of GWAC holders. Its officials also relied on the agency's reputation as OMB spoke with vendors, customers and congressional staff members.

“This isn’t meant to sound smart-alecky," said Mary Armstead, director of NITAAC. "But we simply presented the facts."

NIH has been offering health information technology contracts for 14 years, since Congress made major contracting reforms in the mid-1990s.

NIH officials also said the demand for a CIO-SP 3 GWAC is as important as ever. The health care reforms are tied together with IT, even down to applying statistics and computer sciences to molecular biology. Beyond that, CIO-SP 3 and its small-business counterpart can fulfill any IT requirement from an agency, said Rob Coen, deputy program director of NITAAC.

About the Author

Matthew Weigelt is a freelance journalist who writes about acquisition and procurement.

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