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By Nick Wakeman

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Nick Wakeman

Maybe we need more GWACs

It seems we can hardly do a story about a large contract without getting comments from people complaining that the government already has plenty of vehicles and that it is wasting taxpayer’s money by putting out more contracts.

The latest bunch of comments involve the General Services Administration’s Connections II contract, which has a $35 billion ceiling for telecommunication services not offered as stand-alone items under Networx.

One commenter asked: “Wasn’t Connections II rendered irrelevant by Allaint, which also can do telecom?”

A story from last week about GSA questioning whether the National Institutes of Health should be allowed to continue its governmentwide contract known as CIOSP also solicited some comments that there are too many contracts.

Often the comments label all multiple-award, task-order contracts as GWACs, which raises the ire of some people.

The fact is there are relatively few GWACs left. The current crop includes Alliant and Alliant Small Business, Networx, CIOSP and NASA SEWP. Connections is another GWAC. I’m sure someone will correct me if I’ve left one out.

GWACs are not proliferating, but agency specific, multiple award contracts are. These raise their own concerns for contractors – more contracts to bid on and if you bid and lose, then your access to that agency can be very limited.

It seems to me the concerns center around costs -- companies spend lots of money chasing these contracts and agencies spend taxpayer money putting them together and administrating them.

So here’s my idea: Why not make all multiple-award, task-order contracts governmentwide vehicles? That’s right, make them all GWACs.

Agency A can still design the contract just for its own needs, but if Agency B has a similar need, why can’t it use Agency A’s contract and pay a fee? For contractors, they can market Agency A’s contract to Agency B, so the fear of being shut out of Agency B because you aren’t on that agency’s contract is greatly lessened.

Agency A would be under no obligation to market its contract to other parts of the government if it didn’t want to. It only needs to concentrate on making its contract the best vehicle it can for its agency. Now, if it wanted to market the contract, it should be allowed to, but it should pay for the marketing through the fees it collects from users.

The idea is to increase competition, not mandate that only one or two agencies hold the keys to a governmentwide vehicle. And there is no reason why a company that loses a bid for an agency-specific contract should be shut out from competition at that agency. If they can’t compete and win, they’ll lose the business anyway, so why not let them chase opportunities?

Would this idea unleash contracting chaos? Maybe, but then again, maybe not. Maybe it would open the doors for more efficiency from both the agencies and the contractors.

Maybe a little more rough and tumble is just what the contracting market needs.

Posted by Nick Wakeman on Apr 13, 2010 at 9:43 AM

Reader Comments

Thu, May 6, 2010 Rick H Silver Spring, MD

Hi Nick, I feel you're onto something. In business we know that it takes at least five competitors to have a truly competitive market, so a plethora of GWAC choices can only be good for the system. GSA badly needs competition to keep it straight; we all know the horror stories associated with them. The different vehicles also have different strengths - need to go from concept to contract in 30 days or less, use the NIH COISP vehicles. No one like a bully, and IMHO GSA is acting like one. Disclosure - I do a lot of work with Alliant SB, CIOSP2, and GSA Schedule 70 vehicles.

Fri, Apr 16, 2010

The GSA Multiple Award Schedules program covers virtually all services and products needed for any Federal agency. It is, in fact, the mother of all multiple award IDIQs. And furthermore, there are literally thousands of qualified prime contractors (large, small, and mid-tier) that are ready, willing and able to compete.

Fri, Apr 16, 2010

There are GWACs that receive very little work like the GSA VETS GWAC for IT Solutions why?

Wed, Apr 14, 2010

Problem # 1 - Agency Contracts have a ceiling based on an assessment of Agency work and cost - independent government cost estimate process. Making them GWAC means that some other Agency may use the ceiling resulting in the folks that did the work of putting the contract in place not having it available to meet their needs as planned. And, #2, there is a reason why the selected contractors won the Agency contract and the others did not.

Wed, Apr 14, 2010 M Reston, VA

This proposal means that any IT Services job could come out on any one of any number of contracts. So you have to have them all. That doesn't solve the resource waste problem; it exacerbates it. A handful of genuine GWACs is all the government needs to buy IT services. CIO-SP3, SEWP, and Alliant just about cover it. Ad a few more? Maybe. But not twenty. As for specific agency needs, Alliant is a bare bones contract specifically designed for other agencies to snap on their "specifics needs" at the task order level. This seems lost to most people in this discussion. The problem is the colossal waste of resources. Streamlining is required to fix it. More heads doesn't make the hydra easier to do business with.

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