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By Nick Wakeman

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Nick Wakeman

Small business on-ramp opens for $20B CIO-SP3

The on-ramp is now open to traffic for small businesses looking to gain a spot on the $20 billion NIH CIO-SP contract.

NIH released the solicitation this week, and companies have until April 18 to respond.

A couple of things to keep in mind: If you want to bid, you must be a registered user of the Electronic Procurement Information Center, or EPIC. Click here to link to EPIC. You'll also need a DUNS number to register.

NIH is only accepting electronic submissions via EPIC. No mail or hand-delivered submissions.

EPIC also is the portal for submitting questions. You also need to be registered on EPIC to submit questions. And again, they are not accepting questions via other channels – no mail.

They also are advising companies to allow time to submit their proposals and get familiar with EPIC. In other words, if you are first time user of EPIC, don’t wait until 1:59 p.m. on April 18 to submit. The deadline is 2 p.m.

I'm not trying to make light of it. I've seen bid protests go against companies because of problems with the online portal, so give yourself time.

Outside of the GSA schedules and the Navy’s Seaport-e contract, on-ramps are relatively rare, but I’ve heard several government officials, especially those involved with large multiple award contracts, say that they will consider on-ramps in the future.

On-ramps are an easier and more streamlined way of adding companies to a contract vehicle. NIH CIO-SP has about six years left, so the on-ramp allows NIH to add more small businesses as current ones grow out of that designation.

While they won’t be forced off of the contract if they outgrow their small business designation, agencies buying from them won’t get small business credit. It is in NIH’s interest to have a strong stable of small businesses to keep enticing agencies to use the vehicle.

To use an on-ramp rather than a traditional recompete, the requirements and evaluation criteria for the contract cannot change significantly from when the first contract was awarded. If there are changes, agencies have to use a more traditional procurement strategy.

For contracts such as CIO-SP, I don’t think that will be much of a problem. They are written broadly, so I think they can easily handle changes in technology. The vehicles should be able to handle evolutionary advancements of technology.

This on-ramp is focused on small business, which makes sense because you have to imagine that many of the winners from 2012 have outgrown their small business designation or have been acquired. For example, Agilex and Systems Made Simple were both small business winners in 2012. Both have since been acquired. Agilex by Accenture, and Systems Made Simple by Lockheed Martin.

NIH is looking to add a wide range of small businesses including service-disabled, veteran-owned and HUBZone.

The agency is looking to add between 20 and 35 companies to the contract. They will be on the contract for about six years, until it expires in 2022.

NIH CIO-SP3 has 10 task areas:

  • IT services for biomedical research, health sciences and health care
  • CIO support
  • Imaging
  • Outsourcing
  • IT operations and maintenance
  • Integration services
  • Critical infrastructure protection and information assurance
  • Digital government
  • Enterprise resource planning
  • Software development

For some insights into NIH, you should read our guest commentary from Robert Coen, director of the NIH Technology Acquisition and Assessment Center (NITAAC), which oversees CIO-SP3 and other NIH GWACs.

And in case you missed it earlier, here is the link to the solicitation.

Posted by Nick Wakeman on Mar 17, 2016 at 12:34 PM


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