Pendulum swings back toward GWACs

3 agencies receive GWAC approval as NASA’s SEWP IV prepares for 2012 review

Just one year ago, it appeared that the Office of Management and Budget might try to reduce the number of governmentwide acquisition contracts. Concerned about the proliferating number of federal contract vehicles, OMB officials were reviewing policies for creating and managing GWACs and multi-agency contracts (MACs). At the same time, Congress asked the Government Accountability Office to investigate the use of enterprisewide contracts, increasing doubts about their future within government.

However, the questions surrounding GWACs appear to have been answered. During the past year, OMB’s Office of Federal Procurement Policy (OFPP) granted GWAC designations to three agencies:

  • The National Institutes of Health to award two GWACs with a focus on health-related IT services: the Chief Information Officer Solutions and Partners (CIOSP3) GWAC and the CIOSP3-Small-Business GWAC.
  • The General Services Administration to award a follow-on to its 8(a) Streamlined Technology Acquisition Resources for Services (STARS) contract, which is set aside for small, disadvantaged businesses in the Small Business Administration’s 8(a) business development program.
  • The Department of Homeland Security to award a GWAC for Technical Investigative Surveillance Equipment.

The designations for NIH and GSA allow those agencies to continue managing existing or follow-on GWAC programs, while the designation for DHS is first-time authority for the department. The approvals for these three agencies are good news for the SEWP IV program, which is being reviewed for renewal of its GWAC authority in 2012.

GWACs are information technology contracts that are authorized and tightly managed by OFPP. In contrast, MACs are established by individual agencies, which allow other agencies to use the MACs, as dictated by the Economy Act. OFPP Administrator Daniel Gordon said that his office is developing guidance for managing GWACs and MACs that contains many aspects of existing GWAC management. “The guidance will retain many of the basic elements that have been used successfully to evaluate proposed GWACs,” Gordon said in a May 25 statement before the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs.

Ray Bjorklund, senior vice president and chief knowledge officer for Deltek Information Solutions, praised this approach, saying, “I think OFPP is being very thoughtful about the market dynamics and how to make interagency contracting work better in response to GAO criticisms.”

The SEWP IV office is preparing for its 2012 review, and so NASA Program Manager Joanne Woytek declined to speculate about whether she expects OFPP to renew NASA’s authority to manage the SEWP IV program. However, it appears now that OFPP believes GWACs have a place within government.

“Our goal is to provide a useful service to agencies. There is no hidden agenda in terms of trying to make money [for NASA] or anything else. We just want to help people,” Woytek said.

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