Next Generation GWACs

Government-wide Acquisition Contracts or GWACs give you access to practically every IT product and service available.

Are you standing up a new program? Or is your existing program currently migrating its data from a legacy system to a virtual server inside a “green” data center? Or you are modernizing your IT infrastructure to meet your program’s growing data collection, collaboration, security and regulatory requirements? Or are you upgrading your network infrastructure to handle future IPv6 traffic and information sharing initiatives?


Knowing you need IT as a part of any program mission solution is just start point. At some time in your business process you and your colleagues will have to decide what and how you are going to buy the services – and the associated IT products – needed.


Enter the Government-wide Acquisition Contract or GWAC (pronounced GeeWack) where you benefit from access to practically every IT product and service imaginable.


Born out of the feeling that you can get more innovation with competition, GWACs were authorized by the 1996 Clinger-Cohen Act.  Right now Commerce, GSA, NASA, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and EPA have GWACs – even though Commerce just recently transferred management of its COMMITS NexGen GWAC to GSA.


And while GWACs have been around for what seems like years, they are always evolving, with new next generation GWACs rising to meet customer needs in a relentlessly changing IT landscape.


What Today’s GWACs Do
GWACs can be used by all government customers – both civilian and defense. Each GWAC provides the IT customer with a pre-screened list of “approved contractors” with proven skills. Hardware, software, related supplies and services can be bought as part of an integrated technology solution.


GWAC contract terms and conditions pre-negotiated.  Competition occurs at both the contract and task order or delivery order levels. Contracts are pre-qualified for capability. Fair opportunity requirements are met. Task order awards are not protestable in most cases.


GWACs provide the flexibility to add team partners with unique skills at the task order level. They include a full range of contract types; i.e., fixed-price, cost-reimbursement, time-and-materials, and labor-hour. And they support small business and meet procurement preference goals, with availability and access to proven small business and 8(a) technology providers.


GWACs shorten procurement lead time, provide easy-to-use online tools and charge reasonable fees for their services that are built into the customer price.


Planning Next Generation GWACs
Because GWACs have expiration dates and are funded as fee-for-service businesses, planners constantly keep in close contact with customers and contract holders, updating their current contracts and preparing their next generation vehicles.


That’s exactly what happened at the recent NASA SEWP annual conference that attracted its largest attendance in program history with 200 attendees including more than 90 federal registrants representing 15 agencies.

GSA, NASA and NIH offer GWACs that shorten procurement lead time,  provide easy-to-use online tools and charge reasonable service fees that are built into the customer price.

“We are pleased at the strong interest in our conference.  It was a great opportunity to celebrate the successful first year of SEWP IV, provide and obtain information with our key customers and contract holders, and plan for the future.” said Joanne Woytek, the SEWP Program Manager.


At the same time, because two NIH GWACs scheduled to expire at the end of 2010 -- the CIO-SP2i and IW2nd GWACs – the NIH Information Technology Acquisition and Assessment Center (NITAAC) recently took the first steps in creating the next iteration of the GWACs by soliciting issuing an RFI and comment from stakeholders.


According to Tom Keith, NITAAC program manager, the RFI sought feedback from both industry and government as to the technology envisioned under the
successor contract and best practices to be employed, as well as potential new sources for these types of requirements. NIH is using the information received from the RFI to develop its business case for the project and in prepare a subsequent Request for Proposals.


“We want to get the RFP correct to support our customers within NIH and HHS,” said Keith. “We don’t want to do something quickly; we want to do this with quality. And we have a good timeline to get this done and we’ve already done quite a few interviews.”


Alliant Comeback?
Another of the next generation GWACs is GSA’s Alliant, now slated to be awarded later this year and will replace the soon to expire ANSWER and Millennia GWACs.


“We are committed to Alliant as a program,” said GSA FAS Commissioner Jim Williams, “but it is part of a larger program where we have current vehicles that are available to agencies such as Millennia, Millennia Lite, ANSWER, STARS, VETS and other that agencies can continue to use until we can award Alliant.”


GSA’s John Johnson is leading the team working the Alliant program and doing it in a way that complies with what the judge told GSA had to be done. “The judge didn’t say entire procurement was flawed,” explained Williams. “He found some issues with how we executed the source selection plan and we need to go back and do those in compliance with the judge’s instructions.”


“To be clear,” Johnson said. “We are looking at the program from the perspective of source selection to award. We are not going back and revamping entire program; just looking at that piece which is in compliance with the judge’s decision.”


Johnson asserted that GSA has a robust GWACs program that can satisfy our customers’ needs today. However, “we are excited about Alliant because it has some features that we believe will position us well in the future to be proactive in meeting our customer’s needs,” said Johnson. “We feel very capable today to do whatever our customers need us to do and Alliant is our flagship program for the future.”


A Philosophical Change
One of the things next generation GWACs will most likely do is not try to list every product and service imaginable. Next generation GWACs will shorten – such as SEWP’s (1-day) or eliminate (what Alliant promises) the “contract modification” process.


Next generation GWACs most likely will tie themselves to an agency’s Enterprise Architecture and assist agencies completing their OMB 300. The mantra is: when it comes to describing the scope of IT, because the IT is tied to the EA, products and services needed will always be in scope. Thus GWACs will continue to thrive in the rapidly changing environment that is norm for the IT industry.


“The next generation GWACs reflect the direction the government has been moving in its IT investments in last few years,” said Mary Powers-King, GSA Director of GWAC programs. “It’s clear that IT is really the gear that drives government. Data needs to be stored, analyzed and transported. Everyone relies on some level of IT to accomplish their mission.”


According to Powers-King, what GWACs do best is help you minimize your risk, so you don’t have to buy solutions more than once. You don’t want to invest in a solution that doesn’t work; you want a provider to come in – knowledge in-hand – and solve your problems and facilitate whatever it is you are trying to accomplish.