Let's save GSA ASTRO's innovative 'bonus' for mid-tier bidders

GSA's ASTRO team has developed the Bootstrap Bonus to help small and mid-tier bidders bridge the point gap and compete in the full-and-open portion of the new contract vehicle.

While it has been years since I have had the pleasure of interacting with GSA’s Todd Richards, Valerie Bindel, and Tommy Thomas, no one should be shocked that this terrific trio is once again breaking new ground in acquisition - after all, everything is done bigger in Texas.

Their OASIS IDIQ structure changed the federal government forever, moving competitions from qualitative storytelling with an aftermath of protests to clean self-scoring quantitative competitions.

Now through their ASTRO IDIQ draft solicitation, the team has taken head on the challenge of leveling the playing field for mid-tier companies by creating the Bootstrap Bonus. ASTRO is a new contract vehicle GSA is developing for the Defense Department to deliver a wide-range of services around digital modernization and asymmetric warfare. This includes services and solutions around artificial intelligence, C4ISR and C5ISR, cybersecurity, cloud, and advanced sensors.

The GSA ASTRO program and the Texas trio should be applauded for their proactive efforts to preserve America’s innovative industrial base. This team recognizes that different requirements call for different types and sizes of contractors. Accordingly, the ASTRO procurement team desires to have a blend of “mid-tier” and truly large companies available to perform the large-scale requirements that will be placed on the contracts.

While most folks talk about helping mid-tiers compete, this team has developed an innovative technique that I believe will be replicated in the future. ASTRO will potentially be the first IDIQ to structurally recognize “smedium” and mid-tier competitor’s value in the full and open market through the Bootstrap Bonus. 

The Bootstrap Bonus provides an opportunity for mid-tiers to increase their total evaluated proposal point score based on their size to help bridge the gap and compete amongst super large businesses that dominate point scoring based IDIQs.

Why? In today’s large business landscape, most large business IDIQs are won by the same behemoths. These companies may be great for building missiles, but they often lack the nimbleness, innovation, and pricing competitiveness needed to partner with customers that have agile missions.

This leaves a gap for federal buyers who want the security of a large business, but the entrepreneurial innovation and personalized delivery provided by a mid-tier. Without the Bootstrap Bonus, successful mid-tiers in the $100 million to $500 million range will have a hard time earning a seat on the ASTRO IDIQ against publicly traded companies who already have sufficient points for an award simply based on their size.

As large businesses lobby to have the Bootstrap Bonus removed from ASTRO prior to the final release to reduce competition, it is important to call out this unique innovation from the GSA team and motivate all mid-tiers to take a stand and encourage GSA to keep the Bootstrap Bonus in the final solicitation.

The GSA team behind ASTRO has a track record of always acting in the best interest of the government and inspiring innovation through competition – which includes businesses of all sizes. I’m sure their phones are ringing off the hook right now from some of the large companies trying to limit competition and continue their IDIQ vehicle oligarchies.

I believe the Bootstrap Bonus is a groundbreaking innovation that is finally trying to help mid-tiers “bridge the point gap” and mid-tiers must work to keep it in the final solicitation.

As the great Elvis Presley once said, “There’s no job too immense when you got confidence.”

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