Polaris Replacing Alliant 2

This past July, GSA put to rest the Aliant 2 Small Business contract. The just last week, GSA released a draft RFP named Polaris, a Governmentwide Acquisition Contract (GWAC) to provide customized Information Technology (IT) services-based solutions.  The draft RFP breaks out small business contractors into specific “pools,” for Small Business, HUBZone Small Businesses, and Women Owned Small Businesses. GSA reserves the right to add additional pools when deemed necessary. (beta.SAM.gov, December 31, 2020)

According to the draft RFP, Polaris will provide agencies with customized IT services and IT services-based solutions, which can be tailored to meet particular mission needs and may include any combination of IT services and new and emerging technologies. (ibid)

GSA encourages contractors to provide innovative solutions to task order requirements prioritizing emerging technologies.  Examples of emerging technologies included within the draft RFP are:

  • Advanced and Quantum Computing — cryptography/encryption, secure communications, design of high-performance computers, computer clusters, and networks, Quantum Machine Learning
  • Artificial intelligence (AI) — Computer Vision, Deep Learning, Machine Learning, Natural Language Processing (NLP),  Spatial Computing, Speech Recognition
  • Automation technology — Robotic Process Automation (RPA), Automated Messaging Services, Data Cleaning Scripts, Interactive Voice Response (IVR), Smart Notification
  • Distributed ledger technology — Blockchain Implementation Solutions, DLT Network Design Services, Smart Contract Programming Services
  • Edge computing — 5G Implementation Services, Edge Analytics, Edge Application Services, Edge Computing Architecture Design Services, Internet of Things (IoT) Services
  • Immersive technology  — Virtual Reality, Augmented Reality

Examples of Performance areas within the draft RFP are as follows:

  • Cloud Services
  • Cybersecurity
  • Data Management
  • Information and Communications Technologies
  • IT Operations and Maintenance
  • Software Development
  • System Design

Contractors may “provide ancillary support as necessary to offer an IT services-based solution,” but, as with the GSA Schedule, only “when it is integral to and necessary for the IT services-based effort.” (ibid)

Contractors should take note of the security considerations as purchasers may be from the Department of Defense as well as civilian agencies. In particular, the Defense Department’s Cybersecurity Maturity Model Certification is a developing regulation and requirement included in the draft RFP. Additional Cybersecurity and Supply Chain Risk Management (SCRM) requirements are expected to also be included. (ibid)

All draft RFP feedback is due by 4:00 PM Central Time, January 29, 2021.

Have questions concerning the draft RFP, who can respond, and how? Give us a call.

Alliant 2 is Out/Polaris is In

After a year of protests and federal court hearings, the Government Accountability Office has canceled its $15 billion Alliant 2 Small Business contract. GAO is calling the replacement contract “Polaris.” A GSA spokesperson said, “Polaris will not only guide small businesses through the federal market, it will also help GSA customer agencies through the acquisition of IT service-based solutions, and give GSA a chance to improve our offerings and set the agency on a solid course for the future.” (GSAblogs.gsa.gov, October 1, 2020)

Administration sees the industrial base broadening by:

  • Pricing Strategy: GSA plans to increase its pool of qualified small businesses that serve federal agencies. GSA will employ Section 876 of the Fiscal Year 2019 National Defense Authorization Act, allowing contract awards to qualifying contractors without consideration of prices for hourly services. Focus on price competition ultimately takes place at the task order level.
  • On-ramps: Allows for an expanded industrial base as technology changes and for vendors to be considered on the GWAC following an initial award period.
  • Opportunity Expansion: An increased opportunity for HUBZone and woman-owned businesses.
  • Embracing Technology to Maximize Efficiency: Polaris will provide agencies with access to emerging technology providers, especially those offering artificial intelligence, automated technologies, blockchain, 5G implementation, cybersecurity, and cloud. (ibid)

The vendor evaluation strategy will be similar to that used in the Veterans Technology Services 2 and Alliant 2 contracts. Both were guided by industry comments. FAS may utilize an online proposal submission tool to speed up Polaris contract awards, as well as a modified evaluation strategy. (Federal Computer Week, October 5, 2020)

Questions about the Polaris evaluation strategy and how your company might do business on the platform? Give us a call.

Can Alliant 2 Be “Newer, Better” ?

GSA has finally put us all out of our Alliant 2 Small Business misery. Last week they canceled the acquisition contract. The original award was wrought with confusion, protests, and court disputes, so cancellation isn’t that surprising. (Nextgov, July 2, 2020)

However, GSA promises that the small business IT instrument will live on in a newer, better solicitation. Keep your eyes peeled for the larger and newly structured solicitation. No word yet on the release date of the new solicitation. (ibid)

Laura Stanton, acting GSA Assistant Commissioner for the Office of Information Technology when announcing the cancelation said, “The needs of our customer agencies, small business partners, and industry partners are rapidly evolving, GSA is committed to finding ways for our GWACs to reflect the current IT marketplace so that we can maximize the opportunities for small and women-owned, HUBzone, service-disables veteran-owned, and 8(a) small businesses to contract with the government for cybersecurity, emerging technology, and IT supply chain risk management needs.”

Stanton also said, “we are working to expand the number of master contract awards to highly qualified small businesses on our GWACs, while focusing on technology requirements that support our customer agencies for future mission success.” (ibid)

Questions about the cancellation and or the upcoming solicitation? Give us a call.

Show Me the Money! All the Money!

End of fiscal year 2019 spending will likely exceed that of 2018. So much so that hours are being extended for the largest Government-Wide Acquisition Contracts. (Federal Computer Week, August 30, 2019)

A few contributing factors precipitating  the uptick in spending:

  • The credit card threshold for micro-purchases increased from $3,500 to $10,000
  • A stable budget allows agencies the ideal scenario to plan and use their funding.
  • The last day of the fiscal year falls on a weekday this year. (ibid)

For instance, the National Institutes of Health Information Technology Acquisition and Assessment Center (NITAAC) expect a very busy September. They have been designated “best in class” across all three of their GWACs, which will likely bring in additional work. as extended hours in September as does the Solutions for Enterprise-Wide Procurement (SEWP). According to Joanne Woytek, manager for NASA’s SEWP,  processing systems have been updated to a High Availability System. The update took place earlier in the year and additional staff was added overall not just to respond to the additional spending in September.

NITAAC has improved its e-GOS next-generation customer ordering portal, which mirrors commercial online shopping and makes shopping easier for contracting officers. Item comparisons and photos will be part of the buying experience. The changes will be a key factor in streamlining the purchasing process, thus making ordering easier and faster. (ibid)

Not to be outdone, GSA also expects September to be the busiest month of the year for their Government-Wide Acquisition Contracts. (ibid)

Questions about the September buying frenzy and how you can take advantage? Give us a call.

FAR Changes

With the end of the Fiscal Year looming, the push is on to exhaust agency budgets. In an effort to make acquisitions move through the process more quickly and smoothly, DOD, GSA, and NASA have issued an amendment to the Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR). The amendment fine-tunes the  FAR and eliminates a step in the acquisition process. (Fedscoop, July 15, 2019)

Per the FAR, agencies were required to justify the best procurement approach when using GSA’s IT Schedule 70, Governmentwide Acquisition Contracts, or assisted acquisition solutions. As of June 5, the new FAR amendment allows agencies to skip that step. Agencies are now able to quickly find GSA IT category contracts and acquisition solutions. (ibid)

According to Bill Zielinski, assistant commissioner of GSA’s Federal Acquisition services office, agencies “can now identify and quickly use GSA IT Category contracts and acquisition solutions, especially as they embark on their end-of-year IT spending and acquisition efforts.” Zielinski feels the new change to the FAR reduces the administrative burden for agencies procuring through GSA’s IT Schedule 70 or through GWACs such as 8(a) STARS 2 and Alliant 2, as well as through assisted acquisition programs. (Federal Computer Week, July 15, 2019)

Curious about the new FAR language and how it affects your GSA schedule? Give us a call and we can review it with you.