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.

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.

Industry Looking to GSA for Guidance

Agencies are pressuring GSA to provide guidance for meeting deadlines to modernize telecommunications. The  pandemic has delayed many agency transitions, thus making those deadlines nearly impossible to meet. (FEDSCOOP, May 12, 2020)

COVID-19 slowed task order awards under the Enterprise Infrastructure Solutions (EIS) contract, the government’s $50 billion telecom and network modernization channel. In some cases where task orders have been awarded, agencies can’t provide contractors clear instructions. Many believe the task order award delays impede the move from Networx, Washington Interagency Telecommunications System 3, and local service area contracts.

Legacy contracts are set to expire in May 2023. The GAO expects 19 of the agencies who spend the most on EIS to be transitioned over by the legacy expiration date; however many will not meet the GSA’s more aggressive 30 September 2022 deadline. (ibid)

Allen Hill, executive director of telecom services in the Office of IT Category at GSA believes agencies will make GSA aware of the effects of the pandemic, and GSA will in turn work with agencies on a case by case basis. (ibid)

The Department of Defense has their own strategy. They are beginning to rely on the lowest price technically acceptable (LPTA) source selection for EIS. DoD plans to report the methodology used to award contracts and task orders in June, once the Federal Procurement Data System modification is complete. Meanwhile, the Defense Information Systems Agency executed six EIS awards last month. Most EIS solicitations are “best value” yet agencies need to balance the overall cost of their transition with the time for implementation. (ibid)

Unfortunately, when agencies speed up transition, companies have less time to address task order requirements properly. This puts the risk on industry to provide the best value while accurately responding to agency requirements. Many task orders were written prior to the pandemic, therefore contractors are forced to address network issues while teleworking. The time it takes to address issues is naturally increased. (ibid)

“Agencies are encouraged to examine any gaps in their network infrastructures and ensure they make appropriate adjustments to their EIS task orders to provide needed capabilities. Modern IT demands modern infrastructure,” Hill stated. (ibid)

Have questions concerning a delayed task order or need one? Give us a call.

More COVID-19 Guidance

Last week the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) updated its agency guidance for federal contractors, as a response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The three main takeaways are:

  • Agencies are encouraged to work with their contractors to allow for the maximization of telework.
  • Agencies must be flexible providing extensions to performance dates if working virtually isn’t possible or if a contractor must quarantine. Agencies should also weigh whether to keep key personnel in a mobile-ready state for national security measures.
  • Agencies are urged to leverage the special emergency procurement authorized in connection with the emergency declaration under the “Stafford Act”. These include increases to: the micro-purchase threshold; the simplified acquisition threshold; and the threshold for using simplified procedures for certain commercial items. These are designed to reduce discord for contractors, especially small businesses, allowing for a more rapid response to the increasing demands agencies face. (Nextgov, March 22, 2020)

The agency guidance comes after trade groups and lawmakers strongly voiced the need for contractor guidance. The updated guidance includes a section of frequently asked questions, including contractor exposure to COVID-19. (ibid)

OMB also issued technology guidance for use during the COVID-19 national emergency. The technology guidance also includes a FAQ section, with steps to ensure IT and cybersecurity measures are met while working remotely. It urges agencies to continue updating their websites to enable public access to government services.

Need some help figuring out OMBs agency guidance for contractors? Give us a call.

Cybersecurity Knowledge for Free

Who should understand cybersecurity? According to the Department of Homeland Security, everyone.  Whether or not you work in IT,  a basic understanding of cybersecurity is necessary. Now, thanks to the National Security Agency (NSA) and Penn State University, you can learn online at no charge. (Federal News Network, October 11, 2019)

NSA and Penn State, as part of an undertaking directed by the Department of Homeland Security, have created an online course to educate people on cybersecurity operations, law, and policy. Geared toward non-lawyers, no technical background is required. The entire course can be taken as a whole or in modules. In addition, anyone interested in the course can teach it or take it. It is offered through the Clark Center, with a variety of other cybersecurity courses.

The course begins with an overview of the U.S. government and the legal system and how they operate, providing a legal framework around cyber operations and cybersecurity. It gives similar overviews of technology concepts, then steps into the legal foundations for modern cyber law and policy focusing on the Constitution and the Bill of Rights and their application to these concepts. 

The third and final module reviews cyber operations. This is taught as a cyber threat response framework using real-world cases to keep students engaged. Many examples are taken from actual current events and show how domestic law, national security, and technology intersect. (ibid)

Wondering if you should hone up on your cyber education? Give us a call and we can discuss it with you.