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.

Unpricing GSA

The Coalition for Government Procurement has been lobbying for an unpriced schedule, and Section 876 of Fiscal Year 2019 National Defense Authorization Act provides just that. It authorizes agencies, specifically GSA and its Schedules (41 USC 152) to not include price or cost as an evaluation criterion when awarding hourly rate and service contracts.  (Federal News Network, January 10, 2020)

An unpriced schedule is seen as more efficient by:

  • Allowing for evaluation against actual requirements
  • Reducing oversight activities associated with auditing of the award and the Price Reductions Clause
  • Honing competition by permitting customers to highlight speed and need for agency-specific service requirements
  • Allowing for common commercial practices in structuring contracts
  • Reducing hurdles to market entry for small businesses by allowing federal customers to leverage technology to meet end mission goals (ibid)

As we mentioned earlier in the week, GSA’s IG found that current pricing tools are resulting in insufficient price determinations. In many cases, the use of the CALC and CODCD pricing tools result in agency overpayment. The IG report stated, the “intent of the MAS Program is to leverage the government’s buying power in an effort to provide customer agencies with competitive, market-based pricing… GSA’s contracting officers are required to seek the best price granted to the contractor’s most favored commercial customer.”

The report outlines GSAM requirements that guide pricing determinations, such as requiring the government to pursue most favored customer pricing. It also defines methods that contracting officers should use to compare the terms and conditions of the MAS solicitation with those of the offeror’s commercial customers. MAS allows agencies to take advantage of the government’s purchasing power; moreover, it offers a channel for agencies to obtain commercial services and products swiftly. Per the statute, all responsible sources participate in the program, and all orders “result in the lowest overall cost alternative to meet the needs of the Federal Government (41 USC 152).” (ibid)

GSAR 538.270-1, states, “the Government recognizes that the terms and conditions of commercial sales vary and there may be legitimate reasons why the best price is not achieved.” This language actually reinforces leveraging the unpriced schedule. It highlights the complexity around contract-level pricing that is removed from government requirements reflected in a specific order. (ibid)

Federal News Network editorializes that an unpriced schedule focuses the price evaluation on actual requirements in real-time as they are being sought in the market. This type of competition, for agency-specific requirements, results in the most cost-effective, best value outcome for the agency.When resources are focused on competition, it’s a win for agencies, GSA and industry providers.

If you’re interested in learning more, give us a call.