Army's First contract jumps to $36b

The status of the Army's Field and Installation Readiness Support Team (First) contract has been in flux for more than a week after contracting officials released two amendments Aug. 4, just three days before responses were initially due.

The 20-year, multiple-award contract to supply logistics support services to the Army and other Defense Department operations around the world now carries an estimated value of $36 billion. according to market research firm Federal Sources Inc. in McLean, Va. The new figure is four times the $9 billion value estimated just last week.

The Army has pushed back the deadline for industry responses to the solicitation from Aug. 7 to Aug. 14.

While Army contracting officials aren't talking ' they did not respond to several Washington Technology requests for comment ' small-business analysts said the fourfold increase in the contract's estimated value could be attributed to two issues. The first is the military's heavy use of the contract's precursor, Logistics Joint Administrative Management Support Services (Logjamss); the other is greater reliance on contractors by military forces deployed worldwide than during Logjamss.

'We're still in a global war on terrorism [and] we're still deployed to Southwest Asia and other places, and this is probably going to be used more,' said Ray Bjorklund, senior vice president and chief knowledge officer for Federal Sources.

The rollback of the response due date likely was caused by increased pressure from Capitol Hill to make awards to small companies and from the number of questions raised by companies looking at the contract, analysts said.

Among the amendments released Aug. 4 was an 80-page document of contract revisions and answers to questions posed by industry.

More challenges to contract awards in recent years means that contracting officers may be taking special care not to leave any loose strings hanging, said Herb Strauss, research vice president for market research firm Gartner Inc. in Stamford, Conn.

On top of being worried about more challenges, the acquisition force is shorthanded and works on multiple contracts, not allowing contracting officers to focus on any one contract, he said.

The result is that they have to be more cautious to make 'sure they don't fall into the penalty box for having a contract challenged at the point of award,' Strauss said.

Contract awards are still scheduled for October, but Bjorklund anticipates a push back of the award date as well.

The First contract calls for two sets of proposals from industry, one for small businesses only and one for full and open competitions. Of the 12 task areas in the contract, five are set aside for only small businesses. Those include support for quality assurance, training, Army transformation logistics, programs, and parts.

In five other task areas, all awards with an estimated annual value of $5 million or less will be set aside for small companies. Those include program management and operations, IT support, transportation and supply support and two maintenance categories. All larger awards in those areas, along with two enterprise-focused task areas, will have unrestricted competitions.

Ethan Butterfield is a staff writer for Government Computer News' sister publication, Washington Technology.

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