GSA Expects Connections II Small Business to Thrive, Even Without Set-Asides
But small business-only task orders are not prohibited
The Connections II contract does not establish a separate category for small businesses in order to promote a fair opportunity to compete among all the contract’s industry partners.
GSA officials said that set-aside task orders for Connections II’s small businesses are not needed because those businesses can hold their own in straight-up competitions with large contractors. For example, under the first Connections contract, small businesses won 35 percent of the task orders and accounted for 34 percent of obligated spending under the contract.
Twenty-one industry partners won spots on Connections II—12 large businesses and nine small businesses. When issuing task orders, agencies are expected to provide an equal opportunity to all contractors to respond to a request for proposal, as stipulated by the Fair Opportunity Clause of the Federal Acquisition Regulation 16.505(b). “Agencies need to consider all of the vendors before making an award, and we show them the easiest way to do that,” said Debbie Clark, Connections II Program Manager.
If agencies award a task order to a small business after holding a competition among all contract holders, they will receive the small business credit for the award.
However, agencies are not strictly obligated to follow this policy. That is, an agency can conduct a competition that focuses a Connections II task order on just the contract’s nine small businesses “if that’s their agency policy,” Clark said. “That isn’t our recommendation, but if they wish to do it, they can. There is flexibility, but we encourage customers to look at all vendors.”
Two of the top four companies in terms of Connections I spending are small businesses: A&T Systems Inc. and EPS Corporation. Both will be providing solutions again under Connections II. “Our small businesses have been highly competitive with the fair opportunity process,” said Kevin Youel Page, Deputy Assistant Commission for GSA’s Office of Integrated Technology Services. “They are winning their fair share and, if history is any judge, agencies can expect that type of performance to continue.”
For Connections II, 42 percent of the awardees are small businesses, thus increasing the likelihood that the percentage of small business awards will increase under the new contract, GSA officials said. “The extensive qualifications of the awardees ensure that every contractor, small or large, can provide any of the services within the scope of the contract,” said Mary Davie, Assistant Commissioner of ITS.