Extension Planned for Popular ECS III
Agencies can use ECS III while NITAAC officials plan the follow-on contract for IT products and related services
NITAAC’s Electronic Commodities Store III (ECS III) government-wide acquisition contract (GWAC) for IT hardware and software is growing in popularity among federal agencies, with overall sales jumping 37 percent from fiscal year 2010 to fiscal 2011. “We’ve seen a huge increase in the use of ECS III during this past year,” said Robert Coen, NITAAC Deputy Program Director, adding that contract usage in fiscal 2012 is proceeding at a pace to exceed fiscal 2011.
ECS III is a 10-year, $6 billion GWAC that can be used by any civilian or defense agency to purchase IT products and direct support services at fixed prices. NITAAC officials offer free training and customer support to users of the contract. Although ECS III is slated to expire in November 2012, NITAAC officials intend to create a bridge extension so agencies can continue using ECS III until a new contract launches in a year to 18 months, officials said.
ECS III has a secure, web-based automated Request For Quote (RFQ) system that allows agencies to manage delivery orders, set-aside competitions, and selection and notification of awardees. The system automatically sends out the RFQ to qualified vendors, providing them with a fair opportunity to compete for the work; and vendors can interact with customers through the system.
In addition, agencies can use a Request for Information (RFI) tool for market research. The RFI and RFQ systems are both easy to use and, if an agency’s requirements are complete, they can be uploaded in just 10 minutes or less, NITAAC officials said. Purchasers do not require a special “Delegation of Procurement Authority” from NITAAC to use the ECS III contract.
Agencies rely on ECS III for a broad range of IT hardware and software, including cloud computing, health and biomedical IT, mobility, networking, security, and other mission-critical acquisitions. NITAAC aggressively negotiated low prices for the master contract, and competition among vendors for delivery orders drives prices even lower, officials said.
One of the strengths of the program is its automated process for adding new equipment and software items quickly to the contract, typically in one hour or less. Joe Corcoran, who is the Strategic Program Development lead for ECS III contract holder Govplace, said this flexibility makes the contract extremely attractive to agency customers, who want access to the latest technologies. “We’re adding new and innovative products on a daily basis,” Corcoran said. “We can add products to ECS III in just a matter of minutes.”
NITAAC maintains this rapid pace for its customers despite the fact that the program office processes an average of 265 Technical Refreshment Proposals (TRPs) and adds more than 25,000 Contract Line Item Numbers (CLINs) each month, nearly double the number of CLINs it processed five years ago, officials said.
The Next-Generation ECS III
NITAAC officials are just beginning the research phase for crafting the follow-on to ECS III, which they are calling Chief Information Officer-Commodity Solutions (CIO-CS). “We’re going to tie the work closely to the CIO-SP3 contracts,” Coen said.
NITAAC officials recognize that the government is moving toward commodity-based buying of many IT services. “For example, you can buy cloud off the shelf,” Coen said. “You’re not just buying a bunch of hardware, you’re buying a service, like you buy telephone service or e-mail.”
Mary Armstead, NITAAC Program Director, said CIO-CS will be structured to reflect this new paradigm of commodity IT services, as well as other trends, so that it can continue meeting the needs of federal agencies over the next 10 years. “It’s not going to be your father’s ECS contract,” she said.