Navy signals a trend with 4 blanket buys

At the Navy, it's hello BPAs and goodbye IDIQs.

The Navy has awarded one-year blanket purchasing agreements to four vendors under the
Tactical Advanced Computer-4 (TAC-4) PC buy. The three-year agreements could be worth up
to $90 million as a group.

Under the four BPAs, Navy buyers can obtain desktops, printers, servers and other
peripherals at discounts from the contractors' General Services Administration schedule

AmeriData Federal Systems, Gaithersburg, Md., and Government Technology Services Inc.,
Chantilly, Va., will sell Hewlett Packard Co. desktops, printers and servers. Digital
Equipment Corp. will provide its own desktops and servers, and McBride & Associates
Inc. of Albuquerque, N.M., will sell IBM Corp. desktops and servers.

Digital will offer its own Alpha and Intel Corp. Pentium-based desktops and servers
that run Microsoft's NT or 95 operating systems, according to Dan Coco, Navy account
manager with Digital's federal government region.

Among the AmeriData offerings will be an HP Vectra VL 5/166MT computer with 166-MHz
Pentium processor and 16M of RAM for $1,682, a 15 percent discount from its GSA Schedule
price. A 200-MHz processor upgrade from AmeriData will go for $1,032--a 9 percent discount
from AmeriData's regular GSA pricing. GTSI and McBride had little to say about their BPA

But low prices aren't the only reason why Navy is experimenting with BPAs. Naval
Information Systems Management Center officials cited the relatively low cost of the
procurement and the speed with which new products become available on GSA schedule vs.
indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity contracts as an important advantage of BPAs.

AmeriData and McBride won BPAs from the Navy in June to supply notebooks under $98.6
million TAC-4 Companion contracts [GCN, June 24, Page 61].

The BPA awards follow a NISMC review of the New Technologies for Office and Portable
Systems contract, a two-year, $175 million buy that opened for ordering in July. The NTOPS
contractors are BTG Inc., McLean, Va., and Cordant Inc., Reston, Va.

With NTOPS ordering slow, NISMC surveyed products on GSA schedule and investigated PC
manufacturers' capabilities during the summer, according to Floyd Groce of NISMC.

In September, the TAC project office in San Diego asked for price quotes from five
vendors. It allowed the manufacturers to designate multiple GSA schedule holders and to
sell the products from their own 70 B/C Schedules, if they wanted. The process of making
the BPA awards took only about a month after that.

NISMC wants to convert BTG and Cordant's NTOPS contracts into BPAs, according to Capt.
David Capizzi, contracting director at the center.

It appears that NTOPS and NAVDESK, the Navy Desktop contract that was to succeed it in
July 1998, will fade away. ""We haven't killed it, but there's a good chance,''
NISMC's Groce said of NAVDESK. ""We're examining alternative ways of getting
goods and services cheaper and faster.''

Under the BPA agreements, the Navy did not agree to a minimum quantity of purchases
from the vendors. The contracts will run at least one year, with two one-year options
available to the Navy.

Although the contracts are open only to Navy buyers, NISMC officials hope to make them
available to other parts of the Defense Department.

With a shortened procurement cycle, no likelihood of protests and no tech refresh costs
to absorb, many agencies reportedly are considering BPAs as an alternative to IDIQs.
""Unless you have a unique lifecycle requirement or technology requirement--and
I can't think of any examples that would pass the test--more and more agencies are going
to look at [BPAs] as a way to use their money,'' said Harry Heisler, a consultant in
Chantilly, Va.

After seeing IDIQs go out of favor, some people at NISMC are concerned about their
careers in procurement. ""That's a sore subject,'' said one NISMC official when
asked what the Navy's change in direction means for NISMC employees.

Meanwhile, NISMC is setting up ITEC Direct, a GSA Advantage-like on-line ordering
program that managers hope will be running by January.

The Navy's decision to buy from BPAs rather than IDIQs represents a triumph of sorts
for William N. Gormley, assistant commissioner for acquisition at GSA's Federal Supply
Service in Washington. Over the past year, Gormley has urged contracting officers to
consider the cost savings of buying through the GSA schedules, rather than setting up
their own IDIQs.

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