What if they had a contract and nobody came? That is precisely what has happened with
the ill-fated SHARP(G) contract administered by the Defense Department's Tricare
Management Activity.

The indefinite-delivery, indefinite-quantity vehicle has been open for orders for more
than six months but has generated not a lick of business--not one order, nada [GCN,
Feb. 23, Page 6]. SHARP(G), which stands for Support Hardware and Automation Related
Products (Generic), was designed to let military health services buy computer and
communications products.

A poorly performing contract normally wouldn't be worth comment. But the flattening of
SHARP(G) has interesting new subthemes.

With 3,000 line items, this was no trivial vehicle. The three prime contractors were
figuring on total revenues of more than $1.5 billion.

The most-derided IDIQ took place about a thousand years ago in the late 1980s. Unlike
SHARP(G), Desktop III was swamped by orders from DOD buyers. The prime contractor at first
couldn't handle the orders, then limited them to minimum quantities because it was losing
money on each machine sold. IDIQs of that era often embodied everything the government
buyer hated about procurement: They were slow to award, difficult to refresh and costly to

Today, SHARP(G) officials sum up their problems by citing the wildly successful
National Institutes of Health Electronic Computer Store contracts. Awarded at near-warp
speed by government standards, constantly refreshed and managed by the powerful incentive
of industrial funding through sales commissions, ECS and ECS II exemplify the new style of
buying desktop PC technology. They and other contracts, including those of the General
Services Administration's Multiple-Award Schedule, are the products of reform.

Two things are clear:

After six months of no orders, everyone ought to pack it up and stop throwing good
money after bad.

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