With deals like these, who needs RFPs?

What’s “in” in procurement? RFP avoidance.


To satisfy needs not easily met by schedule contracts, agencies are turning to big
existing requirements contracts rather than drafting requests for proposals for midsize
buys, said Bob Dornan, senior vice president of Federal Sources Inc. of Vienna, Va.


“Everybody pretty much accepts that as the trend,” Dornan said.


“There’s a lot of activity through existing vehicles,” he said.
“It’s instant gratification. Who in their right mind would issue an RFP?”


In recent weeks, the Air Mobility Command awarded a five year, $26 million task order
to SRA International Inc. of Fairfax, Va., through the General Services
Administration’s Federal Systems Integration and Management Center for lifecycle
technical support of command and control systems.


Also through FEDSIM, the Army’s Reserve Component Automation System office awarded
a five-year, $18 million order to SRA for providing program management and technical
support.


“People are now recognizing that procurement reform wasn’t just to buy PCs
faster,” said Robert J. Guerra, president of Guerra and Associates of Oakton, Va.


“With the advent of services [on IT Schedule contracts], people are starting to
buy solutions,” he said.


Late last year, the IRS issued a $26.7 million delivery order for 10,300 Micron
Electronics Inc. PCs from the schedule contract held by ComTeq Federal Inc. of Rockville,
Md. [GCN, Jan. 11, Page 3].


“Why do a standalone indefinite-delivery, indefinite-quantity [buy] for a few
million, delay implementing, and risk protests and near-term failure when you can do a
quick, limited competition and get reasonable prices from prequalified vendors?”
Guerra said.


Compaq Computer Corp. and Vanstar Government Systems Inc. of Fairfax, Va., sold more
than $225 million worth of products between January 1997 and December 1998 through their
Veterans Affairs Procurement of Computer Hardware and Software contracts, said James
Edwards, director of the VA Technology Integration Service. The vendors’ 1998 sales
were about double those of the previous year, he said.


As for GSA schedule contracts, Federal Sources estimated that the schedule contracts
drew $9.1 billion of the $26 billion in federal contracting funds spent on IT in the last
fiscal year, Dornan said.


Agencies also bought about $700 million worth of IT from the National Institutes of
Health’s governmentwide acquisition contracts, which include the Chief Information
Officer Solutions and Partners, Electronic Computer Store II and ImageWorld programs. The
figure represented an increase over the previous year, said Elmer Sembly III, director of
outreach and education at NIH’s IT Acquisition and Assessment Center.


The contractors for the fee-for-service NIH and the Transportation Department
Information Technology Omnibus Procurement programs “have figured how to find the
customers and keep both sides happy,” Dornan said. “The prices are also
appealing.”


One downside to the trend is that large, well-established contractors are snapping up
revenue that might otherwise have gone to smaller vendors. “There’s more and
more bundling” of products and services from one vendor, Dornan said.


The Small Business Administration has voiced concern, he said. “With the high cost
of marketing to the government, eroding margins can squeeze out the small guys”
Dornan said. “Medium-sized guys have to decide if they want to buy or be
bought.”


Although procurement reform has made it easier for agencies to buy products and
services, it “might cut off at the knees” an up-and-coming company that
otherwise could have grown as large as Computer Sciences Corp., Electronic Data Systems
Corp. or Litton PRC Inc., Dornan said.   

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