The U.S. State Department is preparing to launch a new $5 billion strategic sourcing deal for global information technology hardware and software upgrades and plans to set aside the contract for small businesses.
Officials from the State Department’s Office of Information Resource Management (IRM) released a draft request for proposals (RFP) May 12 for a requirement known simply as Access. Access will “provide a total solution one-stop-shop in the Information Technology market,” according to the draft RFP document. State’s Global IT Modernization (GITM, pronounced “git ‘em”) will be the primary user of the Access contract, but it will be available to all State Department bureaus and offices.
Access will support a wide range of commodity and specialized IT products and services, such as:
- Networking equipment, servers, and storage;
- Hyperconverged infrastructure, including hybrid cloud and edge computing hardware;
- Identity management and biometric hardware and software;
- Laptop and desktop computers;
- Smartphones and tablets;
- Video teleconferencing equipment;
- Computer peripheral equipment; and
- Commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) software.
IRM plans to compete Access as a multiple-award blanket purchase agreement (BPA) on the federal government’s Multiple Award Schedule for IT, formerly Schedule 70. Officials have not confirmed the number of awards they plan to issue, but there could be a dozen or more — all of which will be reserved for small businesses. The contract will have a possible 10-year period of performance and ceiling value of $5 billion.
The deadline to submit questions or comments on the draft RFP is May 26.
Access and GITM’s Core Infrastructure Strategy
In addition to commodity laptops, smartphones, and COTS software, Access will support the acquisition of the State Department’s next-generation IT infrastructure, according to a September 2020 strategy document attached to the draft RFP. Given the geographical and legal complexity of State’s global operations, IRM and GITM officials are pursuing a cloud strategy that delivers centralized, high-performance computing instead of costly, redundant regional IT infrastructures, the document states.
The Access BPA will enable GITM and other programs to invest in five focus areas: hybrid cloud computing, edge computing, continuous modernization, systems automation, and infrastructure monitoring tools. GITM emphasizes the need for software-defined networking and storage, automation, DevSecOps, and edge computing to deliver low-latency computing services to State Department facilities around the globe. Further, it requires cloud-agnostic solutions that align with industry best practices without risking vendor lock-in.
The GITM IT Infrastructure component of the Access BPA could generate up to $500 million over the life of the program, according to a March 2021 procurement forecast. It will likely replace the Enterprise Converged Platform (ECP) program, spun off from GITM in September 2014. Top recipients of ECP spending to date are Iron Brick Associates LLC ($57 million) and World Wide Technology Holding Co. Inc. ($16 million).
What Contracts Could Be At Risk?
With a $5 billion ceiling value and possible 10-year period of performance, Access could encompass the bulk of the State Department’s IT hardware and software needs, potentially putting dozens of incumbent contracts at risk. The department spent a record $787 million on IT products in fiscal 2020, according to Bloomberg Government data. About 53% of that spending, or $420 million, flowed through NASA’s Solutions for Enterprise Wide Procurement (SEWP) V. GSA Connections II and Schedule 70 counted for another $52 million and $42 million, respectively.
Especially at risk are IT hardware contracts held by large businesses in light of Access’s status as a total small-business set-aside. Small businesses accounted for $468 million in State Department IT product spending in fiscal 2020, or about 60% of the total.
There are 790 IT hardware and software task orders active at the State Department that could be folded into Access once it’s awarded, and 88 of the 790 have a total value of $1 million or more. Large and medium-sized businesses won 277 of the 790, but are not eligible for a follow-on on Access.
The multiple-award BPAs will span four subcategories of the GSA Multiple Award Schedule for IT, known as special item numbers (SIN), as outlined in the draft RFP. Two product categories are likely to produce most of the contract spending that flows through GITM: the purchase of new IT equipment (SIN 33411, formerly 132-8) and a second for the maintenance of that equipment (SIN 811212, formerly 132-12). Remaining categories include one for maintenance of software licenses (SIN 511210, formerly 132-32 and 132-33) and one for ancillary services (SIN 54151S).
In choosing to compete the contract as a BPA under the GSA Schedule, the State Department has secured an abundance of pre-qualified small businesses that could be eligible to perform on GITM. Of the 853 contract holders registered to do business under SIN 33411 for IT hardware, 704 are small businesses. Small businesses make up 424 of the total 528 companies with spots on SIN 811212 for IT maintenance, and 780 of the 1,010 companies on SIN 511210 for software licenses. Ancillary services will be included only “in support of” the three listed subcategories.
Companies submitting a GITM bid will be evaluated using a three-stage source selection process. Only offerors that receive a notice to proceed to the third stage will be considered for awards.
Bidders will be evaluated based on four non-price factors: past performance, supply chain risk management plan, technical expertise with scope, and technical expertise with converged and hyperconverged solutions.
- Stage 1 — Proposals that did not receive “favorable” ratings for factor one covering past performance, will be eliminated from further competition;
- Stage 2 — Bidders must receive an overall rating of “some confidence” or better for factor two, showing an adequate supply chain risk management plan to move to stage three;
- Stage 3 — Companies must receive an overall rating of “some confidence” or better for factors three and four technical expertise.
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