After COVID-19 delays, the eagerly awaited request for proposals for the latest National Institute of Health’s Information Technology Acquisition and Assessment Center (NITAAC) governmentwide acquisition contract was released Tuesday.
The Chief Information Officer-Solutions and Partners 4 (CIO-SP4) GWAC is a five-year, indefinite-delivery, indefinite-quantity contract with a $50 billion ceiling and a five-year option. The deadline for questions from offerors is noon on June 1, with proposals due June 28.
“CIO-SP4 builds upon the success of CIO-SP3 and takes into account several lessons learned that we believe will enhance the experience of our federal agency customers and contract holders alike,” said NITAAC Acting Director Brian Goodger.
CIO-SP3 ends in May 2022. Civilian agencies, with the Department of Health and Human Services being the top one, account for three-quarters of NITAAC orders while the Defense Department accounts for the rest.
The GWAC has a heavy small-business footprint and includes set-asides; average orders for small business, HUBZone, SDVOSB, 8(a), and Women Owned have ranged from $15,000 to $400 million in CIO-SP3. In fiscal year 2019, 62 awards totaled more than $3.5 billion under CIO-SP3, and 106 awards accounted for more than $1.8 billion to small businesses.
NITAAC said early this year that questions and comments on the final RFP would be due Feb. 1 with a proposal due date of March 15. The source selection award process was anticipated in early fall, leading to a Jan. 31, 2022, award issuance deadline. Protests would be reviewed from February to April 2022. But Goodger announced May 7 that because NIH “has been intimately involved in the fight against COVID-19″ there was “a subsequent delay” in the RFP.
CIO-SP4 is “designed for quick ordering of affordable IT solutions and services — including those from qualified small businesses,” NITAAC said, across 10 task areas: IT services for biomedical research, health sciences and health care; chief information officer support; digital media; outsourcing; IT operations and maintenance; integration services; cybersecurity; digital government and cloud services; enterprise resource planning; and software development.
The solicitation estimates that about 75 to 125 awards will be given to companies other than small business, about 20 to 40 awards to emerging large business, about 100 to 125 awards to small businesses, about 20 to 40 awards to woman-owned small business, about 20 to 40 awards to veteran-owned small business, about 20 to 40 awards to service-disabled veteran-owned small business, about 20 to 40 awards to HUBZone, about 20 to 40 awards to 8A, about 5 to 10 awards to Indian economic enterprise, and about 5 to 10 awards to Indian small-business economic enterprise. “Only businesses within their respective socioeconomic category are competing against the other businesses within that category,” the solicitation notes.
Only one proposal will be accepted from a single prime contractor, though an offeror is allowed to select multiple socioeconomic categories. “This does not preclude an offeror from being a member of a CTA, JV, or in a mentor-protégé agreement while also submitting their own standalone proposal as a prime contractor,” the document adds. “In this case, an offeror may submit as a prime contractor and also as part of the CTA, JV, or mentor- protégé arrangement.”
The solicitation states that “to be considered a small business, the other members of the CTA must all be small businesses, some other socioeconomic category of a small business, or an other than small business that has an SBA-approved mentor-protégé agreement with the eligible socio-economic business whose status the CTA is relying upon to compete for award.”
Contractor teaming arrangements and joint ventures form in the CIO-SP4 competition to level the playing field and help mid-tier and small businesses meet qualification requirements such as health subject matter expertise. At a November AFCEA-sponsored NITAAC information-sharing session, contractors were told that all CTAs and JVs must have had experience working on the same corporate experience project together for it to be used toward the self-scoring sheet, and corporate experience from members of a CTA defined in FAR 9.601(1) may be used if the members worked together on that project.
Concerned industry members argued this requirement would reduce the number of qualified teams able to compete and disproportionately impact small and mid-tier firms. They also noted that such a change this late in the process — without the potential RFP requirement highlighted at numerous earlier CIO-SP4 outreach events spanning more than a year — would leave in limbo some companies that have heavily invested in CTA and JV formation for CIO-SP4.
On the scoring for a Level 2 CMMI certification, Earned Value Management System, Acceptable Estimating System, ISO 9001 Certification, ISO 20000 Certification, ISO 27001 Certification, or Approved Purchasing System in the final RFP, “only one member of an offeror’s CTA / JV or an affiliate need have this certification, provided the offeror identify which member or affiliate has this certification, and how that member / affiliate would use the certification in the normal course of business for the offeror.” Only one member of a CTA of JV needs to have a secret or top secret facility clearance level in order to qualify for those points.
The solicitation states that offerors must provide at least three corporate experience examples from the past three years per task area. “The examples may come from affiliates or members of an offeror’s CTA / JV, provided the examples establish a clear relationship between the offeror, their affiliates / CTA / JV members, the project, and the resources that were expended by each in accomplishing the project,” the document states.
“We are excited about the possibility CIO-SP4 holds for revolutionizing the way agencies acquire IT,” Goodger said. “However, we want to remind agencies that while they anticipate CIO-SP4, CIO-SP3 still remains a vital option for their procurement needs. CIO-SP3 expires in May 2022, has ample ceiling room and awards issued before the expiration of CIO-SP3 can be extended up to five years.”