Contractors Fear Potential CTA Requirement in CIO-SP4 Could Hurt Small, Mid-Size Competitors

Some contractors are expressing concern about potential prohibitive requirements on contractor teaming arrangements and joint ventures that could hurt small and mid-sized businesses in the mega IT contract CIO-SP4.

The latest National Institute of Health’s Information Technology Acquisition and Assessment Center (NITAAC) governmentwide acquisition contract is expected to be worth $40 billion. 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 range 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 says contracts are awarded through a comprehensive evaluation process including technical capabilities, past performance, and small business subcontracting plans. For CIO-SP4, “the ceiling value of each contract will increase, likely from $20 billion to $40 billion,” there may be “a phased evaluation approach that requires vendors to fill out a self scoring sheet” that “may be evaluated using a point system and cut-off,” and “corporate experience will likely be used as an evaluation factor,” according to NITAAC. “The number of small business awards will likely stay about the same from CIO-SP3 to CIO-SP4.”

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 argue this requirement would not benefit the government’s goals but would reduce the number of qualified teams able to compete and disproportionately impact small and mid-tier firms. They also note 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 — leaves in limbo some companies that have heavily invested in CTA and JV formation for CIO-SP4 without a reason to believe that corporate experience could be limited or conditioned.

These industry members argue that the government should allow the corporate experience of any CTA or JV team member to be used for self-scoring, without the requirement for such experience to have been shared by all members that runs counter to previous evaluations of CTA and JV experience on other GSA GWACs. If agency vehicle users desire shared experience for specific task orders, industry officials argue such a requirement could be established at the task order level. And instead of a blanket prohibition, concerned industry members say the government can evaluate risk under Evaluation Factor 3 by considering the logic and efficacy of the roles assigned to each CTA or JV member, as well as the relevance of team member experience to those roles.

The final RFP has been delayed anticipated and is expected to be released in the next couple of weeks. Industry protests are expected if the RFP includes the restrictive CTA and JV requirements.

NITAAC says questions and comments on the final RFP will be due Feb. 1 with a proposal due date of March 15. The source selection award process is anticipated in early fall, leading to a Jan. 31, 2022, award issuance deadline. Protests would be reviewed from February to April 2022.

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