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Military Information Technology - September 2010 - Issue 14.8

Issue 14, Volume 8
September 2010

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SUBSCRIPTION SERVICES

Fast Track for FCSA

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MIT 2010 Volume: 14 Issue: 5 (June)

Fast Track for FCSA

 

As they listen to and incorporate industry feedback and iron out the details of the contracting process, federal officials are cautiously upping their estimates of commercial satellite communications services sales volume under the new Future COMSATCOM Services Acquisition (FCSA) program.

Designed to replace several existing Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA) and General Services Administration (GSA) programs used by the military and other government agencies, FCSA represents an unusual partnership between the two organizations designed to increase efficiency, improve service and reduce costs in the booming government commercial SATCOM market. (See MIT, March 2010, page 14.)

The new program will have multiple contract vehicles segmented among three target services areas: transponded capacity, subscription services and endto- end solutions. The first two areas will be covered under GSA Federal Supply Schedule 70, the agency’s existing IT contract vehicle, while the last will operate under two new indefinite delivery/indefinite quantity (IDIQ) contracts, one of which will be reserved for small business.

In a recent interview, GSA program manager Kevin Gallo offered this assessment of how FCSA could develop: “As far as the sales volume on this acquisition, we’ve spoken about how we expect to reach $5 billion over 10 years. If the FY09 sales numbers are any indication, we will exceed that.

“We’ve evaluated the actual purchasing patterns using the latest available figures under [current contracts],” Gallo continued. “Looking at all the individual task orders, and which service area they would fall into, based on historical review, we estimate that about half of the volume would be in the transponded capacity Special Item Number (SIN), and about 20 percent in subscription services. That’s based on historical patterns, however, which may change in the future. For example, there’s been a move to use more IP services and more managed services.

If that continues, that would increase the percentage for subscription services.” Of the remaining 30 percent of contract value projected for the IDIQ contracts, Gallo estimated that roughly two-thirds would be awarded under full and open competitions available to all companies, while one-third would go to small businesses.

Gallo and DISA program manager Daniel Gager spoke to MIT as the pace of industry consultations—including a teleconference the day before with interested vendors—and procedural groundwork continued unabated. Officials expect to begin making Schedule 70 awards well before the end of the current calendar year, and to issue the final request for proposals for the IDIQ contracts this summer.

COMMODITY ISSUE

The officials took care to address a topic frequently raised by industry representatives, including at an Industry Day this spring. Especially since the bulk of purchasing will be through a federal supply schedule, companies are concerned that SATCOM services will be relegated to the status of a commodity, in which relatively undifferentiated products are sold in bulk largely on the basis of price.

“There may be some misconceptions about federal supply schedules being for commodities only,” Gallo responded. “Certainly there are many commodity offers on the supply schedule, and they are an efficient contract vehicle for that. But supply schedules have evolved quite a bit. Now, there are more services than supplies in terms of volume. So these new SINs that we’ve created for COMSATCOM are not being treated as simple commodities.

“We added a number of additional capabilities, terms and conditions,” he continued. “There is the government’s need for information assurance, so we added terms on that. Especially for the military needs, we added things like network monitoring capabilities, interoperability, electromagnetic interference and identification. We added a lot of these to ensure that the vendors who get awards are qualified to provide services to the government, and especially for military needs.

“The evaluation is also not what you would do for a simple commodity. It’s much more advanced than that. In particular, we have an acquisition group of contracting officers that is devoted to these new SINs, evaluating them and supporting our efforts. We also have a joint program office, and we work very closely with the contracting office on reviewing the offers submitted, to ensure that we’re getting qualified vendors,” Gallo said.

“There are a lot of misconceptions out there in industry that DoD is only looking for the lowest price commodity when it comes to bandwidth,” Gager added. “That is definitely not the case. Under Schedule 70, COMSATCOM will be treated as a service offering, not a commodity, but we still need to be good stewards of the government’s money. Schedule 70 allows us the flexibility to bring on vendors who can meet our operational needs, as well as compete among vendors. So we’re not just going out looking for the lowest price bandwidth. We’re looking for the best value to the government, which provides the communications to warfighters that they need, as well as allowing us to be good stewards of public funds. We’re not going to buy the lowest price commodity and hope it works. We’re going to do indepth source selection within Schedule 70 to make sure warfighters get the best products available,” Gager said.

ORDER PROCESSING

Addressing potential concerns of their largest group of customers, the officials also emphasized that the new joint program would work largely the same as today for military users, and would not lead to processing delays or unnecessary bureaucratic requirements.

“There’s always a perception that when you add in another government agency, there’s another level of bureaucracy that will take longer to make awards,” Gager said. “That’s not the case. The timeframes will remain the same or be reduced, from the time requirements are received to when that gets to the warfighter for operational use.

“Because this is a partnership with GSA, DISA has task order authority within the FCSA acquisition and the contract vehicles that we are using. So we will be using this contract as if it were our own, for all intents and purposes, through the Defense Information Technology Contracting Organization (DITCO). When we receive the customer requirements, they are going to follow the same process we use under the current contract vehicle, the Defense Information Systems Network Satellite Transmission Services- Global (DSTS-G) contract. We will be able to get a best value contract and award task orders on our own, and have our autonomous operation within DISA,” Gager said.

“DISA will have delegated procurement authority, so the fact that these are GSA contracts will not add any additional processing time to these task orders. It will be largely as today, with DISA and DITCO processing the task orders,” said Gallo, adding, “We’ll be available to help other agencies if they need assistance.”

Another important point about FCSA concerns the potential for small business participation, the officials said. There will be two IDIQ contracts—Custom SATCOM Solutions (CS2) and CS2 Small Business.

“This is a great opportunity for small business on both DoD and other government sides,” said Gager, noting that CS2 Small Business will have a section for professional services, which will not be covered under CS2.

“That opens up a broad area for small business to do well,” said Gager. “It’s a great opportunity for small businesses trying to get on their feet and get into government service.” ♦

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