What contracting vehicles should I consider as a government contractor?
I get this question often, and although my immediate thought is YES, I have to take a step back and say — MAYBE NOT.
Let’s start with why should you consider a multiple delivery contract vehicle in the first place? When you think about it, if you have a pre-negotiated contract in place by which a buyer can access your goods and services directly, it speeds up the procurement process by 80%. This is especially favorable when the buyer has a reoccurring requirement under the same program or mission. It means you are easy and accessible to purchase from. What does this mean for you as a business owner — you have the opportunity to have steady revenue for as long as the period of performance and delivery quantity is met. It’s a win/win, right?
How do you evaluate the best contracting vehicle for you? The most appropriate contracting vehicle for your business really comes down to what you plan to offer to the government buyer. One of the first things you need to do as an offeror is to identify what you want to offer, then research how your buyers purchase that service or product. In other words, work backward by letting your buyer tell you how they purchase services or products like yours. You can use tools such FPDS and USASpending.gov. I recommend you reading a post on how you can use tools like FPDS and USASpending.gov to help you in narrowing down your customer.
History of Indefinite Delivery Contracting Vehicles
Thanks to DOD, the 1980’s ushered in an efficient way of government buyers acquiring commercial goods from contractors — the Indefinite Delivery Indefinite Quantity (IDIQ). Couple that with Federal Acquisition Streamlining Act of 1994 (FASA) and you see the boom of buyers using Multiple Orders, Blanket Purchases, Government Wide Acquisitions, Multiple Awards or Single Awards and well as Enterprise Wide contracts to meet their agency missions. The use of IDIQ’s continues to be a pretty popular method of contracting for buyers and a top reason why you may want to consider getting one.
GSA Schedules vs. Other Government Wide Acquisition Contracts
GSA Schedules Program is a license to hunt. The GSA Schedules Program is a multiple award government-wide acquisition vehicle categorized by service identification, product type, and scope. The contract allows for agency buyers to leverage for the purchase of commercial goods and services. It has a rolling admission period which means anyone interested in becoming a GSA Schedule vendor can submit a GSA Proposal for evaluation at any time throughout the year, unlike other popular acquisition vehicles. Additional perks of GSA Schedules contracting is the vehicle can also be used by state and local governments for IT services and products, as well as disaster recovery, making it, unlike any other federal contracting vehicle. One of the downsides for this contract is the fact that the program has gone through several overhauls making the participation of the program cumbersome and slow. However, with it still generating over $32 Billion, it’s still a top contender.
Now, if the GSA Schedule isn’t your cup of tea, you may want to consider other types of multi-agency delivery contracts (MACs) or indefinite delivery and indefinite quantity (IDIQ) used by multiple agencies. Contracts you may want to consider include: Alliant, 8aSTARS II, HCaTS, SEWP 4, TIPSS 3 where agencies have the ability to place task orders for supplies and services; they too are a “license to hunt”; but unlike the Schedules Program, these types of IDIQ‘s typically have singular unique end-user objectives. These contracts are most popular for telecommunications, administrative, information technology products, and services. A huge benefit of these types of MACs includes a very streamlined award and order processes for predetermined buying agencies.
What does that mean for you as a government contractor? Well, the likelihood of an agency actually purchasing from your contract to meet their specific requirements goes up exponentially. This is very different from the GSA Schedules Program where there is no guarantee of purchase. Of course, if you chose this route you need to understand the difference between a GWAC (Government-Wide Acquisition Contracts) and an EWAC (Enterprise Wide Acquisition Contract) as some contract vehicles are only issued to specific agencies. And although these types of contracts can be used for both IT or non-IT products and services, other agencies cannot order from them.
I think the most glaring issue with GWACs and EWACs are most of these contracting arrangements have definitive proposal periods for other vendors to join. They usually have an “open season” or annual rolling admission for a certain time period, but be ready to track the open period because if you miss it you may have to wait 1-2 years for it to re-opened.
As with all government marketing, serious consideration for obtaining contracting vehicles that make it easier for agencies to purchase from you should be evaluated. I have personally seen companies catapult from small businesses to full and open competitors as a direct result of being a contract vehicle holder. Having said that, I have also seen companies obtain one of these contracting vehicles and not obtain a single task order.
Be sure to not only do the research for the best vehicle but also have a strategic plan in place for how you will market the vehicle once it is awarded. Most companies fail with these vehicles because they didn’t plan how they would leverage their “fishing license.”
Additionally, establish a process to stay at the top of the game. On that topic, I’m sure you’d like to know that on September 20 we will have a webinar where you’ll learn about the tools that my team and I use with our clients to streamline their proposal writing process. You can reserve your spot here: http://bit.ly/ProposalWritingWebinar. Those who participate will get a toolkit with video resources.