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News: Content of CIO-SP2i spotlight article that appeared in Federal Times online issue dated Feb.7, 2005

Federal Times
Feb. 7, 2005

CIO-SP2i / National Institutes of Health

Versatile contract scores points with customers, vendors

Greg Holliday and Victor Powers
Photo: Greg Holliday, left, senior contracting officer, and Victor Powers, program director, work together on the National Institutes of Health's CIO-SP2i contract.
Photo by Lisa Nipp

By Dan Davidson

The National Institutes of Health's government wide acquisition contract for information technology services - by numerous accounts one of the easiest and most rewarding of its type - will soon get even better, say those who administer it.

The contract - Chief Information Officer-Solutions and Partners 2 Innovations (CIO-SP2i) - is one under which agencies can place orders with 45 prime vendors for nine categories of IT services including systems integration, infrastructure protection and software development.

Customers soon will see improvements in the processing of their electronic orders for services, said Greg Holliday, senior contracting officer for the program at NIH's Information Technology Acquisition Assessment Center (NITAAC).

"By October of this year we will see advancements in the electronic processing of task orders that will improve both the ease and timeliness of orders," Holliday said. "We will also have a more integrated process for ordering task orders online that will bring together all the GWACs we offer, thus making the process simpler and faster and increasing the turnaround time."

CIO-SP2i, offered since December 2000, has racked up in excess of $421 million in sales on about 350 separate task orders, excluding option years. With option years included, the 45 prime contractors on the contract have generated in excess of $4.3 billion in business, according to NITAAC. In all, the 10-year contract has an authorized ceiling of $19.5 billion in business.

Growth last year was up 18 percent and those in charge of overseeing the program - and selling it to agencies - expect handsome growth to continue.

"It is one of the most popular GWACs in government, or at least so we have been told by our customers," said Victor Powers, CIO-SP2i program director.

A survey conducted by LMI of McLean, VA., in November found that all respondents familiar with the CIO-SP2i contract rated it high quality, Powers said. "We're very proud of that."

Contractors who work through the contract and agencies that have used it cite several reasons for its popularity.

"The CIO-SP2i offers the full range of IT services and IT-related services," said Rusty Wall, the CIO-SP2i program manager at Computer Sciences Corp. in Falls Church, VA., one of the 45 prime contractors. "It is very fast and has a streamlined ordering process, which can be accessed on the NITAAC Web site. "Also, unlike most contract vehicles, which may permit only one or two contract types, this one allows the use of all contract types - including time and materials, firm fixed price, cost plus fixed price, cost plus award fee and cost sharing. So it is very flexible and they can usually do a procurement the way the customer wants it," Wall said.

The contract is also flexible in that NITAAC allows the customer to either administer the program on its own or enlist NITAAC to do it all, including such work as administering task orders, reviewing invoices and management procurement, Wall said. And the price, he said, "is cheap."

NITAAC charges a 1 percent contract fee, with a downward sliding scale for small businesses, and 1.5 percent to oversee and administer the contract.

"In short, the contract is cheap, easy, quick, offers lots of competition with good companies, has no shortcomings and is run with hard-nosed government contracting officers who know their business," Wall said. Computer Sciences Corp. has generated more than $600 million in business through the contract since 2000, Wall said.

The nine major IT areas served by the contract cover just about every conceivable IT need an agency may have, said Francine Cox, program manager of the Homeland Security Department's Immigration and Customs Enforcement and a CIO-SP2i customer.

"We had nine different task requirements and though each one was done separately, they were all under one umbrella GWAC. It was excellent," Cox said.

Homeland Security selected CIO-SP2i after taking a close look at GWACs offered by other agencies, including the General Services Administration, the Justice Department and the IRS, said contracting officer Robert Richards.

"For us this was a major undertaking, a multimillion-dollar venture," Richards said. "We concluded the NITAAC contract would be best for us, and it proved to be a good vehicle because of the ease of use. It went very smoothly, and it was much quicker than going out and doing a full and open [request for proposals]. The contract has no obvious defects."

Agencies can use their IT funds to finance use of CIO-SP2i, Powers said.

Perhaps at least as important as the structure of the contract is the NITAAC staff that supports it, said Jeffrey Westerhoff, senior vice president and director of governmentwide acquisition contracts for Systems Research and Applications Corp. in Fairfax, VA., one of the primes.

"This is one of the best run governmentwide contracts around," said Westerhoff, whose company has been awarded 81 task orders on the CIO-SP2i. "What really makes it are the people at NITAAC, who are extremely customer-oriented. As more and more people become aware of this contract vehicle, more and more people are going to use it."

Of the nine major categories of services offered on the contract, the most popular have been IT operations and maintenance, integration services and critical infrastructure protection and information assurance, NITAAC's Powers said. Demand for the contract will likely continue to increase because of ever-increasing national security needs and a demand for small business contract certification and because agencies are still replacing or updating legacy systems.

Demand may also go up because NITAAC tries hard, Power said. "We go out and meet with our customers, we go to the agencies," Powers said. "We have an outreach and education group that goes to trade shows and conferences to introduce our products. And in the future we will push performance-based service contracting hard. We have set up a staff that will work with customers to develop a PBSC plan. That will increase the attractiveness of this contract."

The 45 prime contractors have signed on for the 10-year life of the contract and no other primes will be taken on. Subcontractors, who will be teamed with primes, will be added throughout, however.To ensure a continued high level of performance, customers complete a performance summary at the conclusion of a task order. One person at NITAAC has been assigned nearly full time to monitor the results. So far the contract has received no black marks, Holliday said.

"There are a lot of pieces in this GWAC that are common across other GWACs," said Patrick Peck, Booz Allen Hamilton vice president in McLean, VA. "But this one has many vendors, so it behaves like a GSA [federal supply] schedule. It is also different in that it runs just as efficiently as those other vehicles, and it is different because it has a client evaluation form, which is put on the NITAAC Web site. They make a good effort to determine what is and what's not working."

Said Debbie Rieger, president of A-TEK Inc. in Leesburg, VA., another prime contractor, "We love it. It's the only contract we would ever need to work in the IT area."


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