This week’s blog highlights three notable, positive developments in the Federal market. First, with the protest period passing, GSA’s ASTRO procurement moves forward, with the GSA team on point to support Department of Defense customers through this ground-breaking, best value procurement vehicle. Second, Schedules Consolidation continues apace, with GSA and its industry partners well into the Phase III consolidation of applicable existing schedule contracts. Finally, GSA and the Department of Veterans Affairs (the VA) are working to update the GSA-VA Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) delegating program authority to the VA for the VA Federal Supply Schedules (FSS). Here are the highlights.
GSA Successfully Awards ASTRO
ASTRO is a multiple award indefinite-delivery, indefinite-quantity (IDIQ) contract vehicle that includes research, development, maintenance, support, and operations services related to manned, unmanned, and optionally manned platforms and robotics. The primary customer for this contract vehicle is the Department of Defense (DoD). ASTRO includes 10 pools, each representing a different scope area in support of these platforms. The pools include data operations, mission operations, aviation, ground, space, maritime, development/systems integration, research, support, and training. Awards were made on a pool-by-pool basis with up to 45 awards per pool for a potential of 450 total awards.
The ASTRO evaluation methodology is ground-breaking. Award was based on the Highest Technically Rated Qualifying Offerors without consideration of price or cost. Proposals were point-scored based on relevant experience and technical capabilities. ASTRO is the first GSA contract vehicle to successfully utilize the Section 876 authority that authorizes evaluation and award at the contract level without consideration of price or cost. Price and cost evaluation are required at the task order level, when requirements are definitized and thus meaningful for the purposes of evaluation.
The ASTRO solicitation was released on August 24, 2020. Offers were due on October 30, 2020. Approximately 600 offers were received. The list of 377 awards was published on July 28, 2021, with 48 awards to small businesses. Significantly, as of the date of this blog, the period to file a protest has expired, and thus, ASTRO will begin supporting customer agency requirements this Fall.
ASTRO is a game changer for GSA’s Assisted Acquisition Service (AAS). It provides a cutting-edge platform with best-in-class capabilities to support the DoD mission. Just as importantly, it demonstrates GSA’s ability to conduct, high dollar value, complex, best value procurements for government-wide requirements.
Schedule Consolidation Continues in Phase III
Phase III of schedule consolidation focuses on working with existing schedule contractors holding multiple contracts to consolidate those contracts into a single schedule contract. GSA continues to make progress. A majority of the impacted contracts now have been assigned to the single contracting officer that will handle the consolidation. GSA is working with schedule contractors to ensure existing task orders and Blanket Purchase Agreements (BPAs) remain in place and effective for use by customers. As progress continues, schedules consolidation will position the program to support solutions buying across capabilities effectively. It will enhance competition, increase transparency, and simplify the ordering process over time.
Importantly, schedules consolidation sets the stage for addressing GSA’s industry- and customer-facing e-systems, including GSA Advantage. Schedules consolidation also creates an opportunity for the Federal Acquisition Service to review, and as appropriate, reorganize its acquisition workforce to enhance support under the consolidated schedule model. The effort also provides GSA with an opportunity to advance its efforts to streamline the application process, including the adoption of Transactional Data Reporting. Moreover, the final implementation of schedule consolidation is an opportune moment to consider opening the entire program to state and local governments (aka cooperation purchasing).
The GSA-VA Partnership
In January 2020, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) issued GAO-20-132, “VA Acquisition Management – Steps Need to Ensure Healthcare Federal Supply Schedules Remain Useful.” GAO examined the VA’s management and use of the Federal Supply Schedule (FSS) program, including the management challenges it faces, the timeliness of contract awards, and the extent of overlap with the VA’s Medical Surgical Prime Vendor (MSPV) program.
GAO made 11 recommendations in the report. Nine were directed to the VA, and two were directed to GSA. The recommendations to GSA focused on improving the working relationship and coordination between GSA and the VA. Specifically, GAO recommended that GSA and VA work to develop a Memorandum of Understanding, “outlining the roles and responsibilities of GSA and the VA’s National Acquisition Center….[,] including the processes through which the two organizations will coordinate and share useful tools and practices.” GAO also recommended that GSA take steps to “document its delegation of authority for the healthcare-related Federal Supply Schedules to the VA.”
Coalition members support efforts to improve the alignment of acquisition and program policies, procedures, and systems between the GSA and VA FSS programs. Sharing resources, especially GSA’s e-systems, will improve VA operations, promoting the improved efficiency and effectiveness of the healthcare FSS program. It is good news to hear that GSA and VA are working together to establish the interagency agreement addressing increased coordination and resource sharing. It simply will be a win for all parties: the VA, GSA, VA’s industry partners, and most importantly, veterans.
In sum, these developments show that if agencies know the process, they can make it sing for them, that is, yield efficient and effective results in a timely manner. As demonstrated above, the agencies did so, and the result is good for them and the people they serve.