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2022 Polaris GWAC Rework Unfair for Small Businesses?

The Polaris small business vehicle will hopefully be the phoenix that rises from the ashes of GSA’s $15 billion Alliant 2 Small Business (SB) contract. Alliant 2 SB was cancelled in 2020 after a full year of protests at the Government Accountability Office (GAO) and through federal court.

The reworked contract vehicle currently has two tracks: one for general small businesses and one specific to women-owned small businesses (WOSB). Previously there were set asides for HUBZone certified businesses so we will likely see those in the future.

The previous proposal due date was May 13th, however GSA announced they would be reviewing feedback from interested vendors that criticized the method of evaluating submissions from joint ventures (JV). Currently GSA Consolidate 24 Multiple Award Schedules FY2020 the mentor-protégé (MP) JV evaluation would rely exclusively on the experience of the mentor in the relationship, putting small firms that are not in a MP JV at a significant disadvantage, and in our opinion, not upholding the spirit of a small business set-aside vehicle.

Some believe this is an over-correction which may have come from the precedence of National Institutes of Health IT Acquisition and Assessment Center’s (NITAAC) experience with CIO-SP4. NITAAC had published numerous amendments and lost the sole protest over its methodology and consequent changes to JV-MP selection policy. It’s wise for GSA to try and get it right out of the gate to avoid another endless spiral of protests, but obviously it’s impossible to completely please all parties so they will likely be walking on glass in the months ahead.

The ordering period for the Alliant SB GWAC stopped in February of 2019 so it’s been over 3 years since agencies have had a “large” small business GWAC for IT services. There are more specialized SB GWACs that agencies can use such as 8(a) STARS II and III, and VETS 2 currently but it’s quite a bit of time to wait for interested parties not on those vehicles. Hopefully it’s released soon with a fair methodology for selecting SB interests.

Polaris will include emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence, machine learning, as-a-service offerings, cloud and edge computing, 5G, blockchain, robotics processing, and cybersecurity. To learn more, sign up for a 5-day trial of EZGovOpps.

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