The Federal Acquisition Service at the General Services Administration brought in record revenue last year for IT products and services.
Customer agencies flocked to the schedules program, the assisted acquisition services and the governmentwide acquisition contracts (GWAC) to meet both immediate needs related to the pandemic and more typical requirements.
Laura Stanton, the assistant commissioner for the Office of Information Technology Category in FAS, said while numbers are not final yet, the IT category brought in more than $30 billion in revenue last year, up from $26.5 billion in fiscal 2019.
“That really represents the trust that the federal agencies have put in us, the customer service, the support in reducing the acquisition lead time, the innovation, the data transparency, all of the things that the federal agencies have put their trust into ITC in order to make that happen,” Stanton said during a recent panel sponsored by ACT-IAC, which was featured on Ask the CIO. “Out of that, we also provided more than $2 billion in savings and cost avoidance to the customers out of ITC alone. Those are getting into some pretty big numbers. Also, we’re seeing these numbers increasing on the business volume, just to give you an idea of the scope.”
She added that the cost savings and/or avoidance numbers are reviewed on a program-by-program basis.
“We are looking at it really not using the same approach across the board, but really looking at what’s appropriate for the program. What’s the methodology that we use? How do we look at that?” Stanton said. “We do it because we know that agencies are coming to GSA to leverage category management principles and the buying power of the government. Being able to look at the power that that brings is an important aspect of understanding sort of the contribution that we’re making to the American public, the contribution we’re making to the agencies helps us understand where we’re doing well, and where we potentially have a chance to improve.”
There may be no better example of that spending and savings/cost avoidance than the Enterprise Infrastructure Solutions (EIS) contract.
Allen Hill, the acting deputy assistant commissioner for category management also in FAS, said agencies have awarded about $14 billion in task orders through EIS by the end of calendar year 2020.
“We have some staggering numbers and cost savings avoidance that far exceed our initial estimate. An example last reported from DoD, it’s average cost avoidance savings is around 45%. That’s a lot,” he said. “In addition, you’ve heard the Department of Health and Human Services’ estimate that they’re going to save about $700 million over the life of the task order. EIS doing exactly what it was intended to do, saving taxpayer dollars and facilitating IT modernization across the federal government.”
EIS deadline approaching
With agencies facing a March 31 deadline to move at least 50% of their network inventory to an EIS contract, Hill said he expects the numbers to only increase.
Additionally with Congress adding EIS transition to the Federal IT Acquisition Reform Act (FITARA) scorecard, it will continue to be in the spotlight for the next two years.
“It does not change our process. They’re actually right now looking at the same data that we look at in terms of disconnects from the legacy contracts. And so that’s how they’re measuring it,” Hill said referring to the scorecard grades.
Of course, EIS is just one of several multiple award contracts GSA is running.
Stanton said GSA also continued to promote emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence and robotics process automation (RPA), and will offer new acquisition vehicles in 2021 under the small business GWAC called Polaris and ASTRO.
“We also launched the IT acquisition university, which is about the digitization of the workforce, and how that’s beginning to change how we get out new information on how to buy and about technology,” she said. “We are identifying use cases and making sure that the solutions we’re putting together can meet the agency’s use cases. What we are looking at is what are the use cases that we’re seeing on TIC 3.0, or what are the use cases that we’re seeing in other areas of technology. Then, we are making sure that EIS can meet those use cases, then it simplifies life for industry. It simplifies how the agencies can acquire those technologies. This is something that we’re looking at for AI and how do we use that more broadly across the entire portfolio to understand agency’s technology needs and make sure that we’re meeting them.”
TIC 3.0 uses cases in the works
For EIS, this means adding new capabilities like software-defined wide area network (SD-WAN) and Trusted Internet Connections (TIC) 3.0 use cases. Hill said GSA will add TIC 3.0 requirements and technologies at the master contract level.
“It allow agencies to acquire solutions that are more conducive to how federal agencies work today as the dispersed workforce. As you know, at the start of the pandemic agencies were in a scramble mode, trying to address their infrastructure needs. They bought, for example, virtual private network (VPN) licenses and expanded their bandwidth,” he said. “With the TIC 3.0 guidance and using EIS, agency will be able to adopt a more scalable, elastic, TIC 3.0 compliant solutions.”
Hill said the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency and GSA are working on other TIC 3.0 use cases, including for a zero trust architecture.
“The surge in government telework is dictating a fresh look at how network security is architected. For vendors, they can help agency understand their specific capabilities and compliance by creating overlays for each of the use cases and how their solutions meet those three old guidelines,” he said.
Hill said he expects 2021 and beyond to continue to move agencies toward the “as-a-service” model and buying services in a more holistic way versus the traditional way they purchased IT more piecemeal.