GSA’s eBuy Open pilot reminds us why FBO.gov remains a problem

Inquiring minds wanted to know: What is the status of the General Services Administration’s new eBuy Open GSA First Pilot? So like a good journalist, I inquired.

Lo and behold, GSA posted an update to the transparency effort listing 16 requests for quotes that the agency has awarded since October and then posted on FedBizOpps.gov.

As you may remember, for the better part of a decade, I have been asking — sometimes nicely, other times less so — for GSA to make requests for proposals, requests for information and contract awards under the schedules program visible for non-schedule holders.

GSA Administrator Emily Murphy announced in May that a limited pilot would start in fiscal 2019. But since then, GSA hasn’t talked much about the eBuy pilot. So the listing of the RFQs earlier this month is a positive sign that the pilot is moving forward toward an eventual realization that making the schedules fully transparent is in the best interest for all of us.

The projects in the pilot include awards for safety helmets, multi-functional device copiers and silicon carbide disks. All of the RFQs are considered low-dollar efforts, just under $3,000 to $2.2 million.

Here’s the rub: Under further review, these RFQs are not easily found on FedBizOpps.gov — at least as far as my search skills could take me on the worst website in government.

Multiple searches under the RFQ number, the award number, even using the search term “eBuy Open” and “eBuy Open GSA First Pilot” as well as the vendor’s name came up either empty, or with so many results that it’s not worth the time or energy to track down the listing.

I finally found the RFQs by searching on Google for the RFQ number, which took me to a third party website, which had the link to the FedBizOpps.gov listing.

But using the same RFQ number provided by GSA and the third-party site, and putting it into FedBizOpps.gov, nothing comes up. Once again, demonstrating why FedBizOpps.gov is the WORST WEBSITE IN GOVERNMENT.

Remember the Bush administration’s mantra, “three clicks to service?” Well this effort mocks that simple concept.

So there is good and bad news in the first almost four months of the pilot. GSA is living up to its word in making RFQs on eBuy available after they have been awarded. But, making those solicitations easier to find would be a major step in fulfilling the goals of the pilot. Maybe that will not come until FedBizOpps.gov — the worst website in government — is finally modernized. GSA issued an RFQ under the Alliant Small Business vehicles in 2016, and eventually awarded the $11 million contract to Octo Consulting so the time should be near.

NASA doesn’t pick incumbent contractor

Shifting contracting news gears, NASA’s $2.9 billion award to Leidos to take over its end-user services and a support contract from HP Enterprise Services may seem surprising on the surface. A contractor swooping-in to steal a major multi-billion contract from the incumbent just doesn’t happen often in federal procurement. But if you’ve followed the NASA and HPES — now known as DXC Technology — ordeal, the chips were definitely stacked in favor of Leidos.

NASA awarded HPES a 10-year $2.5 billion agency consolidated end-user services (ACES) contract, and it has been plagued by service and cybersecurity problems ever since.

Starting in 2016, my reporting uncovered severe cybersecurity vulnerabilities in NASA’s network tied directly to the ACES program. Later that year, NASA CIO Renee Wynn went even further to force HPES to respond to the problems by refusing to sign a full authority to operate on ACES because of continue cyber shortcomings. Eventually, then-NASA Administrator Charles Bolden met with HPES CEO Meg Whitman to discuss the ongoing problems with ACES.

So long-story short, NASA was unhappy with the ACES contract and bringing in another vendor may have been the space agency’s only move.

Now, Leidos will run the new program, the NASA End-user Services and Technologies (NEST), which is a firm-fixed-price, indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity contract that has a maximum value of $2.9 billion over 10 years.

NASA says under NEST Leidos will manage most of the agency’s personal computing hardware, agency standard software, mobile IT services, peripherals and accessories, associated end-user services and supporting infrastructure.

Of course, NASA still may face a bid protest over the award. And while HPES and NASA have improved their relationship over the last year or so to fix some of the problems with ACES, Leidos still may face a significant clean-up project.

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