GWAC Summit: Meeting of the Minds

GWACs explained by GSA\'s Michael O\'Neill, NIH\'s Mary B. Armstead, and NASA\'s Joanne Woytek

By Suzanne Kubota
Senior Internet Editor

Governmentwide Acquisition Contracts, GWACs, may seem like the stuff of mystery, but they’re how an astounding amount of federal IT work gets done.

According to the General Services Administration, “are multiple-award, indefinite delivery, indefinite quantity (MA/IDIQ) contracts that help agencies meet their technology requirements through a customizable, solutions-based approach.”

To get the inside view of GWACs and the latest changes, trends and myths, Federal News Radio’s monthly discussion gathered some of the biggest acquisitions managers in government for a “Meeting of the Minds”.

We were joined by:

  • Michael O’Neill, GSA, Director, governmentwide acquisition contract program
  • Mary B. Armstead, NIH, Program Director, Office of Acquisition Management and Policy
  • Joanne Woytek, NASA, SEWP Program Manager

During the conversation, all three we asked about the Office of Management and Budget‘s mythbusting educational campaign, and found all three shared a rather surprising take on a few of the so-called “myths.”

Here are excerpts from part four of the discussion about the mythbusting campaign and working more closely with industry.

Armstead: “When we look at that, essentially we’re talking about a list of 10 things. Ten misconceptions that the contracting folks, perhaps program officials, have been operating with. I’m proud to say that as it relates to the NIH GWAC program, and I can say NIH very generally, that we’re not hampered by such misconceptions. And as a wonderful example, on the CIO-SP3 the use of requests for information, RFIs, the use of draft solicitations if you will, were used years before the advent of a formal solicitation on CIO-SP3. It worked beautifully because, actually, reaching out to industry in that manner through FedBizOpps allowed us to get the kind of input to inform the process. They provided content around the description of work, terms and conditions, some of the special features that are offered on CIO-SP3, so very meaningful process.

“Also if we go and look up more broadly at the NIH and we concentrate on, I think it’s myth number seven that talks about the fact that industry days may not be a beneficial use of vendor time or fed time. We disagree. NIH last year, in the early summer months, had a highly successful industry day. Vendors, both large and small, were able to join us. We’re repeating that theme in May, early May of this year. I think the focus however is going to be on the socio-economic entities. So I think it’s very useful. Perhaps the myth emerges from the fact that individuals may be looking at events such as industry days as a one shot fix. They’re not. It’s an opportunity to first and foremost, which I think is critically important, find out something about an organization. You know, the lay of the landscape. Secondly, to make those contacts and begin the relationship, but that’s only the beginning.”

O’Neill: “We know from our positive experiences with the Better Buy project that communication in the early stages of the acquisition lifecycle improves solicitation requirements. When I came to GSA, one of the first things that was very evident was the fact that we actually embraced the industry partners and treated them as partners. They have a unique insight on how to get work done that we in the government often miss if we hold them at arm’s length and never really embrace that dialogue that we’re trying to break down the myths with.”

Woytek: “We actually had been doing the presolicitation draft RFP back in SEWP 1 on the internet, which in 1990 was not something anybody believed you could do. We actually had to fight legal to put anything on the internet. So it’s just business as usual there and we just continue to work strongly with industry in many ways.”

For more from the powerhouses of acquisitions, Michael O’Neill, Mary B. Armstead, and Joanne Woytek on GWAC changes, trends, and mythbusting listen to the entire discussion posted in the audio players at the top of the page, and for other panel discussions from Federal News Radio, click here.

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