When Maggie and I launched The American Small Business Coalition in 2004, a big driver for us was "filling the void" that existed in knowledge and resources for small federal contractors. During our nearly ten year journey we've shared in successes with government contractors and government agencies but also realize there are some of the same and newer challenges facing small companies.
One area that continues to befuddle many government contractors (not just small ones) is how the government spends money. We all know they make their payments via electronic funds transfer (EFT) or the GSA SmartPay Purchase Card (another variation of EFT), but what I'm talking about is the instruments of award used by civilian, defense and intelligence agencies, and how knowing which they will use directly impacts how one follows the money and the opportunity, and ultimately if your capture efforts prove successful.
For example, if your company is an 8(a) IT Services Provider and you did not make the cut as a prime or teaming partner on the GSA 8(a) STARS II govermentwide acquisition contract (GWAC), you might feel like you're on the outside looking in when it comes to the bulk of opportunities for companies like yours. But if you were to ask many of the nearly six-hundred companies awarded that contract vehicle, you might find them to be envious of your position.
While GSA's GWAC Dashboard reports $428M in STARS II task orders awarded this fiscal year, a quick search of FPDS-NG, based on the four NAICS Codes that represent the STARS II functional areas, you will find that 57 federal agencies, boards and commissions have obligated $798M YTD to 8(a) companies, either competitively or via sole source. Just how much time and money went into winning GSA STARS II and how many of the awardees feel it was worth the trip? Keep in mind that number only represents awards to 8(a) companies and not other small businesses or "other than small" businesses.
Taking it a step further, the combined total spending of all the GSA GWACs (Alliant, Alliant SB, STARS, STARS II and VETS) for FY13 YTD is a respectable $3.1B. Tracking definitive contract and purchase order awards for FY13 (buys not against established contract vehicles), based solely on the NAICS Codes 541511, 541512, 541513 and 541519 as filters, shows that agencies awarded just over $3.9B to buys not using any established contract vehicles.
Going further still on this next to last day of FY13, simple research shows 65 federal agencies have obligated more dollars to open market standalone contracts rather than to established contract vehicles such as GSA Schedules, GWACs, BPAs, IDIQ's, etc. How much more? Governmentwide spending is currently at $348 billion based on the Federal Procurement Data System Next Generation. Of that, $181 billion was awarded to definitive contracts and purchase orders creating a difference of $14 billion dollars in favor of these "no contract vehicle needed" buys and referenced more than 1500 NAICS Codes in the process, in case you were wondering.
Here's the point. It's paramount to establish a dialogue with the end-user or program element of a customer organization as the information and insights to be gained in those exchanges is invaluable. Just as market research can and will help you determine who to approach and why, it can also help you understand how an organization makes awards against a certain program or for a certain good, service or solution based on a number of factors.
Understanding this is why we've been having discussions with contracting officers and acquisition professionals at different agencies to ensure we can effectively convey how they choose the instruments that best support the mission of their agency based on risk, type of need and much more (a huge thanks to each and every one of the Contracting Officers, Contracting Specialists and Acquisition Professionals who took the time to provide us their very comprehensive responses!).
As we prepare for FY14, it's important to stay cognizant of the changes and consistencies we'll face as we work to grow our companies by achieving the best Position To Win™. This is why our industry education portfolio includes practicable streams of knowledge such as the Open Market Report™, Enough Small Talk! Is Your Company Getting PO'd by Uncle Sam?™, No Contract Vehicles Needed, Ethical Stalking for Government Contractors™ and other useful means to gain context to the information that can help you succeed.
After all, Information is King.
Peace.The Chief Visionary
"The person who says it cannot be done should not interrupt the person doing it."