Perhaps no other GWAC in recent memory has been as widely publicized and anticipated as the GSA’s latest GWAC, Polaris.  This newest contract vehicle will replace Alliant 2 and VETS. These predecessor vehicles were hailed as broad-scale vehicles that afford the small business community tremendous business opportunities within the Federal marketplace only three years ago. Shortly after the initial slew of awards (81 awards for Alliant 2), the vehicles became bogged down in a never-ending conga line of protests and appeals.  It was the begging of the end that left 81 awardees with nothing and much of the small business marketplace bogged down in procurement chaos.

You can rest assured that the newer, hardened Polaris is destined to be constructed with protests in mind. Potential offerors should maintain full awareness of the history associated with the vehicle.  It would be unwise and unreasonable to expect the GSA to wipe its recent experience from its procurement memory banks. Thus, offerors can expect binary pass/fail requirements, hardened self-scoring, and a more rigid set of response requirements that may present a more challenging mountain for many small businesses to climb. 

Consider that – within the GSA’s self-scoring drafts and attachments and Sections L and M of the draft RFP – evaluation factors include clearances, certifications (CMMC), cost accounting platforms, and escalating dollar-values for past performance. All the while, rigid definitions, and restrictions on teaming and joint ventures may further limit the volume of potential bidders submitting a proposal when the final release of the Polaris RFP takes place late Fall 2021.

An honest assessment and firm bid/no-bid review are in order; the GSA has established a very restrictive and limiting framework that will have firms scrambling for subcontractor roles on larger teams.  

RWCO advises that firms take a proactive posture in CMMC Certification, ISO designations, and system-wide operational processes in accounting, finance, quality control, and program management that speak to the direct, specific requirements of the draft RFP.  Once the final RFP is released, the offeror will not have enough time to address the requirements effectively. Thus, there is a window of only a few months in which small businesses – specifically HubZone and Woman-owned small businesses – can alter their destiny as it pertains to Polaris.

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