What is GSA Polaris

GSA Polaris next-generation Governmentwide Acquisition Contract (GWAC) is designed to focus on the next generation of IT services based solutions that include 5G, blockchain, robotics processing and cloud.  Polaris will not only guide small businesses through the federal market, it will also help GSA customer agencies through the acquisition of IT service-based solutions, and give GSA a chance to improve its offerings.  Potential bidders should note that Polaris follows GSA’s cancellation of its $15 billion Alliant 2 SB contract in early July 2020, after the effort had endured a year of protests at the Government Accountability Office (GAO) and in federal court.

GSA plans to implement several strategies to expand the industrial base and pool of small contractors serving federal agencies, such as using Section 876 of the National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal year 2019 through the Enhancing Competition at the Order Level program of the Federal Acquisition Service (FAS), on-ramping and increasing opportunities for woman-owned and HubZone small businesses.

The solicitation and timing for Polaris are in line with what GSA sources described for the contract’s progression during a town hall-style webcast with industry leaders in August 2020: task order-level pricing competition; on-ramping for new technologies and vendors; increased focus on Historically Underutilized Business Zone (HubZone) and woman-owned small businesses; and a streamlined approach to access to new and emerging technologies.

RWCO anticipates that the vendor evaluation strategy will mirror those used in Veterans Technology Services 2 (VETS 2) and Alliant 2. 

How we got here:

GSA awarded spots on Alliant 2 SB to 81 companies in February 2018.  Alliant 2 Small Business was intended to be a government-wide contract that satisfied key criteria defined by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and was aligned with the Federal Enterprise Architecture and Department of Defense Enterprise Architecture. The contract was intended to service as a multiple-award, indefinite delivery, indefinite quantity (IDIQ) contract that agencies can use to buy total IT solutions.   

Shortly after the initial awards to the 81 firms, the vehicle was hit by a tsunami of protests that carried on for more than a year.  In March 2019 GSA cancelled all the awards so it could rework the procurement in light of multiple court rulings against the vehicle.  By August of 2019, GSA was preparing for a relaunch of Alliant 2 SB. GSA also suggested it was going to expand the number of winners to 120. 

In July 2020, GSA sent a noticed that cancelled the $15 billion Alliant 2 SB vehicle and announced plans for a new set of small business contracts in an announcement in which “Polaris” was introduced to the marketplace. 

Like Alliant SB, VETS 2 was a GWAC Multiple Award, IDIQ contract designed to provide customized IT services and IT services-based solutions.  

What You Need to Know:

Using Alliant SB and VETS 2 as guiding documents, the GSA has advised that the response criteria and the evaluation criteria will be similar to both prior vehicles. RWCO can provide the historical response elements and evaluation criteria associated with both VETS 2 and Alliant 2 SB to interested organizations so that they may determine if the vehicle is a fit for their organization. 

RWCO can provided supplemental background to those interested in learning more about Polaris so that they have a clear understanding of the requirements, the timing, and the subsequent evaluation process for the Polaris program.  RWCO had a 100% Client Success Rate (CSR) for clients bidding either Alliant 2 (2016) or VETS 2 (2016).

Basic Requirements for Polaris are:

Pricing Strategy: GSA is considering new strategies to increase our pool of qualified small businesses that serve federal agencies. One of the most ambitious approaches involves the potential employment of Section 876 of the Fiscal Year 2019 National Defense Authorization Act in the next-generation vehicle, through FAS’s “Enhancing Competition at the Order Level” initiative under the Federal Marketplace Strategy. Section 876 gives GSA authority to award contracts to qualifying offerors without considering prices for services acquired on an hourly rate basis. 

As this would shift the focus to pricing competition at the task order level – it is important that we continue our efforts to increase competition in the marketplace by creating opportunities for qualified small businesses

On-ramps: By offering open season on-ramps, the industrial base could be expanded as technology changes, the market evolves, and to improve competition at the task order level. This would be a great benefit to federal agencies. On-ramping could allow agencies continuous access to top-performing industry partners that offer the latest advancements in technology. On-ramping will also allow vendors the opportunity for consideration to be on the GWAC following the initial award period. 

Additionally, small businesses with fresh ideas could have the opportunity to participate in the federal IT services marketplace. This approach could also improve overall federal government efficiency and might potentially help close the age-old government/private sector technology gap

Opportunity Expansion:  GSA’s small business GWACs have supported agencies in meeting their small business goals for more than two decades. We want to build on this success by looking at small businesses without socio-economic status as well as options to increase opportunities for HUBZone and woman-owned small businesses. GSA is also eager to engage with the industry about the possibilities of providing lifecycle opportunities on GSA contract vehicles for small businesses as they grow and mature

Embracing Technology to Maximize Efficiency: Polaris aims to provide customers with streamlined access to emerging technology providers including those offering artificial intelligence, automated technologies (like robotic process automation), blockchain, 5G implementation (including edge computing), cybersecurity, and cloud

For more information, to include the Request for Information (RFI) document released by GSA in October 2020, please visit the GSA’s Polaris RFI.

Interested organizations should contact RWCO’s Director of Client Services, Ravi Khalsa, for access to the supplemental information: Rkhalsa@RichardWagnerCo.com.

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