One of the few guarantees in the fourth quarter of a football game is the game clock. Teams have 15 minutes to decide a winner. But sometimes it ends in a standoff and the game moves into overtime.
It’s a situation analogous to the General Services Administration’s OASIS program. The governmentwide, multi-billion dollar contract is in its final stages of development. The GSA released two draft request-for-proposals. Now the ball is in the industry community’s possession. It’s time to decide whether to punt or to go for it.
GSA is confident the $10 billion OASIS contract will get off the ground sooner than later. In an interview on In Depth with Francis Rose, Jim Ghiloni, director of the OASIS program office, says the program is expected to launch no later than early 2014. “Our goal is to get this thing out on the street in late summer. Because of our approach we can evaluate pretty swiftly. Probably spend a couple of months to get through evaluations. And then announce awards sometime in the fall,” said Ghiloni. He said in a worst-case scenario the awards are protested afterward, but the dispute settlement process only lasts about 100 days. Once that’s finished, task orders go out in early 2014.
OASIS is a contract vehicle for agencies to acquire professional services. Any agency can turn to OASIS for engineering, IT and management consultant services. With this program, GSA has already done the leg work of basic contract shopping and approvals — agencies just choose the service that fits their need. The goal is making the professional services market more accessible by cutting out the red tape agencies have to wade through for regular contract awards and preventing program duplication.
Coordinating the industry offense
Before any of that happens, private industry groups need to weigh in on the two draft RFPs — one for all companies and one for small businesses only. GSA is seeking comments and concerns about OASIS to make sure its requirements and expectations make sense — a process to which industry groups are already well-accustomed.
“It’s a new territory for us. So we wanted to make sure we’re getting feedback from industry each step of the way,” said Ghiloni.
He said thousands of industry partners are involved in OASIS development. GSA has a site devoted entirely to industry feedback on new developments. Vendors are encouraged to question and comment on every element of the program.
Discussions with the Professional Services Council, TechAmerica, ACT-IAC and the Coalition for Government Procurement bring constructive criticisms, too. But it seems the closer the GSA marches to the goal line, the more its industry partners push against it.
For Trey Hodgkins, the senior vice president for public policy at TechAmerica, the concept is simply unclear. At a recent meeting between GSA and prominent vendors, he said OASIS treats contracts for complicated services no differently than it would for a simpler contract, such as one for office supplies.
For Stan Soloway, president of the Professional Services Council, the entire market OASIS is tailored for could undermine its purpose. He said many professional services aren’t tied to a complex solution. That said, at the same vendor discussion, Soloway applauded GSA for its development process.
“They are asking most of the right questions,” he said. “The real issue is have we done the predicate work around the market, around what we are trying to accomplish, around how to build this, around the workforce?”
It appears that is the general consensus surrounding OASIS: Questions still remain, but GSA is making a valiant effort to find the answers.
The game clock keeps ticking
The GSA will continue to refine OASIS as comments are collected from the draft RFPs. Ghiloni said private industry will produce a white paper to grade the program. This will be the second white paper about the program. The first one focused more on what vendors want the scope and core disciplines of OASIS to be.
The next one is focused on fine tuning the actual contract specifications.
“One good example is certifications,” Ghiloni said. “We’re trying to predict future success when we do a contract like this. There’s a large variety of potential requirements, but nothing necessarily specific at this point in time. Are there industry certifications that demonstrate a corporate confidence or level of quality within a company?”
These are answers GSA hopes to find from its own efforts and the help of its industry partners. An Industry Day for OASIS is scheduled for May 13. After that, one-on-one meetings with vendor representatives will let the private community share more specific desires and concerns.
In football parlance, that’s the two-minute warning. The clock stops when the first official RFPs are released in the summer. If protests start rolling in, get ready for overtime.
Francis Rose is the host of In Depth, which airs weekdays from 4-7 p.m. on 1500 AM in the Washington, DC metro area and online everywhere. Francis has covered all three branches of the federal government as a broadcast journalist since 1998. He joined Federal News Radio in 2006 as the producer and news anchor of the station’s morning drive program, the Federal Drive. He launched In Depth in 2008 as a daily show focused on connecting federal executives to the information they need to do their jobs better.