Industry group warns onerous criteria for GWACs may benefit large contractors

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The Alliance for Digital Innovation (ADI) has urged caution over the introduction of further evaluation schemes for contractors bidding on governmentwide acquisition contracts, or GWACs.

In a report issued Tuesday, the industry group said that while it supports action by the federal government to tackle rising cybersecurity threats, the use of overly complex evaluation criteria benefits large incumbent companies working in the federal technology space, and may be stifling innovation.

“An example of this concern is presented by the recent heavy reliance on using scoring worksheets for evaluations of GWAC proposals (where companies must score high in order to receive an award),” says the report. “While this objective method of evaluating high numbers of offers can save time and protect the government from frivolous protests, the criteria used in these worksheets is based on traditional large, long-term government contracts.”

The report argues that such criteria “heavily favor the traditional large government contractors and create a huge barrier to entry for smaller, more specialized firms that provide deep expertise in specific technology solutions.”

In addition to raising concerns about one-size-fits-all evaluation criteria, ADI has called on GWAC administrators to engage more effectively with commercial industry. It noted that some agencies had made recent progress by appointing liaison staff to maintain relationships with the private sector.

“[M]any agencies still have a limited interest in meeting with potential vendors that are not familiar with the unique government culture and acquisition processes. This unintended bias particularly impacts nontraditional vendors whose commercial solutions were not built primarily to deal with government-specific requirements,” the report says. “Moving these activities further up in the procurement cycle gives GWAC administrators greater access to information, market intelligence, and customer feedback that can help them even before the first word of an RFP is published.”

ADI also called on GWAC administrators to show a more open approach to prior commercial use cases presented by new vendors. In some cases, according to the trade body, these may provide as accurate a guide as a company’s previous track record in government procurement.

“Just because a certain vendor (or vendors) have followed the letter of previous procurements and built the government whatever unique, bespoke solution they requested, that does not necessarily mean that they have the kinds of ideas, products, and services that will meet the evolving customer demands required in new GWACs,” ADI said in the report.

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Alliance for Digital Innovation, governmentwide acquisition contract (GWAC)
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