GSA issues first contract for satellite program

Artel Inc. receives award for project that will manage the purchase of satellite services for all federal agencies.

The General Services Administration awarded its first contract for a governmentwide satellite communications program to Artel Inc., the agency said on Wednesday.

"We reviewed the proposal and [Artel] met the stringent requirements," said Kevin Gallo, a GSA project manager for the Future Comsatcom Services Acquisitions program. A joint project between GSA and the Defense Information Systems Agency, the program will replace DISA's Inmarsat Airtime and Equipment contract and GSA's Satcom II program, which both expire between 2011 and 2012. It will allow GSA to manage the purchase of satellite services for all federal agencies, including the Defense Department.

Three companies must receive contracts before task orders can be issued. GSA expects more awards to be made soon, and said the program is ahead of schedule. An interim contract, set to replace the expiring contracts, might not be necessary, according to program officials. Dan Gager, a DISA project manager for Satcom, said officials are waiting on clarification from two undisclosed vendors regarding their bids.

Issuing the first award is an important step, said Ray Bjorklund, senior vice president and chief knowledge officer at the market research firm FedSources Inc. in McLean, Va., who added there has been a "heck of dependence" on Satcom due to current operations around the globe.

"There's been a number of smaller scrappy players that have adapted to this growing demand for Satcom," Bjorklund said, mentioning Reston, Va.-based Artel as one of those companies. Artel did not return requests for comment.

The indefinite-delivery, indefinite-quantity contract will provide end-to-end satellite services known as Custom Satcom Solutions, as well as Schedule 70 contracts, which include all GSA IT projects, and are open to state and local governments as well as Indian tribes.

"Rather than [make] separate acquisitions, we really combined our forces here," Gallo said. That is a good thing, according to Bjorkland. "[It's] neat that the Defense Department said we ought to collaborate on this," he said.

There is a rolling deadline to submit bids to GSA. At least 80 companies expressed interest in the overall contract during industry days and the "proposals coming in are commensurate with that," Russo said.