NITAAC says it can fill in for STARS

The National Institutes of Health's governmentwide contracts can pick up the slack for GSA's STARS II 8(a) small business set aside contract’s early cut off.

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The government wide IT acquisition contracts operated by the National Institutes of Health can help agencies with disadvantaged small business set aside contracting requirements as the General Services Administration's 8(a) set-aside contract pushes past its ceiling, according to Information Technology Acquisition and Assessment Center's (NITAAC) managers.

Companies that fall under the 8(a) designation have to be a small business that is majority owned by U.S. citizens whom meet the Small Business Administration's criteria for being economically and socially disadvantaged.

In early April, the GSA 8(a) Streamlined Technology Acquisition Resource for Services (STARS II) government wide contract hit its $15 billion ordering obligation limit. Task orders on the vehicle are still permissible for agencies whose contracting officers have obtained a "control number" from GSA to use the contract vehicle, but new control numbers are no longer being issued.

The STARS II contract was originally planned to run until Aug. 30, 2021. GSA issued a draft 8(a) STARS III solicitation last August.

Alliant 2 SB, another big small business contract vehicle, is tied up in protest proceedings.

NASA's Services for Enterprise-Wide Procurement (SEWP) does not have an 8(a) set aside option, said its manager Joanne Woytek in an email to FCW. SEWP does cover other small business set-asides, including Service Disabled Veteran Owned Small Business, Historically Underserved Business Zones or HUBZone, and Women Owned Small Businesses, she said.

That early stop could potentially put federal agencies in a bind as the autumn buying season approaches, according to Larry Allen, managing director of the Federal Market Access Group at BDO USA.

"No 8(a) STARS II for the coming federal fourth quarter buying season is not good. It's a popular contract. To have it in dry dock at year's end is not ideal," Allen said.

NITAAC’s CIO-SP3 and CIO-CS contracts can be immediate backstops for the shuttered STARS II vehicle, said Keith Johnson, contracting officer for CIO SP3.

"We don’t see GSA as a competitor," said Johnson in an interview with FCW. "We’re glad to be in a position as a way for agencies to meet their 8(a) requirements," he said. "NITAAC being here to pick up the slack is a good thing. There should be redundancy in Best in Class contracts," he said.

The federal government's 8(a) assistance requirements look to get small disadvantaged businesses and entrepreneurs into the federal supply chain to help them develop and foster federal capabilities by requiring some portion of agencies’ acquisition to include them.

Federal agencies’ shifting to NITAAC’s GWACs, said Johnson, will find a relatively straightforward process. Agency contracting officers would have to adhere to their market research requirements, then access NITAAC’s systems with logins and a few other processes, according to Johnson.

The CIO SP3 and CIO CS contracts each have $20 billion ceilings, according to NITAAC.