VA launches $12 billion IT procurement

Contract will provide additional opportunities for veteran-owned firms to compete for VA business, department head says.

The Veterans Affairs Department's massive new information technology procurement will provide nearly $1 billion in contracts annually for veteran-owned small businesses during the next five years, according to VA's director.

The department on Monday released a long-anticipated request for proposals for its Transformation Twenty-One Total Technology program, or T4. The $12 billion IT contract is expected to give veteran-owned firms a chance to compete with larger companies for business. In a July 20 speech at the National Veterans Small Business Conference, VA Secretary Eric Shinseki said seven of the 15 prime contracts will be reserved for veteran-owned small businesses, including four for service-disabled veteran owners.

"With T4, you don't have to settle for smaller subcontracts or set-asides," he said. "It's your chance to think big, to think like a prime and to succeed as one."

The T4 procurement, which replaces VA's Global Information Technology Support Services contract, will provide a variety of hardware and IT services, including program management and strategy planning, systems and software engineering, enterprise networks, cybersecurity, operations and maintenance, and IT facilities. The RFP was scheduled for release in June, but was delayed for a variety of reasons.

VA has been aggressively managing initiatives to recruit veteran-owned small businesses for its contracts and has done a good job working with veterans and other agencies to encourage them to use channels for reaching emerging businesses, said Ray Bjorklund, senior vice president and chief knowledge officer for McLean, Va.-based consulting firm FedSources.

Shinseki called T4 a "win-win-win strategy," noting it provides opportunities to veteran-owned small businesses, manageable and cost-effective contractor support to VA, and improved services to veterans.

T4 is a huge initiative that allows VA to issue task orders without going through the General Services Administration or other contract vehicles for each project, said Harold Gracey, a consultant with Topside Consulting who served as VA chief of staff from 1994 to 1998. "They're essentially looking for a shortcut that is sound from an acquisition standpoint," he added.

VA earlier this month canceled its $400 million financial systems modernization project, citing high costs and the potential for failure. The department's responsibilities in areas like health care and benefits administration likely contributed to the decision to launch a single integrated technology contract like T4, said Bjorklund, adding it could become a platform for small-scale systems development in the future.

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