Did GSA get it wrong on Alliant 3?

I think GSA came up short in three areas

UPDATED December 19, 2022

GSA released its draft for the Alliant 3 procurement on October 19, 2022 and is accepting bidder comments until January 6, 2023. You can submit your comments to A3DraftRFP@GSA.Gov using the comment template released with the draft RFP.

I’ve been through the Alliant 3 draft, and I think GSA came up short in three areas. First, it failed to state the number of points needed to win a seat on its new contract. Second, it capped the number of winners at 60, and third, it failed to take advantage of all the lessons learned when it crafted the OASIS+ Draft Request for Proposal.

1. Unpublished award score

GSA is not disclosing the number of points needed to win the new Alliant 3 contract and instead is saying it will award to the 60 highest-scoring bidders. If GSA proceeds with an unpublished award score, it invites protests from losing bidders. The last GWAC procurement to compete with an unpublished award threshold was CIOSP-4, which racked up 117 protests. Protests are non-value add for both the government and for industry—and are expensive for both.

If GSA really wants to get this vehicle awarded quickly—and they say they do—then they should not hesitate in stating the score needed for an award and tell prospective bidders who cannot meet or exceed that score that their proposals will not be evaluated. By doing so, GSA will eliminate the long line of disgruntled bidders who normally file endless protests.

It would be reasonable to set an award threshold of 80% of the total number of points. This would give GSA a robust field of Alliant 3 contractors and help industry in making more-informed bid decisions by having the award criteria defined up front.

2. Capping awards to the 60 highest-scoring bidders

Let’s increase competition at the task order level where it belongs and make awards to all qualified bidders rather than cap the number of awards to the 60 highest-scoring bidders. Removing the cap will give more companies access to Alliant 3 task requests, give GSA more companies marketing its contract vehicle, and give its government clients access to more contractors. This would be a win-win-win victory for everyone.

3. Scoring algorithm decimates mid-tier contractors

Mid-tier contractors are the ones that are too big to be small, yet too small to be the largest. We see the best innovation in these companies as they are small enough to be nimble, agile, and flexible to meet various customer demands. This is a rich field of competitors that offer additional choices, true differentiation, innovation, flexibility, efficiencies, and additional expertise not found in larger or smaller companies.

GSA plans to award 1,500 points for up to seven past performance projects with a value equal to or greater than $275M. Setting this requirement at $275M favors the largest government contractors who do not need additional work inside of the GSA program. This $275M threshold will decimate the mid-tier contractors and effectively take them out of the running for this award, wasting valuable B&P resources. While the largest contractors may meet this requirement, the mid-tier contractors don’t have a prayer of having seven contracts with a value equal to or greater than $275M.

If this threshold remains, mid-tier contractors will all give up approximately 4% of their total possible score just by virtue of being mid-tier. While they can likely meet all the other requirements of the solicitation and compete effectively for task order awards, they will never get the chance if the 1,500-point threshold remains at $275M.

When we look at the spending data for Alliant 2, 80% of the awarded task orders have a value of less than $275K. Given that the spend value on average is $116K and 80% of the task awards are less than $275K, the $275K minimum for projects seems unreasonable and should be eliminated.

4. Losing bidders waste millions on proposal costs

Because the scoring threshold for an award on this procurement is not identified, hundreds of companies will waste their time and money submitting proposals that have no chance of winning. If GSA will publish the threshold for the award in the RFP and not restrict the number of awardees to a maximum of 60, companies will be able to determine in advance if they are candidates for the award and not waste their time and money submitting losing bids.

5.    Exclusive billion-dollars-a-month club

With the Alliant 2 contract running at $1B per month and Alliant 3 expected to exceed that number, divvying up $1B+ per month across 60 companies creates a pretty exclusive club of contractors with each taking out an average of $2B over the 10-year ordering period while hundreds of other capable companies watch from the sideline. We need GSA to remove the cap on the number of awardees altogether.

6.    Number of awardees not consistent with contract growth

When Alliant 2 was awarded to 62 companies, its spending rate was approximately $3B per year. Now the contract is running at approximately $12B+ per year. Since the contract is now running at four times the original spend rate, would you please consider uncapping the number of awardees?

7.    Unlimited delegation of procurement authority

We understand that in the past GSA capped the number of awards to approximately 60 because it had a $50B cap on contract spending. Alliant 3 is requesting approval to have no spending cap on the contract vehicle, so there is no need to have a cap on the number of contract awardees. Please remove the 60-company cap on the number of awardees.

8.    Open Season

The open season should begin immediately after initial awards are made and continue to be open throughout the full ordering period.

9.    Lesson’s learned from the OASIS+ upcoming procurement

GSA has made great progress with OASIS+ but seems to have ignored all the lessons learned when drafting the Alliant 3 procurement. Can you please get the OASIS+ and Alliant 3 teams together to share lessons learned? This can greatly improve the Alliant 3 procurement.

If you have additional comments you would like to offer, please post your comments. (Post comments to A3DraftRFP@GSA.Gov using the comment template as noted above)

By Robert (Bob) Lohfeld, CEO & Founder, MS, CF APMP Fellow

Bob Lohfeld serves as CEO of Lohfeld Consulting Group. He has more than 30 years’ experience winning contracts in the government market and is recognized consistently for leadership in business development, capture management, and Strength-Based Winning proposal development.