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owned by women or located in Historically Underutilized Business Zones.
During an FCW Agency Spotlight webcast in September, Stanton described Polaris as a small-business set-aside with multiple pools that will initially focus on those distinct cat- egories. A final request for proposals was set to be released by the end of the calendar year, she added, and GSA officials plan to host multiple events with small companies to help them prepare for submitting bids.
“We want to make sure small businesses are both aware of and prepared for the solicitation,” she said, adding that her team has taken lessons from previous campaigns and the launch of vehicles such as STARS III, another small-business set-aside. During that rollout, Stanton’s office provided tem- plates for new entrants to use when applying for contract orders, along with resources to help them compete and then sustain operations after they received contracts.
Despite the difficulties, GWACs remain a largely uncontro- versial procurement method. Most analysts agree that they are an effective means of procuring IT products and services under critical deadline pressure.
“Agencies no longer have to start at square one,” Chvotkin
said about the benefits of using GWACs. “Most of the work has been done. All they need to do is describe what they want, how much they’re willing to pay, then run a fair competition as a task order against that contract.”
This year, some GWACs are on track to set new records. Woytek told FCW she is projecting a nearly 10% increase in funding for new orders and for modifications to existing orders under SEWP compared to last year. That would allow the contract vehicle to reach a milestone of over $10 billion in such funding for the fiscal year.
The increased reliance on GWACs may be due in part to the unprecedented investments agencies made with the private sector during the COVID-19 pandemic, including the use of the Defense Production Act to ramp up manufactur- ing in industries that make personal protective equipment and other critical supplies for first responders. However, the exact connection between the pandemic and the continued growth of GWACs remains unclear.
Regardless, one thing is certain: GWACs and contract vehicles like them are essential for agencies to achieve dra- matic digital transformations and cybersecurity milestones under tight deadlines. ■
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