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  1. Now in its 18th year, Cybersecurity Awareness Month builds interest in the importance of cybersecurity and the resources needed for all Americans to be safer and more secure online. The theme for Cybersecurity Awareness Month 2021 is “Do Your Part. #BeCyberSmart.” The theme empowers individuals and organizations to own their role in protecting cyberspace because if everyone does their part, cyberspace will be more resilient for everyone. The federal government is not immune from the need to #BeCyberSmart. In fact, the importance of federal cybersecurity cannot be overstated. Every day, the federal government fends off tens of thousands of cyberattacks from adversaries. Some of these attacks are simple phishing emails–aimed at hopefully tricking an unassuming federal employee into doing something wrong – but others are more sophisticated attacks targeting the nation’s most precious data assets. For federal agencies to “Do Their Part,” they must equip themselves with the proper cybersecurity solutions. Cyber technologies run the gamut and procuring these technologies can often be difficult. For some agencies, procurement officers not versed in cybersecurity might find it challenging to get fair pricing. For others, fair opportunity competition might be a stumbling block they’re not familiar with. Fortunately, agencies don’t have to undergo the cybersecurity procurement process alone—NITAAC can help. All NITAAC Contracting Officers are Digital IT Acquisition Professional (DITAP) certified, which means they are well-versed in designing innovative and flexible procurements for information technology and digital transformation. NITAAC offers an array of Best in Class cybersecurity services and solutions through our three Government-Wide Acquisition Contracts (GWACs). The CIO-SP3 and CIO-SP3 Small Business GWACs, in particular, have specific Task Areas where agencies can fulfill the need for cybersecurity solutions, such as Task Area 1 (IT Services for Biomedical Research, Health Sciences and Healthcare), Task Area 3 (Imaging) and Task Area 7 (Critical Infrastructure and Information Assurance). CIO-CS offers managed solutions on-premise or offsite, along with “as-a-service” commodity buys for out-of-the-box setup and distribution. Cybersecurity has proven to be a necessary investment for government agencies. Technology has provided new ways for government agencies to work, interact with citizens and improve overall operations. The NITAAC Contract Holders have the right cybersecurity solutions in place to ensure agencies can accomplish their missions knowing their information is protected and they can #BeCyberSmart. To learn more about NITAAC’s cybersecurity solutions, visit nitaac.nih.gov/cybersecurity
  2. At NITAAC, we not only are fueling information technology (IT) modernization across the government, we are also leading by example. As one of the federal government’s top sources for ‘everything IT,’ NITAAC has taken the message of modernization to heart and has reimagined how agencies acquire IT. NITAAC’s three easy-to-use, easy-to-understand, Best in Class (BIC) Government-Wide Acquisition Contracts (GWACs) – CIO-SP3, CIO-SP3 Small Business, and CIO-CS – provide any federal agency, government-wide, with an easy and accessible method for acquiring more effective citizen services or mission delivery. Whether your agency buys direct or needs help from a Contracting Officer, NITAAC has a program that’ll work for you. And no matter how large or how complex your IT challenge may be, you can count on NITAAC Contract Holders to get it done quickly and get it done right. From operations and maintenance of legacy systems to complex, emerging technologies like Cybersecurity and Artificial Intelligence, NITAAC Contract Holders are ready to help federal agencies excel. Check out CIO-SP3 with its 137 labor categories and ten task areas, CIO-SP3 Small Business with depth in five socioeconomic categories, or CIO-CS for IT Commodities and As-A-Service Solutions. What’s more, the NITAAC Government-Wide Strategic Services (GSS) program, a subset of CIO-CS, provides a real opportunity under category management for buyers to acquire laptops and desktops quickly and efficiently. Although fiscal year 2020-2021 was full of challenges and a collective new normal as we faced a global pandemic, we’ve been undaunted in our efforts to improve our customers’ user experience, choice of contracting approach and overall accessibility. So, what exactly can agencies expect when they engage with NITAAC? Read ahead for a quick synopsis and check out the full Federal News Network 2021-2022 NITAAC Contract Guide for more information. Plus, here’s a link to watch the NITAAC Contract Guide video interviews. Best in Class GWACs: CIO-SP3, CIO-SP3 Small Business and CIO-CS The BIC designation doesn’t just benefit the NITAAC community; it benefits the entire federal government. The BIC designation is awarded to contracts that consistently deliver strong results. By relying on contracts with good track records, agencies — and the federal government as a whole — can raise the baseline for the quality of acquisitions. The BIC designation for all three of our GWACS signals to the acquisition community that NITAAC consistently demonstrates value that allows agencies to save time, money and realize speed to delivery. We also offer solutions and processes necessary to meet the federal government’s ever-evolving IT requirements. Quite simply, BIC tells the federal community that agencies are getting the best in both services and spend under management (SUM). Agencies can meet all their SUM tier goals (0, 1, 2 and 3) using NITAAC BIC GWACs. We are tremendously proud of this distinction because it’s a testament to the quality of our Contract Holders, contracting officers, customer service and overall team. But, even more importantly, the designation will result in even further cost savings for our agency partners. Since 2012, agencies have obligated more than $35 billion to NITAAC GWACs because they understand the value and cost-savings doing so affords. Democratizing Expertise with Assisted Acquisitions If your agency would prefer even more detailed guidance throughout the acquisition process or you just need an extra pair of hands, our Assisted Acquisitions program is ready to pair you with an experienced FAC-C, Level 3, Digital Services Certified Contracting Officer capable of helping you navigate the procurement process. Warranted acquisition professionals will work with you to determine the best course forward for your acquisition, from the market research and acquisition planning phase all the way through administration and closeout. NITAAC Assisted Acquisitions is there for your agency throughout the entire procurement lifecycle. Eliminating Redundancies and Delivering More Value with NITAAC GSS The Federal Government spent over $89 billion in 2020 on hardware, software, telecommunications, IT security, and IT professional services through tens of thousands of contracts and delivery orders. NITAAC is pleased to serve as one of three Best in Class sources for purchasing laptops and desktops for civilian agencies. In fact, NITAAC GSS increased 33% in 2020 (over 2019) for laptop and desktop buys. What’s more, NITAAC GSS goes beyond standard configurations, offering products outside of the OMB-mandated specifications such as Apple iPads and Macs. It’s a perfect program for end-of-year use-it-or-lose-it funds. Accept No Substitutes: Outstanding Customer Support Customer service is not something we take for granted at NITAAC. We've geared our operations around our customers’ needs so whether they are just beginning a solicitation and need help with research, or they’ve already placed a task or delivery order on one of our vehicles, NITAAC is committed to making sure they get answers faster, so they can keep their acquisitions on track. From a vendor standpoint, open and frequent communications are key. For our CIO-CS Contract Holders, we work very hard to rapidly approve their Technology Refreshment Proposals (TRP) to add new commodities on the contract so customers can always get what they need, when they need it. We guarantee that TRPs will be reviewed within 72 hours, but the majority of TRPs are reviewed within 24 hours. If a Contract Holder or customer needs something sooner, we ask them to call NITAAC Support so we can expedite the review. Want to learn more? To learn more about these, and all the ways NITAAC can help you reimagine your acquisitions, read the Federal News Network 2021-2022 NITAAC Contract Guide, watch the NITAAC Contract Guide video interviews or contact our customer support team at NITAACsupport@nih.gov.
  3. Level the playing field on your next IT procurement. In 1996, Congress passed what is now known as the Clinger-Cohen Act (CCA), which eliminated the General Services Administration (GSA) as the sole source for acquiring information technology (IT) and allowed other federal agencies to assume a lead contracting role. The Act was created with one mission in mind: To speed up IT purchasing so that by the time technology got to the buyer, it wasn’t obsolete. To achieve this, the CCA introduced Government-Wide Acquisition Contracts (GWACs). These were to be administered by Executive Agencies that met rigorous standards set by the Office of Management and Budget. Each GWAC made awards to a pre-competed, pre-qualified pool of vendors who could then bid on all its orders. As other agencies had specific IT needs, they could place fast turnaround task or delivery order requests against the GWAC and its pool of sellers, shrinking a years-long purchasing cycle down to mere months. This streamlined process was codified in the Federal Acquisition Regulations (FAR) as “fair opportunity” under FAR 16.505. NITAAC was one of the first Executive Agents to be granted GWAC authority and today, more than 25 years later, we still offer three GWACs to federal agencies looking to purchase IT faster, more easily, and from a level playing field of pre-qualified vendors. Fair opportunity explained. Fair opportunity is a requirement that federal agencies purchasing IT products and services must follow when using a GWAC. It states that if a purchase exceeds $3,500, every company that holds a contract with that GWAC must be given an equal opportunity to respond to a request for proposal (RFP) on services, or a request for quote (RFQ) on products. Fair opportunity is intended to prevent agencies from giving unfair advantage to one contractor over another. The concept of fair opportunity is mandated by FAR 16.505(b). There are other great benefits in FAR 16.505, like no protest on orders under $10M ($25M for the DoD), but let’s stick to fair opportunity for now. There are two good reasons for an agency to exercise fair opportunity. First, the FAR requires it. Second, fair opportunity is a great way to ensure that you get the best value for your agency. As a buyer, you strengthen your bargaining position when you give all the awardees on the contract a fair chance to compete. Whether you choose your incumbent or go in a new direction, fair opportunity will give everyone involved in the acquisition process assurance that you made the right decision for the right reasons. How NITAAC helps agencies meet fair opportunity. Unless using an exception to fair opportunity as described in FAR 16.505(b)(2), ordering contracting officers must provide fair opportunity, FAR 16.505(b)(1) for orders exceeding $3,500. In the case of small businesses, the ordering contracting officer also must determine if there is a reasonable expectation of obtaining offers from two or more responsible small business concerns that are competitive in terms of market prices, quality and delivery unless one of the exceptions in FAR 16.505(b)(2)(i) applies. Rather than leave it up to the agencies to determine how to ensure fair opportunity, NITAAC has designed an Electronic Government Ordering System (e-GOS) that ensures fair opportunity is carried out correctly on every order. This web-based, secure system is fast and easy to use—allowing contracting professionals to walk through the entire solicitation process seamlessly, with FAR references at every applicable step. Meeting fair opportunity with e-GOS. e-GOS provides streamlined IT ordering, enabling agencies to quickly upload requirements and supporting documentation, manage the competition, handle questions and answers, submit amendments if necessary and finally, select and notify awardees. Agencies control the time frame based on the level of complexities, but responses can be received in, on average, as few as three days for products and 42 days for services. Additionally, the system features built-in FAR guidance and satisfies fair opportunity to be considered (FAR 16.505). e-GOS can also serve as a database of record, as all files are maintained indefinitely or, if you prefer, all documents stored can be downloaded and printed for your official file. NITAAC is here to ensure that every IT award an agency issues is carried out in a fair and equitable manner, according to all applicable laws. To learn more about NITAAC and fair opportunity, call us at 1.888.773.6542 or visit us at nitaac.nih.gov.
  4. IT modernization still more important than ever to federal agencies According to the Government Accountability Office (GAO) and the Office of Management Budget’s (OMB) 2019 budget document, over 80 percent of all information technology (IT) spending is on the Operations and Maintenance of "aging legacy systems, which pose efficiency, cybersecurity, and mission risk issues, such as ever-rising costs to maintain them and an inability to meet current or expected mission requirements." That’s because the current push for modernization is not just about updating or replacing old technology. It’s about “creating the platform for change,” as the President’s Management Agenda describes it—that is, finding more cost-effective, innovative approaches to delivering IT services and improving services delivered to the citizen. As the pace of modernization accelerates, many agencies might find themselves struggling to keep up. Here at NITAAC, we get it. That’s why our contracting officers are so essential to our offerings. We have a team of FAC-C-DS Level-III certified contracting professionals who can guide customers through every step of the acquisition lifecycle. They understand how to leverage different contract vehicles, how to define IT requirements accurately and clearly, and how to translate those requirements into solutions that work. Using proven methods, they can get from requirements definition to award in as few as 30 days. It’s acquisition at the speed of innovation. But innovation doesn’t happen in a vacuum. It happens in the context of individual procurements, each reflecting the unique mission and goals of an agency. Whatever your modernization requirements, our GWACs can help. CIO-SP3 is a good choice for agencies looking to develop innovative solutions based on cutting-edge technology. The program includes 137 different labor categories (and more can be added at the task order level), and supports every contract type in the FAR. CIO-SP3 also has a small business companion contract, which helps agencies meet their small business goals for HUBZone, 8(a), Woman-Owned, Service-Disabled Veteran-Owned Small Business, and Small Business. CIO-CS, on the other hand, provides easy access to a wide range of commodity and commodity-based solutions that can be deployed either on premise or in the cloud. The offerings are always current, with a technology refresh process that enables product updates to be added as soon as they become available. Not in days or weeks—but hours. The contract includes both original equipment manufacturers and value-added resellers. CIO-SP3, CIO-SP3 Small Business and CIO-CS are all designed to simplify the acquisition process. You don’t need a special “Delegation of Procurement Authority” to issue task or delivery orders, nor do you need to synopsize or post requirements, since these programs fall under FAR 16.5. The streamlined process doesn’t require you to compromise on price. As part of the original contract awards, we negotiated competitive prices for products and services—and as part of task and delivery orders, you can negotiate even better rates and prices. The pricing for commodity products is lower than open market and less than or equal to what you can get through federal supply schedules. We can’t promise that modernization will be easy. But what we can promise is that the acquisition process can support your efforts, rather than frustrate them. We’re here to make that happen. For more information, visit https://nitaac.nih.gov or call us at 1.888.773.6542. You can also email NITAACsupport@nih.gov.
  5. A 2019 memorandum from the Office of Management and Budget directs agencies to increase their use of Best in Class (BIC) contracts. But the case for BIC solutions goes well beyond any mandate. BIC, part of the federal government’s category management initiative, is a government-wide designation for acquisition solutions that can be used by multiple agencies and that satisfy key criteria defined by OMB. A BIC designation means that a vehicle is based on mature acquisition processes that will help agencies get more value from their spending. All three of NITAAC’s government-wide acquisition contracts (GWACs) have been designated as BIC. In its March 20 memo, OMB directed agencies to begin setting annual goals for increasing the use of BIC contracts for common goods and services, while still meeting their small business and other socioeconomic goals. The memo makes the case that the BIC initiative already has delivered good results. “The BIC goal is a reflection of the many benefits that have been realized from increasing the visibility and use of model contracts solutions—including billions in cost avoidance aided by reduced contract duplication for identical products at wide price variations, increased use of common specifications and greater reliance on government and industry best practices,” the March 20 memo states. The value of BIC comes down to its focus on contract management as a discipline. In vetting contracts, OMB looks at whether the acquisition team consistently follows best practices and mature processes. For example, the first criteria for BIC is, “Rigorous requirements definitions and planning processes.” Among the questions OMB asks is, “How inclusive or collaborative is the process of collecting and capturing the requirements during the planning phase of the acquisition process? Are all the major stakeholders included?” Likewise, for the fourth criteria, “Category and Performance Management Practices,” OMB asks, “Does the vehicle include management provisions that go beyond traditional contract management, e.g., does it include ongoing assessment of demand and spend, alignment with market changes and trends, usage, performance, training, etc.?” The goal of BIC is to highlight contracts that consistently deliver strong results. By relying on contracts with good track records, agencies—and the federal government as a whole—can raise the baseline for the quality of acquisitions. The more that agencies rely on contracts with good track records, the more benefits that they will see. That includes higher volume discounts, reduced administrative costs and contract duplication, and the greater use of buying data to make informed decisions. That is why OMB is focused on what’s called Spend Under Management (SUM), which refers to the portion of an agency’s budget that is aligned with strong contract management practices. OMB and the Category Management Leadership Council have developed a SUM maturity model to help agencies analyze their spending: · Tier 0: Spending is unaligned with consistent management practices · Tier 1: Spending is managed at the agency-wide level, with strong contract management practices · Tier 2: Spending is managed at the government-wide level through multi-agency government-wide solutions with strong contract management practices · Tier 3: Spending is managed at the government-wide level using BIC solutions The March 20 memo is part of an effort to push more spending into the higher tiers, with BIC contracts recognized as the culmination of this effort. For agencies, the BIC initiative should not be another reporting requirement. In the end, it’s about making a good business decision—and reaping the benefits. The fact that all three NITAAC contracts—CIO-SP3, CIO-SP3 Small Business and CIO-CS—have received the BIC designation is a testament to the quality of our contract holders, contracting officers, customer service and overall team. Through these contracts, agencies have access to the latest IT services and products from a wide range of vendors, including a robust pool of small businesses. As always, we are committed to providing our customers with acquisition services that will support their efforts to bring more discipline to their IT spending and to meet their ever-evolving IT requirements.
  6. Is Setting up an IDIQ Right for Your Agency? In U.S. Federal government contracting, IDIQ is an abbreviation of the term indefinite delivery/indefinite quantity. This is a type of contract that provides for an indefinite quantity of supplies or services during a fixed period. IDIQs are also sometimes called "Task" or "Delivery Order” contracts. There are a few instances when establishing a unique agency IDIQ contract may be an appropriate business decision, especially in cases when recurring needs are anticipated. However, in most cases, an existing vehicle can fulfill an agencies’ needs. Before establishing a new agency-specific single or multiple award IDIQ vehicle, agencies should research existing vehicles and take into consideration the following: IDIQ Contracts Require a Time Investment Setting up an individual IDIQ contract can be both labor and time intensive. Using a Government-Wide Acquisition Contract (GWAC), like NITAAC, gives agencies the flexibility of having their own contract without the hassle of setting it up. Leveraging an existing vehicle does not mean you lose ownership Many agencies set up IDIQs because they are concerned about losing ownership. With NITAAC, that is not the case. Agencies have control of their award from start to finish. Agencies write their own requirements, determine their own timeframe and, ultimately, select their own awardees, from our pool of our pre-qualified contract holders. NITAAC simply leverages our contracting expertise to help facilitate the process on the federal government’s behalf. Realize Cost Savings When an agency uses NITAAC, they benefit from improved pricing because our rates are pre-negotiated at the master contract level, which means they are already the lowest available rates. And, because our contracts are pre-competed, additional competition could further drive down costs at the task/delivery order level. Put simply, NITAAC allows for economies of scale in order to reduce per unit costs, which may not be possible on an individual agency contract. Reduce timeframes and no protests under $10 million ($25 million for the DoD) And since time is money, agencies can reduce their timeframes by using our GWACs. On average, task orders can be awarded in 45 days or less, and delivery orders in 1-3 days. And, there are no protests under $10 million ($25 million for the DoD) if the scope, dollar value and period of performance are within the bounds of the GWAC. Furthermore, agencies can also use GWACs to meet their small business goals under an exception to fair opportunity. And, NITAAC GWACs all carry the Best in Class designation. IDIQs are a powerful tool in the contracting officers’ toolbox IDIQs do have a role in federal procurement but for agencies looking to have a more streamlined procurement, or those that don’t have the time to invest in setting up their own IDIQ, NITAAC GWACs are an ideal option.
  7. NITAAC Program Guide-at-a-Glance At NITAAC, we are not only fueling modernization across the government, we are leading by example. As one of the federal government’s top sources for ‘everything IT,’ NITAAC has taken the message of modernization to heart and is proud to launch a refreshed experience that will change how agencies acquire new technology. NITAAC’s three easy-to-use, easy-to-understand, Best in Class GWACs – CIO-SP3, CIO-SP3 Small Business, and CIO-CS – provide any agency, government-wide, with an easy and accessible method for acquiring more effective citizen service or mission delivery. We’ve done a lot recently to improve our customers’ user experience, choice of contracting approach and overall accessibility. So, what specifically has NITAAC changed? Reimagining Our Website Reimagining acquisition is about creating a positive user-centric customer experience from market research through closeout. With this in mind, we made it a foremost priority to directly improve user experience at the starting point of most people’s acquisition journey – the NITAAC website. Our newly refreshed website focuses on educating contracting officers, contract holders and small businesses that are not already on contract, by showing them how to best participate with NITAAC and get the most out of CIO-SP3, CIO-SP3 Small Business and CIO-CS. Upon visiting the reimagined NITAAC website, the first thing you will notice is the clean look and feel. We have designed our new website with you – the user – in mind so that you can find the resources you need to get your next IT procurement off the ground and moving. To this end, we have enhanced our search capabilities for tools, templates, events and contract holders. The refreshed website will include improved tools and templates, short instructional videos, and other “quick hits” on buying to allow contracting officers to see best practices for buying federal IT. Additionally, the website gives customers a step by step overview on everything IT procurement from issuing a Task/Delivery Order Request (TOR/DOR) to managing their procurement and selecting awardees on e-GOS, our secure online ordering system. And because the federal workforce is becoming increasingly mobile, we have incorporated all of these changes into a flexible and responsive design that is accessible from any device so that the information you need is always at your fingertips. Intuitive Buying Through NextGen e-GOS Even with a sleek new website, user experience is not going to improve without improving the actual procurement process. With this in mind, we have also focused a great deal of our efforts over the past year on improving the next generation of our online customer ordering portal, e-GOS. With new ease-of-access features that complement the changes made to our website, customers are now seamlessly transitioned from the research phase all the way through the final procurement. NextGen e-GOS contains built-in FAR guidance and walks the contracting officer through what is necessary to meet FAR Part 16 requirements. Leveraging FAR Part 16, the goal of NextGen e-GOS is to truly streamline the process; allowing federal customers to ensure that their requirement only goes to contract holders who are qualified to do the work. NextGen e-GOS also will offer several new enhancements. For starters, it is operational in the cloud and will feature a new data upload feature. NextGen e-GOS is more user friendly – and mimics the user experience contracting officers are used to when shopping in their private lives. Customers will now enjoy product pictures, and can compare items, build a cart, and other features designed to personalize the buying experience. NextGen e-GOS also supports Best in Class requirements and provides better data reporting for our agency customers to meet FITARA guidelines, such as line-by-line analysis, quantities ordered, and payment amounts. Best in Class GWACs: CIO-SP3, CIO-SP3 Small Business and CIO-CS The BIC designation doesn’t just benefit the NITAAC community, it benefits the federal government, in general. The BIC designation is awarded to contracts that consistently deliver strong results. By relying on contracts with good track records, agencies — and the federal government as a whole — can raise the baseline for the quality of acquisitions. The BIC designation for all three of our GWACS signals to the acquisition community that NITAAC consistently demonstrates value that allows agencies to save time, money and realize speed to delivery. We also offer solutions and processes necessary to meet the federal government’s ever evolving IT requirements. Quite simply, BIC tells the federal community that agencies are getting the best in both service and spend. Agencies can meet all their tier goals (0, 1, 2 and 3) using NITAAC BIC GWACs. We are tremendously proud of this distinction because it’s a testament to the quality of our contract holders, contracting officers, customer service and overall team. But, even more importantly, the designation will result in even further cost saving for our agency partners. Democratizing Expertise with Assisted Acquisitions If your agency would prefer even more detailed guidance throughout the acquisition process, our Assisted Acquisitions program is ready to pair you with an experienced Contracting Officer capable of helping you navigate the procurement process. Warranted acquisition professionals will work with you to determine the best course forward for your acquisition, from the market research and acquisition planning phase, all the way through administration and closeout. NITAAC Assisted Acquisitions is there for you throughout the entire procurement lifecycle. Accept No Substitutes: Outstanding Customer Support Customer service is not something we take for granted at NITAAC. We've geared our operations around our customers’ needs so whether they are just beginning a solicitation and need help with research, or they’ve already placed a task or delivery order on one of our vehicles, NITAAC is committed to making sure they get answers faster, so they can keep their acquisitions on track. From a vendor standpoint, open and frequent communications are key. For our CIO-CS contract holders, we work very hard to rapidly approve their technical review process (TRP) requests to add new commodities on the contract so that customers can always get what they need, when they need it. We guarantee that TRPs will be reviewed within 72 hours, but the majority of TRPs are reviewed within 24 hours. If a contract holder or customer needs something sooner than 24 hours, we ask them to call our Customer Support Center, so we can expedite the review. Internally, we have implemented a Salesforce CRM to ensure that we accurately, consistently and efficiently answer all customer and contract holder questions. And, we are constantly analyzing frequently asked questions to develop new training, templates, website resources, white papers, blogs, videos and other resources to support our customers and their IT missions. Want to learn more? To learn more about these, and all the ways NITAAC is reimagining acquisitions, be sure to follow us on our social media channels.
  8. Can anyone recommend one over the other? The pros, cons of both. I have a requirement for IT advisory services, which is available through both vehicles. I have experience with GSA not NITAAC. Thanks in advance.
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