According to Bloomberg, information technology (IT) continues to be a large source of federal market growth, accounting for more than $76.4 billion dollars. Most of these dollars are typically spent through commodities, solutions, and services purchased from a myriad of companies operating within the United States. But, with so many vendors competing for federal dollars, how can government agencies ensure fair opportunity in government contracting? Before we answer this question, let’s first examine what fair opportunity is and why it is important.
What is fair opportunity?
The concept of fair opportunity is mandated by Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) 16.505(b). It is intended to level the playing field so that agencies cannot give an unfair advantage to one contractor over another. Fair opportunity is a mandatory requirement and is applicable to all federal agencies purchasing IT products and services when using a multiple-award contract. According to the (FAR) 16.505(b), fair opportunity must be exercised when a purchase exceeds the $10,000 micro-purchase threshold. When this happens, an agency must give every company that holds that contract an equal opportunity to respond to a request for proposal (RFP).
Why is fair opportunity important?
Encouraging competition has a myriad of benefits. Competitive contracting often results in lower overall costs for the government as contractors are more likely to submit more competitive bids to win the business. This results in lower direct public service costs and reduced internal costs. Additionally, competition opens the door for everyone to participate in contracting. According to a recent survey by Zippia, 70.6 percent of most government contractors are white. In 2021, only two percent of federal contracts were awarded to minority-owned firms. Although fair opportunity does not guarantee equity, it does ensure that every qualified offeror receives consideration. In fact, last year, the Biden administration set a goal of increasing the share of federal contracts going to small, disadvantaged businesses to 15 percent by 2023, a 50 percent increase from recent spending levels. This lofty goal has left many agencies wondering how they can achieve this goal. NITAAC can help.
Ensuring fair opportunity in federal contracting
Let’s face it. Most agencies do not have the time or manpower to sort through multiple contracts to ensure every eligible offeror is included. As a result, the federal government still struggles with ensuring parity in contracting. According to a January 2023 FedScoop article, the world’s largest software companies, received at least 25% to 30% of government sales over the last 10 years through less than fully competitive procurement processes. NITAAC has the solution for this problem. NITAAC has designed an electronic Government Ordering System (e-GOS) to ensure that 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. NITAAC’s commitment to fair opportunity does not stop there.
Leveling the playing field
NITAAC is committed to leveling the playing field for all contractors. In FY22, seven of the top ten performing CIO-SP3 Small Business contract holders were Service-Disabled Veteran-Owned Small Businesses (SDVOSB), 8(a) or Historically Underutilized Business Zones (HUBZone). NITAAC boasts one of the highest numbers of socioeconomic categories compared to most other GWACs. Agencies can award opportunities in a number of categories, including:
- 8(a) – 131
- Historically Underutilized Business Zone (HUBZone) - 22
- Service-Disabled Veteran-Owned Small Business (SDVOSB) - 53
- Small Business (SB) - 311
- Women-Owned Small Business (WOSB) – 21
Agencies looking to get fair opportunity done right, need to look no further than NITAAC. The three NITAAC GWACs, CIO-SP3, CIO-SP3 Small Business and CIO-CS are multiple award IDIQ contracts for IT that can be used by any federal agency. Our Electronic Government Ordering System (e-GOS) takes the guess work out of fair opportunity and ensures that fair opportunity is carried out correctly on every order.
To learn more, visit https://nitaac.nih.gov/resources/e-gos.