What is GSA’s Polaris?
Do you want to know what is in the GSA Polaris GWAC for you, when it is being released, and what your government contracting firm needs to capture a share of the profit pie?
Experienced Small Businesses (SBs) providing Information Technology (IT) solutions and services are all set to benefit from the General Service Administration’s (GSA) next-generation Governmentwide Acquisition Contract (GWAC) named “Polaris.” GSA has released a draft Request for Proposal (RFP) for the Polaris GWAC, which is a family of Multiple Award, Indefinite Delivery Indefinite Quantity (IDIQ) contracts to provide customized IT services and IT services-based solutions, including the use of new and emerging technologies. Using Polaris, GSA streamlines it for Federal buyers to procure the next generation of IT services-based solutions. The Draft RFP at System for Award Management will provide new opportunities to previously under-represented small IT businesses of different socio-economic categories. Polaris is the replacement for the $15B Alliant 2 SB (A2SB) and is likely to have a promising dollar value.
What just happened?
Polaris GWAC strives to leverage the best-in-class practices of GSA STARS III contract vehicle. SBA spending data shows that several Federal agencies fall short of Women-Owned Small Business (WOSB) and Historically Underutilized Business Zone (HUBZone) procurement goals, precipitating an urgent need for a better contract vehicle. Polaris will bridge this huge gap and go a long way in realizing the Government’s vision of innovation and cutting-edge technologies. It has an ordering period of one 5-year base and one 5-year option period. The primary NAICS code is 541512, though other IT services NAICS may also be used by GSA, and the small business size standard is $30M.
According to the draft RFP, GSA will conduct an “Organizational Risk Assessment” that favors teams or partners with a history of working together. The lack of a prior history of working together will result in a lesser score for this scoring factor.
Polaris includes Cybersecurity Maturity Model Certification (CMMC) and Supply Chain Risk Management (SCRM) requirements, which offerors must keep in mind. Additionally, offerors who have systems, certifications, and clearances such as audited cost accounting system, approved purchasing system, CMMI Services Level 2 or higher certification, ISO 9001:2015, ISO 20000-1:2018, ISO/IEC 27001:2013, and Facility Clearance Level will be considered more favorably.
Has GSA released the Final RFP?
According to the GSA Interact, the final RFP is slated to be released later this summer. Polaris will consist of three (3) small business competition areas, based on size and socioeconomic status, referred to as Pools. Multiple awards will be made in each of the three Pools: Small Business Pool, HUBZone Small Business Pool, and Women-Owned Small Business Pool. As per the ‘Questions and Answers’ released on March 9, 2021, an 8(a) pool is not anticipated but Small Disadvantaged Businesses are encouraged to respond to other pools for which they are eligible and wish to compete for awards. All small businesses are encouraged to submit proposals for all pools in which they are eligible and wish to compete.
What will Bidding for GSA Polaris Entail?
The proposal will comprise six (6) volumes: (1) General, (2) Relevant Experience, (3) Past Performance, (4) Systems, Certifications, and Clearances, (5) Risk Assessment, and (6) Responsibility.
You can only submit a single offer in any given Pool or all your offers in that pool will be disqualified from consideration. You may, however, submit a single offer to be considered for any of the three pools you are eligible for (for instance, an offer submitted by a HUBZone firm could be considered for both the HUBZone Pool and the Small Business Pool).
Pricing is not required at the contract level, and will only be determined at the task order level. This will help SBs and reduce the number of protests.
Historically, GSA has used a “Scorecard RFP” approach for its large procurements such as OASIS, ASTRO, HCaTS, VETS 2, and Alliant 2SB. It appears that GSA intends to use a similar approach for the Polaris procurement as well. Polaris GWAC will run across two verticals:
- Primary Solutions include Cloud Services, Cybersecurity, Data Management, Information and Communications Technologies, IT Operations and Maintenance, Software Development, and System Design.
- Emerging Technologies/Innovative Solutions include Advanced and Quantum Computing, Artificial Intelligence (AI), Automation Technology, Distributed Ledger Technology (DLT), Edge Computing, and Immersive Technology. The Polaris contract also offers ancillary support necessary to perform a services-based solution like data entry, clerical support, and software licenses.
Relevant Experience of projects that are ongoing with a minimum of one year of performance execution or completed in the past five years will be a deciding factor in evaluation:
|Experience||Min. # of Projects||Max. # of Projects||Min. Value||Other Information|
|Primary Solutions Projects||3||7||$1 Million||NAICS: 518210, 541511, 541512, 541513, and 541519|
|Emerging Technology Projects||3||6||$150K||Commercial past performance is acceptable|
The following points need to be kept in mind for Past Performance submission:
- If the offeror has a CPARS, they must submit it.
- A single relevant experience cannot be used in response to more than one performance area.
- It is NOT permitted for bidders to submit the same project in more than one proposal in the same Pool.
- This also applies to vendors who submit bids as prime and as subcontractors or as part of a contract team.
- The draft RFP allows for the submission of commercial projects as relevant experiences but it is not yet clear if they get the same amount of base point scoring as government projects.
The awardees for the Polaris contract will be chosen for the best value and not on the lowest price or trade-off. This will be determined by several factors including Self-Scoring Worksheet, Technical Evaluation, Relevant Experience, Past Performance, Systems, Certifications, Clearances, and CMMC and SCRM. We suggest that you pay special attention to these areas of your proposal so that you can maximize your points and stand a higher chance of winning.
SBs will be awarded additional points based on the greater size and complexity of their relevant Primary Solution projects. Submitted projects in the three size ranges between $2 million and $5 million; between $5 million and $15 million; and greater than $15 million will be progressively valued higher.
The following past performance in Primary Solutions areas will help score additional SB points:
- Prime contracts performed for each unique Federal Government Customer (up to a maximum of 5 unique customers by Funding Agency ID)
- Experience with Cost reimbursement contracts (up to a maximum of 2)
- Prime contract task orders against multiple-award IDIQ contracts (no maximum)
- Experience with a project performed in an OCONUS location (maximum of 1)
- Past projects involving subcontracting for services with at least two separate entities (maximum of 3)
- Cloud Services projects (maximum of 3)
- Cyber Security Projects (maximum of 3)
Additional scoring points will be awarded for past performance in Emerging Technologies Experience:
- Submitting one Emerging Technology project demonstrating experience in Artificial Intelligence and a different project demonstrating experience in Edge Computing qualifies as two Emerging Technologies.
- Submitting two projects representing Distributed Ledger Technology would only qualify as one Emerging Technology and those two projects alone would not meet the requirements of this section for additional scoring.
Risk Assessment with two aspects will be a determining factor in scoring: Organizational Risk Assessment and Limitations on Subcontracting Compliance Risk. These deal with the risks of the type of teams involved. To score more points, JVs need to have prior experience of work and similarly prime and subcontractors must demonstrate prior relationships of working together.
Teaming arrangements and JVs can bid for Polaris. Past performance from parents, affiliates and subsidiaries can be conditionally used. Some important points to consider are:
- For teaming arrangements or prime-sub bidders, each member must be a small business.
- For JVs, each member must be small, or it may include two in a mentor-protégé relationship (both need to be small), or the protégé can be small and the two businesses have received an exception to affiliation under 13 CFR 121.103(h)(3)(i) or (iii). This means that Small Business Administration (SBA)-approved mentor-protégé JVs are eligible to bid. However, for the DOD’s Pilot Mentor-Protégé Program, only JVs where both members are small will be eligible to bid.
- Meaningful commitment relationship letters will be required to demonstrate the relationships between team members, JV members, and parents, affiliates, and subsidiaries.
What is in the GSA Polaris for you?
For qualified SBs, Polaris is a golden opportunity to work with top federal agencies, make a mark in the government marketplace, and take your business to the next level. Given the nature of relevant experience required, Polaris is not suited for companies with less than two (2) years of experience. We know Polaris GWAC will be self-scored, however, it is not yet known what values are associated with each element. Our team is closely monitoring Polaris GWAC and tracking all the latest developments.
Bidding for large-scale GWACs entails a lot of administrative and resource-intensive burden for small businesses. We at iQuasar can help you prepare and guide you through the process of developing a winning proposal for Polaris GWAC. iQuasar supports Small Businesses in bidding for contract vehicles, including GSA MAS, OASIS, GSA FSS, Alliant SB, 8(a) STARS, HCaTS, Navy SEAPORT-E, CATS+, MOBIS, RMAS, other GWACs, and NIH CIO-SP3. Our team is well-acquainted with the Polaris GWAC requirements and is proactively helping Small Businesses in preparing for it. Our team of experts will manage the entire process by helping you assess your eligibility, prepare a proposal development strategy tailored to your firm’s unique requirements, and create a high-quality and compliant proposal response to help you win.