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GWACs: Why are they Important?

In an effort to acquire IT products and services more efficiently, the Federal Government has created Government-Wide Acquisition Contracts (GWAC). A GWAC is a contract between a commercial IT service or product vendor and the U.S. government that centralizes the procurement of IT solutions across multiple federal agencies. By consolidating the acquisition of IT services, GWACs enable agencies to take advantage of the government’s immense buying power. In turn, the government can pull from a pre-vetted qualified pool of contractors. There are currently ten GWACs managed by three agencies – the General Services Administration (GSA), the National Aeronautics and Space Agency (NASA), and the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

Beginning with a self-scoring evaluation system, federal contractors assess the products and services they provide and determine if they are eligible for a specific government contract. This system also allows agencies to compare prices and other factors before making an award. Those who meet the initial criteria get evaluated further to determine if they are qualified to get on the desired GWAC. This streamlined process saves agencies time and money, allowing for one in-depth evaluation rather than multiples for the same vendor.

There are three major types of GWACs: small business, set-aside, and industry. Small business GWACs are reserved for small businesses, as defined by the Small Business Administration (SBA). Set-aside GWACs are similar to small business GWACs, but they are specifically set aside for certain types of businesses, such as women-owned or veteran-owned businesses. Finally, industry GWACs are reserved for specific industries, such as information technology or healthcare. 

Benefits of Using a GWAC

There are many benefits to using a GWAC for both government agencies and contractors. Some of the most notable advantages include: 

  • Access to a larger pool of contractors: Since a GWAC is a master contract pre-vetted by the government, it gives agencies access to a larger pool of qualified contractors. This can be extremely helpful when an agency is looking for a specific type of IT service or product. 
  • Faster procurement process: The pre-vetted nature of a GWAC also means that the procurement process is much faster. Agencies can save significant time using a GWAC instead of going through the traditional RFP process. 
  • Increased competition: By using a GWAC, agencies can increase competition among contractors. This is because a GWAC allows multiple contractors to compete for the same contract. 
  • Greater flexibility: GWACs also offer agencies greater flexibility when procuring IT services and products. This is because a GWAC can be used to procure a wide variety of IT services and products. 

Why Do GWACs Matter?

When federal agencies need IT products and services, GWACs are the best-in-class contracts. Different than GSA schedules, GWACs don’t remain open for new vendors. Once the vetting process has closed, it stays closed for roughly a decade. This gives contractors on a GWAC a compelling advantage because they exist in a smaller pool of competition compared to the large number of contractors on SAM.gov. 

However, GWACs do not guarantee a straight path to success. GWACs are an extremely competitive niche; winning a contract is even more challenging. After spending countless hours and resources toward qualifying to be on a GWAC, success is determined by a contractor’s post-award processes.

Types of GWACs 

The government spent roughly 2.68 billion dollars on contracting through GWACs in 2011. This number rose to 2.68 billion dollars in 2021, proving that amount of GWAC contracts has increased.

  • 8(a) STARS III – A small business set-aside contract that provides flexible access to customized IT solutions from a large, diverse pool of 8(a) industry partners.
  • Alliant 2 – Offers artificial intelligence (AI), distributed ledger technology (DLT), robotic process automation (RPA), and other types of emerging technologies. It provides best-value IT solutions to federal agencies while strengthening chances in federal contracting for small businesses through subcontracting.
  • VETS 2 – The only GWAC set aside exclusively for Service-Disabled, Veteran-Owned Small Businesses (SDVOSB). Designed to meet diverse agency IT services requirements, including new and emerging technologies.
  • CIO-SP3 and CIO-SP4 – CIO-SP3 helps small businesses sell their IT products and services to the Department of Health and Human Services. This GWAC ran for ten years and had a $20 billion contract holder. CIO-SP4 is in the onboarding phase and plans to roll out in 2023. 
  • Polaris – New to the GWAC family, Polaris will be a small business governmentwide acquisition contract (GWAC) for acquiring customized information technology (IT) services and IT services-based solutions. Centered predominantly around small businesses. 

Why GWACs Are Important for Your Success

GWACs are a vital part of the government contracting process. They allow federal agencies to quickly and easily navigate the procurement process and enable federal contractors a more seamless route to sell their products and services to the government efficiently. This streamlined acquisition is unique to GWACs and remains an attractive alternative to federal agencies. Therefore, understanding GWACs is critical to your success if you’re a government contractor. By learning about GWACs and how they work, you can ensure that your business is positioned to take advantage of these essential contracting opportunities. 

Over the years, GWACs have become essential to any contractor’s portfolio. Soon, sustainable growth for IT contractors will require success on a GWAC. For contractors that lack the resources, partners, or consultants to compete for contract vehicles, a highly competitive market brings much more complication once their customers consider transitioning to a GWAC.

This is why research is so valuable and crucial for federal contractors. Contractors can spend months to years chasing unwinnable opportunities when inaccurate data is followed. If contractors are equipped with accurate information and insights from the start, they can save time and resources pursuing opportunities and contract vehicles that can actually result in a win.


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One comment on “GWACs: Why are they Important?”

It would have been useful to discuss Category Management and Spend Under Management concepts in the “Why Do GWACs Matter?” section.

Also, would love to see a more critical discussion of GSA’s failure to award GSA Alliant 2 Small Business and continued delays with the GSA Polaris solicitation. The resulting $25B increase in the Alliant 2 GWAC ceiling continues to disadvantage small and mid-tier business which are not able to compete for this significant IT spend.

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