The rapid growth of the One Acquisition Solution for Integrated Services (OASIS) contract vehicle has grabbed a lot of attention over the previous year, with many organizations eagerly anticipating on-ramps that have been teased by GSA for months. The buzz around OASIS has only intensified as the Government Accountability Office (GAO) recently sustained an OASIS SB Pool 1 protest that will, at the very least, delay GSA’s roll out of its on-ramp RFPs.
What should contractors be thinking about? To help prospective bidders sort through the complexity of preparing an offer under a great deal of uncertainty, we have compiled a list of frequently asked questions and answers we received over the last few weeks.
If there is a question you are interested in and do not see here please feel free to reach out to us directly.
Question: When does GSA intend to issue these on-ramp solicitations?
Answer: In January GSA issued a tentative schedule for the on-ramps. Their plan was to issue the 8(a) SubPool On-ramps by late January (all pools), Unrestricted Pools 1, 3, and 4 by late February, and SB Pools 3 and 4 by mid-March, but none of these solicitations have been released yet. On March 7th, GSA provided an update on FBO stating that they anticipate solicitations to be released late March. This is the latest guidance from GSA, but we are skeptical about this new timeline. It is unclear if GSA will be re-writing the SB Pool 1 solicitation and requesting revised proposals. If this takes place, the reissuance of the Pool 1 SB solicitation may cause delays in the solicitations for other pools. If GSA does not revise the solicitation, another protest may occur. It is also unclear if GSA will stick to the phased roll-out approach it has communicated in the past (OASIS SB 8(a) released first, followed by the UNR Pools and finally SB Pools 3 and 4). To be on the safe side, it is important to prepare your firm for an OASIS bid now because the solicitations could be released at any point.
Question: What is going on with the OASIS SB Pool 1 protest?
Answer: Prior to the proposal closing date of November 13, 2018, Ekagra Partners, LLC filed a protest with the GAO, challenging solicitation guidelines in relation to the use of relevant experience projects for offerors submitting as a Mentor Protégé Joint Venture (JV). The protest challenged two areas of the solicitation:
GAO recommended that GSA revisit their rationale for excluding the use of subcontractor past performance and/or amend the solicitation and request revised proposals.
Question: Will the size standards for the OASIS SB solicitations be based on three-year or five-year average annual revenue?
Answer: The Small Business Runway Extension Act signed into law on Dec. 17, 2018 has changed the small business size standard calculation from a 3-year average of annual revenues to a 5-year average; however, it is unclear if this will apply to OASIS. With no effective date specified, it is implied that the law is effective immediately; however, the SBA has challenged the effective date of this law. While the SBA was on furlough due to the government shutdown, they have not provided direction to GSA on whether a 3-year or 5-year average should be utilized. GSA says that the 3-year average still stands until they confirm with the SBA, and they will release an update on the GSA Interact website when they reach a final decision.
Question: Should contractors anticipate a minimum score close to, below, or above the minimum scores set in 2013?
Answer: The short answer is it’s tough to say. On the one hand, the minimum scores may decrease, as many of the largest federal contractors are already on the vehicle, and therefore will not be competing on this on-ramp. Additionally, if all else remains equal (in terms of solicitation requirements) the increase in the number of contractors contemplated for each Pool will likely reduce the minimum score necessary to achieve an award. On the other hand, the importance of the vehicle has grown significantly over the previous few years, so GSA anticipates a large increase in the number of proposals as compared to 5 years ago. Not to mention, the ability to leverage teaming on the OASIS SB contract vehicle may mean an increase in scores as teams work together to combine their experience to increase their scores.
Question: Will GSA allow for teaming on the OASIS Unrestricted on-ramps as it did with the OASIS Small Business (SB) Pool 1 solicitation?
Answer: There is a chance that GSA will revise the OASIS UNR solicitation to allow for Contractor Teaming Arrangements (CTA) as it did with the Pool 1 SB; however, we are not certain they will do so. During GSA’s Industry Webinar for the OASIS 8(a) On-Ramps, we asked “Is GSA considering adding language to allow for Prime/Sub CTAs and newly-formed JV CTAs to bid on the OASIS UNR solicitations?” GSA’s answer was “GSA is considering this but has not yet reached a final decision.” Since the webinar, a GAO bid protest decision has been issued on the OASIS SB Pool 1 solicitation related to JVs, Mentor Protégés, and Teaming. Reading the Ekagra GAO protest report, GSA stated there is a high administrative burden in evaluating offerors that submit as a team, which could indicate that GSA will not introduce teaming on the UNR vehicle, or it could indicate that they will interpret GAO’s findings to mean that they should consider teaming no matter the administrative burden. The uncertainty around this makes it difficult to determine the ideal proposal methodology, and to determine whether teaming might enhance an offer. While many may still consider teaming to be unlikely on the UNR solicitations, at least considering the possibility so that you are not caught flat-footed may be wise.
Question: Is there any way for a large business to obtain an award on the OASIS Small Business vehicle?
Answer: Yes, large businesses can obtain a SB award through the use of an SBA-approved Mentor Protégé JV. GSA has put limits around this bidding structure in an effort to be fair to other small businesses not in a Mentor Protégé agreement. The solicitation allows the large business in a Mentor Protégé JV to submit a maximum of 1 Pool Qualification Project, 2 Primary Projects ,and 2 Secondary Projects in the proposal to prevent small businesses from merely acting as a store-front for large businesses. Additionally, since the teaming restrictions require contractors to choose between bidding in a Prime / Sub CTA or JV (and not both), Mentor Protégé JV bids can only submit relevant experience projects from one of the two member firms (a first-tier subcontractor could not provide relevant experience in this arrangement). The sustained GAO protest argued that this was unduly unfair to Mentor Protégé JVs, given that Prime / Sub CTAs have no limits to the number of teammates on a team or the number of relevant experience projects that may come from each teammate. It will be interesting to see how GSA revises solicitations in light of the protest.
Question (Teaming): On the OASIS 8(a) SubPools or SB Pools, can the small business team with a large business as their subcontractor?
Answer: For OASIS Prime/Sub CTAs and JVs, both businesses must be registered in SAM as small businesses under the NAICS Code size standard designated by the target pool. For example, the size standard on OASIS SB Pool 1 is $15M, so all teammates would need to be under the $15M threshold in terms of their three-year average annual revenue (or 5-year average if the SBA rule is approved and promulgated to the FAR). There are two options if the small and large businesses are set on working together: 1) the two companies could enter into an SBA-approved Mentor Protégé JV to obtain an award on OASIS SB (in this context a large business could partner with a small business), or 2) the small business could obtain an award on its own, and after award, establish a subcontract with the large business.
Question: If our firm has multiple entities under a parent company, can we use the relevant experience projects or systems, certifications, or clearances of another entity? Can the entity be a Joint Venture?
Answer: Yes, however, it will be easier to utilize experience of the parent company, another subsidiary, division, or affiliate as opposed to the experience of a JV. To leverage past performance or qualifications from another entity, the bidding entity must prove that three key areas are true:
A meaningful relationship can be proved if one of 10 conditions (identified in solicitation section L.5.1.9) exists (such as the entities share a business system or corporate guidelines). Both entities must sign off on a Meaningful Relationship Commitment Letter (MRCL) certifying that one of these ten conditions exist. The letter must also describe how the entity’s claimed resources will be utilized during the performance of OASIS task orders. If the entity is completely unrelated to the bidding entity in business operations, this may be tough to prove. Additionally, if the JV includes competitors, it may be tough to convince these other JV members to sign off on a MRCL.
Question: Can contractors use commercial projects in their OASIS proposal?
Answer: Commercial projects can only be utilized as Primary Projects, and there are advantages and disadvantages to doing so. In terms of advantages, contractors that have historically received satisfactory or marginal CPARS ratings on their federal contracts could look to substitute commercial projects for federal projects, which may net a higher overall project score. Obviously these commercial contracts would not have CPARS ratings, so past performance ratings would need to be obtained through a Past Performance Rating Form filled out by the commercial customer. Depending on the business relationship, this could achieve higher ratings as compared to CPARS ratings from existing projects. The disadvantages of using commercial projects are that points cannot be obtained for several scoring criteria, including OASIS NAICS / PSC code applicability and achievement of Small Business Subcontracting goals. Since commercial contracts do not have an assigned NAICS / PSC code or a Small Business Subcontracting Plan (SBSP), commercial projects would not be able to receive the 350 points associated with these criteria (150 for NAICS / PSC and 200 for SBSP). In essence, the scoring potential may be lower for commercial projects, but the overall score they could net may be higher than federal prime contracts for any number of reasons and they should be considered.
Question: To calculate annual value, should we use the contract value (ceiling) or funded value of the task order? Should we include both the base period and option years in our calculation?
Answer: The methodology will depend on if the project is ongoing or completed. If the project has been completed, you would need to use the total funded value divided by the number of months of performance, multiplied by 12 (with exceptions), to get annual value. However, if the project is ongoing, you would need to use the negotiated contract value divided by the number of months of performance, multiplied by 12 (with exceptions), to get annual value. All option periods (both POP and dollar value) will be included in this calculation. For more details, please see section L.5.3.1 of the OASIS SB Pool 1 solicitation or OASIS UNR Pool 2 solicitation.
For more information on this topic, or to learn how Baker Tilly specialists can help, contact our team.