The National Institutes of Health Information Technology Acquisition and Assessment Center (NITAAC) is facing renewed opposition from industry after making 431 awards under the $50 billion IT services government-wide acquisition contract.

The Chief Information Officer-Solutions and Partners 4 (CIO-SP4) was supposed to revolutionize government-wide acquisition contracting. The $50 billion ceiling and 10-year lifecycle contract was intended to bring new life to the government acquisition process – which hasn’t changed much in more than 25 years.

But going as far back as 2021, when NITAAC dropped the first highly anticipated final solicitation of CIO-SP4, it has faced ongoing protest.

The first round of protest was in response to NITAAC making last-minute changes to the request for proposals. Industry and other experts asked NITAAC to push back the proposals deadline and for the contracting office to reengage with bidders to discuss the significant changes made to the RFP about a week before bids were due.

This time around, more than 30 unsuccessful bidders filed complaints with the Government Accountability Office (GAO) on March 30 when NITAAC notified these, and probably many other firms, they didn’t make the cut.

The latest round of protests focuses on the companies’ elimination from moving to Phase II of the evaluations. The vendors allege NITAAC made erroneous decisions to eliminate their self-scoring proposals from the competition. According to protestors, NITAAC’s cut-off score threshold was too high.

In addition, the protesters argued that the terms of the solicitation are unduly restrictive of competition and contain latent ambiguities that do not permit competition on a common basis. The protesters also argued that the agency improperly permitted offerors to revise proposals in a manner inconsistent with the terms of the solicitation.

According to GAO’s bid protest docket, NITAAC now faces 188 protests over CIO-SP4 in almost two years. NITAAC has won most of them, but the delays in getting CIO-SP4 going are costly for the companies and the government.

However, NITAAC Deputy Director and CIO-SP4 Contracting Officer, Ricky Clark, said they expect the awards to “improve small business access to future acquisition information and to enhance future competition.”

“NITAAC appreciates the robust competition under this solicitation. I hope that all offerors will look for teaming opportunities and continue to participate in future procurements,” he said, in the preliminary award announcement.

NITAAC’s CIO-SP4 preliminary awards include:

  • 123 8(a) firms
  • 53 HUBZone firms
  • 46 Service-disabled veteran-owned small businesses
  • 89 Women-owned small businesses
  • 62 Veteran-owned small businesses
  • 27 Indian economic enterprises or small economic enterprise
  • 123 other than small (large businesses), which includes
  • 75 Other than small businesses (emerging large businesses)

GAO has until July 10 to make a decision regarding these complaints.

Read More About
More Topics
Lisbeth Perez
Lisbeth Perez
Lisbeth Perez is a MeriTalk Staff Reporter covering the intersection of government and technology.