GSA Holds Great Power in Picking Government Cloud Computing Contract Winner

By Wayne Rash  |  Posted 2010-09-23 Print this article Print

News Analysis: GSA is getting ready to award a huge federal government cloud computing contract, but handicapping the outcome, if there is one, won't be easy.

When Clint Boulton wrote about the competition for the cloud services proposals that have gone to the General Services Administration, he correctly pointed out that Google, IBM and Microsoft all have products that are essentially similar. 

The three companies are proposing to provide Web mail and other office applications in a cloud-based environment. All of them will cost about the same, and all will provide federal workers pretty much the same thing. But that doesn't mean that these companies have an equal chance of winning. It doesn't even mean that any of them will win. 

The GSA has great latitude in awarding contracts, and the companies have great latitude in what they propose to deliver. In addition, it's a certainty that whoever eventually does win the contract award will find the decision being appealed. So any move to cloud services will happen only when something final comes out of the process. But there's no guarantee that the end result will resemble the initial proposals. 

First, it's important to remember that federal government contracting is rife with rules that attempt to make sure that the government gets the best overall deal, that no unfair practices are taking place and that a number of Congressionally mandated requirements are met. Second, it's not unusual for the GSA to ask for modifications to a proposal to reflect changes in technology, the products in question or to meet emerging requirements that weren't in the original RFP.  

It's also not unusual for one-time competitors to decide to team up to win a contract so they can provide a capability at a price that no one else can offer. And, of course, it's possible that the GSA will decide that all of the proposals are deficient, and not award the contract to anyone. All of these things happen routinely in government contracting. 

In the case of IT contracts, there's a big advantage in being the incumbent contractor providing a service. You already know exactly what's going on; you already know the people awarding the contract; and you know exactly how you'll do the migration. Because of this, you might be able to propose a solution that has the best credibility. It also helps a lot if you have long experience in crafting winning proposals. You know exactly how to present your products and solutions so that they meet the requirements, stated and implied, of the procurement.  

Wayne Rash Wayne Rash is a Senior Analyst for eWEEK Labs and runs the magazine's Washington Bureau. Prior to joining eWEEK as a Senior Writer on wireless technology, he was a Senior Contributing Editor and previously a Senior Analyst in the InfoWorld Test Center. He was also a reviewer for Federal Computer Week and Information Security Magazine. Previously, he ran the reviews and events departments at CMP's InternetWeek.

He is a retired naval officer, a former principal at American Management Systems and a long-time columnist for Byte Magazine. He is a regular contributor to Plane & Pilot Magazine and The Washington Post.

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