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AFCEA Small Business Procurement Series: 8(a) STARS III

Published: May 07, 2019

8(a) ProgramContracting TrendsGSAInformation Technology

The Armed Forces Communications & Electronics Association, AFCEA, held a business procurement networking event on April 30, 2019. The event, moderated by Tina Jordan, AFCEA Vice President, Membership and AFCEA International, was centered on the upcoming release of the 8(a) STARS III Government-Wide Acquisition Contract. As the Government has made no official announcements about the 8(a) STARS III GWAC, the discussion was for the purposes of speculation as to what contractors may be able to expect in regards to possible changes to the contract vehicle, and ways that interested contractors might best prepare themselves for its release.

The guest presenters for this event were Stephanie Mitchell and Brian Friel of BDSquared LLC., a Federal Acquisition Business Development consulting firm. Stephanie and Brian began with an overview of the current 8(a) STARS II GWAC. So far, the government has spent over $11 billion in acquisitions on the 8(a) STARS II GWAC since its contracts were awarded in 2011, and about 550 companies have won a combined 4,559 task orders. The STARS vehicle is the definition of a GWAC as it is used by 54 cabinet departments and independent agencies. It is most heavily utilized by the Department of State ($1.5 Billion), the Air Force ($950 million), the Army ($937 million), and the USDA ($932 million), and expected to grow in the next generation of contracts. Other IT vehicles such as the DHS’s EAGLE and Treasury Department’s TIPSS, are being allowed to expire and their services transitioned to STARS and other contract vehicles, as it had proved so capable and effective over the last decade.

Many contractors get their start on the STARS contract. STARS was a critical stepping stone for many of the current lead Prime contractors. Compared to the qualifications necessary to hold a Schedule contract, the STARS vehicle offers an opportunity for new and unproven companies to win their first high profile task orders. There will also be lots of room for opportunity, as the many of the lead contractors currently on STARS are graduating out of their 8(a) classification, in large part due to their work through their STARS contract. On the STARS vehicle, 8(a) companies can earn experience and reputation, which can open the door to other contract opportunities. STARS II also allowed Sole Source orders, which provided contractors with the ability to develop a loyal customer base within government agencies.

There are some key changes that Ms. Mitchell and Mr. Friel anticipate for the 8(a) STARS III vehicle. Teaming and JV partnerships are utilized heavily by the 8(a) community to leverage their collective experience to be more competitive. As a result of the Protest decision made on the OASIS Small Business Pool 1 On-Ramp, significant changes were made to the Teaming and JV requirements for the OASIS 8(a) Sub-Pool On-Ramp. Ms. Mitchell and Mr. Friel suspect that 8(a) STARS III will have similar requirements for Teaming and JV partnering, which require all the partners of a Teaming or JV to be 8(a). Team-ups will also most likely only be allowed once. Being Part of an all SB 8(a) JV will help contractors earn experience toward being considered a prime contractor. The SBA currently has a nine-month backlog on approvals for 8(a) JVs so it’s critical for contractors to file as early as possible. 8(a) STARS III is likely to be much more attainable than other government GWACs. Some vehicles, such as OASIS, often require prime contractor experience, while 8(a) STARS III will probably accept subcontractor experience. The General Services Administration has begun using the new Symphony program to coordinate proposal records and documentation in order to manage the complexities of the Proposals process. Symphony will most likely be the tool used for many GSA managed vehicles going forward.

The 8(a) STARS II structure is made up of two constellations with four functional areas a piece based on NAICS code. That means that there are eight current possible places for a Contracting Office to place an RFP and offerors must currently map two past performance examples to the constellation. Many Contracting Officers and Contractors find this structure to be complicated and at time difficult to use. The current trend within the GSA is to streamline and simplify their contract vehicles to make them more efficient for everyone involved in the acquisitions process. This suggests the current STARS structure may be abandoned, replaced, or refined. It is also anticipated that Scorecard Evaluations will become more prominent, as more government agencies are using them as a performance metric.

The opportunities that STARS III offers make it a highly anticipated vehicle for vendors in the 8(a) community searching for growth and experience, further reflecting how unmatched this vehicle is in comparison to others. Given that GSA collected the bids for STARS II a year early and it took two years to award the open season, STARS III will most likely be released in the Fall of 2019.  The current ordering period for 8(a) STARS II GWAC is scheduled to expire on August 30, 2021. Orders issued on or before August 30, 2021, may continue performance through August 30, 2024. The General Services Administration is expected to create the 8(a) STARS III GWAC as a replacement vehicle before the option period expires on August 30, 2021. 

The STARS II vendor pool has unique rates for 34 locations around the United States covering 141 labor categories.  For additional information and general pricing details, visit https://iq.govwin.com/index.cfm?action=laborRates.show_laborBasicSearchForm.