After nearly two years of planning, GSA has released an RFP seeking prototypes of online shopping portals that would allow federal customers to buy COTS items from their computers.

GSA’s plan implements Section 846 of the NDAA for FY 2018, which instructed the agency to create an internet marketplace exempt from many standard procurement regulations.  As we have previously discussed in this blog, GSA began planning in 2017, sought input from industry in 2018 and 2019, and the announced earlier this year that it would proceed with proofs of concept. But while the new solicitation was a long time coming, GSA clearly is ready to move quickly: contractors will have less than a month before the proposal deadline to digest the solicitation and assess how its terms might affect their business approach, data rights, and competitive standing.

The RFP seeks an online shopping portal that would connect customers to multiple vendors, creating competition among vendors — a so-called “e-marketplace” model.  GSA had considered using other models, including an “e-commerce” model in which the portal provider would also be the seller, but decided to table them for now.  The FY2020 NDAA, currently in conference, may force GSA’s hand, if provisions from the House-passed bill are sustained in the negotiations.  The House’s bill would require GSA to conduct a five-year pilot program to test all three types of online models: the “e-commerce” model; the “e-marketplace” model; and the “e-procurement” model (a software-as-a-service model in which the provider facilitates only third-party sales).  This provision could disrupt GSA’s plans and require a new solicitation.  We have previously discussed the various models here.

GSA’s evaluation will focus on technical capabilities, and offerors that pass an initial evaluation will be asked to perform a live demonstration of the platform.  The solicitation contemplates a no-cost contract, and thus cost/price is not a competitive evaluation factor.  However, GSA is considering making multiple awards, and the RFP states that it may even have an “open season” during the performance period to award additional contracts.

Time is short for responding to the RFP or seeking clarification on its requirements.  Questions about solicitation’s terms are due by October 15, 2019, and proposals are due by November 1, 2019.  Given the tight deadline, contractors interested in pursuing opportunities under the new program would be wise to act quickly to evaluate the solicitation’s legal and business implications.