NASA to unveil tech contract with new name, fee structure

When NASA launches its updated governmentwide information technology contracting vehicle in the coming days, it will do so with a new name and a revamped fee structure.

The new SEWP IV contracts will offer federal customers the same IT products but at a reduced cost, said Joanne Woytek, program manager for the contracts, on Wednesday. The payment structure will reduce the base service fee from 0.65 percent to 0.6 percent, and a cap of $18,000 will be imposed on orders in excess of $3 million.

"The goal is always to get the fee structure as low as possible and still provide the same level of customer service," Woytek said.

NASA's service fee already was the lowest among the 12 governmentwide acquisition contracts, Woytek said. Comparatively, the General Services Administration generally charges users a fee of 0.75 percent. The reduced fee is expected to be balanced out by imposing the base fee on all orders, including those less than $2,500. Previously, NASA did not charge a fee for orders that small.

The introduction of the SEWP IV contracts, which is expected within a few days, will also bring a name change for the peculiar sounding GWAC. SEWP will now stand for Solutions for Enterprise-Wide Procurement, replacing the original Scientific and Engineering Workstation Procurement.

The new name reflects SEWP's evolving approach to its primary objective, Woytek said. While its contracts continue to focus on scientific and engineering disciplines, the multifaceted product solutions that are now available extend to several other subjects.

"The products we provide are more than just a catalog," Woytek said. "They are solutions … not just for one department or agency but for a whole enterprise."

One of the problems with the old name was that the term "workstation" now fails to encapsulate SEWP's sophisticated computer systems and solution-based supporting equipment, Woytek said. The new name better evokes SEWP's core mission, she said.

The SEWP IV contracts also will bring added oversight and training by one of the contract's biggest customers. The Defense Department now will require procurement officers who use the SEWP IV contracts to complete a free training course provided by NASA, according to a memorandum issued earlier this month by Shay Assad, director of defense procurement and acquisition policy. NASA will maintain a list of contracting officers who have completed the training, and only those who have been certified will be allowed to order from SEWP IV for Defense.

The mandatory training was sparked by a November 2006 report by the Defense inspector general's office, which found that Defense contracting and program personnel failed to comply with acquisition rules when using the SEWP contracts. The IG's office examined 111 orders and found that nearly 90 percent had contracting or funding problems.

The audit report also recommended that contracting officers first check that the same goods and services cannot be obtained as conveniently or economically through an existing Defense contract, before using a non-Defense vehicle such as SEWP.

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