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IDIQs and GSA Schedules – Understanding the Contract Vehicles

With all of the talk about IDIQs and the vehicles available for Federal buyers, do you understand the terms now in use? There are IDIQs that are GWACs, MACs, EWACs and these are different from GSA Schedules.

So what do these terms mean? IDIQs are indefinite delivery indefinite quantity contracts. The government uses IDIQs when they do not know how much product or service they need or where and when they need to have it delivered. Once the contract is awarded, the government issues delivery orders when they know what they need. 

GWACs are Government-Wide Acquisition Contracts. These are special IDIQs for Information Technology (IT) products and services that can be used by all of the Federal Government. Only special authorized agencies can award these. The most popular ones are awarded by GSA (Alliant, STARs, VETs), NASA (SEWP) and NIH (ECSIII and CIOSP). .

MACs are Multi-Agency Contracts. These are IDIQs that multiple agencies can use like GWACs but either they are not done by a GWAC authorized agency or they are not for IT products or services. The most recognized are for Telecommunications products and services awarded by GSA or the contracts awarded by DISA like Encore.

EWACs are Enterprise-Wide Acquisition Contracts. These are agency specific IDIQ contracts that cover the needs of an entire agency. They can be IT or non-IT. But other agencies cannot order from them.  An example is Department of Homeland Security Eagle and First Source contracts.

There are a lot of benefits to the GSA Schedule contracts compared to IDIQs. 

  • None of the IDIQs have the breadth of products and services that are available on GSA Schedules. 
  • GSA Schedule ordering rules are simpler than the IDIQ rules.
  • GSA negotiates the pricing terms and conditions so orders from GSA Schedules can be done in days instead of the months it takes to award an IDIQ. 
  • Unlike IDIQs, GSA Schedule contracts do not have a Maximum Order limit that limits the total dollar value of orders placed on the contract. 
  • GSA Schedule contracts go for up to 20 years whereas IDIQs generally are for 5-10 years.
  • GSA Schedule contracts can be used by state and local governments under special circumstances.
  • GSA Schedule customers can tailor orders to get what they need by customizing terms and conditions at the order level
  • Alternatives such as blanket purchase agreements and contractor team arrangements can replace the need for agency indefinite delivery/indefinite quantity contracts
  • GSA Schedule contracts are continuously negotiating with new contractors whereas IDIQs are awarded once every 5-10 years.  If the company is not on it at award they have to wait until the next competition.

Things to Do Now:

  • Identify the IDIQ contracts that cover your products or services.  Be ready to submit a proposal when the competition is opened.
  • Develop a teaming approach to subcontract with companies already on the IDIQs.
  • To expand the government’s ability to access your products without worrying about which contract your products or services are on you can get your items on a GSA Schedule contract.
    – Locate partners now such as Technical Communities who will act for you in the market.
    – Make sure they have full access to the products or services that are in demand for the government markets.

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Linda Rodden is a former Director Public Contracts and Proposals for Dell, former Vice President of GSA Contracting for Federal Sources Inc., and a consultant for over 15 years, specializing in GSA Schedules.

24 comments

  1. GovContracts Insider: Monthly Highlights | GovContracts Government Contracts & Procurement January 25th, 2011 at 11:58 pm

    […] IDIQs and GSA Schedules – Understanding the Contract Vehicles With all of the talk about IDIQs and the vehicles available for Federal buyers, do you understand the terms now in use? There are IDIQs that are GWACs, MACs, EWACs and these are different from GSA Schedules. So what do these terms mean? Read more […]

  2. Paul Kakert January 30th, 2011 at 3:39 pm

    Many procurement officers do not utilize GSA schedule contracts as you have described, and I find it frustrating. As I approach many clients, and they are interested in working with my company based on our GSA schedule, their procurement process still goes through the same process as an open market solicitation. It would be great is you could explain how government clients can truly use GSA schedules to streamline the process. I see it as an advantage to their process but many have told me that using GSA does not save them time, and they revert back to open market solicitation processes.

  3. Linda Rodden February 1st, 2011 at 11:34 pm

    It is sometime difficult when agencies have imposed unnecessary rules on themselves. There is no reason GSA Schedule order should take as long as an open market order. Streamlining the process is as simple as following FAR 8.404 and not getting too fancy. Agencies get themselves tangled up when they try to treat a GSA Schedule order like it is a negotiated RFP or task or delivery order on an IDIQ. FAR Part 8 does not have the structured rules of either FAR Part 15 for negotiated procurements, or FAR Part 16.5 for IDIQs. Even agencies such as DoD that must notify all the schedule holders of a requirement can do it simply on GSA E-Buy. GSA does not charge extra for using E-Buy and GSA allows the agencies to maintain their selection control when using the E-buy tools.

    While there has been a lot of pressure on agencies to justify using GSA Schedules, the new FAR includes a requirement for justification on orders over $500,000, properly using FAR 8.404 techniques saves agencies a lot of time. A study done for GSA in the late 1990s compared the time and effort involved in awarding IDIQs compared to BPAs. BPAs took approximately a tenth of the time an IDIQ took. GAO and the courts have held that the informal FAR 8.4 processes are legal and agency decisions using them are not overturned. Agencies lose many more protests when following FAR Part 15 since it’s much easier to go awry in those formal procedures.

  4. Julian November 17th, 2014 at 6:34 pm

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    thanks for information….

  5. Jessie November 19th, 2014 at 1:27 am

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