The General Services Administration (GSA) has issued solicitations for its new Polaris small business-focused governmentwide acquisition contract (GWAC) vehicle, which aims to build equity in Federal procurement.

The new GWAC will focus more on emerging technologies like AI, automation, distributed ledger technology, edge computing, and “immersive technology while furthering Administration efforts on diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility,” GSA said.

“This first-of-its-kind contract will make it easier for small businesses to offer innovative IT solutions to the government, and marks another milestone in the Biden-Harris Administration’s efforts to advance equity in Federal procurement,” GSA Administrator Robin Carnahan said in a press release. “Now more than ever, we need to be smart and efficient in how we connect federal buyers with sellers in the IT space, and harnessing the ingenuity of small businesses is vital to achieving that goal.”

According to the press release, Polaris will be the first contract vehicle of its kind to feature four different pools of industry partners: small business, women-owned small businesses (WOSB), Historically Underutilized Business Zones (HUBZone), and Service Disabled Veteran Owned Small Businesses (SDVOSB).

GSA expects to first release request for proposals (RFPs) for the small business and WOSB pools with proposals due by May 13, 2022, while HUBZone and SDVOSB RFPs are set to be released by the end of the current fiscal year ending Sept. 30.

The Polaris Submission Portal will open for registration not earlier than April 5, and GSA is encouraging industry to review solicitation requirements on along with notice of an upcoming pre-proposal conference.

“The staggered approach to the pools allows us to more quickly provide the federal marketplace with access to key industry segments for which there is procurement set-aside authority and provide equitable business opportunities for historically underserved and marginalized small businesses, while supporting customer agencies and their small business program goals,” commented Federal Acquisition Service Commissioner Sonny Hashmi.

“The creation of these four diverse pools will afford more opportunities through increased exposure to government opportunities,” said Laura Stanton, assistant commissioner for the GSA Office of Information Technology Category (ITC). “Customers seeking customized IT services or an IT services-based solution from a Small Business, HUBZone, SDVOSB, or WOSB will have access to highly-qualified small businesses from these sectors who can meet their IT mission objectives and deliver small business program results, advancing a more just society in fulfillment of public policy objectives.”

GSA also highlighted key “good-for-government” elements of Polaris, including the expansion of Small Disadvantaged Business participation opportunities, regular refreshment of the industrial base through regular on-ramps, inclusion of a technical refresh clause that can be triggered to adapt to customer needs as needed, and award of Polaris without a contract ceiling.

GSA’s small business GWACs to date have been used by Federal agencies over the years to fulfill in excess of $32 billion of IT requirements, the agency said.  GSA has not stated a total value for Polaris, but industry scuttlebutt since last year has included discussion in the range of $15 billion to $20 billion.

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Jordan Smith
Jordan Smith
Jordan Smith is a MeriTalk Senior Technology Reporter covering the intersection of government and technology.