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Contract to Watch: NOAA to open program worth up to $5 billion

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is preparing to open a contracting program that could be worth as much as $5 billion over five years.

The program, known as Pro-Tech, aims to consolidate several existing contracting efforts into one that will be used to buy a range of technical and professional services, from conducting environmental impact studies to providing satellite research.

The program is an effort by NOAA to reduce the number of contractors it uses, said Mitchell Ross, director of acquisition and grants at NOAA.

“We think that by doing some consolidation we can reduce the cost of transactions, and we can reduce the managerial overhead,” said Ross.

Four years ago, NOAA had 18,000 acquisition transactions; last year, it cut that number to 12,500.

“That’s deliberate on our part,” Ross said. “With declining budgets and resources, we simply can’t have 18,000 transactions.”

The program’s ceiling will likely be between $2 billion and $5 billion, said Ross, and the agency has not yet decided whether to set aside business for small firms. Ross said NOAA would like to include small businesses.

The agency released a draft solicitation in late September and held an industry day Dec. 10, said J.D. Weiman, a research analyst with Herndon-based Deltek, which researches the government contracting market.

Michael Blumenfeld, the contracting officer for the program, said over the past 18 months, the agency has met with at least 50 companies in one-on-one meetings about the contract.

Contractors have indicated, for instance, they want more flexibility on how they report their past performance under their proposal, according to Ross.

He said that the agency hopes to award the program to multiple companies by the end of fiscal 2014 — or fall of next year.

About 400 contractors who use Deltek’s information have marked the program as of interest, and Weiman expects that number to grow once the solicitation is issued.

Even as NOAA seeks to cut down on costs and on the number of vendors it uses, Ross said the agency doesn’t want to see lower quality offerings.

“It’s a balance between ... quality of service and reduced prices,” he said. “We certainly don’t want to have a race to the bottom.”



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