Big Dreams, Big Rewards

Vanetta Poole is a telecommunications systems analyst at STG Inc., a technology contractor that is expected to bid on the government's massive Alliant contract.
Vanetta Poole is a telecommunications systems analyst at STG Inc., a technology contractor that is expected to bid on the government's massive Alliant contract. (By Sarah L. Voisin -- The Washington Post)

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By Griff Witte
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, May 30, 2005

This summer, Reston-based federal contractor STG Inc. will compete head-to-head against companies that do more government technology work in a month than it does all year.

The odds are long, but the potential payoff is high.

The prize? A GWAC.

An abbreviation only a bureaucrat could love, GWAC stands for government-wide acquisition contract. To the companies like STG that sell to the public sector, GWAC also stands for billions of dollars in potential business, and a foot in the door at every agency in the federal government. Just one win can lift a company from obscurity and make it a major player. A loss can freeze it out of contention for the next decade.

The idea is to give agencies a way to buy goods and services more quickly and, at least in theory, more economically by winnowing the field of possible contractors to a select group that can meet a wide variety of needs.

With several large GWACs up for grabs this summer, contractors big and small are scurrying to prepare proposals, research the opposition and organize alliances, all in an effort to ensure they get a piece of the business.

"It's a challenge, but it's also a growing opportunity," said Dennis Groh, vice president at STG, which has increased its annual revenue to about $170 million after winning previous GWAC competitions. "Plus, these don't come along very often."

They are coming along much more often than they used to, however, as a shrinking cadre of government procurement officials relies on them increasingly as one-stop-shopping sources for their equipment and service needs.

STG, for example, is competing to be one of the 20 companies picked by the General Services Administration to be included in a 10-year, $50 billion GWAC for information technology called Alliant.

"This is one of the most important bids that we have going in the federal sector," said Elaine Dauphin, vice president at Computer Sciences Corp., which is the government's fourth-largest information technology vendor and has 8,100 employees in the Washington area working on federal contracts.

ITS Corp., a California company that plans to expand beyond its 50 employees in the Washington region, has recruited several partners to form an alliance in its bid to be included in Alliant.

Companies also are trying to get part of a major telecommunications contract called Networx, which is also run by the GSA and is valued at $20 billion. While not technically a GWAC, it works in much the same way. As GWACs expand, some contracting experts wonder whether such big contracts really give the government its money's worth.


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© 2005 The Washington Post Company

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