Polaris: GSA's Small Business IT Contract
Last Updated September 16, 2022
It’s finally here—GSA has unpaused the final Request for Proposal (RFP) for Polaris and released solicitations for all 4 pools. Polaris is a multiple-award small business IDIQ contract that will provide the federal government with IT services and IT service-based solutions with an emphasis on emerging technologies.
Since the draft came out in December of 2020, Polaris has become the most highly anticipated governmentwide IT acquisition vehicle. Polaris will give government agencies access to a range of services including cloud platforms, cybersecurity, and software development technology.
After the initial release of the RFP, Polaris was put on hold due to a pre-award challenge, but now Amendment 002 is out for both the Small Business and Women-Owned Small Business pools with an extended due date, and the solicitation notices are now out for the Service-Disabled Veteran-Owned Small Business (SDVOSB) and the Historically Underutilized Business Zone (HUBZone) tracks. So, here's what you need to know about this contract vehicle.
What is the Polaris Contract Vehicle?
The initial idea for Polaris came about when GSA canceled the Alliant 2 Small Business contract in July 2020. Like Alliant 2, Polaris is one of GSA’s small business Governmentwide Acquisition Contracts (GWACs) that offers government agencies an efficient way to procure highly qualified small business IT service providers.
These contracts make it easier for agencies because they will have several pre-vetted businesses to choose from when they need to find critical IT services and solutions.
With Polaris, GSA wants to improve upon past GWACs and expand the industry base, provide greater access to emerging technologies, simplify proposal submission requirements, and enhance the government customer experience.
What Are the Main Components of the Polaris Contract?
The scope of the Polaris contract is to provide federal agencies with customized IT services and IT services-based solutions both commercial and non-commercial.
The primary NAICS codes for this contract are:
- 51820 - Data Processing, Hosting, and Related Services
- 541511 - Custom Computer Programming Services
- 541512 - Computer Systems Design Services
- 541513 - Computer Facilities Management Services
- 541519 - Other Computer Related Services
One important thing to note is Polaris has no ceiling requirement. GSA issues a Federal Acquisition (FAR) deviation removing the requirement for Polaris to have a minimum or maximum quantity under the Indefinite Delivery Indefinite Quantity (IDIQ) contract.
Polaris Will Have 4 Contract Pools
Polaris will be a total set-aside contract vehicle and will establish 4 separate contract pools based on size and socioeconomic status:
- Small Businesses
- Women-Owned Small Businesses (WOSB)
- Service Disabled Veteran-Owned Small Business (SDVOSB)
A company can theoretically compete and be awarded a contract in each Polaris pool, but may only receive one award per pool.
An Important Note About the Polaris Pools
This is the first time GSA has created a specific contract pool for HUBZone and WOSB businesses. The Small Business and WOSB pools are due September 23, 2022 and the SDVOSB and the HUBZone pools are due November 4, 2022. More information about the pools can be found in the GSA Small Business Community of Interest group on GSA Interact, which is now part of Buy.GSA.gov.
Polaris Will Focus on Emerging Technologies
One unique aspect of Polaris is its focus on modernizing the IT industry and its experimentation with technologies that are currently developing or will be developed in the future. Contractors will be encouraged to propose innovative solutions when responding to task order requests.
Examples of emerging technology services include, but are not limited to:
- Advanced and Quantum Computing
- Artificial Intelligence (AI)
- Automation Technology
- Distributed Ledger Technology
- Edge Computing
- Immersive Technology
The Polaris contract will also offer ancillary support that is necessary to perform a services-based solution like data entry, clerical support, and software licenses. IT Managed Services can also be provided through Polaris, where the contractor as the Managed Service Provider (MSP) can offer network, application, and infrastructure and security services.
Polaris Encourages Contractors to Follow CMMC Requirements
The Cybersecurity Model Maturity Certification (CMMC) 2.0, a set of cybersecurity standards set by the Department of Defense (DoD), is mentioned in the Polaris RFP. While CMMC is currently a DoD initiative, it might also start to infiltrate into civilian acquisitions. Polaris contractors are encouraged to monitor, prepare, and participate in acquiring a CMMC certification once CMMC 2.0 becomes official. Contractors are also encouraged to be aware of any CMMC 2.0 developments and implement the appropriate NIST SP-800 requirements which are expected to be a foundation of CMMC 2.0.
While there is no set level of requirements at the moment, GSA mentions they reserve the right to require CMMC 2.0 certification up to level 2 to be considered for Polaris.
Evaluation Factors for the Polaris Contract
If you are a GSA contractor who is registered as a small business, you are eligible to pursue this opportunity.
Whenever you respond to a government solicitation you must pay close attention to what GSA is asking for. You need to not only make sure you are competitive enough to enter, but you should also ensure you are very thorough in your response and follow directions exactly. It's not all about having the cheapest or flashiest solutions. It's about your experience as a company and what value you can offer the government.
The awardees for the Polaris contract will not be selected based off the lowest price or trade-off but will be chosen for the best value. This will be determined by several factors including:
- Technical Evaluation
- Relevant Experience
- Past Performance
- Systems, Certifications, and Clearances (not minimum or mandatory requirements but offerors who demonstrate having these within their proposal will receive additional points)
- Cybersecurity and Supply Chain Risk Management
Each Polaris RFP includes a detailed description of each factor and a scoring table showing how much the factors weigh and how many points can be awarded in each section.
Polaris is a huge opportunity for GSA small business contractors. If your company offers IT services, services-based solutions, or is on the cutting edge of emerging technology, you should consider pursuing this contract. Once awarded, Polaris contractors will be part of an elite group that the government will go to for their IT services needs.
If you and your company are not prepared to go after this contracting opportunity right now, there may be a chance for you to compete later on, especially if you are a HUBZone or SDVOSB. There is a possibility of on ramping more companies as needed after the initial solicitation.
If you want to learn more about support options for preparing a Polaris offer, or would like to learn more about small business set-aside opportunities, feel free to reach out to one of our consultants.
About Stephanie Hagan
Stephanie Hagan is the Content Writer and Digital Editor for Winvale where she helps the marketing department continue to develop and distribute GSA and government contracting content. Stephanie grew up in Sarasota, Florida, and earned her Bachelor's of Arts in Journalism and Rhetoric/Communications from the University of Richmond.