GSA has produced a number of successful contract vehicles over the years, one of which was the One Acquisition Solution for Integrated Solution or “OASIS.” This vehicle, used to acquire professional services (not including information technology) for the government, was so successful that GSA is in the process of preparing its sequel, OASIS+. On March 6, 2023, the agency issued its second draft RFP, and the final RFP is expected soon. In light of this, we’re going to go through some of the planned provisions for OASIS+ for small businesses, with special attention to the provisions on teaming arrangements and joint ventures.
First, a caveat: All of the below is from the second RFP draft. The final draft may contain different provisions, so be sure to review it when it is released. This is just a preview.
Now, GSA plans to split OASIS+ in two: One part is an unrestricted competition open to all federal contractors, and one for small businesses, the latter of which (OASIS+ SB), we will focus on here. It appears there will not be a separate competition for say 8(a)s and WOSBs for awards of OASIS SB+ main contracts. You will be competing with all other small businesses that bid for OASIS+ SB. But, awardees will be given contracts based on their socio-economic categories and can expect task orders that will be set aside for those categories.
Bids will be reviewed and awarded credits if they meet various criteria. The draft notes: “The qualifying threshold for all small business and socioeconomic set-asides (e.g. small business, 8(a), HUBZone, WOSB, SDVOSB) has been set at 36 out of the available 50 credits.” What sort of things will earn a bidder credits? Here are the areas that can earn a bidder credits:
- Qualifying Project Experience (Work similar to the work that will be awarded under OASIS+)
- Federal Prime Contractor Experience (General experience with federal contracting as a prime)
- Systems, Rates, and Clearances (Accounting systems, government facility clearance)
- Certifications (ISO, CMMI)
- Past Performance
The draft breaks these down further, so check it out for more details.
As expected, OASIS+ SB permits the usage of teaming arrangements, either in the form of creating a partnership/joint venture with another entity or by agreeing to use another company as a subcontractor. We will discuss the joint ventures below, but we first wanted to note an important caveat on teaming with subcontractors. At Section L.184.108.40.206, on page 146, it states: “An Offeror may agree with one (1) or more other small businesses to have them act as its first-tier subcontractors under a potential OASIS+ award.” This appears to suggest that larger subcontractors cannot be used in this sort of teaming arrangement. Further down, the language appears to confirm that:
“If one or all members of the teaming agreement exceed all size standards within a particular Domain, the Offeror(s) may still submit a proposal under the Unrestricted OASIS+ solicitation separately to be considered for award as an “Other than Small Business” as long as they technically qualify under the specific evaluation criteria for that solicitation.”
This language is curious. It appears that, for OASIS+ SB, offerors cannot use large businesses as subcontractors, or at least they can’t use such subcontractors in their proposal. We think that GSA’s aim here is to prevent offerors from using large business subcontractor experience in their proposals, but the language seems to create some uncertainty as to whether offerors can team with large subcontractors at all under OASIS+ SB, even if the offeror doesn’t try to use the large subcontractor’s experience in its proposal.
In any event, it appears per this draft language that large subcontractors are prohibited. It remains to be seen if this language as written, will be kept in the final RFP, but if it is, we think it is something worth asking for clarification on if offerors are unclear about it. This language is a bit unexpected in its scope. We think it is very limiting on offerors in its effects, and we are curious to see if GSA might modify it or provide some clarification. We recommend that, if you plan on bidding and are unsure about the language, that you ask about it in any question sessions for the RFP.
As for joint ventures, we want to start with an important reminder: Populated joint ventures between similarly situated entities are going to eligible for small-business set asides as of May 30, 2023! Assuming OASIS+ SB is released after that date, this will be an option.
There are some other interesting considerations here. Bidders apparently can use the experience of (small) subcontractors to the joint venture for Qualifying Project Experience and Federal Prime Contractor Experience as well as Past Performance. Another thing worth noting is that for “Systems, Rates, and Clearances” and “Certifications,” offerors submitting as a joint venture can have the claimed system, certification, or clearance in the name of the joint venture itself or in the name of a member of the joint venture. Note, however, that a subcontractor of the joint venture having one of these systems, certifications, or clearances will not be accepted.
One other thing to note is that the language appears to permit mentor-protégé joint ventures, but it also states that if any members exceed all size standards under a particular task area (what they call a “Domain”) that the joint venture must instead submit its proposal under the unrestricted OASIS+ solicitation as the joint venture will be considered an “Other than Small Business.” This language contradicts the affiliation exception for mentor-protégé joint ventures, and we are curious if this language will receive some clarification.
There are a few interesting provisions in the most recent draft of the RFP for OASIS+ SB. The unclear provisions on large subcontractors raise some interesting questions, and the provisions do grant some fair flexibility for joint venturers. Of course, this is just the second draft. Once the final version is released, no doubt we’ll see some differences, so be sure to keep your eye out.
Questions about this post? Or need help with a government contracting legal issue? Email us.