NASA SEWP was the first GWAC in the Federal Acquisition arena, setting the stage for the many that would follow. With SEWP VI slated for 2025, G2Xchange took the opportunity to connect with Joanne Woytek, Program Manager at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center and CoR responsible for management, implementation and operational aspects of over 147 SEWP Government-Wide Acquisition Contracts (GWACs). Here Joanne shares some advice for Government and industry, and she clears up some of the mystery of getting a spot on the GWAC.
SEWP started in the 90s as a way to get the scientific customer what they needed. The idea of an IDIQ itself was cutting edge for the time. We needed to secure delegation authority so proposed the concept to GSA and since they too had been thinking about the concept for a GWAC, they discussed SEWP as a pilot. Initially we were testing the rules, figuring out how to pay for goods, how to procure, who would run things and how to help smaller agencies access it. The Clinger-Cohen Act put the GWAC concept into law.
At one time we thought we might be able to handle IT support through SEWP but realized quickly that we weren’t quite big enough for that. As we moved along we became the first entity to support eCommerce over the Internet, moving from a physical cubby hole and weekly updates to where we can now update changes in less than an hour.
The most important thing about SEWP is its key concepts. It is not a program, not a contract or a policy but rather, all three working together.
SEWP started small and with a limited scope but we can now handle just about everything including communication products and services. We are now the size of the GSA Schedules but are not a Schedule. We operate under a different part of the FAR, have a different philosophy and operations model. These differences are a good thing because they provide contrast and options.
Through SEWP we want to have a few – 140 at the moment – contract holders who can then funnel access to all of the companies that may have products or services to offer. Getting a place on SEWP is as simple as a business to business relationship and we add five to 10 companies a day to those existing contracts, companies that are finding ways to leverage those business relationships.
Working with multiple companies who can offer similar products or support services encourages competition. Providing Government with access to a single source from which they get fulfill multiple needs for product and support streamlines their efforts and ensures they get what they need at the right price.
Industry as Partner
As part of our work with SEWP we always want to ensure we are listening to what industry is doing (or where industry is going) and participate where industry is engaged. Part of our role is to help Government understand industry and to serve as a conduit between the two as a manager of information. Our role is never to initiate policy, but it is to make policy understandable and hopefully to support policy to ensure it works as intended.
It is important for industry to know that it is good to ask questions, good to correct Government when they are not understanding. Our experience is that Government is frustrated when it doesn’t happen more. Industry sometimes has to tell Government what they need to know to succeed.
The flip side of course is that Government has to be open to listening. Government also needs to understand that industry doesn’t operate on rules that are single-minded. There needs to be a back and forth for both sides to appreciate and understand each other.
We’ll start thinking about the next recompete of SEWP in 2022 since it takes about two and a half years to fully prepare and SEWP V is set to expire in 2025. Industry and Government can expect to see more public plans in 2023.
For those who are interested in SEWP, now is the time to learn about us, about how to get involved. If you are a reseller, or have a product or service, start attending the monthly SEWP of the Day webinars to learn what you need now. We have a team focused on industry who are updating information on our website regularly and hosting new events.
We have 140 companies on SEWP now that represent some of the largest and smallest companies in the marketplace and both sides can use niche access to agencies and product. Now is the time to make those business to business arrangements. Teaming and novations can also be a way to access SEWP.
In some ways SEWP sounds easy but it looks that way because of all of the advance work that goes into it, the processes that need to be followed. Industry has to be prepared to spend money, to have a staff, and to understand what the contract is really about.
From our end we just want to ensure companies are following the rules, delivering good product and good pricing, and responding to our customers in a timely manner and appropriately.
We will never contact a Government customer to push SEWP, but when they reach out to us we are always happy to engage and support them. Prior to 2015 we switched a large part of our focus away from the individual customer to understanding how we can help agencies as a whole since we are one of two GWACs every agency has access to. That can mean speaking with agency CIOs who can then filter the messaging down the chain.
That being said we do a lot of direct training with Government clients around SEWP. It isn’t our job to force a Government person to choose SEWP. It is our job to give customers a reason to come to use us by doing the right thing and giving them access to what they need.
We recently shared a whitepaper on the OTTPS-NIST Standards Crosswalk. As we grow, we also take on responsibility to do more. I mentioned that we don’t drive policy but we do want to understand what is going on and if we can find information and do a better job of providing that information to customers, of sharing insight, then we can bridge the gap between Government and industry in a different way.
This is Not the End of the Year but the Start
Industry needs to understand that September may be the biggest spending time but that is not the best time to be working. Industry needs to be upfront, maybe not now but by the start of the calendar year in reaching out to Government to provide needed intel, to focus on helping those customers early in the process while budgets and plans are in early stages.
If you have something to sell, you need to be ready to let people know, but also understand how Government works so you are doing it appropriately and at the right time and in the right way. There are so many pieces to the puzzle but in our experience most customers just want to be able to get their work done and have access to the right tools to achieve their goals.
About Joanne Woytek
Ms. Joanne Woytek is the Program Director for the NASA SEWP Program, a premier Government-Wide Acquisition Contract (GWAC) providing Federal Agencies access to the latest in Information & Communication Technology product solutions. From SEWP’s inception, twenty-five years ago, through to the present, Ms. Woytek continues to be the key figure in the continuing evolution of the program and management of strategic direction, day-to-day operations, and planning of the SEWP program. Ms. Woytek is a 40 plus year veteran of Goddard Space Flight Center (GSFC) in Greenbelt, Maryland, and in her eighteenth year as Program Director.