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Frequently Asked Questions

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Q. Why is SPARC needed?
Q. What process did CMS use to award the Strategic Partners Acquisition Readiness Contract (SPARC)?  
Q. What contract types can be issued on the SPARC contract?
Q. Why an IDIQ?
Q.  How is SPARC different than existing contracts providing similar services?
Q.  How does SPARC compare to existing GWACs?
Q. Are we able to set aside orders for small business under the SPARC contract?
Q.  How is SPARC helpful?
Q.  Who is eligible to compete on orders that are issued to the unrestricted pool?
Q.  Are we able to issue directed 8(a) sole source orders under $4 million dollars?
Q. Who is eligible to place orders under the SPARC contract?
Q. Will there be additional opportunities throughout the life of the SPARC contract for contractors to gain access to the contract?
Q. Will there be an administrative fee charged for use of the contract?  
Q. Are we able to utilize agile methodologies on the contract?
Q.  How do we place orders on the SPARC contract?
Q.  What role will CMS play in the award/administration of SPARC task orders placed by HHS OPDIVS other than CMS?
Q.  Is there a limit to the task order length solicited and procured under the SPARC IDIQ?
Q.  How soon will the SPARC vehicle be available for task order issuance?
Q.  Does CMS (OAGM) foresee or plan on an on-ramp of offerors after year 5 of the IDIQs?
Q. Does this mean CMS is planning to spend $25 billion on one contract? How does this work?
Q. How did CMS derive the SPARC ceiling?
Q.  Who are the contractors?


Q. Why is SPARC needed?

A.  CMS awarded SPARC to establish an efficient means to procure IT professional services from a pre-screened pool of contractors that have demonstrated significant relevant and innovative experience with CMS programs and missions.

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Q. What process did CMS use to award the Strategic Partners Acquisition Readiness Contract (SPARC)?  

A: CMS used the procedures described in the Federal Acquisition Regulations (FAR) Part 15, Contracting by Negotiation, to issue a Request for Proposal (RFP) under full and open competition.  This procedure provides the maximum amount of competition and transparency of those described by the FAR.  CMS publicized the action in the Government’s Federal Business Opportunities website to broadcast its intent to seek competitive proposals for the work.

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Q.  What contract types can be issued on the SPARC contract?

A.  The SPARC vehicle is a multiple award indefinite delivery/indefinite quantity (IDIQ) contract with provisions for pricing arrangements including, but not limited to, cost-plus-fixed-fee (CPFF), cost-plus-award-fee (CPAF), firm-fixed-price (FFP), firm-fixed-price-award-fee (FFPAF), cost-plus-incentive-fee (CPIF), time and materials (T&M) and labor hour (LH). Specific tasks and/or work to be performed will be detailed in, and solicited by, individual task orders issued under this IDIQ contract.

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Q. Why an IDIQ?

A.  IDIQ contracts allow for more streamlined competitions among pools of vendors that have been selected through a rigorous evaluation process (which could include agile contracting practices endorsed by the United States Digital Services). IDIQ contracts are useful when the exact needs are uncertain but when we know there will be a recurring need.

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Q.  How is SPARC different than existing contracts providing similar services?

A.  CMS sought to award an IDIQ to contractors which possess experience and knowledge of CMS’ specific missions and technology as well as demonstrating experience with innovative forms of technology such as agile development.  SPARC is similar in size and scope to existing Government-wide Acquisition Contracts (GWACS) for IT services but the specialized pool of contractors familiar with CMS’ unique mission and its technology provides a unique benefit.

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Q.  How does SPARC compare to existing GWACs?

A. See chart below comparing SPARC to existing GWACS:

Ability to set-aside orders for SB, HubZone, 8a, or SDV

Fee

Ordering Period

Type of Orders Permitted

On-Ramp to add SB’s

Maximum Value

GSA Schedule 70

Yes

0.75%

Open

FFP and T&M

No

unlimited

GSA Alliant

No

0.75%

10 years (2009 – 2019)

FFP, T&M, LH, CR

No

$50 B

GSA Alliant SB

Yes

0.75%

10 years (2009 – 2019)

FFP, T&M, LH, CR

No

$15 B

NIH CIOSP3

No

0.65%

10 years (2012 – 2022)

FFP, T&M, LH, CR

No

$20 B

NIH CIOSP3 SB

Yes

0.55%

10 years (2012 – 2022)

FFP, T&M, LH, CR

No

$20 B

GSA VETS

Only Veteran

0.75%

10 years (2007 – 2017)

FFP, T&M, LH

No

$5 B

GSA STARS II

Only 8a

0.75%

10 years (2011 – 2021)

FFP, T&M, LH

No

$10 B

SPARC

YES

NONE

10 years (estimated 2016 – 2026)

FFP, T&M, LH, CR

YES

$25 B

Contract Feature GSA Schedule 70 GSA Alliant GSA Alliant SB NIH CIOSP3 NIH CIOSP3 SB GSA VETS GSA STARS II SPARC
Ability to Set-aside orders for SB, HubZone, 8a, or SDV Yes No Yes No Yes Only Veteran Only 8a Yes
Fee to Use Contract 0.75% 0.75% 0.75% 0.65% 0.55% 0.75% 0.75% None
Ordering Period Open 10 years (2009 – 2019) 10 years (2009 – 2019) 10 years (2012 – 2022) 10 years (2012 – 2022) 10 years (2007 – 2017) 10 years (2011 – 2021) 10 years (estimated 2016 – 2026)
Type of Orders Permitted FFP and T&M FFP, T&M, LH, CR FFP, T&M, LH, CR FFP, T&M, LH, CR FFP, T&M, LH, CR FFP, T&M, LH FFP, T&M, LH FFP, T&M, LH, CR
On-Ramp to add SB’s No No No No No No No YES
Maximum Value unlimited $50 B $15 B $20 B $20 B $5 B $10 B $25 B

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Q. Are we able to set aside orders for small business under the SPARC contract?

A:  Yes, we are able to set aside orders for small business under the SPARC contract.  The RFP was conducted using the small business reserve method.  The work contemplated to be performed under this contract is divided into two pools, an Unrestricted pool and a Small Business pool.   The Small Business pool is divided into five categories: an All Small Business Eligible category, an 8(a) category, a HubZone category, a Woman Owned Small Business, and a Service Disabled Veteran Owned Eligible category.  Orders can be set aside to any of the small business categories.  All task orders which are valued at $29 Million or under, including options, will be set aside for small business.  Here is a chart depicting the pools of contractors:

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Q.  How is SPARC helpful?

A.  SPARC will provide a cost-effective means to procure the required services both in terms of time (streamlined ordering procedures) and money (no user fees).   SPARC also has pools of small business contractors that are well-positioned to perform services for CMS and will enhance CMS’ ability to satisfy its small business contracting goals.  There are pools of small business contractors within each socio-economic group.  As CMS targets appropriate work for these small business socio-economic groups, CMS can vastly improve its performance against these specific contracting goals.  Additionally, SPARC unrestricted task orders will include an evaluation factor to consider the meaningful use of small businesses, thereby providing incentive for large businesses to maximize the use of small business subcontractors.

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Q.  Who is eligible to compete on orders that are issued to the unrestricted pool?

A:  Awardees in the small business pool and unrestricted pool will be able to compete for orders issued to the unrestricted pool.

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Q.  Are we able to issue directed 8(a) sole source orders under $4 million dollars?

A.  Yes, the 8(a) pool of the SPARC contract has been offered and accepted as an 8(a) requirement by the SBA.  Task order awards, competitive or sole source, will receive 8(a) credit.  In addition, the SPARC contract allows the issuance of directed 8(a) sole source orders under $4 million dollars.

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Q. Who is eligible to place orders under the SPARC contract?

A.  The SPARC contract is open to CMS and all HHS Operational Divisions (OPDIVS) to place orders.

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Q.  Will there be additional opportunities throughout the life of the SPARC contract for contractors to gain access to the contract?

A.  Yes, the SPARC contract includes an on-ramping clause which may allow for additional contractors to be added in the future.  CMS will determine whether it would be in the Government’s best interest to initiate an open season to add additional Contractors to any of the SPARC Pools at any time, subject to the following conditions:

  1. An open season notice is published in Federal Business Opportunities in accordance with FAR Part 5, Publicizing Contract Action;
  2. An open season solicitation is issued under current Federal procurement law;
  3. Any Offeror that meets the eligibility requirements set forth in the open season solicitation may submit a proposal in response to the solicitation;
  4. The award decision under the open season solicitation is based upon substantially the same evaluation factors/sub-factors as the original solicitation;
  5. The terms and conditions of any resulting awards are materially identical to the existing version of the SPARC Pool; and,
  6. The period of performance term for any new awards is coterminous with the existing term for all other Contractors.

Immediately upon on-ramping, the Contractor is eligible to submit a proposal in response to any task order solicitation and receive task order awards with the same rights and obligations as any other Contractor.

The total number of Contractors within any of the SPARC Pools may fluctuate due to any number of reasons including, but not limited to, competition levels on task orders, mergers & acquisitions, the Government's exercise of the off-ramp process, and SPARC SB Contractors outgrowing their small business size status under their existing SPARC SB Contract.
It is in the Government’s best interest that there remain an adequate number of Contractors eligible to compete for task orders on the SPARC Contract to meet the Government’s professional service mission requirements.

For those SPARC Small Business (SB) Contractors who no longer certify as a small business for their respective SPARC SB Pool, the SPARC SB Contractor may elect to be considered to be placed on the corresponding SPARC unrestricted Pool.

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Q. Will there be an administrative fee charged for use of the contract?  

A: No, there is no administrative fee charged for use of the contract.

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Q. Are we able to utilize agile methodologies on the contract?

A: Yes, the SPARC contract encourages the use of agile contracting.  The awardee pool for SPARC includes many vendors with agile experience and allows for a variety of task order types to successfully complete agile projects.  The ordering procedures are extremely flexible and the Contracting Officer may establish tailored order placement procedures, such as those encouraged by the United States Digital Services.

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Q.  How do we place orders on the SPARC contract?

A.  An ordering guide will be issued to Contracting Officers which provides instructions for use of the contract.


Q.  What role will CMS play in the award/administration of SPARC task orders placed by HHS OPDIVS other than CMS?

A.  CMS will keep a record of all task orders placed by HHS OPDIVS to track the ceiling value on the contract.

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Q.  Is there a limit to the task order length solicited and procured under the SPARC IDIQ?

A.  Yes; the length is limited by HHSAR to a total of five (5) years, unless a Determination and Findings (D&F) is approved as part of the task order’s procurement.

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Q.  How soon will the SPARC vehicle be available for task order issuance?

A.  The SPARC vehicle will be available for task order issuance after contract award and after any resultant protest period has ended.

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Q.  Does CMS (OAGM) foresee or plan on an on-ramp of offerors after year 5 of the IDIQs?

A.  The SPARC contract includes an on-ramping clause which may allow for additional contractors to be added in the future.  CMS will determine whether it would be in the Government’s best interest to initiate an open season to add additional Contractors to any of the SPARC Pools at any time.  There is no pre-planned on-ramp after year of the IDIQ.

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Q. Does this mean CMS is planning to spend $25 billion on one contract? How does this work?

A: No, actual spending through this contracting vehicle will depend on the projects solicited over the ten year period. This is a typical contracting vehicle for potential future projects. Through it, CMS or other HHS operating divisions will be able to solicit requests for proposals from a pool of pre-screened contractors.

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Q. How did CMS derive the SPARC ceiling?

A.  CMS derived this ceiling by considering the historical spend on IT across the agency, and factoring in a multiplier to represent the potential use by other CMS OPDIVs.

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Q.  Who are the contractors?

A.   As the awards have not yet been issued and to maintain procurement integrity, OTS and OAGM cannot release the number of awardees or their names at this time.  Once the awards have been issued, OTS and OAGM will release their names.

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