The Definitive Guide to CIO-SP4: What Contractors Need to Know

CIO-SP4: What Contractors Need to Know

CIO-SP4, officially known as the Chief Information Officer-Solutions and Partners 4, is a government-wide acquisition contract vehicle administered by the National Institutes of Health Information Technology Acquisition and Assessment Center (NITAAC). At its core, it simplifies the process by which federal agencies can access a wide array of IT solutions.


The contract vehicle offers many growth avenues for small businesses aiming to make their mark in the federal IT sector. Learn more about CIO-SP4, key areas, processes, and the latest updates.


What is CIO-SP4?


Contract signing
Photo by Annika Wischnewsky/ Unsplash


CIO-SP4 is a multi-billion dollar government-wide acquisition contract providing federal agencies with streamlined access to a broad range of IT services and solutions. Structured as an Indefinite Delivery, Indefinite Quantity contract, it has a ceiling value of $50 billion and a 10-year performance period that includes a five-year base, a five-year option, and a five-year extension period.


This government-wide IT contract was established with three objectives: (1) to simplify the acquisition process of IT services for government agencies, (2) to provide opportunities for small businesses, and (3) to assist federal agencies in meeting their socio-economic contracting goals.


In addition, it covers 10 IT-related task areas, including:


  • Task Area 1: IT Services for Biomedical Research, Health Sciences, and Healthcare
  • Task Area 2: Chief Information Officer (CIO) Support
  • Task Area 3: Digital Media
  • Task Area 4: Outsourcing
  • Task Area 5: IT Operations and Maintenance
  • Task Area 6: Integration Services
  • Task Area 7: Critical Infrastructure Protection and Information Assurance
  • Task Area 8: Digital Government
  • Task Area 9: Enterprise Resource Planning
  • Task Area 10: Software Development


Eligibility Criteria and Requirements for CIO-SP4


Contractors must meet certain criteria to be eligible for CIO-SP4, including:


  • The capability to perform in ten task areas, with a mandatory demonstration in Task Area 1 
  • An adequate accounting system
  • An updated profile on the System for Award Management (SAM)
  • The ability to conduct a self-assessment using a self-scoring sheet.


Moreover, SDVOSB, HUBZone, and WOSB-certified businesses have a minimum bidding requirement of 5 Task Areas. Small business entities can bid on up to 8 Task Areas, while Other Than Small Businesses (OTSB) are mandated to bid on all 10 Task Areas.


Listed below are the eligibility requirements under CIO-SP4.


Security Requirements


The CIO-SP4 contract vehicle includes specific security requirements to protect sensitive information and guarantee compliance with federal standards.


Small Businesses need secret clearance to receive the full points in the CIO-SP4 self-scoring sheet. Conversely, OTSB must have top-secret clearance for maximum points.


Experience Requirements


The IT contract requires Small Businesses to have relevant experience as either a prime or a subcontractor in the Task Areas they are bidding on. They must provide three references of past performance assessments to validate their track record in delivering similar projects.


Past performance references can come from either government or commercial clients, but only one out of three references is allowed from the private sector. It is important to note that not having past performance references doesn’t affect proposal evaluations negatively.


Key Personnel Requirements


The CIO-SP4 contract mandates the appointment of two designated key personnel: the Contract Program Manager and the Contract Manager. They serve as the official points of contact for the NITAAC throughout the entire duration of the contract.


The Contract Program Manager oversees the contract’s execution, ensuring overall performance, compliance, and service delivery. On the other hand, the Contract Manager handles administrative tasks such as documentation, reporting, and coordination.


Non-Mandatory Qualifications


While not mandatory, these qualifications can boost an offeror’s chances of winning the CIO-SP4 contract:


  • Relevant corporate experience
  • Leading edge technology relevant experience
  • Federal experience
  • Multiple award contract experience
  • ISO 20000 certification
  • Direct involvement with Executive Order 13779


CIO-SP4 Evaluation Process


CIO-SP4 uses a hybrid evaluation process that combines the GSA scoring construct with traditional adjectival ratings. Offerors accumulate points based on their experience, certifications, and other qualifications; each qualification is assigned a specific point value.


The CIO-SP4’s primary evaluation consists of three phases:


  • Phase 1 – Offerors complete their self-scoring sheet, which is then validated by the government.
  • Phase 2 – The federal government reviews mandatory criteria to ensure the offerors meet essential prerequisites. Failing to meet these requirements may result in disqualification based on a “go/no-go” decision.
  • Phase 3 – The government evaluates remaining proposals and assesses technical and business aspects to determine the offerors’ suitability, experience, and capabilities.


Offerors receive notifications regarding their status in the competition after each evaluation phase and upon award.


Preliminary Awardees of CIO-SP4


The preliminary awardees on the multi-billion IT contract vehicle were announced in March 2023. 123 OTSBs, which comprised 75 Emerging Large Businesses (ELB), also secured preliminary slots.


In addition, 257 preliminary slots were awarded to small businesses, including:


  • 123 8(a) Contractors 
  • 84 Women-Owned Small Businesses
  • 60 Veteran-Owned Small Businesses
  • 59 HUBZone Businesses
  • 46 Service-Disabled Veteran-Owned Businesses
  • 18 companies under two American Indian-owned classifications


In January 2024, NITAAC started sending out Phase 1 notices to successful and unsuccessful offerors. The agency expects to distribute Phase 2 and Phase 3 completion notices in the upcoming weeks.


Bid Protests Against CIO-SP4


Several bid protests have arisen since NITAAC initiated the Request For Proposals (RFP) in May 2021. During the initial solicitation phase, companies voiced concerns about the evaluation criteria and the self-scoring methodology used by the NITAAC.


In 2022, 117 bid protests against the agency’s points-based scoring were dismissed. In late June 2023, however, the GAO sustained 98 protests, determining that the agency had unreasonably failed to advance proposals beyond the initial evaluation phase. An additional 28 protests were sustained in July 2023.


The latest wave of protests began in January 2024. Two companies, DV United 2 and iDoxSolutions, filed protests with the GAO after being eliminated for not meeting the required score threshold. However, within a week of their initial filings, both companies withdrew their bid protests.


Subsequently, eight companies filed complaints regarding the management of the $50 billion IT vehicle through the U.S. Court of Federal Claims, namely:


  • VetsConnect
  • RCHP
  • Objective Function Systems
  • Mission 1st Group
  • Inalab Consulting
  • HagerV3
  • Futron
  • Analytica


How to Prepare for Government Contracts in the IT Federal Sector


Government conferences
Photo by Rodeo Project Management Software/ Unsplash


While CIO-SP4 may already be in motion, small businesses still have many opportunities to thrive within the IT federal sector.


Here’s how small businesses can win government contracts:


  • Review the Request for Proposals (RFP) to understand the contract scope, specific requirements, and evaluation criteria.
  • Ensure that your proposal aligns with the RFP’s specifications.
  • Write a strategic proposal that addresses the specific needs of the government agency. 
  • Highlight your track record of successful project delivery and client satisfaction in the IT federal sector.
  • Consider teaming arrangements with other qualified businesses to strengthen your proposal. 
  • Ensure your bid is competitive while maintaining profitability.
  • Comply with all federal regulations and certifications required for contracting.
  • Attend government contracting events and network to build relationships with industry peers.
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Written by Annie Tyler

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