So we’re busily cranking out ideas and materials for the Recovery.gov bid over on the labs wiki. I wanted to catch you all up on what’s going on, and what we know so far.
Thus far, the RFP itself only exists in one place that we can find. The scanned copy we put online. From talking with other government contractors, we found this to be the status-quo.
The reason why is because the contract is open to what’s called “GSA ALLIANT GOVERNMENTWIDE contract holders only.” What that means is, the only people eligible to be prime recipients of this contract are one of these 59 companies. The first thing we got was “it doesn’t matter if you bid, you’re not eligible” and that’s true. Coming up with a bid on our own will not get us the Recovery.gov contract. We’re going to have to go through one of those contractors.
There are three possible outcomes that I’d like to share:
Nobody works with us. We create a bid. We submit it. We will not get the contract in this case. That’s against regulation. But what we will have is a bid that we’ll be able to compare to the eventual winning bid and see what the differences are.
Somebody does work with us. They agree to join us in an open process to formulate the bid. We share the work with them. We may get the contract this way, and get a seat at the table. We’ll have to watch ourselves as we work on this to try and make Recovery.gov as successful as possible, but the prime recipient (the Alliant partner) will be the ones ultimately responsible both to the government and to the people for the quality and success of the site.
Somebody does work with us, they agree to join us in an open process to formulate the bid. Sunlight serves as advisors and they do most/all of the work. We may also get the contract this way and get a seat at the table, but it will be unlikely that the process will be as open and transparent as we’d like it to be. That being said, Sunlight may be able to provide value to the community by making sure that the eventual Recovery.gov product provides the right kinds of feeds and technology to developers and watchdogs.
After speaking with a couple of these companies, many have no intention of bidding on the contract. In general, the amount of risk involved in doing it is far too high: the time-frame is too short (2 months) and the risk of failure in a very public way is too high. I feel that too at Sunlight Labs. After all, we’re not Booz-Allen-Hamilton with 20,000 employees and revenue of $4 Billion dollars.
What we can do though is engage with one of these partners and have them join us in creating a public bid for this contract, and potentially provide open source and transparency developers a way to pitch in to this project and give transparency advocates a seat on the inside table. So what we’re looking for now is a way to do just that. A victory for us may not be to get the contract ourselves, but instead to get one of these large companies to open their process and be transparent about what they do with Recovery.gov.
At the very least, as I said earlier, I’ll deliver whatever we have on Friday. The skeleton has been built, and we’re slowly beginning the process of filling in the blanks. Help us.