DoD ESI (Enterprise Software Initiative) is a program to centralize sourcing and acquisitions of IT products and services across the DoD. ESI contracts take the form of a blanket purchase agreement (BPA) associated with a GSA schedule. ESI contracts held by Carahsoft use the Carahsoft GSA contract as their basis.
ESI is exclusively for federal DoD purchasing entities and agencies, including the intelligence community and the coast guard. A contractor must be an approved technology vendor to the GSA schedule before going through the process of becoming a participating DoD ESI technology vendor. Through ESI, DoD purchasers leverage the combined buying power of DoD and may receive additional discounts.
ESI BPA Contract Process
Pricing must first be approved to the GSA schedule contract before it can be added to ESI. After pricing has been vetted, reviewed, and approved by GSA, contractors go through an additional ESI submission process conducted by on ESI’s behalf. Then the product or service is available for purchase. DoD purchasers who are seeking a particular technology solution can scan the available catalogs of everything that has been approved to the ESI and make their purchases from that catalog.
ESI approval is beneficial for vendors. If a contractor meets GSA criteria and offers the same types of product and solution scopes that DoD is seeking to acquire from ESI, they should make ESI certification their next step. However, getting onto the ESI agreement is not a rolling process. Vendors must wait for an open DoD ESI solicitation period once they have been approved to GSA. Carahsoft is undergoing a re-solicitation process now to add new vendors to the contract.
Top Advantages of DoD ESI BPA
Pricing: Pricing is a big benefit for members of the DoD and intelligence communities. NAVWAR reviews the pricing in a separate process, ensuring it is proper to be on the contract. This allows ESI to offer an additional discount compared to the GSA price.
ESI Standards: ESI technology vendors are carefully evaluated. They agree to additional terms and conditions—particularly certain security requirements—that make them a more advantageous partner for agencies across the DoD. These agencies know that ESI partners and technologies adhere to certain standards. This works to the advantage of DoD as well as the technology vendors, because many of those standards and security policies are for their benefit.
DFARS Clause: The DFARS 20874 Clause is referenced on every participating technology vendors’ ordering guide once they become a part of the ESI BPA. It mandates that all ESI purchasers must look at available inventory on ESI before they can purchase technologies on any other contract vehicle. They must come to ESI first, which provides them with an expedited acquisition process, as opposed to going to another contract and having to publish an RFQ.
ESI provides some important and unique benefits. Since purchasers seek available inventory on this contract first, the policy benefits anybody who is using the contract to centrally locate acquisitions.
Software license agreement: Having to review vendor specific terms can be burdensome, but these terms are already finalized. The ESI contracts require SLAs ensuring that anybody who is on the contract can meet heightened standards as well as DoD specific terms making for a more effective contract. Ultimately, it works to benefit both parties as typically contract negotiation processes have already been completed.
DoD Acceptance: One advantage of ESI is it is a DoD-wide accepted and approved vehicle. It incorporates not only the relevant aspects of federal procurement law, but also specific provisions like DFARS which benefit both the purchaser and the industry. There is a clear acquisition path for a DoD purchaser when using an ESI vehicle. ESI contractors are entities that do business with DoD regularly; they are proven to be responsive and responsible to the DoD.
Path to Procurement: Agencies know they can have a path to procurement that will take into account the terms and conditions regarding the purchase. It takes a certain amount of critical mass and effort to get an ESI vehicle established—on both the vendor and government side. They put a lot of time and effort—running competitions, down-selecting, negotiating awards, etc.—into devising the procurement plan and what types of ESI vehicles they will put into place. This works to the advantage of both ESI customers and vendors.
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