After A Long Fight, CWT Grabs A Piece Of Federal ETS2 Contract

The U.S. General Services Administration has awarded Carlson Wagonlit Travel a piece of its second-generation E-Gov Travel Service contract. The award followed a court-ordered reevaluation of CWT's bid and reversed a once-steadfast GSA position to maintain Concur as the sole contractor.

GSA in May 2012 awarded exclusively to Concur the $1.4 billion, 15-year contract, prompting challenges from CWT, which argued that a contract of this size given to a single provider violated federal contracting standards. CWT initially appealed to the U.S. Government Accountability Office, which sustained the Concur award, then took GSA to the U.S. Court of Federal Claims, which in March ordered GSA to re-evaluate.

Calling ETS2 the "backbone of GSA's governmentwide managed travel programs," GSA this week noted that "Concur and CWT will compete for task orders to provide travel planning, authorization, reservations, ticketing fulfillment, expense reimbursement and travel management reporting to federal agencies." More than 90 federal agencies are eligible to use ETS2 services.

Matt Beatty, president of military and government markets for CWTSatoTravel, CWT's government travel division, today said that walking away with a piece of the contract was "worth fighting for," given the size of the government's travel activity and the duration of the contract term.

GSA this week claimed that adding CWTSatoTravel to the vendor pool would save taxpayer dollars and "increase transparency, efficiency and cost savings."

It's a different tune than the one GSA sung as it fought CWT's protests__asserting that CWT's proposal would be more costly and less efficient, and did not fulfill program requirements.

In the course of a court skirmish, GSA had noted that "Concur's single-award price was significantly less costly to the government than dual-award prices would be," according to a motion to dismiss a CWT suit.

However, Beatty said that during the review process GSA determined CWT would meet the technical standards for the program. Furthermore, CWT agreed to alter its pricing, which according to court documents filed by GSA could have been up to 30 percent higher than a competing Concur proposal.

"Our technical capabilities were rated as acceptable during the re-evaluation, which was critical," Beatty said. "Then from a pricing perspective, we did make some adjustment to our pricing to ensure that we were extremely aggressive. That will drive value ultimately to the taxpayers and federal agencies."

With A Head Start, Concur Ramps Up Implementations

With more than a year's lead as a GSA-sanctioned ETS2 provider, Concur already has successfully worked to sign and implement some government agencies.

"We have secured a tremendous number of the transactions that make up the entirety of the ETS2 program," Concur president and COO Rajeev Singh told The Beat in late August.

Singh said the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency this year was the first to go live with its ETS2 system. "We expect more over the remainder of the year," he said, but added that for "the majority of these implementations you will see go-lives in calendar '14."

While Beatty acknowledged that Concur has "had a head start," he said there remains "a lot of opportunity in the market." GSA and Concur did not immediately reply to requests to disclose how many eligible agencies already had signed Concur to an ETS2 task order, but Beatty noted a "fair amount still in play."

Beatty expected to "begin conversations with agencies that are currently going through the task order process," including some current clients of CWTSatoTravel, an incumbent provider in the first-generation ETS initiative.

"Signing can happen fairly quickly," he said. "Our process could be inside of 30 days, but then there's the implementation process, which can vary based on the size and complexity of the government agency. That can take from 90 to 120 days for some of the more complex accounts."