Accelerating Money to Small Business

If the Accelerating Defense Innovation Act passes Congress, small businesses with more than 50 percent of venture capital funding will find it easier to obtain Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) grant money from the Department of Defense (DoD). To date, legal hurdles have prevented DoD from utilizing these companies. (Fedscoop, May 21, 2019)

The SBIR, created in 1983, provides small businesses with grants to help them expedite product development, and offers follow-on funding and assistance to provide guidance meeting requirements during the government purchasing process. In 2003, courts ruled that companies owned (more than half) by venture capital firms were ineligible for SBIR grants. Then in 2011, a waiver was created by Congress for those small businesses that are majority-owned by venture investors. These waivers required congressional notification as well as Small Business Administration approval. (ibid)

Unfortunately, DoD has never used the waiver. Defense Contracting Officers continue to shy away from small businesses funded through venture capital. Rep. Mac Thornberry (R-Texas), the new legislation sponsor, cited a recent example of a small satellite technology startup that visited DoD’s Hacking 4 Defense program but did not receive an SBIR grant because of the majority capital investment in the firm, even though their technology is cutting edge. (ibid)

A new pilot program, on which the legislation is based, allows the Secretary of Defense and service acquisition executives for each arm of the military to make an SBIR award to a small business that is majority-owned by domestic venture investors. The bill will allow no more than 15 percent of DoD SBIR program funds to be awarded to these small businesses. Its end date of September 30, 2022. (ibid)

Aside from SBIR, small tech companies can look at other ways to work with the DoD. For instance, the Defense Innovation Unit currently handles commercial innovation pilot projects. Once testing is complete, any DoD branch may procure from a small business, generally within 90 days of the first contact with the company. (ibid)

Rep. Thornberry, the ranking Republican on the House Armed Services Committee, would like to include his legislation in the 2020 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).

EZGSA has information about this and other ways small businesses can obtain government contracting. Give us a call at 301-913-5000.

 

HHS is buying smarter

Over the past 18 months, the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) has been developing the Buy Smarter Initiative. The production phase has ended, and with it a new name: “Reimagined Buy Smarter.” Reimagined Buy Smarter uses artificial intelligence (AI) to analyze vast amounts of data, comparing prices along with other money saving plans. (Federal News Network, May 17, 2019)

Last year, 97,000 contracts were fed into an AI solution. Algorithms and a proof of concept of 10 product categories demonstrated significant price differentials on the same items. For instance, the same case of copy paper was $27 a case in one instance and $59 in another. (ibid)

DHHS wants requirements operating across all divisions in order to use of economies of scale. Through the development process, they have found that many departments order the same items, but from different contracts at pricing all over the map and duplication of efforts. With Reimagined Buy Smarter, DHHS  departments can consolidate requirements, utilize economies of scale, and eliminate unnecessary contracts. (ibid)

They plan to introduce 18 steps of technology for buyers.  The program has a $49 million multi-award Indefinite Delivery, Indefinite Quantity (IDIQ) contract for a catalog of new and emerging technologies. DHHS hopes “to get a very large number of vendors who can provide services that can be shared/scaled across HHS and ultimately the entire government.” (ibid)

DHHS created the new contract due to older contracts being so outdated. The Program Support Center for DHHS receives many requests for new technologies, but by the time the contracts are awarded, they are already obsolete. Additionally, contracting officers have spent a lot of time cutting and pasting from a “paper” system, which will be answered by a pre-populating process automation. (ibid)

Findings suggest the following categories of spending:

  • Medical and lab supplies
  • Software licenses
  • Professional services (ibid)

Workgroups are forming to address consolidating contracts for shared opportunities, eliminating overlapping or unnecessary contracts, and taking advantage of economies of scale. (ibid)

Interested in discussing Reimagined Buy Smarter? Give us a call at (301) 913-5000.

GSA’s New Rules!

GSA has issued a final rule amending the following parts of  the GSA Acquisition Regulation (GSAR):

  • Part 515, Contracting by Negotiation,
  • Part 538 Federal Supply Schedule Contracting
  • GSAR Part 552, Solicitation Provisions and Contract Clauses (GSA Interact, June 3, 2019)

The above changes were enacted to clarify, update, streamline and incorporate existing Federal Supply Schedule contract administration policies and procedures. The final rule became effective on May 23, 2019. (ibid)

Changes include the following:

  • deletion of 85 obsolete/duplicative clauses and provisions (see GSA Order ADP 29800.12B Change 100)
  • incorporation of 30 “new” clauses and provisions into GSAR.
  • reincorporation of four GSA Schedules program clauses and provisions (previously removed from GSAR in a rewrite) into GSAR.
  • updating 10 existing GSA Schedules program clauses and provisions to reflect current references and practices. (ibid)

The above changes will be part of GSA’s new Consolidated Schedule solicitation. More information to follow in the coming months.

If you have questions about the GSAR rule amendments will affect your contracts, give us a call at 301-913-5000.

 

Price Inconsistencies on Schedule 70? Nah…

GSA’s IG audit of GSA schedules in 2016 found large price discrepancies between identical items. For instance, the cost of one of Sharp’s 70-inch LED Smart TVs showed prices ranging from $1,597 to $3,000. The audit also turned up prices much lower on commercial products. In addition, from August 2014 to July 2015, most IT schedule purchases were for top-selling items priced higher than the lowest IT schedule price, completely defeating the purpose of the Schedules program. (Nextgov, May 21, 2019)

Recommendations to correct the disparities include:

  • Verify prices for identical IT schedule items by price analysis
  • Improve price protection for IT schedule reseller contracts by setting controls
  • Ensure contracting officers receive accurate and complete information around manufacturers’ commercial sales practices (ibid)

Per the review by the IG, the Federal Acquisition Service has taken “appropriate corrective actions” to address these price inconsistencies.

Questions about IT Schedule or other GSA Schedule pricing? Give us a call at 301-913-5000.