BAA TAA SBA Huh?

It appears the Buy American Act (BAA) and the Trade Agreements Act (TAA) may, under certain instances, actually reduce the federal market accessibility for US manufacturers. (Federal News Network, October 28, 2019)

In order to be considered for a small-business set-aside, end-items must be manufactured in the U.S. Or the company can qualify as a non-manufacturer (13 CFR 121.406) if:

  • The company is principally engaged in the retail or wholesale  of the product and normally sells the type of product being supplied
  • The company takes ownership of the item with its personnel, equipment or facilities consistent with industry practice and
  • The company supplies the end item of a small business manufacturer, processor or producer made in the U.S. or obtains a waiver of the requirement. (ibid)

Non-manufacturers may receive an individual waiver if the Small Business Administration (SBA) accepts the contracting officer’s determination that no small business manufacturer “reasonably can be expected to offer a product meeting the solicitation specifications.” Additionally, the SBA Administrator may provide a class waiver if she determines that no small business manufacturer “product or class of products is available to participate in the Federal procurement market.”

Of course, TAA restricts product acquisition to manufacturers in the U.S. and certain “designated countries,” (those companies that have a Free Trade Agreement with the U.S. or participate in the World Trade Organization Government Procurement Agreement (WTO GPA)). Therefore, products from non-signatory countries such as China are ineligible for award.  Per FAR 25.101(a), BAA restricts the purchase of non-domestic end-products as well. Some exceptions provide more access to foreign end-products than under the TAA; for instance, BAA makes exceptions where the domestic offer is not the low offer (FAR 25.103) as well as in certain instances of public interest for non-availability in the U.S., and at an unreasonable cost. (ibid)

TAA does not apply to small business set-asides, FAR 25.401, leaving the BAA in place. The waiver of the non-manufacturer rule for a set-aside gives a somewhat illogical result. This makes the TAA inapplicable to set-asides, and the BAA applicable to set-asides where the non-manufacturer rule has been waived. This might result in the Government purchasing an item, such as a medical/surgical product, manufactured in a non-designated country that has subsidized its price to assure the product’s selection. Therefore, the intended law restricting non-domestic products actually facilitates more access to those products. This includes products of manufacturers from non-designated countries, rather than providing controlled access over non-domestic end-products. (ibid)

Ultimately, this could harm small and non-small manufacturers producing domestically. This may also open up small business set-asides to products made in China that would otherwise be ineligible for purchase if the TAA applied. A good deal more statutory guidance and analysis are warranted. (ibid)

Do you have questions about your compliance obligations under an upcoming proposal or current contract? Give us a call.

Time to Uncover Some Chinese Equipment

Recently, GSA sent a letter to contractors explaining the new FAR interim rule regarding supply chain security, which went into effect last month. The rule prohibits federal agencies from procuring, obtaining, extending, or renewing a contract to procure or obtain “any equipment, system, or service that uses covered telecommunications equipment or services  as a substantial or essential component of any system or as critical technology as part of any system.” (Acquisition.gov)

Covered equipment encompasses telecommunications and video surveillance products and services by Hauwei Technologies Company, ZTE Corporation, Hytera Communications Corporation, Hikvision Digital Technology Company, or Hahua Technology Company, or any company that the head of a relevant federal agency reasonably believes is controlled by the government of the Peoples Republic of China.

The interim rule:

  • Prohibits contractors from providing covered telecommunications services/equipment unless an exception or waiver is granted
  • Mandates every offeror represent whether it will provide covered telecommunications equipment/services as part of its offer, and if that is the case, the offeror must provide details about the covered equipment or services
  • Requires contractors to report any covered equipment/services throughout the life of the contract. (ibid)

At the same time, the FAR interim rule went into effect, GSA issued a class deviation. This essentially takes a risk-based approach to the new FAR interim rule by limiting the representation requirement for GSA funded orders to the indefinite-delivery contract level. The deviation necessitates the following:

  • At all times requires an order-level representation for acquisition vehicles that carry a “high risk” of including covered telecommunications equipment or services.
  • Must have an order-level representation for all orders that could include information technology or communications technology under all GSA acquisitions.
  • The creation of a GSA Acquisition Regulation (GSAR) representation clause, requiring the GSAR and FAR reporting clauses in all new and ongoing GSA contracts.
  • Initiates GSA specific implementation targets for modification of existing contracts.
  • Simplifies the application of Section 889 of the NDAA to other GSA program areas. (ibid)

The interim rule affects ALL contractors. As a contractor, you are responsible for determining whether covered telecommunications equipment/services will be provided under both new and existing contracts and orders.

Below is some fundamental information to help you prepare as GSA puts into place the interim rule and class deviation:

  • FAS contracting activity will issue a mod requiring you to respond to incorporate FAR clause 52.204-25 and GSAR clause 552.204-70.
  • Your mod response must delineate if you will or will not provide covered telecommunications equipment/services in the performance of any contract, subcontract, order, or any other contractual instrument.
  • The substance of FAR clause 52.204-25 must be inserted into all subcontracts.
  • You must report any covered telecommunication equipment or services you discover during the course of contract performance.
  • For new GSA solicitations, you are required to represent at the contract level if you will or won’t provide covered telecommunications equipment/services to the Government in the performance of a contract or subcontract.
  • Contract level solicitations will include FAR provision 52.204-24, clause 52.204-25and GSAR clause 552.204-70.
  • In responses to solicitations and orders under indefinite-delivery contracts, representation of FAR 52.204-24 is required when there is a high risk of inclusion of covered telecommunications equipment/services. (ibid)

Wondering how all this might affect your current contract or upcoming bid? Give us a call.

FAR Changes

With the end of the Fiscal Year looming, the push is on to exhaust agency budgets. In an effort to make acquisitions move through the process more quickly and smoothly, DOD, GSA, and NASA have issued an amendment to the Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR). The amendment fine-tunes the  FAR and eliminates a step in the acquisition process. (Fedscoop, July 15, 2019)

Per the FAR, agencies were required to justify the best procurement approach when using GSA’s IT Schedule 70, Governmentwide Acquisition Contracts, or assisted acquisition solutions. As of June 5, the new FAR amendment allows agencies to skip that step. Agencies are now able to quickly find GSA IT category contracts and acquisition solutions. (ibid)

According to Bill Zielinski, assistant commissioner of GSA’s Federal Acquisition services office, agencies “can now identify and quickly use GSA IT Category contracts and acquisition solutions, especially as they embark on their end-of-year IT spending and acquisition efforts.” Zielinski feels the new change to the FAR reduces the administrative burden for agencies procuring through GSA’s IT Schedule 70 or through GWACs such as 8(a) STARS 2 and Alliant 2, as well as through assisted acquisition programs. (Federal Computer Week, July 15, 2019)

Curious about the new FAR language and how it affects your GSA schedule? Give us a call and we can review it with you.