Civilian Agencies: Showing You the $$$

Fiscal year 2020 was actually good for something — Civilian agency spending. Civilian agencies spent a record $228 billion in fiscal 2020, up 17 percent from fiscal 2019. The increase can be directly attributed to the Coronavirus pandemic. (Government Executive, October 8, 2020)

According to this report, published by Bloomberg Government, Health and Human Services (HHS), Veterans Affairs, and the Department of Energy drove the increased spending. Small businesses saw a 26 percent increase, or $59.4 million spent. The Department of Defense numbers, due to security purposes, see a 90 day lag in reporting; we likely won’t see those totals before the end of the calendar year.

Here’s a quick look at the spending breakdown:

  • Health and Human Services accounted for $41.2 billion or 44  percent of the overall $33.5 billion. The bulk of the spending came from vaccines, research, ventilators, and efforts related to the pandemic.
  • Veterans Affairs came in at $33.1 billion in fiscal 2020. The spending is likely attributed to community care.
  • The Department of Energy spent upwards of $35 billion on two nuclear research labs. Of note is the fact that each lab houses “supercomputers” performing coronavirus research.
  • Small Business Administration spending went from $177 million in fiscal 2019 to over $1.5 billion in fiscal 2020. Part of this is due to an RER Solutions Inc. contract being approved for a $500 million increase without competitive bidding, as disaster recovery loan applications inundated the SBA. (ibid)

Other transaction authority contracts, which are allowed a great deal of flexibility outside of the traditional procurement limitations, are increasing year after year as well. We expect to see this continue well into the future. (ibid)

Questions about the “other transaction authority contracts” and how to take advantage of their flexibility? Give us a call.

Alliant 2 is Out/Polaris is In

After a year of protests and federal court hearings, the Government Accountability Office has canceled its $15 billion Alliant 2 Small Business contract. GAO is calling the replacement contract “Polaris.” A GSA spokesperson said, “Polaris will not only guide small businesses through the federal market, it will also help GSA customer agencies through the acquisition of IT service-based solutions, and give GSA a chance to improve our offerings and set the agency on a solid course for the future.” (GSAblogs.gsa.gov, October 1, 2020)

Administration sees the industrial base broadening by:

  • Pricing Strategy: GSA plans to increase its pool of qualified small businesses that serve federal agencies. GSA will employ Section 876 of the Fiscal Year 2019 National Defense Authorization Act, allowing contract awards to qualifying contractors without consideration of prices for hourly services. Focus on price competition ultimately takes place at the task order level.
  • On-ramps: Allows for an expanded industrial base as technology changes and for vendors to be considered on the GWAC following an initial award period.
  • Opportunity Expansion: An increased opportunity for HUBZone and woman-owned businesses.
  • Embracing Technology to Maximize Efficiency: Polaris will provide agencies with access to emerging technology providers, especially those offering artificial intelligence, automated technologies, blockchain, 5G implementation, cybersecurity, and cloud. (ibid)

The vendor evaluation strategy will be similar to that used in the Veterans Technology Services 2 and Alliant 2 contracts. Both were guided by industry comments. FAS may utilize an online proposal submission tool to speed up Polaris contract awards, as well as a modified evaluation strategy. (Federal Computer Week, October 5, 2020)

Questions about the Polaris evaluation strategy and how your company might do business on the platform? Give us a call.

Waivers for Banned Equipment

Although the purchase of Chinese produced telecommunications equipment is banned, the government is likely to see it in its supply chain for years to come. Since Section 889 law went into effect, contractors have requested waivers to keep their equipment in place and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence has issued them. Many waivers that expired last week (30 September) have been extended for an additional two years. (Federal News Network, October 2, 2020)

One such agency requesting an extension, the U.S. Agency for International Development, requested a waiver from 889 and has been given until the end of fiscal year 2022 to remove Chinese telecom equipment. The waiver states the following, “As of September 30, 2022, the Agency statutory waiver authority ends and the Agency will not enter into any contracts with contractors using covered technology. For contractors that wish to continue to do business with USAID, it is important to phase out the use of covered technology. Recipients should ensure they have alternate funding because costs for covered technology will become unallowable. In regard to assistance (grants/cooperative agreements), the Agency will be revising its policy to extend the period of the allowability of costs for internet and telephone services for new awards made during the duration of the waiver.” (USAID Telcom Waiver, September 30, 2020)

Would you like to know more about the upcoming contracts to trade out Chinese equipment? Give us a call.

Just the Facts FAS, Please

Earlier this week, a GSA watchdog discovered erroneous reporting of small business contracts by the Federal Acquisition Service (FAS). (Government Executive September 17, 2020)

The General Service Administration (GSA) inspector general (IG) recently provided a report that focused on the data entered into the Federal Procurement Data System – Next Generation, which is managed by GSA. The Small Business Administration (SBA) uses the system data provided to determine if the federal government is achieving its annual goal of awarding 23 percent of contracts to small businesses. An IG review of FAS procurements from fiscal 2016 and 2017 and shows that small business procurements have been grossly overstated.

“We found that FAS’s reporting of small business procurements contained significant inaccuracies. We identified $89 million in procurements erroneously recorded as small business in the Federal Procurement Data System – Next Generation. Additionally, FAS’ small business procurement reporting does not identify the extent of the work performed by large businesses. We found approximately $120 million of small business procurements in which large businesses performed a portion of the work.” (ibid)

After interviewing small business contractors and GSA officials as well as analyzing agency contracting data, the IG determined many of the issues to be out of GSA’s control. For instance, the IG found that classification codes  often “pre-populate” for task orders; due to the nature of the software, officers cannot override the system to update the task order codes. In addition, no mandate exists for FAS or small businesses to report how much of the work completed on a contract is subcontracted to large businesses. This leads to inaccuracies when assessing FAS’s small business procurements. Many believe the inaccuracies will never be fully fixed due to the competing policy issues and marketplace anomalies. (ibid)

The IG recommended the following:

  • Fix the limitations of the contracting system to enable accurate reporting
  • SBA and the commissioner discuss how subcontracting and reseller agreements are reported

How does this affect your contract or an upcoming proposal? Give us a call.

Is it Beta, Old, or New SAM?

Over time, GSA is transitioning reporting tools to beta.SAM, while the original SAM.gov remains live. Although the final site will also be called SAM.gov, it will be much different than the current one. When the full functionality of the new SAM.gov is moved over to beta.SAM, the latter will lose the “beta” prefix and the old SAM.gov will simultaneously be retired. Confused yet? (Nextgov September 11, 2020)

According to Judith Zawasky, assistant commissioner for the office of systems management in the Federal Acquisition Service (and former EZGSA employee!), “the new site is on track to lose its “beta” designation in 2021.” Zawasky is trying to ensure that remaining transition areas and training are smooth. The soft launch is expected to be finished by 17 October, and after that date, users will no longer be able to run reports on the FPDS.gov site. Searches will remain part of the site for a slightly extended period. Zawastsky noted that what remains of the transition to the new SAM.gov may not be completed before 2025. (ibid)

The final SAM.gov site will include FBO, under Contract Opportunities; FPDS, under Data Bank; the original SAM.gov; the grants site Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance, CFDA; Wage Determinations Online, WDOL; Electronic Subcontracting Reporting System, eSRS; the past performance databases, the Federal Awardee Performance and Integrity Information System, FAPIIS, Contractor Performance Assessment Reports System, CPARS, and Past Performance Information Retrieval System, PPIRS; and the Federal Funding Accountability and Transparency Act, FFATA. (ibid)

Can’t find what you are looking for on any site? Give us a call, we can help.