Polaris Replacing Alliant 2

This past July, GSA put to rest the Aliant 2 Small Business contract. The just last week, GSA released a draft RFP named Polaris, a Governmentwide Acquisition Contract (GWAC) to provide customized Information Technology (IT) services-based solutions.  The draft RFP breaks out small business contractors into specific “pools,” for Small Business, HUBZone Small Businesses, and Women Owned Small Businesses. GSA reserves the right to add additional pools when deemed necessary. (beta.SAM.gov, December 31, 2020)

According to the draft RFP, Polaris will provide agencies with customized IT services and IT services-based solutions, which can be tailored to meet particular mission needs and may include any combination of IT services and new and emerging technologies. (ibid)

GSA encourages contractors to provide innovative solutions to task order requirements prioritizing emerging technologies.  Examples of emerging technologies included within the draft RFP are:

  • Advanced and Quantum Computing — cryptography/encryption, secure communications, design of high-performance computers, computer clusters, and networks, Quantum Machine Learning
  • Artificial intelligence (AI) — Computer Vision, Deep Learning, Machine Learning, Natural Language Processing (NLP),  Spatial Computing, Speech Recognition
  • Automation technology — Robotic Process Automation (RPA), Automated Messaging Services, Data Cleaning Scripts, Interactive Voice Response (IVR), Smart Notification
  • Distributed ledger technology — Blockchain Implementation Solutions, DLT Network Design Services, Smart Contract Programming Services
  • Edge computing — 5G Implementation Services, Edge Analytics, Edge Application Services, Edge Computing Architecture Design Services, Internet of Things (IoT) Services
  • Immersive technology  — Virtual Reality, Augmented Reality

Examples of Performance areas within the draft RFP are as follows:

  • Cloud Services
  • Cybersecurity
  • Data Management
  • Information and Communications Technologies
  • IT Operations and Maintenance
  • Software Development
  • System Design

Contractors may “provide ancillary support as necessary to offer an IT services-based solution,” but, as with the GSA Schedule, only “when it is integral to and necessary for the IT services-based effort.” (ibid)

Contractors should take note of the security considerations as purchasers may be from the Department of Defense as well as civilian agencies. In particular, the Defense Department’s Cybersecurity Maturity Model Certification is a developing regulation and requirement included in the draft RFP. Additional Cybersecurity and Supply Chain Risk Management (SCRM) requirements are expected to also be included. (ibid)

All draft RFP feedback is due by 4:00 PM Central Time, January 29, 2021.

Have questions concerning the draft RFP, who can respond, and how? Give us a call.

CARES Funds Available For Contractors

The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) recently published a supplement to Section 3610 of the CARES Act that allows contractors sick or paid time-off during the national emergency if contractors are not able to access their worksites or telework. (Government Executive, April 17, 2020)

At this time, maximizing telework is advised; however, many contractor jobs involve sensitive and/or classified work, making telework not feasible. Trade associations realized this pretty quickly and asked for additional clarification of the Act. For these specific contractors, agencies are allowed to “modify the terms and conditions of a contract, or other agreement to reimburse at the minimum applicable contract billing rates up to an average of 40 hours per week for any paid leave (including sick leave) a contractor provides to keep its employees or subcontractors in a ready state.”

In addition to the paid leave/sick leave clarification, the updated guidance allows agencies to reimburse contractors from the 27 March (when the CARE Act was signed) through 30 September 2020. The original bill did not include a start date. (ibid)

OMB, via the Office of Federal Procurement Policy, developed a guide to assist agencies when working with contractors to ensure the correct documentation is submitted for proper reimbursement. (ibid)

Don’t know where to start the process of getting paid during this national emergency? Give us a call.

 

 

 

More COVID-19 Guidance

Last week the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) updated its agency guidance for federal contractors, as a response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The three main takeaways are:

  • Agencies are encouraged to work with their contractors to allow for the maximization of telework.
  • Agencies must be flexible providing extensions to performance dates if working virtually isn’t possible or if a contractor must quarantine. Agencies should also weigh whether to keep key personnel in a mobile-ready state for national security measures.
  • Agencies are urged to leverage the special emergency procurement authorized in connection with the emergency declaration under the “Stafford Act”. These include increases to: the micro-purchase threshold; the simplified acquisition threshold; and the threshold for using simplified procedures for certain commercial items. These are designed to reduce discord for contractors, especially small businesses, allowing for a more rapid response to the increasing demands agencies face. (Nextgov, March 22, 2020)

The agency guidance comes after trade groups and lawmakers strongly voiced the need for contractor guidance. The updated guidance includes a section of frequently asked questions, including contractor exposure to COVID-19. (ibid)

OMB also issued technology guidance for use during the COVID-19 national emergency. The technology guidance also includes a FAQ section, with steps to ensure IT and cybersecurity measures are met while working remotely. It urges agencies to continue updating their websites to enable public access to government services.

Need some help figuring out OMBs agency guidance for contractors? Give us a call.

Security: Clearance and Cyber

In the world of security clearances, the Senate reintroduced a bill last week to decrease the 570,000 pending security clearance investigations backlog. With this legislation, the National Background Investigations Bureau, which conducts most government security checks, will merge into the Pentagon, which may (or may not(!)) help get the backlog under control. Language within the bill charges the Director of National Intelligence with streamlining the time-intensive, paper-heavy security clearance process. It can take over a year to get a clearance, and that’s once you are in the queue. There is also the Catch 22 of not obtaining a contractor job without a clearance and not getting a clearance without already having the job. (Nextgov, February 2019) Of course, the backlog wasn’t helped by the shutdown.

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) also has security on the table. Need to keep your non-US citizen tech guru on staff? DHS is with you. They hope to keep tech specialists from outside the country here, and support the Startup Act. The Startup Act would keep foreign-born entrepreneurs and STEM experts in the country to ultimately promote innovation. Seems counter to the current Administration’s stated goals, but kudos to Congress for trying. (ibid)

Meanwhile, Congress is trying to get a grip on how the recent government shutdown affected security, specifically cyber security. Here is a breakdown of the tech and cybersecurity hearings that took place last week:

  • 2.6.19 the Senate Appropriations Services Committee briefed by intelligence leaders on worldwide threats.
  • 2.6.19 the House Armed Services Committee evaluated the Defense Departments counterterrorism efforts.
  • 2.6.19 the House Energy and Commerce telecom subcommittee explored ways to preserve the open internet for small business and consumers. (Nextgov, February 2019)

Do you have security clearance questions? Wondering how the open internet will affect your small business and its ability to do business with the government? Give us a call at 301-913-5000 and we will try to provide you with answers.