Pilot Programs to Decrease Bid Cycle Time

Selling to the government can be a difficult and lengthy process for the most patient of vendors. The buying process in private industry might take a week or two whereas federal buying can take a year or more. Added to that, the costs associated with bidding on government contracts, with no guarantee of a contract, often makes doing business with the government less than appealing. Unfortunately, this makes many companies with innovative products and services steer clear of working with the government.

Now two agencies, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), are introducing programs to address costly and time-consuming barriers. (Washington Technology, June 2, 2020)

DHS created the Procurement Innovation Lab; its mission to diminish barriers to competition while opening up the competition to nontraditional companies and by creating multiple awards from a single solicitation. Within the lab, teams test Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) flexibilities. Working with the Department of Defense GSA, DHS created the Commercial Solutions Opening Pilot. This affords participants greater latitude when purchasing innovative products below $10 million. (ibid)

DHS is also working to greatly reduce the lengthy proposal process through a phased proposal model. Phase one might involve a lightweight proposal of five pages or possibly a 30-minute phone interview. Then DHS would advise the vendor on how competitive their idea is and let the vendor decide whether it makes sense to move forward with a proposal. Additionally, DHS is working to receive oral presentations and product demonstrations using a paperless process. This allows vendors an opportunity to showcase their wares, and gives the government insight into those vendors they might award contracts to.  The phased proposal allows many vendors the opportunity to engage with the government when otherwise they would not be able to afford to do so. It allows the government to stay on top of innovative solutions that they otherwise might have missed out on. (ibid)

The IRS wants to phase in a pilot program as well. Their goal is to work with non-traditional small businesses to rapidly prototype and test emerging technologies. Project phasing will help to circumvent locking into a single vendor’s solutions as new (and often better) solutions are made available. (ibid)

Questions about the DHS and IRS programs and how you might prepare a lightweight proposal? Give us a call.

Speedy Payments? Yes Please.

The Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) is changing to allow government contracting small businesses to get paid within 15 days of invoicing. Furthermore, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), the Department of the Treasury (Treasury), the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the General Services Administration (GSA) are working together to issue a memorandum that authorizes the expedited payments in advance of the updated changes to the FAR. (JDSUPRA, May 14, 2020)

Contractors should contact their government Contracting Officer to facilitate those payments. For example, a DHS Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) recipient currently paid within 30 days of invoicing may be eligible for a contract modification to accelerate payments upon the exercise of any options under that contract. (ibid)

The National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2020, Section 873, requires agencies to establish an accelerated payment date for certain contracts with a goal of payment 15 days after an invoice is received, if a specific payment date is not established by the contract. The change will be implemented via an applicable FAR revision.

Other formal additions to the FAR include 52.212-5 (Contract Terms and Conditions Required to Implement Statutes or Executive Orders – Commercial items), FAR 52.213-4 (Terms and Conditions – Simplified Acquisitions (Other Thank Commercial Items)), and FAR 52.244-6 (Subcontracts and Commercial Items.) (ibid)

This is great news for small businesses looking to decrease hardships produced by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Questions about the FAR changes and the expedited payment memorandum? Give us a call.

GSA, Pandemic Style

GSA is moving quickly to enact several initiatives while responding to the COVID-19 pandemic. Because the current state of emergency necessitates the Federal Acquisition Service to purchase medical supplies and other equipment at a fast clip, Contracting Officers have no choice but to react with a fair amount of speed and flexibility. (Federal News Network, May 1, 2020)

This includes:

  • changing policies for prompt payment and onboarding/offboarding of contractors
  • construction of the new e-commerce marketplace platform, which was paused during the first few weeks of the pandemic, is now moving forward, albeit at a much slower pace
  • monitoring other initiatives possibly impacting by the pandemic, such as Enterprise Infrastructure Solutions (EIS)
  • continuing corrective actions on Alliant 2 revised proposals
  • expanding the small business innovation research (SBIR) program, part three

Some government markets, like travel, have declined; however cleaning products and enhanced screening services have increased exponentially. (ibid)

Any questions about getting your product or service in front of government buyers? Give us a call.

In the Navy (with Small Business)

The U.S. Navy, Office of Naval Research is offering $30 million in grants through 31 May to companies providing advanced technology. Through this effort, the Navy is funding its supply chain to ensure that their contractors can stay in business during the pandemic. An additional $250 million in small business awards is expected over the next 90 days. (FedScoop, April 28, 2020)

Awards are through the Small Business Innovation Research and Small Business Technology Transfer grant programs, which get money to small businesses more quickly than traditional solicitations. The following technologies are of interest:

  • modernization and sustainment
  • digital logistics
  • deployable manufacturing
  • resilient communications (ibid)

James Geurts, the Navy’s lead acquisition official, said the department is monitoring its supply chain in real-time with new tools to maintain stability. Many worry that a faltering economy and the shelter in place regulation will affect the supply chain and the military’s readiness. Guerts says the Navy is closely watching its research and development for emerging technology so as to stay a step ahead. (ibid)

Other Navy research offices are also serving as “technology enablers.” The Naval Expeditions Agility Office is looking for ways to better connect warfighters to tech experts and small businesses. Here again, the goal is to bring advanced technology solutions to national security challenges while helping small businesses to continue working with the Navy. (ibid)

Are you a small business with advanced technologies the Navy can use? Give us a call.

PPP Payback?

Last week, the Small Business Administration (SBA) launched a second round of the Paycheck Protection Program. PPP allows banks to “forgive” government-guaranteed loans to small businesses struggling due to the pandemic. Unfortunately, government guidance on necessary documentation/calculations to ensure forgiveness is sorely lacking.

Many small business owners expect their loans to ultimately be forgiven “but it is not that simple,” according to Paul Merski, of the Independent Community Bankers of America. He advises that everyone keep “their information and paperwork in order.”(Reuters, May 1, 2020)

The PPP regulation states the following:

  • Borrowers must spend 75 percent of the loan on payroll costs like salaries, tips, leave, severance pay, and health insurance, within the first two months.
  • Borrowers must spend the remaining 25 percent on other “running” costs, such as utilities and rent.

All money spent on non-qualifying expenses must be repaid within two years at a one percent annual interest rate. (ibid)

Confusion and uncertainty surround the re-payment or forgiveness process itself. Who certifies that borrowers actually meet the 75 percent threshold and using borrowed funds as required? Will SBA will issue standard guidelines for forgiveness? Small business owners need to know which documents to maintain and records to keep. EZGSA, like all of you, await some clarity on next steps.

Are you unclear on your Small Business loan payback? We will let you know as soon as we do. In the mean time, feel free to give us a call.