Emergency Rules

Government ontractors and small businesses should be aware of increased opportunities during the current COVID-19 national emergency. The government is permitted, during a national emergency, to set aside solicitations to allow awards “only to offerors residing or doing business primarily in the area affected by …[a] major disaster or emergency.” Contractors can verify if they fall into this category by reviewing Federal Acquisition Regulation 52.226-3(d). (Law360.com, April 13, 2020)

A national emergency declaration allows the government to (restrict) certain solicitations to small businesses in certain areas. These solicitations are either a set-aside or an evaluation preference is given to small businesses. (ibid)

During national emergencies, large contractors should look to team with small businesses, or to current teaming agreements already in place. In addition, contractors who are at the ready to produce/provide goods or services may be called on to contract with agencies to battle COVID-19. (ibid)

Micro purchase thresholds are another acquisition procedure government agencies may use during a national emergency. These allow for a simplified acquisition methodology for specific items or services required under emergency situations, such as the COVID-19 national emergency. (ibid)

State and local governments may also procure under the Stafford Act, wherein state governors request financial relief via federal grants that allow procurement under their own procedures. The Stafford Act authorizes federal contracts for “debris clearance, distribution of supplies, reconstruction, and other major disaster or emergency assistance activities.” In 2006 the Local Community Recovery Act amended the Stafford Act mandating local organizations to be given preference when using full and open competition. The FAR was also amended to align with the Local Community Recovery Act. Under the act, if a contractor does not meet all of the Recovery Act stipulations there are other factors that may be considered. (Contractors may self-certify that they are local.) (ibid)

Other streamlining acquisition procedures are available under federal supply schedule contracts, multi-agency blanket purchase agreements, and multi-agency indefinite-delivery contracts. Additionally, there is an easing of the requirement that a contractor be registered in SAM.gov at the time an offer is submitted to the government. (ibid)

The emergency declaration allows state and local governments to purchase from all GSA schedules. It also encourages accelerated payments to small business contractors.  (ibid)

Additional modified procedures to facilitate swift responses are:

  • Relaxation of qualifications requirements
  • Use of sole-source contracts
  • Use of oral requests for proposals
  • Use of letter contracts
  • Interagency acquisitions
  • Awards to small disadvantaged businesses
  • Retroactive overtime approvals
  • Waivers of bid guarantees when an emergency exists
  • Use of protest overrides where necessary for a contracting process to continue

In order to track procurements related to COVID-19, GSA added a National Interest Action (NIA) code to SAM.gov. To find information on the site, simply type COVID-19 2020 in the search bar. (ibid) Contractors can register with SAM.gov under the disaster response registry, and be sure to monitor the portals most closely aligned to the goods or services you provide.

Have questions about the many opportunities available under the current national emergency? Give us a call.

FAR 51 Deviation Authority is expired!

Here’s what you need to know.  Contracting officers were permitted to give contractors access to the Federal Supply Schedule (FSS) and GSA Global Supply Programs if appropriate, for the fulfillment of their agency requirements. They used the FAR 51 Deviation Authority vehicle for this purpose. On 23 October, the FAR 51 Deviation expired. It will no longer be used on orders placed after this date. Under Refresh 1, clause CI-FSS-056 Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) Part 51 Deviation Authority (Federal Supply Schedules) (Jan 2010) is deleted.

In lieu of FAR 51 Deviation, agencies may use Order Level Material (OLM) procedures to acquire other direct costs (OCDs) and material support items to meet specific order requirements. Additional information for OLMs may be found at www.gsa.gov/olm.

Many question if a contracting officer can issue a letter of authority (required by the Deviation) anytime during the life of the order, if the order or BPA was awarded on or before 23 October 2019. The short answer is yes, as long as the order was issued prior to the 23 October Deviation expiration date. However, if the BPA was awarded prior to then, and subsequent award terms were awarded after 23 October, those subsequent award terms may not use the deviation.

Wondering if you are grandfathered in and still able to take advantage of the FAR 51 Deviation Authority? Give us a call.

Shared Service QSMOs

The big takeaway from last week’s Association of Government Accountants’ 2019 shared services summit: it will take a few years to standardize shared services, especially for grants management. (FedScoop, November 14, 2019)

In April, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) chose four agencies as Quality Service Management Offices (QSMOs):

  • GSA – to oversee a human resources marketplace
  • Department of Treasury – for financial services
  • Department of Health and Human Services – for grants management
  • Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency – for cybersecurity (FedScoop, April 26, 2019)

QSMOs have started hiring and transitioning from the old payroll system to Software-as-a-Service. This NewPay Initiative tops the list in moving to shared services. GSA awarded a blanket purchase agreement for NewPay in September 2018 to reduce risks and costs and followed up with multi-million dollar task orders. (ibid)

According to Earl Pinto, deputy associate administrator of the Office of Shared Solutions and Performance Improvement within GSA, “these are not short term projects, and I would say that’s probably the biggest challenge because we know we’ve got a process. Standards first … and that has taken, for several mission-support functions, well over a year to get to standards – some over two years.” (ibid)

Some agencies, such as the Interior Business Center are not clear as to whether they will lean towards NewPay or work through current providers, GSA, or a separate appropriation. (ibid)

Some unknown pieces remain. Will agencies always pay for the services delivered or will it be streamlined in some manner? It may be quite some time before we know for sure.

Questions on QSMOs? Call us and we can explain it.

COMET Commeth!

The General Services Administration (GSA) has released the second and much sought after piece of the IT services procurement known as COMET. The solicitation aims to create a multiple-award blanket purchase agreement (BPA) on top of IT schedule 70.

GSA plans to make between 10 and 12 awards with a minimum of 25 percent set aside for small businesses. The BPA will require a host of IT services, including operations and maintenance, cloud and the continued development, and support of the acquisition systems portal beta.SAM.gov. GSA’s goal is a three-step evaluation approach, including an in-person technical challenge.

In April, GSA issued the RFP for the first and substantially smaller piece of COMET focused on architecture, engineering, and advisory support. (FedBizOpps)

Have questions about COMET and how your company fits in? Give us a call at 301-913-5000.

Small Businesses, Come on Down!

The Centers of Excellence, established in 2017 by GSA and the White House Office of American Innovation, work with agencies to develop IT modernization plans. So far, two agencies are on board: the Department of Agriculture is in the second and last phase of the program and the Department of Housing and Urban Development is planning a September start. (Nextgov, March 12, 2019)

During the first year of the program, Agriculture completed Phase I and entered Phase II, prior to HUD’s start beginning work on phase I. The pace should pick up this year with many agencies, under a new BPA, working through Phase I at the same time, according to program Director Bob DeLuca, although no start-up date has been made available. (ibid)

It’s expected the program’s next generation will include the original five centers, focused on cloud adoption, contact center, customer experience, data analytics, and infrastructure optimization. Two additional centers for change management and information security will be added. GSA is adding the change management piece to keep things running smoothly once GSA leads step out of the picture. (ibid)

A blanket purchase agreement released last Tuesday outlined the program’s next iteration. This BPA adds new functional areas and points to the future procurement strategy. It will last three years from the award date with an expected value of $100 million, which can increase without mods. (ibid)

Two phases will continue to exist in the updated program: a discovery phase, wherein an agency works with the relevant centers to assess the current situation and devise a plan; and an implementation phase. The new BPA will cover the first phase only, with the second phase of work contracted separately. (ibid)

The final RFQ has been created to attract more small businesses to the program. Vendors can bid on as many or as few of the functional areas as they choose. (ibid)

Prospective bidders must hold GSA Schedule 70 contracts for the relevant special item numbers listed in the RFQ. The turnaround time for the entire RFQ process is short to test how companies respond during short cycles. (ibid)

Vendors interested in bidding will have to complete four submissions: a set of challenge questions, a list of potential scenarios, a technical and management approach description, and a pricing sheet. The challenge questions will be available through Google Forms starting 28 March. (ibid)

Vendors will also be responding to the scenario through a Google Form, answering the question: How would you obtain agency wide buy-in for the modernization efforts promoted by the CoE while also linking efforts and fostering collaboration with other vendors and government staff across all of the centers at the agency partner? (ibid)

Instructions for the other submissions are included in the RFQ. The entire package is due by noon on April 1.

Are you interested in bidding or learning more about the BPA? Call us at 301-913-5000, and we can walk you through the submission requirements.