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.

Agency Spending During the Pandemic

Government contractors are experiencing difficulties as they work through obstacles and uncertainties during the COVID-19 pandemic. However, if you thought spending would slow, think again.

In response to the emergency, spending likely exceeded $100 billion for the month of March, according to a webcast hosted by George Mason University’s Center for Government Contracting (GMU). Because of a standard 90-day reporting lag, that figure is likely to be even higher. (Washington Technology, March 31, 2020)

The department of Health and Human Services is responsible for the bulk of non-defense contracting activity with commitments of approximately $748.5 million under research and development. Eric Lofgren, a GMU research fellow, feels the majority of that is going toward “Other Transaction” contracts, designed for speed of fielding capabilities as they fall outside of traditional acquisition regulations. (ibid)

Orders are also being solicited and placed for Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) as well as services such as testing and cleaning. Orders of this nature could very well rise to over $100 billion in response to the COVID-19 emergency. Non-defense spending, as of 27 March, totaled $15 billion, which is on track for spending during the same timeframe in 2019. However, the recently passed CARES Act stimulus package frees up $2 trillion so agencies have funds available for immediate use. (ibid)

The Department of Defense is looking at how the commercial industry is designing solutions. In March, DoD requested white papers from the academic community and private industry for prototype solutions to prevent, contain, treat, and detect coronavirus as well as other possible bio-threats. Many believe this is just the start as DoD begins to support the federal government’s pandemic response. (ibid)

Jerry McGinn, executive director of the GMU GovCon Center and former head of DoD’s manufacturing and industrial base policy office said, “Initially a lot of industry was in the sources sought phase of solicitations, now you’re starting to see they’re just going straight to solicitations…. They’re publishing notices on one day and requiring responses the next, and this is just going to accelerate.”

Questions about these solicitations and how your company might provide solutions? Give us a call.

Easier Contract Awards Paper a Silver Lining

The General Services Administration (GSA), The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), and IRS raised the micro-purchase threshold (MPT) and the simplified acquisition threshold (SAT) last week, in response to the coronavirus relief effort This allows these agencies to expedite contract award timeframes. (Federal News Network, March 20, 2020)

As required under the 2020 Defense Authorization bill, the Defense Department raised the threshold for sole-source 8(a) contracts up to $100 million as well. The non-emergency threshold for 8(a) contracts is $22 million. (ibid)

GSA and VA have raised their MPT and SAT threshold for purchases both in and outside of the US while the IRS raised theirs for purchases within the US only, to speed up the time it takes to make contract awards.

The MPT is increased to:

  • $20,000 for contracts awarded and performed or purchases made within the U.S.
  • $30,000 for contracts awarded and performed or purchases made outside the U.S.

The SAT is increased to:

  • $750,000 for contracts performed or awarded and purchases made within the U.S.
  • $1.5 million for contracts awarded, performed or purchases made outside the U.S.

The SAT supporting contingency operations or major disaster recovery is increased to $13 million.

All thresholds, in place through at least 30 June, give agencies the ability to be nimble and make purchases quickly. They are “specific to only to support the designated National Emergency COVID-19. FAR Part 6 also provides the opportunity to expedite purchases after justifying exceptions to competition. There may also be opportunities to use existing contracts by negotiating a bilateral modification to allow for additional quantities of goods or a surge for services included in concurrent awards,” according to Angela Billups, VA’s executive director in the Office of Acquisition and Logistics and senior procurement executive. (ibid)

To track acquisition costs for the coronavirus response, the Federal Acquisition Regulations Council set up a new code in the Federal Procurement Data System, P20C. (ibid)

Jeff Koses, GSA’s senior procurement executive stated in a recent memo that local set-aside rules are not applicable because this is a national emergency and not a strictly local one. According to Koses, some exceptions that allow agencies to restrict or limit competition are:

  • phoning a reasonable number of vendors
  • obtaining “on the spot” quotes
  • keeping the period of performance brief (ibid)

The changes to the MPT and SAT were made prior to the Defense Production Act being invoked. The Defense Production Act, authorizes certain agencies providing specific products or services with relation to the coronavirus relief efforts, to move to the front of the line. However, GSA strongly advises contracting officers to verify pricing and contractor details on GSA Advantage and GSA eLibrary. (ibid)

Interested in contracting for relief efforts? Give us a call.

Telework, the New (Temporary?) Norm

In a recent letter to her contracting staff, Soraya Correa, Homeland Security’s chief procurement officer, asked her contracting staff to stay apprised of the outbreak of COVID-19, before taking any trips. She is relying on the honor system for employees who must take trips to “affected areas, to contact their managers prior to their return to discuss possible telework or leave options.” Also, if they’ve been in close contact with a person “known to have COVID-19” or if airport screeners told them to self-quarantine after returning from overseas travel. Correa went on to say, “if contract performance is affected due to the COVID-19 situation, such as the need for alternate work locations, or travel or schedule changes, the contracting officer is the authority to discuss this with your company.” (FCW, March 9, 2020)

A spokesman for the Professional Services Council expects adjustments of this nature to be the new normal. He expects alternatives to how and where contracting personnel work, with programs necessitating a high level of security being prioritized. (ibid)

Federal agencies are already beginning to shake things up. One example is a recent notice on beta.SAM.gov, where the Department of Defense suggested that attendees of its National Cyber Range Complex Event Planning, Operations, and Support contracting meeting in Florida next week, have alternates at the ready. The notice also mentioned staying tuned in, as the outbreak could cancel the event. (ibid)

Need help determining if your contract may be at risk due to travel/work restrictions as a result of the virus outbreak ? Give us a call.