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.

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.

HHS Did What?

The Department of Health and Human Services Program Support Center (PSC) has decided to end assisted acquisition services. Some agencies under the PSC umbrella include: the Office of Personnel Management, the Office of Special counsel, the Environmental Protection Agency, and the Defense Department (DoD).  (DoD accounts for roughly $1 billion of the $1.4 billion total contract amount under the PSC.) (Federal News Network, July 22, 2019)

It appears HHS stopped offering assisted acquisition services in mid June, just as agencies are preparing for fourth quarter acquisitions. This likely includes the $150 million multiple-award contract PSC was about to award for EPA along with a number of “in-process” contracts for DoD. Additionally, any award for the prior four years must be moved to other agencies or absorbed by the “home” agency by September 20, 2020. (ibid)

So why exactly did HHS decide to stop its assisted acquisition services? In a memo to the civilian agency customers, they said they do not have the internal controls, policies, or procedures necessary. DoD customers received a comparable memo. (ibid)

Why now? Possibly due to the manner in which PSC has handled classified information for DoD and other agencies’ procurements through the self-certification process. The self-certification process is achieved through the DD-254 form. However, a recent audit found that PSC does not actually perform classified work. (ibid)

Unfortunately, this abrupt change is putting a burden on many agencies. Since the decision was made and will affect the fourth-quarter spending, agencies must now scramble to get other assisted acquisition service provider help. The decision also affects vendors, who spend time and money to bid on solicitations that must restart. And the question remains: will vendors lose work from existing contract awards that they bid on and won?

Roughly one-third of all federal spending occurs in the fourth quarter, with one-quarter of the spending in September. Administrators plan to meet with member companies, DoD ,and the Office of Federal Procurement Policy to arrive at  a game plan going forward. (Federal News Network, July 22, 2019)

Will this affect a bid you are working on or a recent contract award? If so, give us a call.