Will the CARES Act become permanent?

In March of 2020, when the Coronovirus became a pandemic, Section 3610 of the CARES Act went into effect. This section of the CARES Act provides economic relief to contractors so that they can continue to pay their employees. Unless Congress extends Section 3610 of the CARES Act, it expires on September 30, 2021. (Washington Technology August 5, 2021)

The Professional Services Council (PSC) would like for Section 3610 to become permanent. PSC Executive Vice President David Broome feels Section 3610 should become permanent. He reasons this by looking at how several agencies have heavily relied on Section 3610 during the pandemic. GAO saw a combined $882.8 million in reimbursements from across the Departments of Defense, Energy, Homeland Security, and NASA. (ibid)

GAO staff interviewed 15 contractors and 12 agreed that Section 3610 “had a great or moderate effect on their ability to retain employees, in particular those with specialized skill or clearances.” (ibid)

According to Broome, “GAO makes the case for establishing a permanent stand-by authority that would be available when needed and in place when the next emergency happens – be it a pandemic, a cyberattack or natural disaster. Establishing this authority now would be a prudent step to implement one lesson learned from the COVID-19 pandemic and ensure that the government and contractors are prepared for the next one.” (ibid)

Are you a contractor trying to take advantage of Section 3610 and not sure where to start? Give us a call.

 

Small Business? Better be able to prove it

The Small Business Administration has contracting assistance programs, in place, to help small businesses by limiting competition for certain government contracts. Additionally, they work to ensure at least 23 percent of all federal contracting dollars goes to small businesses. (JD Supra August 13, 2021)

The current SBA programs are:

  • The small business set-aside program
  • 8(a) Business Development (8(a)) Program)
  • Service-Disabled Business (WOSB) Program
  • Historically-Underutilized Business Zone (HUBZone) Program (ibid)

It has come to light that some of these programs have had issues certifying and monitoring participants of the programs. Recently, two inspectors general audited the HUBZone and SDVOSB programs. The audits showed 15 of 39 firms receiving HUBZone certification and a HUBZone contract. Of the 15, three were improperly certified to participate in the program. The SBA had not made an eligibility determination for four others participating in the program. (ibid)

The Department of Defense (DoD) Office of Inspector General (DoD-OIG) recently issued a report that turned up concerns with how DoD confirms eligibility for SDVOSB contract awards. In the report, 29 SDVOSB contractors were audited. 16 contractors at issue received 27 contracts, together with values at $827.8 million. Those 16 contractors “did not have a service-disabled veteran as the owner and the highest-ranking officer of the company or whose publically available information and contract documentation did not support that the contractor met the requirements for SDVOSB status.” (ibid)

Since the issues have come out, both criminal and civil enforcement has increased. There have been four federal indictments or guilty pleas from business owners who misrepresented their status as a small business, women-owned business, service-disabled veteran-owned business, or minority-owned business. These are all clear-cut cases of misrepresentation and fraud. Recently, a construction company obtained $250 million in government contracts set aside for SDVOSBs. The owner of the company put a disabled veteran as the apparent owner of the construction company to qualify the company as an SDVOSB. The true owner turned out to be a non-service-disabled business partner who controlled both the financial and operational control of the company. This type of fraud is known as a “rent a vet” scheme. (ibid)

The government may use the False Claims Act (FCA) (31 U.S.C 3729-3733) to root out contractors who violate small business compliance laws. The FCA has a whistleblower aspect allowing for whistleblowers to obtain a percentage of the government’s recovery from a successful resolution of the matter. The FCA is a civil enforcement statute that does not require specific intent to defraud. The reach of the FCA is broad and not to be taken lightly. (ibid)

In 2020, there were 8 key settlements, rulings, and filings regarding various small business fraud scheme allegations and five settlements in 2021 already. Just last month a Virginia-based consulting group and the president of the company agreed to pay a $4.8 settlement regarding FCA allegations. The recent civil enforcement should be a flashing light of warning to small business government contractors that inspectors general and the DOJ are actively pursuing contractors who know their actions are in violation of small business contracting rules. (ibid)

To stay compliant and reduce risk, the following guidelines should be followed:

  • Establish a company culture of compliance, with every employee understanding the rules
  • Work with subject matter experts to stay informed
  • Continuously verify the company eligibility in the program
  • Assess the eligibility of subcontractors or affiliates
  • Perform comprehensive and thorough compliance risk assessments (ibid)

Following the guidelines will allow small businesses to spend their resources on participating in government contracts and not on criminal/civil violations.

Trying to determine if you meet the guidelines? Give us a call.

 

 

 

DOD requesting IT budget boost

Data Science company Govini, recently reported the Department of Defense requested a 7.8% increase in its fiscal 2022 budget for IT. The request is mostly from the “general IT” spending subcategory. This brings the total sought to $34.8 billion for IT. (Fedscoop July 8, 2021)

Congress needs to approve the requested budget before it moves to DOD, however, it is a good indication of where the money will go, once approved. The IT and Command, Control, Communications, Computers, Intelligence Surveillance, and Reconnaissance (C4ISR) budget breakdown are as follows:

  • Naval Tactical Communications increase 2.8% to $2.6 billion
  • Medical IT increase by 6.9% or $2.2 billion
  • Other increase by 12.5% to $18 billion (ibid)

The budget increases consistently trend upward from the previous year indicating the importance of IT in war. Bob Work, former deputy secretary of defense in the Obama administration said, “the future character of warfare will be defined more by information than by hardware.” (ibid)

Looking to provide IT services to DOD? Give us a call.

 

 

What the new Minimum Wage Executive Order means

In late April, President Biden signed an executive order, requiring government contractors to increase the minimum wage to $15 per hour by 2022. Censeo Consulting Group analyzed the effect of the federal worker minimum wage increase. They determined that approximately 30,520 contracts will require modification. In addition, they expect the modifications to add 450,000 additional contracting office, workload hours. This equates to about 240 additional full-time positions. (ExecutiveGov May 27, 2021)

The executive order will impact federal spending from between $1 and $2 billion. Agencies can prepare by:

  • Segmenting contract portfolio by delivery location and spend category, highlighting impacted contracts
  • Developing a policy and process for addressing impacted contracts
  • Analyze internal pricing to identify contracts requiring modifications (ibid)

The departments of Veterans Affairs, Defense, Agriculture, and State are most impacted by the executive order and are likely preparing to make their contract modifications on or before the 2022 deadline.

Do you need to modify your contract? Give us a call.

 

Small business and startups are front and center

Boosting small businesses and software for DoD are priorities for the Biden administration and their nomination for the Defense Department’s technology efforts.  Heidi Shyu, nominated for undersecretary of defense,  recently introduced her priorities to modernize the military during her confirmation hearing. She stated, “In order to rapidly transition the latest software, we need to have an open architecture that isolates the software from the hardware then allows rapid user testing.” (Defense Systems May 26, 2021)

Shyu told the senate that DOD should be investing so that development and procurement are 70% of their costs for a new weapons system. Shyu proposed buying more emerging tech such as artificial intelligence, synthetic biology and hypersonics rather than investing in older systems. Shyu said, “today, sustainment makes up 70% of total weapon system cost, with development and procurement making up 30%.” (ibid)

During Shyu’s hearing, she mentioned small businesses, especially startups working on new technologies, repeatedly. Shyu feels they are necessary for the Defense Department’s success. Shyu did not lose sight of the inability of the acquisition system to shift prototypes into programs. Shyu plans to institute a clear transition path. (ibid)

Shyu said, “part of the reason there is a valley of death for technology is that a lot of the technology programs are being developed by small companies, and unless you had the foresight two years ago to understand that the technology is going to be mature within two years time, by the time you get the money to buy that technology it’s two years old now.” (ibid)

Shyu said, “I saw a six-person company that’s developed any type of fuel as input and the output is a DC-plug. Those are the types of creative, innovative companies we need to nurture. And they are struggling to figure out who to talk to in the DOD.” (ibid)

Are you an innovator or a small business looking to work with the Department of Defense? Give us a call.