Time to Uncover Some Chinese Equipment

Recently, GSA sent a letter to contractors explaining the new FAR interim rule regarding supply chain security, which went into effect last month. The rule prohibits federal agencies from procuring, obtaining, extending, or renewing a contract to procure or obtain “any equipment, system, or service that uses covered telecommunications equipment or services  as a substantial or essential component of any system or as critical technology as part of any system.” (Acquisition.gov)

Covered equipment encompasses telecommunications and video surveillance products and services by Hauwei Technologies Company, ZTE Corporation, Hytera Communications Corporation, Hikvision Digital Technology Company, or Hahua Technology Company, or any company that the head of a relevant federal agency reasonably believes is controlled by the government of the Peoples Republic of China.

The interim rule:

  • Prohibits contractors from providing covered telecommunications services/equipment unless an exception or waiver is granted
  • Mandates every offeror represent whether it will provide covered telecommunications equipment/services as part of its offer, and if that is the case, the offeror must provide details about the covered equipment or services
  • Requires contractors to report any covered equipment/services throughout the life of the contract. (ibid)

At the same time, the FAR interim rule went into effect, GSA issued a class deviation. This essentially takes a risk-based approach to the new FAR interim rule by limiting the representation requirement for GSA funded orders to the indefinite-delivery contract level. The deviation necessitates the following:

  • At all times requires an order-level representation for acquisition vehicles that carry a “high risk” of including covered telecommunications equipment or services.
  • Must have an order-level representation for all orders that could include information technology or communications technology under all GSA acquisitions.
  • The creation of a GSA Acquisition Regulation (GSAR) representation clause, requiring the GSAR and FAR reporting clauses in all new and ongoing GSA contracts.
  • Initiates GSA specific implementation targets for modification of existing contracts.
  • Simplifies the application of Section 889 of the NDAA to other GSA program areas. (ibid)

The interim rule affects ALL contractors. As a contractor, you are responsible for determining whether covered telecommunications equipment/services will be provided under both new and existing contracts and orders.

Below is some fundamental information to help you prepare as GSA puts into place the interim rule and class deviation:

  • FAS contracting activity will issue a mod requiring you to respond to incorporate FAR clause 52.204-25 and GSAR clause 552.204-70.
  • Your mod response must delineate if you will or will not provide covered telecommunications equipment/services in the performance of any contract, subcontract, order, or any other contractual instrument.
  • The substance of FAR clause 52.204-25 must be inserted into all subcontracts.
  • You must report any covered telecommunication equipment or services you discover during the course of contract performance.
  • For new GSA solicitations, you are required to represent at the contract level if you will or won’t provide covered telecommunications equipment/services to the Government in the performance of a contract or subcontract.
  • Contract level solicitations will include FAR provision 52.204-24, clause 52.204-25and GSAR clause 552.204-70.
  • In responses to solicitations and orders under indefinite-delivery contracts, representation of FAR 52.204-24 is required when there is a high risk of inclusion of covered telecommunications equipment/services. (ibid)

Wondering how all this might affect your current contract or upcoming bid? Give us a call.

FAR Changes

With the end of the Fiscal Year looming, the push is on to exhaust agency budgets. In an effort to make acquisitions move through the process more quickly and smoothly, DOD, GSA, and NASA have issued an amendment to the Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR). The amendment fine-tunes the  FAR and eliminates a step in the acquisition process. (Fedscoop, July 15, 2019)

Per the FAR, agencies were required to justify the best procurement approach when using GSA’s IT Schedule 70, Governmentwide Acquisition Contracts, or assisted acquisition solutions. As of June 5, the new FAR amendment allows agencies to skip that step. Agencies are now able to quickly find GSA IT category contracts and acquisition solutions. (ibid)

According to Bill Zielinski, assistant commissioner of GSA’s Federal Acquisition services office, agencies “can now identify and quickly use GSA IT Category contracts and acquisition solutions, especially as they embark on their end-of-year IT spending and acquisition efforts.” Zielinski feels the new change to the FAR reduces the administrative burden for agencies procuring through GSA’s IT Schedule 70 or through GWACs such as 8(a) STARS 2 and Alliant 2, as well as through assisted acquisition programs. (Federal Computer Week, July 15, 2019)

Curious about the new FAR language and how it affects your GSA schedule? Give us a call and we can review it with you.

 

 

Scrubbing the FAR

The Federal Register Publications requests comments on the following three proposed Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) rules:

  1. FAR Case 2015-002 – the rule proposes to amend the FAR to require electronic submission of DD Form 254, Contract Security Classification Specification. This form is used to communicate security requirements to contractors when the performance of contract requirements requires access to classified information and the form acts to automate processes and workflows. (This form is also used by prime contractors to communicate in the same manner to subcontractors.) Comments should be submitted by September 10, 2019, via the Federal eRulemaking portal. (Acquisition.gov)
  2. FAR Case 2018-007 – the rule proposes to amend the FAR  by revising thresholds subject to inflation adjustments so that the periodic inflation adjustments will apply to existing contracts and subcontracts that contain the revised clauses. The next rule raising thresholds for inflation is planned to go into effect, October 2020. Comments are due by August 23rd, via the Federal eRulemaking portal. (Acquisition.gov)
  3. FAR Case 2018-003 – the rule proposed by NASA, GSA, and DOD is to amend the FAR to implement section 1614 of the National Defense Authorization Act for the Fiscal year 2014 and regulatory changes made by the Small Business Administration (SBA). (Section 1614 addresses credit for lower-tier small business subcontracting.) (ibid) 

Additionally, the following are up for review.

  • Section 1614 of the NDAA for FY 2014 amended the Small Business Act when a prime contractor has an individual subcontracting plan for a contract with a single executive agency, the prime contractor receives credit towards its subcontracting goals for awards made to small business concerns at any tier by subcontractors with individual subcontracting plans. Additionally,  section 1614 provides new assurances for offerors relating to activities to be performed by the contractor to monitor the performance of subcontractors subcontracting plans, and by subcontractors to monitor the performance of their subcontractors subcontracting plans. Section 1614 requires the contractor to demonstrate procedures established to ensure subcontractors at all tiers comply with their subcontracting plans. Section 1614 also revised the definition of “subcontract” in the Small Business Act. (Acquisition.gov)
  • Per SBA’s final rule, the prime contractor’s performance under an individual subcontracting plan will be evaluated based on its combined performance under the first-tier and lower-tier goals. Additionally, the final rule implements the statutory requirements related to the new assurances and written statement to be included in subcontracting plans. Comments are due by August 26th via the Federal eRulemaking portal. (regulations.gov)

Working through how these FAR changes will affect your current contract, or future bidding/contracts? Give us a call and we can explain.

INFORMation

At the beginning of fiscal year 2019, GSA implemented the enhanced post-award feedback pilot. GSA has termed this pilot the In-Depth Feedback through Open Reporting Methods or INFORM. (GSABLOG under Acquisition) INFORM allows  offerers to improve upon a proposal or even to see why they were not awarded a contract.

A customized evaluation statement, an opportunity for an in-person oral feedback meeting with the GSA evaluation team, and the option to submit follow up questions are offered under the INFORM pilot. GSA hopes this will help offerers see that the playing field is leveled and everyone is treated fairly during the procurement process. (ibid) This transparency should also cut down on post-award protests.

We are waiting to hear which 50 competitive acquisitions are being tested. So far we know that they will be of varying dollar thresholds, categories, and business size. Moreover, according to GSA, the test group is a representative sample of GSA acquisitions with two Federal Acquisition Service and two Public Building Service actions from each of the 11 GSA Regions and Central Office. The pilot will end with the fiscal year or upon the final procurement award, whichever occurs first. GSA will publish an analysis of the pilot findings. (GSABLOG under Acquisition)

Has your company been contacted by GSA asking for feedback on INFORM? Do you have questions you’d like answered before taking part? Give us a call at 301-913-5000.

Final Rule released for Common Commercial Terms

GSA Final Rule Defines Common Commercial Terms

On February 22, GSA issued a Final Rule addressing common terms that are inconsistent with Federal Law. The rule aims to streamline agreements over CSAs, EULAs, Terms of Sale, and similar sets of terms and conditions. The rule reverses several controversial provisions from an earlier Proposed Rule and class deviation by reverting the order of precedence and eliminating the requirement to provide full text of all provisions.

The rule also formalizes the longstanding stance that certain terms and conditions cannot be enforced by law via a paragraph addition to GSAR 552.212-4. The paragraph identifies 15 common commercial terms, which are viewed as non-negotiable and required by federal law. It prohibits automatic  renewals, and provides that disputes are governed by federal law. The change allows GSA to ignore these clauses during negotiations, thereby reducing time and expenses. Among the included terms are:

  • commercial supplier agreements
  • unenforceability of unauthorized obligations
  • solicitation provisions and contract clauses for the acquisition of commercial items

GSA responded well to industry complaints about the proposed rule, modifying or reversing the most egregious propositions.

For more information see the National Law Review.