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.

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.

New Cybersecurity Certification Requirements

The Office for the Under Secretary of Defense and Sustainment (OUSD (A&S)) recently released its Cyber Security Maturity model Certification (CMMC). DoD stakeholders, University Affiliated Research Centers (UARCs), Federally Funded Research and Development Centers (FFRDCs) and the Defense Industrial Base (DIB) all had a hand in developing the CMMC model. This model measures cybersecurity maturity using five levels (from basic to advanced) and aligns a set of processes and practices with the type and sensitivity of the information to be protected and any associated threats to that information. (CMMC Model v1.0, January 30, 2020)

DoD’s CMMC enhances the protection of:

  • Federal Contract Information (FCI) provided or generated by the government, but not intended for public release
  • Controlled Unclassified Information (CUI), which requires safeguarding or dissemination consistent with laws, regulations and government-wide policies. (ibid)

The CMMC model includes the safeguarding requirements for FCI spelled out in FAR clause 52.204-21 and the security requirements for CUI stated in the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) Special Publication (SP) 800-171 per DFARS clause 252.204-7012 [3,4,5].

Included in the CMMC model is a certification piece verifying the implementation of cybersecurity maturity measure processes and practices. This is intended to deliver assurance to the DoD that contractors and subcontractors can sufficiently protect CUI at a level equal to the risk. (ibid)

To obtain a full overview of the CMMC Model, domains, practices, and processes, please review the Cybersecurity Maturity Model Certification.

Have questions about the effect on your current contract or one in works? Give us a call.

BAA TAA SBA Huh?

It appears the Buy American Act (BAA) and the Trade Agreements Act (TAA) may, under certain instances, actually reduce the federal market accessibility for US manufacturers. (Federal News Network, October 28, 2019)

In order to be considered for a small-business set-aside, end-items must be manufactured in the U.S. Or the company can qualify as a non-manufacturer (13 CFR 121.406) if:

  • The company is principally engaged in the retail or wholesale  of the product and normally sells the type of product being supplied
  • The company takes ownership of the item with its personnel, equipment or facilities consistent with industry practice and
  • The company supplies the end item of a small business manufacturer, processor or producer made in the U.S. or obtains a waiver of the requirement. (ibid)

Non-manufacturers may receive an individual waiver if the Small Business Administration (SBA) accepts the contracting officer’s determination that no small business manufacturer “reasonably can be expected to offer a product meeting the solicitation specifications.” Additionally, the SBA Administrator may provide a class waiver if she determines that no small business manufacturer “product or class of products is available to participate in the Federal procurement market.”

Of course, TAA restricts product acquisition to manufacturers in the U.S. and certain “designated countries,” (those companies that have a Free Trade Agreement with the U.S. or participate in the World Trade Organization Government Procurement Agreement (WTO GPA)). Therefore, products from non-signatory countries such as China are ineligible for award.  Per FAR 25.101(a), BAA restricts the purchase of non-domestic end-products as well. Some exceptions provide more access to foreign end-products than under the TAA; for instance, BAA makes exceptions where the domestic offer is not the low offer (FAR 25.103) as well as in certain instances of public interest for non-availability in the U.S., and at an unreasonable cost. (ibid)

TAA does not apply to small business set-asides, FAR 25.401, leaving the BAA in place. The waiver of the non-manufacturer rule for a set-aside gives a somewhat illogical result. This makes the TAA inapplicable to set-asides, and the BAA applicable to set-asides where the non-manufacturer rule has been waived. This might result in the Government purchasing an item, such as a medical/surgical product, manufactured in a non-designated country that has subsidized its price to assure the product’s selection. Therefore, the intended law restricting non-domestic products actually facilitates more access to those products. This includes products of manufacturers from non-designated countries, rather than providing controlled access over non-domestic end-products. (ibid)

Ultimately, this could harm small and non-small manufacturers producing domestically. This may also open up small business set-asides to products made in China that would otherwise be ineligible for purchase if the TAA applied. A good deal more statutory guidance and analysis are warranted. (ibid)

Do you have questions about your compliance obligations under an upcoming proposal or current contract? Give us a call.

It’s Heeeeere…

The new, single GSA Multiple Award Schedule solicitation was released today, 1 October, and it’s mostly what we expected.

Solicitation number 47QSMD20R0001, refresh 00 (!!) points you to the correct NAICS number for your product or service. The first page of the solicitation references the MAS Roadmap, which includes a guide to preparing your offer and required forms such as the:

  • Agent authorization letter
  • Letter of supply
  • Categories and appropriate NAICS (formerly SIN) numbers
  • Labor category matrix

as well as information about the:

  • Price proposal template, pricing narrative, and pricing support
  • Financial statements
  • Subcontracting plan
  • Technical proposal
  • Professional compensation plan
  • Commercial supplier agreements
  • Previous cancellation and rejection letters
  • Commercial sales practices
  • Commercial or market pricing

You must download separate documents, depending on your proposed product/service. Option categories include: office management, facilities, furniture and furnishings, human capital, industrial products and services, information technology, miscellaneous, professional services, scientific management and solutions, security and protection, transportation and logistics, and travel.

The old standards survive. You must submit via eOffer, the pilot TDR still applies, and you must sell $25,000 per year from the Schedule to keep it. Pathways to Success and the Readiness Assessment remain, as does AbilityOne and SCA.

All service AND product offers must now provide corporate experience and quality control narratives. Furthermore, you now have the option to submit CPARS reports instead of Open Ratings or even a narrative if your company hasn’t six references required by Open Ratings. One positive: GSA now requires only one past project description per service.

The following ominous clause has been included: “The offeror must provide a full and broad array of proposed products/services. An offer will not be accepted with limited product/service offerings unless it represents a total solution for the offeror or proposed product/service offering.” Will small, niche businesses have a more difficult time obtaining an award? Hope not.

Also, until SAM has added representations for the new FAR clause regarding covered telecommunication equipment and services (see our Blog post from 10 September) from particular Chinese companies, proposal submissions must include a statement noting compliance with n 52.204-24 Representation Regarding Telecommunications and Video Surveillance Services or Equipment.

Once awarded, yearly increases for contractors will be capped at four percent for the Human Capital Category, five percent for Professional Services and Travel, and ten percent for all others.

Yes, it’s complicated, and yes we have a handle on it. We are primed and ready to answer all your questions either about a new proposal or your current Schedule. Just give us a call.