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.

Updating Govt Cloud Security

Cloud vendors will soon see standardized security liability language in all government contracts. This is partly due to agencies’ migration to the cloud being sped up once the pandemic hit and increased teleworking, making the need for cybersecurity assurances essential. (Nextgov, May 20, 2020)

Thomas Santucci, the director of the Data Center and Cloud Optimization Infrastructure Program Management Office at GSA, recently elaborated on the subject, “I think there is a need to update our [service level agreements] with the cloud providers and we’re actively working on that within [the General Services Administration]…. OMB has just stood up a [program management office] to work on a cloud SLA template for the federal government to be attached to every contract.” (ibid)

When referring to the pandemic, Santucci said, “Users are now remote rather than in a central building or campus. Agencies that are doing well are mostly in the cloud with little or no impact. Remote users do not need a [virtual private network] to gain access to their emails or files, collaboration products have significantly reduced file duplicates, and bandwidth consumption is between the home internet connection and the cloud. It’s a great success story.” (ibid)

Officials at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) believe moving to the cloud does not mean security is a “one and done” feature. There are many considerations that customers may be responsible for under contracts. Increased use of cloud services is not 100 percent secure.

Rep. Doris Matsui, D-California recently wrote to NIST Director Walter Copan, requesting NIST work to establish metrics to accompany their Cybersecurity Framework. The framework allows entities to implement security controls based on their needs. Matsui’s letter to Copan asked for ways to evaluate the security implications of those decisions. Matsui states, “with quantifiable measurement tools, cybersecurity strategies can be compared across industries and between entities. Metrics and measurements that facilitate comparisons and assess risk will be valuable for consumers, companies, and governments.” (ibid)

Wondering how your contract or upcoming proposal might be impacted by cloud migration and updated service level agreements? Give us a call.

Unpricing GSA

The Coalition for Government Procurement has been lobbying for an unpriced schedule, and Section 876 of Fiscal Year 2019 National Defense Authorization Act provides just that. It authorizes agencies, specifically GSA and its Schedules (41 USC 152) to not include price or cost as an evaluation criterion when awarding hourly rate and service contracts.  (Federal News Network, January 10, 2020)

An unpriced schedule is seen as more efficient by:

  • Allowing for evaluation against actual requirements
  • Reducing oversight activities associated with auditing of the award and the Price Reductions Clause
  • Honing competition by permitting customers to highlight speed and need for agency-specific service requirements
  • Allowing for common commercial practices in structuring contracts
  • Reducing hurdles to market entry for small businesses by allowing federal customers to leverage technology to meet end mission goals (ibid)

As we mentioned earlier in the week, GSA’s IG found that current pricing tools are resulting in insufficient price determinations. In many cases, the use of the CALC and CODCD pricing tools result in agency overpayment. The IG report stated, the “intent of the MAS Program is to leverage the government’s buying power in an effort to provide customer agencies with competitive, market-based pricing… GSA’s contracting officers are required to seek the best price granted to the contractor’s most favored commercial customer.”

The report outlines GSAM requirements that guide pricing determinations, such as requiring the government to pursue most favored customer pricing. It also defines methods that contracting officers should use to compare the terms and conditions of the MAS solicitation with those of the offeror’s commercial customers. MAS allows agencies to take advantage of the government’s purchasing power; moreover, it offers a channel for agencies to obtain commercial services and products swiftly. Per the statute, all responsible sources participate in the program, and all orders “result in the lowest overall cost alternative to meet the needs of the Federal Government (41 USC 152).” (ibid)

GSAR 538.270-1, states, “the Government recognizes that the terms and conditions of commercial sales vary and there may be legitimate reasons why the best price is not achieved.” This language actually reinforces leveraging the unpriced schedule. It highlights the complexity around contract-level pricing that is removed from government requirements reflected in a specific order. (ibid)

Federal News Network editorializes that an unpriced schedule focuses the price evaluation on actual requirements in real-time as they are being sought in the market. This type of competition, for agency-specific requirements, results in the most cost-effective, best value outcome for the agency.When resources are focused on competition, it’s a win for agencies, GSA and industry providers.

If you’re interested in learning more, give us a call.

You Are an Unique Entity!

You’ve heard (ad nauseum, probably) about replacing your DUNS number with the unique entity identifier (UEI) by  December 2020. Contractors will request and be assigned the new identifiers through SAM.gov. (To learn more about the transition, click here.) (GSA Interact, December 10, 2019)

Contractor award data, including UEI data, interfaces with many systems outside of the government interface. To assist contractors as well as other agencies, GSA published a first and second set of UEI/EVS specifications. For instance, Group 1 includes:

  • beta.SAM Entity Management. APE has updated schemas for a second version of the API. The second version allows  systems to pull information automatically. Differences between versions are marked as v1 (current version) or v2 (future version). Specs may be found here.
  • New EVS and UEI changes will not be updated to SAM Entity Management Web Services. Users of this web service should migrate to beta.SAM Entity Management API to retrieve UEI and new EVS information. 
  • The SAM public RESTful API will not be updated to incorporate UEI or new EVS changes. Users of RESTful API should migrate to beta.SAM Entity Management API to retrieve new EVS and UEI information.

Group 2 includes:

  • The beta.SAM Exclusions. API has updated schemas for version 2, which allows interfacing systems to pull information about the exclusions automatically.  Differences between the versions are marked as v1 for the current version and v2 for the future version. Specs may be found here.
  • The SAM Exclusions Search Web Services will not be updated to incorporate UEI or new EVS changes. Users of this web service should move to the beta.SAM Exclusions API in order to retrieve UEI and new EVS information concerning exclusions via interface.

The public will continue to receive UEI/EVS specifications as they are updated. IAE will release its testing plan by 30 December 2019. Additionally, IAE will complete the issuance of updated technical specifications interfacing systems. Contractors should start developing plans to allow for the interface changes and begin development for testing with IAE. (ibid)

Users with questions specific to interface testing should contact newsamtesting@gsa.gov. Users with questions specific to the SAM-generated UEI or entity validation services should contact entityvalidation@gsa.gov. (ibid)