Yes Virginia, There Is a Data Ethics Framework

Earlier this month, GSA was given the opportunity to develop a Data Ethics Framework to assist agencies in making ethical decisions as they acquire, manage, and use data. A completed version of the report is expected by the end of 2020. (GSA Data ethics framework action 14 draft, September 2020)

The Framework incorporates four parts:

  • About the Data Ethics Framework — explains the purpose and audience of the Framework.
  • Data Ethics Defined
  • Data Ethics Tenets — provides seven principles for using data ethically within the federal government.
  • Data Ethics Tenets in Action — details data ethics benefits and demonstrates how the Tenets guide data activities within agencies as well as federally sponsored programs. (ibid)

The Framework originated to guide ethical decision making by federal employees who collect, manage, or use data to support their agency’s mission. It acts as guidance to encourage ethical decision making, but isn’t required. Its audience includes “anyone in the Federal Government who works with or leads work involving data, which includes all employees, contractors, researchers, and other partners who work on behalf of the government.”

According to the Framework, “Data leaders and professionals should adhere to all applicable legal authorities, as ethics are reflected and reinforced in existing laws.” Additionally, “agency leaders are encouraged to maintain up-to-date, comprehensive ethical standards regarding data use and staff are responsible for learning and applying agency guidance. In addition, if a person works in an area with recognized professional ethical codes of conduct, they should be aware of those standards and strive to uphold them.” (ibid)

Have a question about the Framework or the definition of data ethics? Give us a call we can explain.

Seeing STARS

The 8(a) STARS II contract has roughly 800 small business contractors that furnish custom IT services-based solutions tailored to meet government agency needs. STARS III contract will soon replace the current STARS II contract, with a higher dollar threshold and customized IT solutions. (Federal Computer Week, August 21, 2020)

Over the life of 8(a) STARS II, GSA has repeatedly raised the ceiling to meet federal agency needs and to support their small business contracting objectives. In April of this year the contract reached a $15 billion ceiling and by the end of July is was at $22 billion. In an effort to meet growing government agency needs, the 8(a) STARS III contract will accommodate more bidders with a $50 billion ceiling. 8(a) STARS III focuses on new technologies as well as meeting the needs of federal agencies outside the continental U.S.

According to Alan Chvotkin, executive vice president and counsel at the Professional Services Counsel, “rules have changed a lot over the years, the current contract vehicle, dating back to 2011 is kind of clunky and not as nimble as newer contracts. The new contract will help GSA fine new technology companies as well as requalify existing companies.” (ibid)

Questions about the 8(a) STARS III contract and if you currently do business under 8(a) STARS II how you will requalify? Give us a call.

Time to Sign the Dotted Line

If you are one of the 15 percent of contractors who have yet to accept GSA’s consolidation Mass Modification, do it now. The deadline is 31 July 2020. All contractors failing to accept the Mass Mod will have their offerings removed from GSA’s eTools platform. (Fedscoop July 13, 2020)

Jessica Salmoiraghi, the associate administrator of the Office of Governmentwide Policy, recently said contractors that fail to accept the mass mod are basically losing out on business, while the contractors who have accepted are realizing orders. (ibid)

As GSA moves further into Phase 2 of MAS consolidation, they are automating parts of the contracting process. This includes its Truman bot, designed to automatically review new contractors based on the MAS. The bot is automating the new offer review process by checking the excluded parties list and pre-filling templates. (ibid)

The third and final phase of MAS Consolidation is expected in the second half of 2020.

Need assistance getting your acceptance to GSA’s mass mod completed in the next two weeks? Give us a call.

Easier EULA Review Ahead?

GSA wants to shorten review time for end-user license agreements (EULAs) through an artificial intelligence and machine learning challenge. The challenge comes with a $2,500 cash prize and will be given to three teams who develop the top AI or ML solution to review EULAs terms and conditions. One of the selected teams will receive an additional cash prize of $12,500. (Fedscoop, July 6, 2020)

On average, a GSA contracting officer takes one or two weeks to review EULAs, but we have experienced wait times of much longer — even up to six months — when GSA legal gets involved. EULAs give specifics on the legal use of software and services; GSA ensures that the terms and conditions are compliant with government rules and regulations.

The current process is manual and mandatory prior to contract award or modification. However, with the right AI or ML solution, the document review can be automated and flagged for questionable language. (ibid)

GSA provided the following: training data, reference documents, and a sample validation file. All solutions submitted must accept the EULA documents in Microsoft Word and PDF formats. (ibid)

Solutions will be scored on a scale of 1-5 in the following areas:

  • technical evaluation
  • functionality and user interface
  • creativity and innovation
  • quality of demonstration

All solutions are the sole financial responsibility of the entrant, who retain ownership of the solution. GSA receives an irrevocable, paid, and royalty-free license to use and reproduce the three winners’ solutions.

Solutions must be submitted by August 20, 2020.

Questions about the challenge and the submission of your solution? Give us a call.

New E-Commerce Platform

The 2018 Defense Authorization Act requires the government to utilize a new e-commerce platform. Well, after several protests, several solicitation rewrites, and the COVID-19 pandemic, we now have the proof-of-concept phase, with three vendors: Amazon Business, Overstock.com, and Fischer Scientific will allow access to their e-commerce sites with micropurchases of $10,000 or less. By awarding a contract to three vendors, GSA hopes to ensure pricing competition and high service levels. (Federal News Network, June 29, 2020)

During the 30 day proof-of-concept phase, agencies receive access to order from vendors’ e-commerce platforms for testing and stakeholder feedback. Participating agencies include Veterans Affairs, Justice and Labor, the Environmental Protection Agency, and GSA. Additional agencies may join in the coming months.

However, contractors are still questioning the apparent two sets of rules for micropurchases; those made under e-commerce and those made from other platforms, such as GSA Advantage. They believe transparency to be vital as well as understanding the pilot parameters. Remaining questions include e-marketplace conflict of interest issues, restriction on platform provider uses of third party transactional data, and how country of origin and counterfeit products are handled.” (ibid)

Not sure how government agencies ordering from e-commerce platforms will affect your ability to do business with them? Give us a call.