COVID-19 actually helped small businesses do business

Due to the pandemic, the federal government has expanded remote network access to assist a dispersed workforce. This in turn has motivated reforms to the procurement system.

According to Roya Konzman, acting division director for solutions development at General Services Administration’s Federal Acquisition Service (FAS), “suddenly there was a need for new hardware, software and network access security, so we advised our Small Business Administration, Department of Veteran Affairs and Social Security Administration on their procurement strategies. GSA empowered its contracting officers to expand its rated orders authority. These orders are issued in accordance with the defense priorities and allocation system, and rated orders applied to IT capabilities included teleworking and health care solutions such as VPN accounts, virtual desktop infrastructure solutions, laptops, and mobile devices, and also covered personal protective equipment such as medical products hand sanitizers and disposable gloves.” (GovernmentCIO Media & Research April 6, 2021)

A national emergency allows the use of rated order authority. It authorizes GSA to prioritize a solicitation on behalf of an agency to buy goods and services. If a contractor receives a rated order, the contractor must prioritize that order ahead of other orders in the queue. (ibid)

There were so many rated orders issued to large contractors that individual suppliers often had a hard time meeting demands within the allotted timeframe. The result was federal agencies looked to enlarge their contracting base to include specialized smaller and mid-sized contractors. (ibid)

Because smaller firms do not have the “red tape’ that larger firms have, they can often change directions quickly. This makes smaller firms extremely valuable during times of national crisis. (ibid)

The federal government invested in video conferencing software and remote connectivity during the pandemic. This affords vendors the opportunity to demonstrate their products to various procurement offices. Additionally, agencies can quickly evaluate a large range of potential contractors. Which helps potential contractors who might have otherwise been overshadowed by larger vendors with preexisting relationships. (ibid)

Do you have a specialized product that the federal government needs? Give us a call.

 

Higher federal procurement standards for IT providers – Are you ready?

The White House is spearheading an interagency endeavor concentrating on software development that will determine federal procurement of information technology (IT). In the coming weeks, vendors can expect to see new IT security standards, governmentwide. This comes after many tech companies complained that the effort under the Trump administration limited the import of information and communications technology from “foreign adversaries.” While leaving the definition of the term “foreign adversary” up to the Commerce Secretary. In addition, the rule as it stands today is broad and raises concerns over due process.

The SolarWinds breach will ultimately raise the bar on vendor security, banning tech from many countries, not just China. It also focuses on vendors and the possibility of vulnerability disclosure policies that encourage reporting weaknesses in their products. Ultimately, vendors providing IT products and services to federal agencies must have the proper level of cybersecurity in place.

Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency Acting Director Brandon Wales said agencies are working together to ensure consistency in the government’s approach to supply chain security across the Commerce Department rule, an executive order aimed at removing foreign adversaries from the bulk power sector. Wales also said, “the administration is counting on higher federal procurement standards to elevate security across the private sector as well.”

Are your IT products compliant? Give us a call.

 

 

Polaris Replacing Alliant 2

This past July, GSA put to rest the Aliant 2 Small Business contract. The just last week, GSA released a draft RFP named Polaris, a Governmentwide Acquisition Contract (GWAC) to provide customized Information Technology (IT) services-based solutions.  The draft RFP breaks out small business contractors into specific “pools,” for Small Business, HUBZone Small Businesses, and Women Owned Small Businesses. GSA reserves the right to add additional pools when deemed necessary. (beta.SAM.gov, December 31, 2020)

According to the draft RFP, Polaris will provide agencies with customized IT services and IT services-based solutions, which can be tailored to meet particular mission needs and may include any combination of IT services and new and emerging technologies. (ibid)

GSA encourages contractors to provide innovative solutions to task order requirements prioritizing emerging technologies.  Examples of emerging technologies included within the draft RFP are:

  • Advanced and Quantum Computing — cryptography/encryption, secure communications, design of high-performance computers, computer clusters, and networks, Quantum Machine Learning
  • Artificial intelligence (AI) — Computer Vision, Deep Learning, Machine Learning, Natural Language Processing (NLP),  Spatial Computing, Speech Recognition
  • Automation technology — Robotic Process Automation (RPA), Automated Messaging Services, Data Cleaning Scripts, Interactive Voice Response (IVR), Smart Notification
  • Distributed ledger technology — Blockchain Implementation Solutions, DLT Network Design Services, Smart Contract Programming Services
  • Edge computing — 5G Implementation Services, Edge Analytics, Edge Application Services, Edge Computing Architecture Design Services, Internet of Things (IoT) Services
  • Immersive technology  — Virtual Reality, Augmented Reality

Examples of Performance areas within the draft RFP are as follows:

  • Cloud Services
  • Cybersecurity
  • Data Management
  • Information and Communications Technologies
  • IT Operations and Maintenance
  • Software Development
  • System Design

Contractors may “provide ancillary support as necessary to offer an IT services-based solution,” but, as with the GSA Schedule, only “when it is integral to and necessary for the IT services-based effort.” (ibid)

Contractors should take note of the security considerations as purchasers may be from the Department of Defense as well as civilian agencies. In particular, the Defense Department’s Cybersecurity Maturity Model Certification is a developing regulation and requirement included in the draft RFP. Additional Cybersecurity and Supply Chain Risk Management (SCRM) requirements are expected to also be included. (ibid)

All draft RFP feedback is due by 4:00 PM Central Time, January 29, 2021.

Have questions concerning the draft RFP, who can respond, and how? Give us a call.

Can Alliant 2 Be “Newer, Better” ?

GSA has finally put us all out of our Alliant 2 Small Business misery. Last week they canceled the acquisition contract. The original award was wrought with confusion, protests, and court disputes, so cancellation isn’t that surprising. (Nextgov, July 2, 2020)

However, GSA promises that the small business IT instrument will live on in a newer, better solicitation. Keep your eyes peeled for the larger and newly structured solicitation. No word yet on the release date of the new solicitation. (ibid)

Laura Stanton, acting GSA Assistant Commissioner for the Office of Information Technology when announcing the cancelation said, “The needs of our customer agencies, small business partners, and industry partners are rapidly evolving, GSA is committed to finding ways for our GWACs to reflect the current IT marketplace so that we can maximize the opportunities for small and women-owned, HUBzone, service-disables veteran-owned, and 8(a) small businesses to contract with the government for cybersecurity, emerging technology, and IT supply chain risk management needs.”

Stanton also said, “we are working to expand the number of master contract awards to highly qualified small businesses on our GWACs, while focusing on technology requirements that support our customer agencies for future mission success.” (ibid)

Questions about the cancellation and or the upcoming solicitation? Give us a call.

Industry Looking to GSA for Guidance

Agencies are pressuring GSA to provide guidance for meeting deadlines to modernize telecommunications. The  pandemic has delayed many agency transitions, thus making those deadlines nearly impossible to meet. (FEDSCOOP, May 12, 2020)

COVID-19 slowed task order awards under the Enterprise Infrastructure Solutions (EIS) contract, the government’s $50 billion telecom and network modernization channel. In some cases where task orders have been awarded, agencies can’t provide contractors clear instructions. Many believe the task order award delays impede the move from Networx, Washington Interagency Telecommunications System 3, and local service area contracts.

Legacy contracts are set to expire in May 2023. The GAO expects 19 of the agencies who spend the most on EIS to be transitioned over by the legacy expiration date; however many will not meet the GSA’s more aggressive 30 September 2022 deadline. (ibid)

Allen Hill, executive director of telecom services in the Office of IT Category at GSA believes agencies will make GSA aware of the effects of the pandemic, and GSA will in turn work with agencies on a case by case basis. (ibid)

The Department of Defense has their own strategy. They are beginning to rely on the lowest price technically acceptable (LPTA) source selection for EIS. DoD plans to report the methodology used to award contracts and task orders in June, once the Federal Procurement Data System modification is complete. Meanwhile, the Defense Information Systems Agency executed six EIS awards last month. Most EIS solicitations are “best value” yet agencies need to balance the overall cost of their transition with the time for implementation. (ibid)

Unfortunately, when agencies speed up transition, companies have less time to address task order requirements properly. This puts the risk on industry to provide the best value while accurately responding to agency requirements. Many task orders were written prior to the pandemic, therefore contractors are forced to address network issues while teleworking. The time it takes to address issues is naturally increased. (ibid)

“Agencies are encouraged to examine any gaps in their network infrastructures and ensure they make appropriate adjustments to their EIS task orders to provide needed capabilities. Modern IT demands modern infrastructure,” Hill stated. (ibid)

Have questions concerning a delayed task order or need one? Give us a call.