Alliant 2 is Out/Polaris is In

After a year of protests and federal court hearings, the Government Accountability Office has canceled its $15 billion Alliant 2 Small Business contract. GAO is calling the replacement contract “Polaris.” A GSA spokesperson said, “Polaris will not only guide small businesses through the federal market, it will also help GSA customer agencies through the acquisition of IT service-based solutions, and give GSA a chance to improve our offerings and set the agency on a solid course for the future.” (GSAblogs.gsa.gov, October 1, 2020)

Administration sees the industrial base broadening by:

  • Pricing Strategy: GSA plans to increase its pool of qualified small businesses that serve federal agencies. GSA will employ Section 876 of the Fiscal Year 2019 National Defense Authorization Act, allowing contract awards to qualifying contractors without consideration of prices for hourly services. Focus on price competition ultimately takes place at the task order level.
  • On-ramps: Allows for an expanded industrial base as technology changes and for vendors to be considered on the GWAC following an initial award period.
  • Opportunity Expansion: An increased opportunity for HUBZone and woman-owned businesses.
  • Embracing Technology to Maximize Efficiency: Polaris will provide agencies with access to emerging technology providers, especially those offering artificial intelligence, automated technologies, blockchain, 5G implementation, cybersecurity, and cloud. (ibid)

The vendor evaluation strategy will be similar to that used in the Veterans Technology Services 2 and Alliant 2 contracts. Both were guided by industry comments. FAS may utilize an online proposal submission tool to speed up Polaris contract awards, as well as a modified evaluation strategy. (Federal Computer Week, October 5, 2020)

Questions about the Polaris evaluation strategy and how your company might do business on the platform? Give us a call.

Practical Applications on the Chinese Tech Ban

On 23 July, the Defense Department released a memo explaining requirements for companies and contractors when the ban of telecommunications equipment made by Huawei and other China-based companies goes into effect. (Federal Computer Week, July 27, 2020)

Beginning 13 August, no contracts will be issued or extended to contractors using technologies or services and equipment made by Hikvision, ZTE or those listed in section 889(a)(1)(B) of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2019. Any contract, task/delivery order, and off-the-shelf items purchased after 13 August must include language invoking regulation for the ban. Additionally, indefinite delivery contracts are required to be modified. (ibid)

There is a waiver process, however, pursuable by agencies. According to Alan Dhvotkin PSC executive vice president and counsel, the waiver “will most likely begin with issues identified by the telecommunications provider to its federal agency customer. The federal agency then asks for an ODNI review, which will conduct a risk assessment.” A granted waiver lasts two years and may be requested at any time. (Federal Computer Week, July 22, 2020)

Have questions or need a waiver? 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.

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 РCommercial items), FAR 52.213-4 (Terms and Conditions РSimplified 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.

Bye Bye Self Certify

Certification changes for Women-Owned Small Businesses (WOSBs) and Economically Disadvantaged WOSBs (EDWOSBs) will occur this summer. The Small Business Administration (SBA) expects the updated regulation to be published on 30 June 2020, and to go into effect 30 days after. (U.S. Small Business Administration)

Info we have so far includes:

  • Self-certification as a WOSB or EDWOSB will end
  • Certification, going forward, will be accomplished through an approved third-party entity or through SBA’s free online certification at certify.sba.gov. (ibid)

To assist in awarding women-owned business contracts, the government limits competition, by including just those businesses participating in the women’s contracting program. The goal of the government is to award the contracts to women-owned businesses in industries where WOSBs are underrepresented. Some contracts are restricted even further to include economically disadvantaged women-owned small businesses (EDWOSBs) only. The SBA keeps a current list of those eligible industries. (ibid)

Eligibility for the women’s contracting program:

  • Qualify as a small business
  • Company at least 51% owned and controlled by women who are U.S. citizens
  • A company with the day-to-day management of operations and long-term decisions controlled by women

Eligibility for the economically disadvantaged business within the women’s contracting program:

  • Meet all requirements of the women’s contracting program
  • Business is owned/controlled by one or more women, each with a personal net worth less than $750,000
  • Business is owned/controlled by one or more women, each with $350,000 or less in adjusted gross income averaged over the previous three years
  • Business is owned/controlled by one or more women, each $6 million or less in personal assets

The eligibility requirements are spelled out in Title 13 Part 127 Subpart B of the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR). (ibid)

To participate in the women’s contracting program, you must be certified as a women-owned business. First the company must have a profile on SAM.gov, and then go through the aforemention process at certify.SBA.gov. The SBA has approved the following four organizations to provide third-party certifications:

Updating certification information annually through both SAM.gov and certify.SBA.gov will maintain your status within the program as well as make contracting officers aware that your business meets the eligibility requirements to compete under the WOSB or EDWOSB umbrella.

Questions about self-certification, third-party certification, or the women-owned business contracting arena? Give us a call.