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.

 

Lead Times! Get Your Lead Times Here!

When is the actual start and end of Procurement Administrative Lead Times (PALT)? The Office of Federal Procurement Policy (OFPP) is working on a measurement to answer this question, which seems to be not only a grey area in the procurement arena but a disputed one, as well.

OFPP is looking at the 2019 National Defense Authorization Act, section 878, which describes PALT as “the time between the date on which an initial solicitation for a contract or order is issued by a federal department or agency and the date of the award of the contract or order.”¬† OFPP would like to marginalize procurement process delays and believes having this definition in place will minimize those delays. (FCW, February 24, 2020)

The Professional Services Council and the Council of Defense and Space Industry Associations both welcome the definition being put in place. However, naysayers argue the OFPP language misses pre-solicitation work, such as: creating a requirements planning package that provides solicitation facts prior to issue; or when a particular contract is initially funded. According to some, the current definition ignores pre-solicitation lead time factors which do contribute to the time needed for a contracting officer to move from contract request to contract requirement in solicitation. (ibid)

Wondering how this affects your upcoming proposal efforts? Give us a call.

GSA Updating their e-Market Portal

On October 1st, GSA issued a solicitation requesting proposals from e-marketplace portal providers. The solicitation is for the initial proof of concept of the Commercial Platforms program, part of the foundation of GSA’s Federal Marketplace Strategy (FMP) to simplify federal buying and selling and how federal agencies buy commercial off-the-shelf products. Proof of concept implementation is through partnerships with many commercial e-marketplace platform providers currently offering business-to-business capabilities. This gives federal agencies greater visibility into their online spending. (GSA.gov, October 2, 2019)

GSA Administrator Emily Murphy said, “As federal procurement continues to evolve, simplifying how we purchase basic commodities will allow agencies to focus more on work that directly serves their missions. Federal agencies spent approximately $260 million using online portals last year and it is critical that we use the Commercial Platforms program to better understand and manage this.” (ibid)

The proof of concept is GSA’s kickoff for changing the way federal agencies purchase commercial products via the open market, implementing the requirement of Section 846 in the FY 18 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). Last year GSA conducted stakeholder outreach and market research to get a better understanding of the open market place. They determined to take small steps through an iterative program management approach to Commercial Platforms. (ibid)

Proposals are due by November 1, 2019, at 5 PM EST. (FedBizOpps.gov, October 1, 2019)

Are you wondering how the e-marketplace will affect your current contract? Do you provide B2B services in the private sector and have questions about the solicitation? Give us a call.

Time to Uncover Some Chinese Equipment

Recently, GSA sent a letter to contractors explaining the new FAR interim rule regarding supply chain security, which went into effect last month. The rule prohibits federal agencies from procuring, obtaining, extending, or renewing a contract to procure or obtain “any equipment, system, or service that uses covered telecommunications equipment or services¬† as a substantial or essential component of any system or as critical technology as part of any system.” (Acquisition.gov)

Covered equipment encompasses telecommunications and video surveillance products and services by Hauwei Technologies Company, ZTE Corporation, Hytera Communications Corporation, Hikvision Digital Technology Company, or Hahua Technology Company, or any company that the head of a relevant federal agency reasonably believes is controlled by the government of the Peoples Republic of China.

The interim rule:

  • Prohibits contractors from providing covered telecommunications services/equipment unless an exception or waiver is granted
  • Mandates every offeror represent whether it will provide covered telecommunications equipment/services as part of its offer, and if that is the case, the offeror must provide details about the covered equipment or services
  • Requires contractors to report any covered equipment/services throughout the life of the contract. (ibid)

At the same time, the FAR interim rule went into effect, GSA issued a class deviation. This essentially takes a risk-based approach to the new FAR interim rule by limiting the representation requirement for GSA funded orders to the indefinite-delivery contract level. The deviation necessitates the following:

  • At all times requires an order-level representation for acquisition vehicles that carry a “high risk” of including covered telecommunications equipment or services.
  • Must have an order-level representation for all orders that could include information technology or communications technology under all GSA acquisitions.
  • The creation of a GSA Acquisition Regulation (GSAR) representation clause, requiring the GSAR and FAR reporting clauses in all new and ongoing GSA contracts.
  • Initiates GSA specific implementation targets for modification of existing contracts.
  • Simplifies the application of Section 889 of the NDAA to other GSA program areas. (ibid)

The interim rule affects ALL contractors. As a contractor, you are responsible for determining whether covered telecommunications equipment/services will be provided under both new and existing contracts and orders.

Below is some fundamental information to help you prepare as GSA puts into place the interim rule and class deviation:

  • FAS contracting activity will issue a mod requiring you to respond to incorporate FAR clause 52.204-25 and GSAR clause 552.204-70.
  • Your mod response must delineate if you will or will not provide covered telecommunications equipment/services in the performance of any contract, subcontract, order, or any other contractual instrument.
  • The substance of FAR clause 52.204-25 must be inserted into all subcontracts.
  • You must report any covered telecommunication equipment or services you discover during the course of contract performance.
  • For new GSA solicitations, you are required to represent at the contract level if you will or won’t provide covered telecommunications equipment/services to the Government in the performance of a contract or subcontract.
  • Contract level solicitations will include FAR provision 52.204-24, clause 52.204-25and GSAR clause 552.204-70.
  • In responses to solicitations and orders under indefinite-delivery contracts, representation of FAR 52.204-24 is required when there is a high risk of inclusion of covered telecommunications equipment/services. (ibid)

Wondering how all this might affect your current contract or upcoming bid? Give us a call.

Accelerating Money to Small Business

If the Accelerating Defense Innovation Act passes Congress, small businesses with more than 50 percent of venture capital funding will find it easier to obtain Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) grant money from the Department of Defense (DoD). To date, legal hurdles have prevented DoD from utilizing these companies. (Fedscoop, May 21, 2019)

The SBIR, created in 1983, provides small businesses with grants to help them expedite product development, and offers follow-on funding and assistance to provide guidance meeting requirements during the government purchasing process. In 2003, courts ruled that companies owned (more than half) by venture capital firms were ineligible for SBIR grants. Then in 2011, a waiver was created by Congress for those small businesses that are majority-owned by venture investors. These waivers required congressional notification as well as Small Business Administration approval. (ibid)

Unfortunately, DoD has never used the waiver. Defense Contracting Officers continue to shy away from small businesses funded through venture capital. Rep. Mac Thornberry (R-Texas), the new legislation sponsor, cited a recent example of a small satellite technology startup that visited DoD’s Hacking 4 Defense program but did not receive an SBIR grant because of the majority capital investment in the firm, even though their technology is cutting edge. (ibid)

A new pilot program, on which the legislation is based, allows the Secretary of Defense and service acquisition executives for each arm of the military to make an SBIR award to a small business that is majority-owned by domestic venture investors. The bill will allow no more than 15 percent of DoD SBIR program funds to be awarded to these small businesses. Its end date of September 30, 2022. (ibid)

Aside from SBIR, small tech companies can look at other ways to work with the DoD. For instance, the Defense Innovation Unit currently handles commercial innovation pilot projects. Once testing is complete, any DoD branch may procure from a small business, generally within 90 days of the first contact with the company. (ibid)

Rep. Thornberry, the ranking Republican on the House Armed Services Committee, would like to include his legislation in the 2020 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).

EZGSA has information about this and other ways small businesses can obtain government contracting. Give us a call at 301-913-5000.