CMMC a Plus for Small Businesses?

Katie Arrington, on staff  with the Undersecretary of Defense for Acquisition and Sustainment believes nation-states are actively targeting small businesses digitally. And, she says, we are losing the battle of cyberattacks. (Fifth Domain, October 8, 2019)

According to Arrington, rivals cost the US an estimated $600 billion per year and 5G will multiply that number exponentially by 2025. As a result, Arrington believes the cybersecurity maturity model certification (CMMC) is actually intended for small businesses. (ibid)

CMMC grades company cybersecurity on a scale of one (least secure) to five (most stringent). Small businesses must comply with a tiered rating structure. So a company offering cleaning services may need only comply with CMMC level one while an engineering firm is held to level four

Arrington says that CMMC levels the playing field. Old compliance standards allowed companies to perform their contracts while working on their plan of action to become technically acceptable. This left sensitive systems that require additional security controls vulnerable and with weak spots. Many small businesses do not have the resources to obtain a high CMMC level, ultimately limiting competition in the marketplace; others fear the costs will be so high, that small companies will be priced out of the marketplace and limit their ability to compete on government contracts. 

The most recent Navy breaches targeted contractors without classified information per se, but taken in total the data disclosed sensitive capabilities. This is exactly what the CMMC framework addresses. (ibid)

Requests for proposals are expected to include CMMC requirements, as early as fall 2020.

Questions about CMMC requirements? Give us a call.

STARS in Your Eyes?

After spending more than $1.6 billion on STARS 2 in 2018, GSA is constructing the third version of the 8(a) government-wide Streamlined Technology Acquisition Resource for services or better known as STARS. The third draft solicitation focuses on IT services. Those services include:

  • Software Development
  • Software Maintenance
  • Emerging Technology such as artificial intelligence (AI)

STARS 3 will be an eight-year contract, with a $20 billion ceiling. All responses to the draft RFP are due September 6, 2019. (Federal News Network, August 12, 2019)

Have questions concerning the STARS 3 draft RFP? Give us a call.

Setting Aside the Small Biz Set Asides

The National Background Investigations Bureau (NBIB) is moving from the Office of Personnel Management to the Department of Defense (DoD), merging with the Defense Counterintelligence and Security Agency (DCSA). Of interest to many of EZGSA clients, sources say the move anticipates plans to significantly diminish small business goals at the agency from 65 percent to 10 percent, according to Elizabeth Mudd, small business program manager. (Defense Systems, August 7, 2019)

Mudd believes that the whopping decline in small business goals intends to promote more subcontracting to supplement the four primes that oversee background investigation services. While this may be true, the bottom lines remains that in this fiscal year, NBIB is contributing about $804 million in small business eligible dollars compared to DCSA’s $73.4 million. (ibid)  Maybe the merger won’t actually change the dollar amount contracted with small businesses in the long run, but we’re not holding our breath.

Want to gripe or discuss strategy? We’re here.

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.

 

Ease on Down the Small Biz Road

The federal government is the largest buyer of goods and services in the U.S. The Small Business Administration (SBA) was created to work with small businesses competing for some of that business.

Business owners often ask if they are eligible to participate in SBA’s contracting programs. What makes a small business a small business? Are you a small woman-owned business or an 8A firm? Certify.SBA.gov provides a checklist to help you manage the application process to determine eligibility. Documents and requirements which must be met are spelled out under each checklist. (certify.sba.gov)

Some of the checklists you can expect when logging into SBA.gov are:

  • Women-Owned Small Business (WOSB) Preparation Checklist
  • Economically Disadvantaged Women-Owned Small Business
  • 8(a) Business Development (BD) Program Preparation Checklist
  • Historically Underutilized Business Zones (HUBZone) Program Preparation Checklist
  • All Small Mentor-Protégé Program Preparation Checklist (ibid)

As many of you know, doing business with the government can be overwhelming, tedious, and confusing. Difficult paperwork often dissuades businesses from pursuing government projects that they are capable of performing. The SBA is in the throes of modernizing the application process for federal contracting programs. Forms are now available online and completion of those forms is performed online as well. (ibid)

EZGSA can walk you through the process of certifying your small, 8(a), or women-owned business status. Give us a call at 301-913-0959 to find out more.