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.

Security: Clearance and Cyber

In the world of security clearances, the Senate reintroduced a bill last week to decrease the 570,000 pending security clearance investigations backlog. With this legislation, the National Background Investigations Bureau, which conducts most government security checks, will merge into the Pentagon, which may (or may not(!)) help get the backlog under control. Language within the bill charges the Director of National Intelligence with streamlining the time-intensive, paper-heavy security clearance process. It can take over a year to get a clearance, and that’s once you are in the queue. There is also the Catch 22 of not obtaining a contractor job without a clearance and not getting a clearance without already having the job. (Nextgov, February 2019) Of course, the backlog wasn’t helped by the shutdown.

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) also has security on the table. Need to keep your non-US citizen tech guru on staff? DHS is with you. They hope to keep tech specialists from outside the country here, and support the Startup Act. The Startup Act would keep foreign-born entrepreneurs and STEM experts in the country to ultimately promote innovation. Seems counter to the current Administration’s stated goals, but kudos to Congress for trying. (ibid)

Meanwhile, Congress is trying to get a grip on how the recent government shutdown affected security, specifically cyber security. Here is a breakdown of the tech and cybersecurity hearings that took place last week:

  • 2.6.19 the Senate Appropriations Services Committee briefed by intelligence leaders on worldwide threats.
  • 2.6.19 the House Armed Services Committee evaluated the Defense Departments counterterrorism efforts.
  • 2.6.19 the House Energy and Commerce telecom subcommittee explored ways to preserve the open internet for small business and consumers. (Nextgov, February 2019)

Do you have security clearance questions? Wondering how the open internet will affect your small business and its ability to do business with the government? Give us a call at 301-913-5000 and we will try to provide you with answers.