GSA, Pandemic Style

GSA is moving quickly to enact several initiatives while responding to the COVID-19 pandemic. Because the current state of emergency necessitates the Federal Acquisition Service to purchase medical supplies and other equipment at a fast clip, Contracting Officers have no choice but to react with a fair amount of speed and flexibility. (Federal News Network, May 1, 2020)

This includes:

  • changing policies for prompt payment and onboarding/offboarding of contractors
  • construction of the new e-commerce marketplace platform, which was paused during the first few weeks of the pandemic, is now moving forward, albeit at a much slower pace
  • monitoring other initiatives possibly impacting by the pandemic, such as Enterprise Infrastructure Solutions (EIS)
  • continuing corrective actions on Alliant 2 revised proposals
  • expanding the small business innovation research (SBIR) program, part three

Some government markets, like travel, have declined; however cleaning products and enhanced screening services have increased exponentially. (ibid)

Any questions about getting your product or service in front of government buyers? Give us a call.

In the Navy (with Small Business)

The U.S. Navy, Office of Naval Research is offering $30 million in grants through 31 May to companies providing advanced technology. Through this effort, the Navy is funding its supply chain to ensure that their contractors can stay in business during the pandemic. An additional $250 million in small business awards is expected over the next 90 days. (FedScoop, April 28, 2020)

Awards are through the Small Business Innovation Research and Small Business Technology Transfer grant programs, which get money to small businesses more quickly than traditional solicitations. The following technologies are of interest:

  • modernization and sustainment
  • digital logistics
  • deployable manufacturing
  • resilient communications (ibid)

James Geurts, the Navy’s lead acquisition official, said the department is monitoring its supply chain in real-time with new tools to maintain stability. Many worry that a faltering economy and the shelter in place regulation will affect the supply chain and the military’s readiness. Guerts says the Navy is closely watching its research and development for emerging technology so as to stay a step ahead. (ibid)

Other Navy research offices are also serving as “technology enablers.” The Naval Expeditions Agility Office is looking for ways to better connect warfighters to tech experts and small businesses. Here again, the goal is to bring advanced technology solutions to national security challenges while helping small businesses to continue working with the Navy. (ibid)

Are you a small business with advanced technologies the Navy can use? Give us a call.

Emergency Rules

Government ontractors and small businesses should be aware of increased opportunities during the current COVID-19 national emergency. The government is permitted, during a national emergency, to set aside solicitations to allow awards “only to offerors residing or doing business primarily in the area affected by …[a] major disaster or emergency.” Contractors can verify if they fall into this category by reviewing Federal Acquisition Regulation 52.226-3(d). (Law360.com, April 13, 2020)

A national emergency declaration allows the government to (restrict) certain solicitations to small businesses in certain areas. These solicitations are either a set-aside or an evaluation preference is given to small businesses. (ibid)

During national emergencies, large contractors should look to team with small businesses, or to current teaming agreements already in place. In addition, contractors who are at the ready to produce/provide goods or services may be called on to contract with agencies to battle COVID-19. (ibid)

Micro purchase thresholds are another acquisition procedure government agencies may use during a national emergency. These allow for a simplified acquisition methodology for specific items or services required under emergency situations, such as the COVID-19 national emergency. (ibid)

State and local governments may also procure under the Stafford Act, wherein state governors request financial relief via federal grants that allow procurement under their own procedures. The Stafford Act authorizes federal contracts for “debris clearance, distribution of supplies, reconstruction, and other major disaster or emergency assistance activities.” In 2006 the Local Community Recovery Act amended the Stafford Act mandating local organizations to be given preference when using full and open competition. The FAR was also amended to align with the Local Community Recovery Act. Under the act, if a contractor does not meet all of the Recovery Act stipulations there are other factors that may be considered. (Contractors may self-certify that they are local.) (ibid)

Other streamlining acquisition procedures are available under federal supply schedule contracts, multi-agency blanket purchase agreements, and multi-agency indefinite-delivery contracts. Additionally, there is an easing of the requirement that a contractor be registered in SAM.gov at the time an offer is submitted to the government. (ibid)

The emergency declaration allows state and local governments to purchase from all GSA schedules. It also encourages accelerated payments to small business contractors.  (ibid)

Additional modified procedures to facilitate swift responses are:

  • Relaxation of qualifications requirements
  • Use of sole-source contracts
  • Use of oral requests for proposals
  • Use of letter contracts
  • Interagency acquisitions
  • Awards to small disadvantaged businesses
  • Retroactive overtime approvals
  • Waivers of bid guarantees when an emergency exists
  • Use of protest overrides where necessary for a contracting process to continue

In order to track procurements related to COVID-19, GSA added a National Interest Action (NIA) code to SAM.gov. To find information on the site, simply type COVID-19 2020 in the search bar. (ibid) Contractors can register with SAM.gov under the disaster response registry, and be sure to monitor the portals most closely aligned to the goods or services you provide.

Have questions about the many opportunities available under the current national emergency? Give us a call.

beta.sam.gov Hiccup Hiccup

When FedBizOpps (FBO) migrated to beta.sam.gov, everyone expected a few hiccups. Now three months in, it’s fair to say government contractors have been experiencing more than just a few hiccups. GSA says the number of help desk calls they get is no more than they got with FBO. However, the frustration over beta.sam.gov runs deep.

Last week contractor discouragement came to a head when the Professional Services Council sent GSA a letter airing not only their complaints but also their concerns. The 22-page letter outlined the four areas of greatest concern:

  • Access Challenges;
  • Search Parameters;
  • Capability to receive contract information;
  • Difficulties in how the site displays information. (Federal News Network, February 17, 2020)

At EZGSA, we have found problems with data organization, standardization, and even saving information. GSA seems ready to add new capabilities next month, but should they? Many feel the backend structure should be fixed before the next phase, moving the Federal Procurement Data System-Next Generation (FPDS-NG) reporting capabilities to beta.sam.gov in March. (ibid)

Large companies are better able to handle the costs associated with down time or lost data. Small businesses that must  spend thousands of dollars on software, just to get what they got before the FBO migration, are at a great disadvantage.

Need help navigating beta.sam.gov? We will do our best to help and take away some of the frustration. Give us a call.

Make a pitch, win a prize

In 2018, the Army acquisition office set up the Expeditionary Technology Search or xTechSearch. The Army has continued to use these pitch days to find small and nontraditional businesses with useful technologies. (Federal News Network, January 16, 2020)

In a pitch search, businesses propose their new technologies and ideas to the government in phases. Phase One is a white paper. Generally, 50 companies make it through the white paper phase and onto phase two. Companies chosen to move onto phase two receive a $5,000 prize which may be used to help defer the cost of engaging with government. The second phase is a 15-minute in-person pitch to a panel. Up to 24 companies can move from phase two to phase three, with the highest-ranking company receiving a $10,000 prize. Phase three participants are invited to a conference and provided exhibit space and asked to provide a proof-of-concept demonstration. Up to 12 participants move forward, with the highest-ranking business plan and proof-of-concept demonstration plan to receive a prize of $120,000. The technology solution and transition plans are presented during phase four, the final phase. Currently, xTechSearch 4.0 is in its second phase.

The grand prize winner will be announced in October at the Association of the United States Army annual meeting in Washington, DC. The grand prize winner receives a prize of $250,000, similar to the size of a Small Business Innovation Research grant.

Want to learn more about pitch days? Give us a call.