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Author: laura long

Primes are on the line

On August 22, 2022, the Small Business Administration (SBA) will start providing small businesses with additional ways to show past performance ratings. Past performance ratings are necessary to compete for prime federal contracts. (FEDSCOOP July 25, 2022)

The SBA published a new final rule in the Federal Register that gives small businesses two additional methods to prove qualifying past performance. The first is a joint venture where the small business was part of the joint venture, performing contract work. The second is the subcontracting plan performed by a first-tier subcontractor, under a prime contract. (ibid)

The rule executes Section 868 of the National Defense Authorization Act of fiscal 2021. The goal is to make it easier for small business subcontractors to secure past performance ratings needed to compete for prime contracts. It allows subcontractors to request ratings from contracting officers and prime contractors they have worked with in the past. (ibid)

“SBA believes that, by implementing this rule, the government will be able to attract new small business prime contractors. This will enhance competition in government contracting and provide agencies with increased access to innovative products and services,” according to the SBA. (ibid)

The rule removes the timeline requirement on past performance ratings. The rule allows agencies to use their discretion and gives subcontractors a minimum of 30 calendar days after a performance period’s completion to request ratings from prime contractors. This will keep subcontractors from having to wait until their contract work is complete to request ratings. (ibid)

The requirement to respond to subcontractors’ requests is included in primes’ subcontracting plans, a failure to comply may lead to contract termination, withholding of award fees, lower past performance ratings for subcontracting, liquidated damages, and possibly debarment for “willful or repeated” cases. (ibid)

The SBA has added to the final ruling that subcontractors should notify the contracting officer in the event that the prime contractor fails to submit the requested rating within the rule’s prescribed timeframe. All past performance evaluation factors should align with those of the Contractor Performance Assessment Reporting System (CPARS). (ibid)

The SBA is adding to the final rule that the prime contractor shall use the five-scale rating system – Exceptional, Very Good, Satisfactory, Marginal, and Unsatisfactory. (ibid)

Are you a small business trying to obtain past performance ratings? Give us a call.

LGBTQI small businesses getting a fair shake

One of GSA’s and the Biden administrations’ goals is to increase the diversity of businesses that work with the federal government. To make that goal a reality, the General Services Administration (GSA) is collaborating with the LGBT Chamber of Commerce to enhance access to GSA contracting for LGBTQI-owned small businesses. (Federal Soup July 7, 2022)

GSA announced that they are working with the LGBT Chamber of Commerce to collaborate on an awareness-building campaign to increase information about GSA programs and services with LGBTQI-owned small businesses per a memorandum of understanding with the National LGBT Chamber of Commerce. (ibid)

GSA Administrator Robin Carnahan said, “we need everyone’s ideas and products to make America stronger, including the vibrant communities of LGBTQI-owned businesses throughout the country. We’re4 thrilled to be working more closely with NGLCC and its network to get the work out about how they can help us meet our mission and bring value to the government.” (ibid)

The LGBT Chamber of Commerce has memoranda of understanding with many other federal agencies. In addition, the organization has a national presence and a network of local affiliate chapters. Both will receive communications via the new effort. (ibid)

According to Justin Nelson, co-founder, and president of the National LGBT Chamber of Commerce, “diversity is good for the business of government. The American Dream must be open to every American, including the 1.4 million LGBTQ business owners that help power the national economy.” (ibid)

This is another effort to use the government’s purchasing power to accomplish the Biden administration’s equity, diversity and inclusion goals. (ibid)

Would you like to know more about this program or other efforts such as set-asides for Black-owned, Latino-owned or other minority-owned businesses? Give us a call.

OASIS+ is the next big thing small businesses should know about

GSA has been hard at work creating the next-generation contract program for non-IT services. A significant amount of time and industry engagement, including large-scale requests for information (RFIs), went into the creation of the next-generation services contract. (GSABlog June 15, 2022)

GSA had three goals in mind during the design process:

  • Fulfill agency service requirements with highly experienced contractors while simplifying the purchasing experience
  • Broaden access to best-in-class non-IT service contracts for highly qualified contractors while simultaneously increasing small business opportunities
  • Shrink the burden on industry and government (ibid)

GSA is well on its way to achieving its goals.

Maximizing small business engagement is paramount to the new program. GSA is adopting a small business strategy that creates separate and distinct contract families for categories of small businesses to allow maximum opportunities to participate. GSA plans to solicit and award indefinite-delivery indefinite-quantity (IDIQ) contracts in the following categories:

  • 8(a) Small Business
  • HUBZone Small Business
  • Service-Disabled, Veteran-Owned Small Business
  • Total Small Business
  • Woman-Owned Small Business
  • Unrestricted (ibid)

GSA’s new program will be capable of fulfilling requirements currently met by GSA’s One Acquisition Solution for Integrated Services (OASIS); Human Capital and Training Solutions (HCaTS); and Building, Maintenance, and Operations (BMO) contracts. Additional scope areas are to include environmental, intelligence services, and large enterprise solutions. Flexibility will be built in to expand the scope as customers identify ongoing needs. (ibid)

The contracts will be grouped by Domains – functional groupings of services spanning multiple NAICS codes. Domains align to order requirements to qualified industry partners. Over time, GSA will add new Domains to meet agencies’ needs. (ibid)

GSA is ensuring companies that receive awards in the new contract program are highly qualified. Additionally, GSA will create an avenue for new industry partners to continually onboard. GSA will provide for continuous on-ramping and eliminate caps on the number of awards. This will allow the program to evolve as the government agency needs change, expand the industrial base and eliminate barriers to entry for qualified businesses.

GSA’s Enhanced Task Order Competition (876) authority establishes a host of contracts that leverage competition and establish price at the order level. The contracts allow for commercial and non-commercial services and orders of all types including fixed price, time and material cost reimbursement, and hybrid. (ibid)

The name of the program is OASIS Plus (aka OASIS+). Until the program is finalized, updates can be found on SAM.gov and the OASIS+ Interact Community. A draft solicitation is expected early FY 2023 with the final RFP in the second quarter of the fiscal year. (ibid)

This is exciting and daunting at the same time. If you have questions about any part of OASIS+ or the upcoming draft RFP, give us a call.

Got a Delivery Service Business? Get a Government Contract

Even before Covid, delivery service businesses were in high demand. The shift to delivery services, since Covid, has been nothing short of astronomical. There is no better time to increase your business and no better way than a federal delivery contract.

Are federal delivery contracts actually worth the time and effort? In 2020, the U.S. government awarded $683 billion in federal contracts. Spending is expected to continue to increase over the next several years. (ExecutiveBiz June 20, 2022)

While DHL, FedEx, and UPS dominate the federal delivery service, the federal government is driving initiatives to include every business. Many agencies actually have offices dedicated to small businesses. (ibid)

One such agency is the Department of Transportation (DOT). Within the DOT is the Office of Small and Disadvantaged Business Utilization (OSDBU) which supports small delivery services providers and vendors operating in the delivery services arena. Additionally, there are contracting assistance programs available at the Small Business Administration (SBA). Certain SBA programs provide assistance to Women-owned small businesses and often link them to mentors.(ibid)

Contracts within the federal delivery service platform generally last from 12 months to as long as 36 years. When an agency is happy with a service delivery provider, often contracts are extended. In addition, the federal government has a stellar reputation for paying invoices. (ibid)

The first step in winning a federal delivery contract involves market research. Done properly, it will help you make informed decisions and understand current demands. Knowing the market prepares you to meet an agency’s needs. (ibid)

The second step is knowing your competition. This will allow you to bid your services competitively. The SBA has a dynamic search function DSBS. SAM.gov is another site that allows you to view new delivery contracts awarded by federal agencies. (ibid)

The third step is knowing the federal and state regulations. Many can be found on this SBA site. The following regulations are the most important to be aware of:

  • Labor and employment – wages/workplace hazard protection
  • Taxes – individual as well as employment taxes
  • Advertising and privacy – trustworthy advertising/customer privacy
  • Environment – an example is the Greenhouse Gas Reporting Program (GHGRP)
  • Antitrust – actions which monopolize or limit competition (ibid)

The fourth step is becoming familiar with the Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR). This is the script for federal contractors and contracting officers. Knowing the FAR will go a long way to navigating the complex requirements and processes of the federal government acquisition arena. (ibid)

A fifth step is to know whether you are eligible for small business assistance programs. If eligible, you can apply for contracting assistance. (ibid)

Finally, get registered on the SAM website. This is the federal government System for Award Management (SAM.gov). Once you will receive a Unique Entity ID (UEI) which identifies your delivery service business. (If you offer other services, you may have more than one NAICS code.) (ibid)

Once all of the above steps are completed, you are ready to bid on a contract. To prepare, identify your target federal agencies and price your delivery services competitively. Once a federal agency publishes a Request for Proposal (RFP) review the expectations and determine if your business can meet the demands of the RFP. If so, you are ready to bid.(ibid)

Responding to an RFP requires strict attention to detail and timelines. A late response or a partially responded to requirement will disqualify a company from winning a contract. If you are non-compliant you will not receive an award. We recommend setting up schedules for research, writing, and reviews. And remember, all proposals must be submitted on time.

Working your way through the regulations and requirements to successfully bid on government contracts takes finesse and know-how. If you have reached a roadblock or need some assistance, give us a call.

Will Ascend make it easier to buy cloud services?

GSA recently released a draft statement of work as part of their latest effort to give agencies an easier way to buy cloud services. They are calling it Ascend.

At a recent ACT-IAC sponsored conference, Sonny Hashmi, the commissioner of the Federal Acquisition Service within GSA, said “I don’t want to make the presumption that we’ve figured it out. The process to get to an endpoint on Ascend is going to require a lot of dialogue, and I don’t want us to move forward without it. It goes back to how we were talking about user-centric design. There’s got to be a user need, and in this case, it’s got to be an agency need that Ascend will address. That will dictate what the vehicle looks like, how it’s going to be designed because, without it, it is not going to be successful.”

“At this point, we’re being very deliberate about making sure that there is an actual need on the other side of this. Adoption is going to happen not just because it’s going to be a forcing function, but because there’s actually a need that we’re solving. If we’re not, if it turns out that we’re behind and agencies don’t have a need, then I would rather actually not do this. While we’re excited about this program, ultimately, its job is to solve a problem and help agencies to deliver on their mission. If there’s a better way or different way to solve the problems that we are facing, we’re happy to change tactics on it.”

The draft statement of work for Ascend creates three separate buckets of vendors to deliver infrastructure – platform-as-a-service, software-as-a-service, and cloud professional services.

The draft solicitation states, “the Ascend BPA is part of GSA’s cloud marketplace vision of empowering agencies to develop and implement enterprise-level cloud acquisition strategies through a modernized and simplified approach to meet their IT and cybersecurity requirements. The BPA will emphasize cloud smart/security smart objectives and establish minimum baseline requirements for the acquisition, business operations reporting, and technology capabilities provided by commercial cloud service providers (CSPs) and cloud-focused labor service providers that are not currently accessible under other GSA Multiple Award Schedule (MAS) or governmentwide acquisition contracts (GWACs). The Ascend BPA will focus on enabling support for both vertical (e.g., IaaS, PaaS, SaaS) and horizontal capabilities across the ecosystem and will provide more effective system integration and managed support services for the delivery of flexible, diverse, and secure cloud solutions.”

Hashmi said, “we’re hoping this will be one mechanism or the primary and most usable mechanism for agencies to think about when they’re thinking about modernizing their digital stacks.” Hashmi feels Ascend will allow agencies to buy “by the drink”. This gives GSA the ability to on-ramp new cloud service providers as they become available. It also gives contract holders the opportunity to bring innovation to the federal sector as required and needed.

Hashimi feels this gives agencies greater flexibility. Hashmi said, “the other thing for me is creating a marketplace that is competitive. It can’t just be a small number of highly capable cloud companies. If you don’t create continuous opportunities for new companies to join the marketplace, then we have failed because this market is changing very rapidly.” From past experience, GSA found agencies didn’t want to just contract for cloud services, but a full range of support from the cloud itself along with integration services and ongoing support.

The first versions of Ascend came under scrutiny by industry associations. However, Hashmi said these concerns and other questions concerning the BPA are exactly why GSA put out a draft statement of work. The draft statement of work allows for feedback from agencies, associations, and anyone critical to Ascend’s success.

Are you interested in Ascend and what your company can offer on this procurement vehicle? Give us a call.

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