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Consolidated Schedule

The SBA should focus on small businesses, not fraudulent businesses

Last week the small business community urged lawmakers to shrink administrative burdens complicating entry into the Small. Business Administration’s (SBA’s) 8(a) program.

This is timely as the Biden Administration has set a goal to bolster the share of federal contracts awarded to small disadvantaged businesses from 5% to 15% by 2025. A former SBA official suggests the SBA focus on expanding entry to the program for disadvantaged businesses and not spend time penalizing those who fraudulently attempt to gain entry. This will go a long way to help achieve the goals as set by the administration.

Jackie Robinson-Burnette, CEO of Senior Executive Strategic Solutions and a former SBA senior program executive said SBA should, “shift their focus to include every firm that is eligible'” for the 8(a) program. She mentioned that she served at the SBA, the SBA received over 2,000 applications a year and accepted only 300 participants. The Government Accountability Office believes steps were taken to address fraudulent applications to the 8(a) program. Unfortunately, there remains no official verification procedure. The Government Accountability Office did not take steps to improve oversight of the program, according to report filings.

Robinson-Burnette said, “right now, the focus is making sure they mitigate the risk of firms getting into the program that shouldn’t be in the program – focusing on the fraud – when really that’s 1% or 2% of firms that apply. The other 90-plus percent of firms are struggling to get in … because the SBA is focused on the wrong thing.”

In addition to misplaced focus, Rep. Kweisi Mfune (D-MD) said business owners have reported concerns with the length of the program and that it takes most firms multiple years to receive their first awards. Mfune said, “this hinders the development of program participants and raises the question of whether enterprises are ready for graduation when they exit the program.”

Darryl Hairston, the SBA’s former associate administrator of business development, said he submitted a proposal to redesign the 8(a) program a few years ago. Hairston took into account the complexities small businesses encounter in navigating the federal marketplace during their initial years in operation.

Hairston said, “one of the things that we talked about was that most firms coming into the program, who are truly eligible for the program, had little experience in the federal marketplace. The timeframe is highly dependent upon how successful you are coming into the program and how well you take off with the benefits that are available to you.”

Robinson-Burnette feels adding priority access for SDB mentors will increase successful outcomes. This will occur by shifting some of the SBA’s dependence from their assigned business opportunity and creating additional inroads to work opportunities. Mfume is considering meeting with the SBA administrator to figure out “what can be done in the time we have.”

Are you a small disadvantaged business or a business looking to work with one on an upcoming contract? Give us a call.

Acquisition of Professional Services is about to get a whole lot better

Sheri Meadema, acting assistant commissioner of GSA’s Office of Professional Services and Human Capital Categories recently explained the current focus of the Services Marketplace. The Information Technology Category and Professional Services and Human Capital Categories are teaming to align how they introduce contracts and tools to aid buyers as well as suppliers of services.(FAS office of Information Technology February 17, 2022)

Their three main goals:

  • Expand GSA’s contract offerings.
  • Refine FAS’s market research and buying tools.
  • Better the data and reporting systems used in support of the current acquisition programs. (ibid)

Meadema envisions a future with standardized engagement and solicitation processes regardless of the type of services provided. The priority is on using a consistent set of best practices and tools for IT and professional services for solicitations, evaluation, negotiations, awards, and contract management. (ibid)

Meadema wants an easier final outcome compared to open market procurements. Under the Services Marketplace, the next generation of contracts is being built. These contracts include the Services MAC, Polaris, and the follow-on to Alliant 2. Currently in progress are:

  • 8(a) STARS III Government wide Acquisition Contract – a small business set-aside, Beset-in-Class GWAC. The the 8(a) STARS III, federal agencies can access award-winning 8(a) firms for emerging technologies via an established contract vehicle. This saves not only time but also taxpayer monvery over open markets methods.
  • IT GWAC Polaris is in development. The RFP for the new Polaris small business IT contract is expected in February 2022. Once awarded, Polaris will enable federal agencies to set-aside IT task orders to small business, women-owned small business, service disable veteran-owned small businesses, and businesses located in HUBZones.
  • PSHC is working on a new Services Multi-Agency Contract to support procurement requirements for services. This comes as OASIS winds down in 2024.
  • Improvement of Multiple Award Schedule service offerings. Contractors with multiple contracts will consolidate down to one. This means fewer overall contracts for the acquisition workfovce and industry parnters to manage. Ultimately this will make is easier for agencies to find the vendors to meet their requirements.(ibid)

Meadeama says they have also started standardizing the scope review process. A digital tool/portal allows customers to submit their scope review requests. This streamlines tracking, management, and coordination across portfolios as well as creating a single customer experience. The discovery phase has started for an order management tool for all services task orders. This allows for better solicitation development, tracking, and task order management on GSA contracts. (ibid)

Questions about how this might affect a current GSA schedule contract or upcoming bid? Give us a call.

Are you a MAS contractor or want to be one?

GSA is working to make it easier for prospective and current Multiple Award Schedule contractors to work with them. They have recently launched a new and improved Vendor Support Center (VSC).

According to eBuy’s Senior Program Analyst Rich Carlson, “our goals for this website overhaul were three-fold. One, we wanted to modernize the bedrock technology and make security enhancements, which aligns with VSC with other websites we’ve updated like GSA Advantage!. Second, we prioritized improving the user experience. And third, we needed to make business process improvements so the website is easier to maintain.” (GSA Blog January 12, 2022)

For the VSC update, GSA went straight to industry. An RFI was released in November with site navigation, help desk availability, and plain language as the main areas of focus. Based on the information obtained from feedback the VSC is searchable content takes less time and is much easier to find. The dynamic search function allows users to see all content when a word or phrase is entered into the search box. (ibid)

Another benefit of the VSC update is the ease of finding help desk information. The home page contains three types of locators for users individual Procurement Contracting Officer (PCO), Administrative Contracting Officer (ACO), and Industrial Operations Analyst (IOA). (ibid)

VSC site navigation is organized by: “I Want a Contract,” “Managing my Contract,” and “Contract Sales.” In addition, the new page “MAS Project Center,” stores resources for all MAS special projects. (ibid)

GSA is continually looking for ways to improve the customer experience and make it easier to do business with them. The new VSC is located at vsc.gsa.gov/vsc/. (ibid)

Questions about the new VSC or how to get started on your journey to a contract with GSA? Give us a call.

GSA is about to make Cloud purchases a whole lot easier

GSA is about to reveal a plan for a governmentwide marketplace for cloud solutions. This new marketplace will not only make it convenient, it will also set up a one-stop-shop for agencies to purchase commercial Software as a Service, Infrastructure as a Service, and Platform as a Service, offerings. (FedTech October 7, 2021)

On a recent webinar, Laura Stanton, assistant commissioner for the Office of Information Technology Category in the GSA’s Federal Acquisition Service, said, “We’re looking at how we put together a cloud marketplace that then becomes a buying platform for agencies. We want to put together not just a framework, but a market contractual vehicle that will allow our agencies to buy these core cloud services that we’re seeing them need more and more.” (ibid)

The GSA marketplace will provide agencies with professional IT services as well as post-award contract management tools. It would also set the requirements to verify cloud services meet the baseline security and adherence to guidance from the Federal Risk and Authorization Management Program (FedRAMP). (ibid)

GSA wants to streamline the entire cloud procurement process for agencies. According to Laura Stanton, “GSA uses the cloud and cloud-related IT professional services special item number (SIN) 518210C as a vehicle for multiple-award procurements. The contract type can be used to acquire cloud computing services, as defined by the National Institute of Standards and Technology.” Stanton said that GSA is “hearing that agencies have to go to multiple places to buy cloud. We decided it was time to take the next step.” (ibid)

An RFI is expected early in the new fiscal year, which began October 1, 2021. (ibid)

Questions concerning the upcoming RFI? Give us a call.

MAS BPAs, are a good thing

When federal agencies need to place product or service orders, on a recurring basis, they often turn to Multiple Award Schedule (MAS) blanket Purchase Agreements (BPA.).

A MAS BPA is an agreement established by an authorized ordering activity with a Schedule contractor to fill repeat demands for supplies or services, in accordance with FAR 8.405-3.  MAS BPAs and all succeeding orders have the same terms and conditions as the initial Schedule contract. MAS BPAs save the government time and money and give agencies control over their procurements. (GSA Interact August 18, 2021)

MAS BPA benefits:

  • Easier for agencies to fill recurrent needs
  • Efficient for agencies contracting for similar types of work
  • Savings in the form of volume discounts
  • Consistency within the terms and conditions of the BPA
  • Decreases in procurement costs, acquisition time, and administrative effort
  • Small business set-aside procedures assist the government in meeting socioeconomic goals (ibid)

MAS BPA features:

  • On-Ramps – allowing additional contractors as required or to refresh small business participation
  • Funding – funding is required only when an order is placed
  • Faster Ordering – more streamlined ordering process
  • Estimated Value – no minimums or caps
  • Agency Level Terms and Conditions – agencies may add terms and conditions as long as there is no conflict with the original MAS contract terms and conditions
  • Category Management – as outlined by the Office of Management and Budget, all MAS BPAs support category management (ibid)

As a mechanism for promoting fair competition, FAR 8.405.3(a)(3)(i) states a preference for multiple-award MAS BPAs. In addition, MAS BPAs may be extended past five years if necessary to meet program requirements. Some agencies have long-term MAS BPAs to meet agency missions. (ibid)

A single-award MAS BPA can not exceed one year, however, it may have four one-year options. The head of an agency approves all single-award BPAs exceeding $100M. In addition, Order Level Material (OLM) procedures are allowable at the BPA or order level to add contract support items, making MAS BPAs a win for government agencies and contractors. (ibid)

Questions about MAS BPAs or a GSA Schedule award? Give us a call.