GSA has some big changes coming

Over the last few years, the Federal Acquisition Service (FAS) has focused on improving customer and employee experiences. FAS is building on that foundation with the following four new initiatives:

  1. Modernize and consolidate the schedule contracts
  2. Develop commercial platforms under Section 876
  3. Develop a contract acquisition lifecycle management system
  4. Move toward catalog management for all products and services (Federal News Network July 1, 2021)

According to Sonny Hashmi, FAS Commissioner, the goal is to reduce friction for agency customers and contractors selling their products and services. (ibid)

At a recent Government Procurement Conference Hashami said, “if you look at the transactions that are going through, the majority are in the service marketplaces, whether it’s in IT or non-IT services. Then we have a products catalog marketplace and those experiences are slightly different how you buy a product is slightly different than how you engage with a vendor on services. We have to kind of provide that distinction. When it comes to products, we’re seeing customers increasingly wanting to see a self-service type, model, more of an e-commerce model. So that begs the question of what’s the future of GSA Advantage? How do we scale it? How do we make it more powerful? Then, of course, there’s a new policy frameworks coming our way from Section 889, supply chain risk management, cybersecurity and cybersecurity maturity model certification (CMMC) compliance. We have to incorporate all of those as part of our thinking as well.” Hashmi noted that the effort to consolidate is 90% complete. (ibid)

The deputy commissioner at FAS, Tom Howder, expects GSA to make an award near the end of fiscal 2021 to develop the catalog management system. The contractor awarded will help manage data and catalog listings. The goal is to “make it easier for contractors to get on GSA contracts” according to Howder. (ibid)

Hashmi noted the focus on the customer is guiding its request for information and the possibility of setting up a new cloud services blanket purchase agreement. He noted that FAS is aware that the more GWACs and multiple award contracts they create, such the OASIS replacement including POLARIS, ASTRO and 8(a)STARS III, the more confusing it may become. (ibid)

Hashmi said, “give us some time. We don’t want to break what works. Industry should not worry that we’re going to take opportunity away from them. If you’re a company that’s been very successful on OASIS, engage in the OASIS replacement conversation, make sure that you are also going to be very successful on the new contract. But if you’re a company that was left out of OASIS, guess what, you now have an opportunity to also be successful in the new contract vehicle. That’s where I’m looking at it. Now we want to make sure that we talk constantly with our customers and our suppliers. So we can wait until this thing gets released and then say, ‘Well, this is not going to work for us.’ Or you can engage with us now to make sure we build something that’s going to actually work for you. We’re a couple of years away from this being fully figured out and issued. That’s plenty of time for us to rethink how we are going to do competition. Engage with us, give us some ideas, and then let’s make it so that it’s accessible for you.” (ibid)

Questions about the Federal Marketplace Strategy or how you can provide input? Give us a call.

 

 

 

Don’t be caught non-compliant

With each new year comes a new set of sub and prime contract goals each non-small business contractor and government agency must adhere to. Agencies achieve their goals by awarding prime contracts to small businesses. Non-small business contractors who compete for contracts worth $750,000 or more ($1.5 million for construction contracts) are required to submit a small business subcontracting plan. The plan must include how a contractor will attract small businesses and ensure that those businesses actually have an opportunity to subcontract (FAR 19.702). The plan must show separate dollar and percentage goals for small businesses, those services/supplies to be subcontracted, and an explanation of how small business contracts will be secured. (JDSupra April 23, 2020)

To keep contracts in check, the federal government may intermittently audit contractors. The audits verify small business subcontracting plan s are being fulfilled. The Small Business Administration (SBA) is the lead for the evaluations, the SBA may delegate this authority to other federal agencies. Department of Defense contracts are generally evaluated by the Defense Contract Management Agency (DCMA). (ibid)

Compliance reviews are random and any contractor with a subcontracting plan can be selected for review. The government considers the following factors during compliance reviews:

  • Number and size of the contractor’s government contracts
  • Date of last compliance review
  • Most recent compliance review results
  • Importance/sensitivity of the project
  • Reporting compliance in the electronic subcontracting reporting system (ibid)

The following may be reviewed during an audit:

  • Contract files/correspondence related to the contract
  • IT systems
  • Documentation on subcontracting methods and procedures (ibid)

Once the audit is complete, a contractor can expect to receive a report on non-compliant items found and a rating based on the review. A rating can range from unsatisfactory to outstanding. No further action is necessary if a contractor receives an outstanding rating. When the rating is below satisfactory, the contractor must create a corrective action plan (CAP) within 30 days, explaining the steps they will take to become compliant. (ibid)

It is a good idea for contractors to have the required documents on hand, should they receive notice of an upcoming audit. They may include the following:

  • Small business certification paperwork
  • Subcontracting program policies
  • Any prior compliance reviews
  • Organizational charts
  • Policy letters from the company CEO verifying subcontracting program
  • Historical subcontracting reports
  • Listing of any small business conferences or trade shows attended
  • Documentation of success stories – showing contracts awarded
  • A letter identifying small business liaison officer (ibid)

Companies that are well prepared for audits and have a subcontracting plan in place will undoubtedly move through a review smoothly and quickly.

Do you have all of your ducks in a row for a possible upcoming audit? Give us a call.

 

New ‘Made in America’ EO

On 25 January, President Biden issued a “Made in All of America by All of America’s Workers” executive order. (Government Executive, February 24, 2021)

Before the executive order takes effect:

  • New rules mandating the executive order must go through the formal rule-making process
  • Within 180 days, the Federal Acquisition Regulatory Council should consider replacing the “component test” (50 percent of a product’s cost must have a domestic origin)
  • The threshold for domestic content requirements for construction materials and end products will be increased, as well price preferences for domestic construction materials and end products

The order directs the FAR Council to assess exceptions from the Act for commercial information technology (IT). Recommendations will likely influence solution strategies. A Made in America office within the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) will be created, which will review waivers to purchase goods from outside the United States. Additionally, the Order mandates a list of actions to be performed within 45 days of the office director’s appointment. (ibid)

Biden’s EO also proposes that GSA create a public website for proposed waivers. Justification for all waivers will be publicly available, giving competitors the ability to weigh-in on waiver requests, likely diminishing the issuance of waivers. Contractors should consider this when determining their sourcing approach. (ibid)

Questions concerning your current as well as future government contracts and how the new order will affect them? Give us a call.

Security Clearance Due Process Streamlining

The Defense Department is streamlining process procedures for individual security clearances. (Defense Systems, January 27, 2021). On 19 January, the Under Secretary of Defense issued a memorandum to “simplify, centralize and unify the established administrative process for unfavorable security clearance eligibility hearings and appeals. The memo directs DoD unit heads to allow applicants to: “cross-examine” those who made negative statements about them, and receive documentation on the administrative due process. However, all unit heads retain the ability to “deny or suspend” access to classified information or Special Access Programs if an individual is found to be “inconsistent with protecting the national security.” (ibid)

“The policy is effective upon DoD General Counsel (GC) certification to USD (I&S) that DOHA has prepared, but no later than September 30, 2022.” (ibid)

Was your application for a security clearance revoked and you are not sure what to do next? Give us a call.

Self-Assess No More

Cybersecurity for  Department of Defense (DoD) contractors is an ongoing issue. Now, DoD is issuing an interim rule to implement an Assessment Methodology and Cybersecurity Maturity Model Certification framework. This will assess contractor implementation of cybersecurity requirements and enhance the protection of unclassified information within the DoD supply chain. (Federal Register, DFARS Case 2019-D041 Action: Interim Rule)

The current self-attestation of NIST Special Publication (SP) 800-171 is not working due to a lack of DoD verification. Until the implementation of the interim rule, DoD did not have a mandate to verify contractor basic safeguarding or security requirements prior to contract award.  This regulation changes that. The interim rule adds a process for contractors to  implement cybersecurity requirements. This is to be accomplished while the DoD’s Cybersecurity Maturity Model Certification (CMMC) and the procedures with the Accreditation Body (AB) are solidified. (Meritalk, September 28, 2020)

Questions about how the new rule will affect your contract or upcoming bid and what you can expect? Give us a call.