CPARS is getting a refresh

For over a decade, the Office of Federal Procurement Policy (OFPP) has encouraged government agencies to increase their research and evaluation of contractor performance on contracts, with little effect. (Federal News Network April 12, 2021)

The general consensus is that the current Contractor Performance Assessment Reporting Systems (CPARS) is broken. Contractors and Contracting Officers feel it inaccurately rates performances while also being burdensome. For the past two years, Mike Smith, a former DHS director of strategic sourcing and now an executive vice president at GovConRx, has led an effort to rebuild CPARS. His goal, “make sure it results in good information and the information is more strategic and tactically used.” (ibid)

What are some of the problems with CPARS? Many contracting officers rate contractor performances as satisfactory because it takes too much of their time to verify exceptional or outstanding performance and too much time trying to explain why a rating might be below average or poor. (ibid)

DHS is looking to solve this problem through a pilot application of artificial intelligence (AI). DHS recently awarded contracts to five companies to demonstrate their ability to build production-ready software. User groups will view demos using software-as-a-service (SaaS). The user groups are, The departments of Commerce, Energy, Interior, Veterans Affairs, and Health and Human Services as well as GSA, NASA, the Air Force, and the U.S. Agency for International Development. The agencies gave the 5 companies in the pilot, 50,000 anonymous procurement records, to assist in training the AI. The goal is to decide which technologies will move to phase 3 in June with an actual launch in January 2022. (ibid)

GSA has some barriers to overcome too. Contracting officers must see the value in vendors providing self-assessments on certain projects. GSA senior procurement executive Jeff Koses sent a memo in February recommending the use of vendor self-assessments s one step in the overall CPARS process. The memo is a permission slip, of sorts, for contracting officers to begin asking for self-assessments as one part of the CPARS process. This should alleviate some of the burden on contracting officers.(ibid)

Mike Smith, a former DHS director of strategic sourcing and current executive vice president at GovConRX said, “you wouldn’t believe how many contracting officers refuse to take input from industry because they think they aren’t allowed to. As a contracting officer, I’d rather have a back and forth at least by midyear, if not before, so we can adjust course and have a common understanding at the end of the performance period and there are no surprises about ratings and the basis of that rating.” Most agree that good contractors will jump at the opportunity to do a self-assessment because they will finally be able to have input into the process. (ibid)

CPARS should also help small businesses. When contracting officers see the small business has done larger jobs and done them well, through a relevancy search and high CPARS, they are a lot more likely to award them a contract. This in turn helps the contracting officer make better-informed decisions through the use of data. (ibid)

Questions concerning self-assessments and the intricacies involved? Give us a call.

 

 

COVID-19 actually helped small businesses do business

Due to the pandemic, the federal government has expanded remote network access to assist a dispersed workforce. This in turn has motivated reforms to the procurement system.

According to Roya Konzman, acting division director for solutions development at General Services Administration’s Federal Acquisition Service (FAS), “suddenly there was a need for new hardware, software and network access security, so we advised our Small Business Administration, Department of Veteran Affairs and Social Security Administration on their procurement strategies. GSA empowered its contracting officers to expand its rated orders authority. These orders are issued in accordance with the defense priorities and allocation system, and rated orders applied to IT capabilities included teleworking and health care solutions such as VPN accounts, virtual desktop infrastructure solutions, laptops, and mobile devices, and also covered personal protective equipment such as medical products hand sanitizers and disposable gloves.” (GovernmentCIO Media & Research April 6, 2021)

A national emergency allows the use of rated order authority. It authorizes GSA to prioritize a solicitation on behalf of an agency to buy goods and services. If a contractor receives a rated order, the contractor must prioritize that order ahead of other orders in the queue. (ibid)

There were so many rated orders issued to large contractors that individual suppliers often had a hard time meeting demands within the allotted timeframe. The result was federal agencies looked to enlarge their contracting base to include specialized smaller and mid-sized contractors. (ibid)

Because smaller firms do not have the “red tape’ that larger firms have, they can often change directions quickly. This makes smaller firms extremely valuable during times of national crisis. (ibid)

The federal government invested in video conferencing software and remote connectivity during the pandemic. This affords vendors the opportunity to demonstrate their products to various procurement offices. Additionally, agencies can quickly evaluate a large range of potential contractors. Which helps potential contractors who might have otherwise been overshadowed by larger vendors with preexisting relationships. (ibid)

Do you have a specialized product that the federal government needs? Give us a call.

 

Practical Applications on the Chinese Tech Ban

On 23 July, the Defense Department released a memo explaining requirements for companies and contractors when the ban of telecommunications equipment made by Huawei and other China-based companies goes into effect. (Federal Computer Week, July 27, 2020)

Beginning 13 August, no contracts will be issued or extended to contractors using technologies or services and equipment made by Hikvision, ZTE or those listed in section 889(a)(1)(B) of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2019. Any contract, task/delivery order, and off-the-shelf items purchased after 13 August must include language invoking regulation for the ban. Additionally, indefinite delivery contracts are required to be modified. (ibid)

There is a waiver process, however, pursuable by agencies. According to Alan Dhvotkin PSC executive vice president and counsel, the waiver “will most likely begin with issues identified by the telecommunications provider to its federal agency customer. The federal agency then asks for an ODNI review, which will conduct a risk assessment.” A granted waiver lasts two years and may be requested at any time. (Federal Computer Week, July 22, 2020)

Have questions or need a waiver? Give us a call.

 

GSAmazon

GSA recently asked for feedback on proposed requirements for the upcoming e-commerce portals program. (Fedscoop, July 2, 2019)

The 2018 National Defense Authorization Act requires GSA put into place a multiple-award proof of concept site similar to those of Amazon and other large online commerce sites. This will update the way agencies purchase products outside of existing contracts. (ibid)

An estimated $6 billion is spent on open-market purchases through government-issued credit cards. The e-commerce portals program pilot will launch with hand-picked agencies and a spending limit of $10,000 on any one order. GSA is asking Congress to raise the threshold to $25,000 for the five-year pilot to better evaluate the program. (ibid)

“During the initial proof of concept, GSA will encourage robust competition through the implementation of multiple e-marketplace platforms,” said a deputy assistant commissioner at the Federal Acquisition Service within GSA. “We are looking to leverage business-to-business terms whenever practicable, to allow for streamlined buying while obtaining a more transparent and centralized view of the type of government-wide spend.” (ibid)

The goal of the Commercial Platforms Program is to start small and refine. The Commercial Platforms Initiative is just one of four Federal Marketplace Strategy projects. The draft solicitation was issued on July 2nd and is open for public comment for 30 days. (GSA interact July 2, 2019)

Interested in how you might fit into the e-commerce portals program? Give us a call.

Alert! Alert! AI Watching Your GSA Schedule Contract!

There seems to be a shortcoming in the acquisition oversight process. GSA is trying to fix it using artificial intelligence.

For the past 20 years, agencies found it tough to include Section 508 accessibility requirements in their contracts. GSA was unable to guarantee those contract clauses were in the original solicitations, but with AI and machine learning tools, they plan to automate the oversight process. An earlier test showed a 95 percent success rate in alerting agencies missing 508 requirements. GSA plans to move from test to production phase very soon.

Not sure if you are missing 508 requirements in your contract or have questions? Give us a call at 301-913-5000 and we can help you figure it out.