The Navy is looking to end Small Business subcontractor baiting

The Department of the Navy (DoN) has exceeded all of its small business goals for fiscal year 2021, spending more than $17 billion with small business prime contractors. The Navy is, however, wrestling with small business subcontractors getting their fair share. (Federal News Network October 21, 2021)

An updated effort to enforce small business contracting plans is in the works, according to Jimmy Smith, the director of the Office of Small Business Programs for the Department of the Navy. (ibid)

According to Smith, “the Navy executed a Navy audit, service audit on subcontracting on our 10 major buying commands. The Naval Sea Systems Command was the first of those 10 audits. The audit has concluded. We’ve already seen the results of that and now we’re sharing that information across the entire enterprise to go off and correct problems. We don’t think we’re going to learn anything more from going over the same information in the other audits, so now is the time to get into corrective actions and the steps that we need in order to execute solutions to problems instead of continuing to admire problems.” (ibid)

The first audit has provided some changes to be made Navy-wide, according to Smith. “First is reporting back to our industry partners. We have to make that something that’s pretty standard, maybe use a machine learning technology to help contracting officers identify problems that are in contractor performance assessment reporting (CPARs) when it comes to how well our industry partners are doing meeting their own subcontract and goals, that they can communicate it to us. We would love to have a system that flashed bright red lights when an industry partner wasn’t living up to the plan in the document that they provide to us about the health of their effort. Right now, it’s all hand-over-hand reading to see if you find that someone is off and then go do the analysis. I think we have to come up with a mechanism that brings the importance level of subcontract and compliance up to a higher level to raise it to the attention that it’s deserved.” (ibid)

Government agencies and prime contractors, need to hold up their side of the bargain and be held accountable. In 2018, the Inspector General for the Defense Department found it to be a challenge for five contracting commands to monitor prime contractors’ compliance with individual subcontracting plans. He told the House Small Business Committee the individual contractors who held subcontracting plans, did not meet their small business subcontracting goals. (ibid)

The Federal Acquisition Regulations Council issued a final rule in August. The rule requires large businesses to make “good faith efforts” to meet subcontracting goals. A few examples of actions that are a failure to make a good-faith effort can be found in the SBA’s guidance list. (ibid)

The final rule spells out what encompasses not making a “good faith effort”. The rule includes turning in subcontracting plan reports late, not designating an employee to monitor the subcontracting plan, and not completing market research. (ibid)

Smith said the Navy has met all of its small business goals for the past four years. He added, the Navy’s goals are not just the numbers, but providing the correct capability to the warfighter at the best value. (ibid)

Smith noted that the Navy is finding small businesses that meet their needs by an extended outreach effort. The move to virtual events has also extended their outreach. Virtual events are more cost-effective and reach more people. Smith plans to continue to do some live events, however, webinars will complement these and hopefully reach even more small business contractors. (ibid)

Questions about your small business subcontract plan? Give us a call.

 

 

Happy Birthday eBuy!

If you’ve not heard of eBuy it is the paperless request-for-quote (RFQ) system GSA put into place 20 years ago. It was set up to connect suppliers to the contracting process for various products and services. According to eBuy’s Senior Program Analyst Rich Carlson, “in 2001, this online program revolutionized how government connected buyers and sellers for contracting quotes. eBuy streamlined the process, allowing more suppliers, especially small businesses, to participate and connect in ways that they couldn’t before.”  (gsa.gov/blog June 25, 2021)

eBuy offers a single, user-friendly electronic platform with the appropriate supporting documentation and approved supplier oversight. eBuy provides the ability for federal clients, state and local governments to post RFQs, make changes in real-time, and connect buyers with suppliers to secure the best pricing and value for competitive quotes. Additionally, eBuy is available for use 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. (ibid)

eBuy gives clients the confidence that suppliers meet all FAR and acquisition regulations. Additionally, companies of all sizes find opportunities to bid on contracts, with these opportunities all on a centralized platform. Multiple types of RFQs have been added to eBuy such as blanket purchase agreements (BPAs), set-asides, and governmentwide acquisition contracts (GWACS) for complex IT solutions. 2020 saw a complete redesign and refresh of functionality. (ibid)

When eBuy was created, 5 RFQs were launched on the site. 22 years later, more than $22 billion in awards have been contracted through eBuy with no slow down in sight. (ibid)

Questions about eBuy and how you can take advantage of it? 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.

Bots Can be Your Friend

It’s been just about a year since Dr. Michael Wooten, the Policy Administrator for the Office of Federal Procurement, disclosed his plan to remove friction from the acquisition process. His intention is to rely on robotics process automation (RPA) as well as a few additional concepts to lessen the burden on contracting officers. (Federal News Network, October 12, 2020)

One way Wooten plans to do this is through the reduction of procurement administration lead time. Wooten recently spoke at the ACT-IAC Acquisition Excellence conference and said, “We look to accelerate the use of facilitated requirements development workshops, known as SAWS. We should enhance the requirements development process with the same technologies used to finish my sentences when I send texts or emails. This is no pie-in-the-sky vision. The technology exists today. In fact, the Department of Interior is piloting this approach. Under one of its contracts, a contractor supporting the Department of Interior applies natural language processing and machine learning tools to coach Interior’s acquisition community through the acquisition process. These artificial intelligence tools collect data to identify training needs. These data support management decisions to support better performance through training or process improvements.” (ibid)

When purchasing anything from help desk services to a fighter jet, AI and natural language processing tools pull clauses and requirements, which are applicable, by scanning previous contracts. The next step hopefully finds the manager performing minor tweaks to the language because most of the language has been used previously. GSA has been using these facilitated requirement development workshops (SAWS) since 2015 for BPAs and DoD has used SAWS since 2012 for service acquisitions over $1 billion. (ibid)

The acquisition community is taking a hard look at automation. RPA has been applied to the procurement process by the IRS, the Army, and GSA. Wooten feels RPA will improve compliance and ultimately become routine. He said, “these process automation tools can take on the ‘flow-chartable’ tasks. These tools will execute program decisions. In this fashion, automation can enable a compliance system that enables greater speed and accuracy. As process automation tools take on program decisions, they free people to make non-program decisions. They free people to exercise critical thinking and professional judgment. They empower people to create solutions.”

IRS has two programs under the Pilot IRS initiative:

  • Contract Clause Review:  a tool allowing a procurement document to be uploaded while answering questions about the document. Within seconds a compliance report is generated. Missing characters, text, and incompleteness is checked while at the same time syncing to the FAR, the Treasury Acquisition regulations, and the IRS acquisition policies. The tool is expected to have a large Return on Investment.
  • Contractor responsibility determination will automatically, prior to contract award, verify a company is eligible to do business with the government. Instead of a manual process, a bot will search databases, sending a report back to the employee within five minutes.

The Army launched another form of automation, a bot to retrieve information from SAM.gov and FAPIS.gov and summarize the information in a formatted template. Air Force and Navy should be utilizing the bot in fiscal 2021. Liz Chirico, the acquisition innovation lead in the Office of the Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Army for procurement said, “our team is looking into a couple of other interesting intelligent automation ideas. We are looking at automating some of the manual lookup processes for pricing so going to some of the public-facing pricing sites like GSA’s CALC and the Bureau of Labor and Statistics are two examples. We are also looking into streamlining the acquisition requirements process. That process often takes a lot of time and requires duplicative information, so if there is any way for us to streamline that and have all of the requirements stated upfront and have those templates and forms prepopulated.” Bots will probably also be used to ensure compliance with Section 889, prohibition of Chinese made telecommunications products. (ibid)

The IRS and the Army are using automation tools to move quickly through the procurement process and it’s likely the rest of the federal agencies are not far behind.

Questions concerning an upcoming bid and your company approvals through RPA or other automation processes? 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.