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.

 

Improved FedRAMP

A new and improved FedRAMP now awaits users. The updated website is largely based on feedback from users and gives an in-depth description of the authorization process, enabling Cloud Service Providers and Third-Party Assessment Organizations a more user-friendly way to access relevant information on their role in the FedRAMP Authorization process. (FedRamp.gov February 16, 2021)

A few of the fundamental features include:

  • Authorization Process – the homepage highlights an interactive graphic to give participants a better understanding of the steps involved in the process of the various Authorization paths
  • Program Basics – this new page to FedRAMP details the mission, history, goals, and legal framework of FedRAMP
  • Documents and Templates – a new searchable function within FedRAMP
  • FAQs – functionality enabling participants to search for answers to the most common questions
  • Site notifications – participants are notified of updates, additions, and new blog postings
  • Enhanced Marketplace – design and accessibility and performance updates (ibid)

GSA plans to use web analytics and ongoing feedback to evolve the website over time to meet users’ needs.

Have questions about the new FedRAMP website? Give us a call.

Alliant 2 is Out/Polaris is In

After a year of protests and federal court hearings, the Government Accountability Office has canceled its $15 billion Alliant 2 Small Business contract. GAO is calling the replacement contract “Polaris.” A GSA spokesperson said, “Polaris will not only guide small businesses through the federal market, it will also help GSA customer agencies through the acquisition of IT service-based solutions, and give GSA a chance to improve our offerings and set the agency on a solid course for the future.” (GSAblogs.gsa.gov, October 1, 2020)

Administration sees the industrial base broadening by:

  • Pricing Strategy: GSA plans to increase its pool of qualified small businesses that serve federal agencies. GSA will employ Section 876 of the Fiscal Year 2019 National Defense Authorization Act, allowing contract awards to qualifying contractors without consideration of prices for hourly services. Focus on price competition ultimately takes place at the task order level.
  • On-ramps: Allows for an expanded industrial base as technology changes and for vendors to be considered on the GWAC following an initial award period.
  • Opportunity Expansion: An increased opportunity for HUBZone and woman-owned businesses.
  • Embracing Technology to Maximize Efficiency: Polaris will provide agencies with access to emerging technology providers, especially those offering artificial intelligence, automated technologies, blockchain, 5G implementation, cybersecurity, and cloud. (ibid)

The vendor evaluation strategy will be similar to that used in the Veterans Technology Services 2 and Alliant 2 contracts. Both were guided by industry comments. FAS may utilize an online proposal submission tool to speed up Polaris contract awards, as well as a modified evaluation strategy. (Federal Computer Week, October 5, 2020)

Questions about the Polaris evaluation strategy and how your company might do business on the platform? Give us a call.

Just the Facts FAS, Please

Earlier this week, a GSA watchdog discovered erroneous reporting of small business contracts by the Federal Acquisition Service (FAS). (Government Executive September 17, 2020)

The General Service Administration (GSA) inspector general (IG) recently provided a report that focused on the data entered into the Federal Procurement Data System – Next Generation, which is managed by GSA. The Small Business Administration (SBA) uses the system data provided to determine if the federal government is achieving its annual goal of awarding 23 percent of contracts to small businesses. An IG review of FAS procurements from fiscal 2016 and 2017 and shows that small business procurements have been grossly overstated.

“We found that FAS’s reporting of small business procurements contained significant inaccuracies. We identified $89 million in procurements erroneously recorded as small business in the Federal Procurement Data System – Next Generation. Additionally, FAS’ small business procurement reporting does not identify the extent of the work performed by large businesses. We found approximately $120 million of small business procurements in which large businesses performed a portion of the work.” (ibid)

After interviewing small business contractors and GSA officials as well as analyzing agency contracting data, the IG determined many of the issues to be out of GSA’s control. For instance, the IG found that classification codes¬† often “pre-populate” for task orders; due to the nature of the software, officers cannot override the system to update the task order codes. In addition, no mandate exists for FAS or small businesses to report how much of the work completed on a contract is subcontracted to large businesses. This leads to inaccuracies when assessing FAS’s small business procurements. Many believe the inaccuracies will never be fully fixed due to the competing policy issues and marketplace anomalies. (ibid)

The IG recommended the following:

  • Fix the limitations of the contracting system to enable accurate reporting
  • SBA and the commissioner discuss how subcontracting and reseller agreements are reported

How does this affect your contract or an upcoming proposal? Give us a call.

Is it Beta, Old, or New SAM?

Over time, GSA is transitioning reporting tools to beta.SAM, while the original SAM.gov remains live. Although the final site will also be called SAM.gov, it will be much different than the current one. When the full functionality of the new SAM.gov is moved over to beta.SAM, the latter will lose the “beta” prefix and the old SAM.gov will simultaneously be retired. Confused yet? (Nextgov September 11, 2020)

According to Judith Zawasky, assistant commissioner for the office of systems management in the Federal Acquisition Service (and former EZGSA employee!), “the new site is on track to lose its “beta” designation in 2021.” Zawasky is trying to ensure that remaining transition areas and training are smooth. The soft launch is expected to be finished by 17 October, and after that date, users will no longer be able to run reports on the FPDS.gov site. Searches will remain part of the site for a slightly extended period.¬†Zawastsky noted that what remains of the transition to the new SAM.gov may not be completed before 2025. (ibid)

The final SAM.gov site will include FBO, under Contract Opportunities; FPDS, under Data Bank; the original SAM.gov; the grants site Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance, CFDA; Wage Determinations Online, WDOL; Electronic Subcontracting Reporting System, eSRS; the past performance databases, the Federal Awardee Performance and Integrity Information System, FAPIIS, Contractor Performance Assessment Reports System, CPARS, and Past Performance Information Retrieval System, PPIRS; and the Federal Funding Accountability and Transparency Act, FFATA. (ibid)

Can’t find what you are looking for on any site? Give us a call, we can help.