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.

Yes Virginia, There Is a Data Ethics Framework

Earlier this month, GSA was given the opportunity to develop a Data Ethics Framework to assist agencies in making ethical decisions as they acquire, manage, and use data. A completed version of the report is expected by the end of 2020. (GSA Data ethics framework action 14 draft, September 2020)

The Framework incorporates four parts:

  • About the Data Ethics Framework — explains the purpose and audience of the Framework.
  • Data Ethics Defined
  • Data Ethics Tenets — provides seven principles for using data ethically within the federal government.
  • Data Ethics Tenets in Action — details data ethics benefits and demonstrates how the Tenets guide data activities within agencies as well as federally sponsored programs. (ibid)

The Framework originated to guide ethical decision making by federal employees who collect, manage, or use data to support their agency’s mission. It acts as guidance to encourage ethical decision making, but isn’t required. Its audience includes “anyone in the Federal Government who works with or leads work involving data, which includes all employees, contractors, researchers, and other partners who work on behalf of the government.”

According to the Framework, “Data leaders and professionals should adhere to all applicable legal authorities, as ethics are reflected and reinforced in existing laws.” Additionally, “agency leaders are encouraged to maintain up-to-date, comprehensive ethical standards regarding data use and staff are responsible for learning and applying agency guidance. In addition, if a person works in an area with recognized professional ethical codes of conduct, they should be aware of those standards and strive to uphold them.” (ibid)

Have a question about the Framework or the definition of data ethics? Give us a call we can explain.

Leftover BPAs

If you have a Blanket Purchase Agreement (BPA), you may have just been given a bit of a reprieve regarding the merge into the General Services Administrations’ (GSA) consolidated Multiple Award Schedule. (Federal Computer Week, August 31, 2020)

According to GSA Administrator Emily Murphy, GSA is allowing a few BPAs to work through their lifecycles as opposed to forcing them into the consolidated Multiple Award Schedule. Murphy feels it could take up to five years to move completely over to the consolidated schedule but counts on it being much sooner.

As of the end of July GSA moved to Phase 3 of the MAS consolidation. Nearly 100 percent of vendors have updated their contracts and terms and conditions for the new solicitation. Murphy said, “We’ve got 99 percent of them onboard,” and will “work with [the remaining ones] on the best way to transition.” (ibid)

Wondering about your long-standing BPA? Give us a call.

Seeing STARS

The 8(a) STARS II contract has roughly 800 small business contractors that furnish custom IT services-based solutions tailored to meet government agency needs. STARS III contract will soon replace the current STARS II contract, with a higher dollar threshold and customized IT solutions. (Federal Computer Week, August 21, 2020)

Over the life of 8(a) STARS II, GSA has repeatedly raised the ceiling to meet federal agency needs and to support their small business contracting objectives. In April of this year the contract reached a $15 billion ceiling and by the end of July is was at $22 billion. In an effort to meet growing government agency needs, the 8(a) STARS III contract will accommodate more bidders with a $50 billion ceiling. 8(a) STARS III focuses on new technologies as well as meeting the needs of federal agencies outside the continental U.S.

According to Alan Chvotkin, executive vice president and counsel at the Professional Services Counsel, “rules have changed a lot over the years, the current contract vehicle, dating back to 2011 is kind of clunky and not as nimble as newer contracts. The new contract will help GSA fine new technology companies as well as requalify existing companies.” (ibid)

Questions about the 8(a) STARS III contract and if you currently do business under 8(a) STARS II how you will requalify? Give us a call.