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Tag: GSA

The SBA should focus on small businesses, not fraudulent businesses

Last week the small business community urged lawmakers to shrink administrative burdens complicating entry into the Small. Business Administration’s (SBA’s) 8(a) program.

This is timely as the Biden Administration has set a goal to bolster the share of federal contracts awarded to small disadvantaged businesses from 5% to 15% by 2025. A former SBA official suggests the SBA focus on expanding entry to the program for disadvantaged businesses and not spend time penalizing those who fraudulently attempt to gain entry. This will go a long way to help achieve the goals as set by the administration.

Jackie Robinson-Burnette, CEO of Senior Executive Strategic Solutions and a former SBA senior program executive said SBA should, “shift their focus to include every firm that is eligible'” for the 8(a) program. She mentioned that she served at the SBA, the SBA received over 2,000 applications a year and accepted only 300 participants. The Government Accountability Office believes steps were taken to address fraudulent applications to the 8(a) program. Unfortunately, there remains no official verification procedure. The Government Accountability Office did not take steps to improve oversight of the program, according to report filings.

Robinson-Burnette said, “right now, the focus is making sure they mitigate the risk of firms getting into the program that shouldn’t be in the program – focusing on the fraud – when really that’s 1% or 2% of firms that apply. The other 90-plus percent of firms are struggling to get in … because the SBA is focused on the wrong thing.”

In addition to misplaced focus, Rep. Kweisi Mfune (D-MD) said business owners have reported concerns with the length of the program and that it takes most firms multiple years to receive their first awards. Mfune said, “this hinders the development of program participants and raises the question of whether enterprises are ready for graduation when they exit the program.”

Darryl Hairston, the SBA’s former associate administrator of business development, said he submitted a proposal to redesign the 8(a) program a few years ago. Hairston took into account the complexities small businesses encounter in navigating the federal marketplace during their initial years in operation.

Hairston said, “one of the things that we talked about was that most firms coming into the program, who are truly eligible for the program, had little experience in the federal marketplace. The timeframe is highly dependent upon how successful you are coming into the program and how well you take off with the benefits that are available to you.”

Robinson-Burnette feels adding priority access for SDB mentors will increase successful outcomes. This will occur by shifting some of the SBA’s dependence from their assigned business opportunity and creating additional inroads to work opportunities. Mfume is considering meeting with the SBA administrator to figure out “what can be done in the time we have.”

Are you a small disadvantaged business or a business looking to work with one on an upcoming contract? Give us a call.

Acquisition of Professional Services is about to get a whole lot better

Sheri Meadema, acting assistant commissioner of GSA’s Office of Professional Services and Human Capital Categories recently explained the current focus of the Services Marketplace. The Information Technology Category and Professional Services and Human Capital Categories are teaming to align how they introduce contracts and tools to aid buyers as well as suppliers of services.(FAS office of Information Technology February 17, 2022)

Their three main goals:

  • Expand GSA’s contract offerings.
  • Refine FAS’s market research and buying tools.
  • Better the data and reporting systems used in support of the current acquisition programs. (ibid)

Meadema envisions a future with standardized engagement and solicitation processes regardless of the type of services provided. The priority is on using a consistent set of best practices and tools for IT and professional services for solicitations, evaluation, negotiations, awards, and contract management. (ibid)

Meadema wants an easier final outcome compared to open market procurements. Under the Services Marketplace, the next generation of contracts is being built. These contracts include the Services MAC, Polaris, and the follow-on to Alliant 2. Currently in progress are:

  • 8(a) STARS III Government wide Acquisition Contract – a small business set-aside, Beset-in-Class GWAC. The the 8(a) STARS III, federal agencies can access award-winning 8(a) firms for emerging technologies via an established contract vehicle. This saves not only time but also taxpayer monvery over open markets methods.
  • IT GWAC Polaris is in development. The RFP for the new Polaris small business IT contract is expected in February 2022. Once awarded, Polaris will enable federal agencies to set-aside IT task orders to small business, women-owned small business, service disable veteran-owned small businesses, and businesses located in HUBZones.
  • PSHC is working on a new Services Multi-Agency Contract to support procurement requirements for services. This comes as OASIS winds down in 2024.
  • Improvement of Multiple Award Schedule service offerings. Contractors with multiple contracts will consolidate down to one. This means fewer overall contracts for the acquisition workfovce and industry parnters to manage. Ultimately this will make is easier for agencies to find the vendors to meet their requirements.(ibid)

Meadeama says they have also started standardizing the scope review process. A digital tool/portal allows customers to submit their scope review requests. This streamlines tracking, management, and coordination across portfolios as well as creating a single customer experience. The discovery phase has started for an order management tool for all services task orders. This allows for better solicitation development, tracking, and task order management on GSA contracts. (ibid)

Questions about how this might affect a current GSA schedule contract or upcoming bid? Give us a call.

There’s more to a Small Business Affiliation than meets the eye

Small business contracting has been gaining momentum through the Small Business Administration’s (SBA) “all small” mentor-protege program. This program allows a large business to form a joint venture with a small business to compete for set-aside contracts. The SBA has several ways to determine if a company is actually small. And just because you meet the size standard for a procurement does not necessarily mean you are eligible for an award. (Federal News Network January 14, 2022)

Every procurement has a size standard assigned. Size standards set the largest size that a business (including its subsidiaries and affiliates) may be. Therefore, it is crucial to note whether the small business has any affiliates. Size standards are based on the number of employees or average annual receipts of a company. An affiliate’s number of employees and annual receipts are included in business size determination. (ibid)

Many award protests arise when offerors allege the winning company is ineligible, based on size. A protestor will argue that a company is not a small business due to its affiliation with a large company. The affiliation thereby exceeds the size standard. Should the SBA find that a bidding company exceeds the size standard due to an affiliation, the result can be the loss of a contract. (ibid)

Affiliation is when one company controls another company, or a third party controls both businesses. It doesn’t matter if the control is exercised. It only matters that it exists. (ibid)

Common ownership can give rise to affiliation. Common ownership happens when an owner of a firm holds an ownership interest in one or more other firms. This gets complicated if a company is owned by multiple shareholders. (ibid)

Affiliation can occur due to the relationship between the firms themselves, such as an affiliation based on the ostensible subcontractor rule. This rule provides that a prime contractor and subcontractor are affiliated if the subcontractor is performing the primary requirements of a contract and the prime contractor is reliant upon the subcontractor. If the SBA dins an affiliation under the ostensible contractor rule, it is limited to the procurement in question. Both companies may be eligible for award of other small business contracts. (ibid)

The rules around affiliation are subtle and often complicated. Many times a company finds out about an affiliation only after a protest is filed. An unfavorable size determination will result in the loss of a contract. This can affect a vendor’s ability to compete for future set-aside contracts. If this happens, a firm must be recertified as small. It is the same if a protested frim is a protege in a mentor-protege joint venture. The protege must be recertified. (ibid)

Affiliations are preventable. All agreements should include representations concerning the prime contractor’s small business status. All parties should be knowledgeable of the circumstances that may result in affiliation. (ibid)

Do you have affiliation questions? Give us a call.

Are you a MAS contractor or want to be one?

GSA is working to make it easier for prospective and current Multiple Award Schedule contractors to work with them. They have recently launched a new and improved Vendor Support Center (VSC).

According to eBuy’s Senior Program Analyst Rich Carlson, “our goals for this website overhaul were three-fold. One, we wanted to modernize the bedrock technology and make security enhancements, which aligns with VSC with other websites we’ve updated like GSA Advantage!. Second, we prioritized improving the user experience. And third, we needed to make business process improvements so the website is easier to maintain.” (GSA Blog January 12, 2022)

For the VSC update, GSA went straight to industry. An RFI was released in November with site navigation, help desk availability, and plain language as the main areas of focus. Based on the information obtained from feedback the VSC is searchable content takes less time and is much easier to find. The dynamic search function allows users to see all content when a word or phrase is entered into the search box. (ibid)

Another benefit of the VSC update is the ease of finding help desk information. The home page contains three types of locators for users individual Procurement Contracting Officer (PCO), Administrative Contracting Officer (ACO), and Industrial Operations Analyst (IOA). (ibid)

VSC site navigation is organized by: “I Want a Contract,” “Managing my Contract,” and “Contract Sales.” In addition, the new page “MAS Project Center,” stores resources for all MAS special projects. (ibid)

GSA is continually looking for ways to improve the customer experience and make it easier to do business with them. The new VSC is located at vsc.gsa.gov/vsc/. (ibid)

Questions about the new VSC or how to get started on your journey to a contract with GSA? Give us a call.

Tech is hot!

While tech procurements have been on the rise over the past several years, COVID most definitely fueled the flame. According to data from an analysis by Jeff Cook, managing director at Shea & Co., third-quarter 2021 tech deals hit nearly $2.2 billion. With much of that activity from strategic acquisitions. Government Technology, January/February 2022

The new year will likely see both large and smaller acquisitions continue with all being potentially significant. Cook expects, “the acquirers who’ve been active will continue to be active.” (ibid)

Apart from acquisitions, other factors have also fueled the growth. Although there is an abundance of bureaucracy in the government, the government is a stable source of sales and returns. While other areas of the economy may slow, the Government, both local and federal, will continue to operate. This coupled with the need to constantly update their tech requirements make the government a top contender for igniting tech growth. (ibid)

Another factor is the move toward cloud computing and software as a service. Google Announced in November of 2021, the launch of a cloud-based “sandbox” named RAD Lab. It is an instrument public agencies might use to test and develop their specific tools. As an added perk, Google provides support in a secure environment. (ibid)

Surveys of both cities and counties by The Center for Digital Government’s, in 2021, show greater movement to the cloud. Approximately one-third of cities report that about 30 percent of their systems and applications reside in the cloud. County migration is about 26 percent. Therefore, while movement is toward the cloud, there is an opportunity there that has yet to be tapped. (ibid)

Google is not the only game in town. Amazon is looking to take a piece of this market, as well. This shows how big tech is looking to add to their revenue from the gov tech space. (ibid)

According to Stewart Lynn, a partner at Serent Capital who leads gov tech practice, “many private-sector folks are finding new roles within government and have understood that the current systems in place are very antiquated and in need of an upgrade. As citizens have become more active online, you’re seeing governments being responsive to their citizens’ needs. Citizens today want the ability to go online and buy their permits, process their payments, understand what’s going with budget spending. And governments are responding to that demand by investing in digital solutions.” (ibid)

As with all new growth, comes a few hurdles and grey areas. According to Rita Reynolds, chief information officer for the National Association of Counties, “government technology vendors must be willing to update their terms of service and contracts to accept their responsibility and ensure that baseline essential security practices are in place to secure what they are hosting and providing to counties.” (ibid)

For counties, states, and the federal government, there’s a need for some flexibility within the procurement arena. An updated acquisition process and partnering with the private sector will go a long way to make this a win-win for both the government and vendors.

Trying to break into the government contracting arena? Give us a call.