Small Businesses getting their fair shake

GSA is stepping up its game to support underserved communities across the federal government. Their goal is for every small business to have equal access to the federal marketplace and the opportunities the marketplace holds. (GSABLOG June 16, 2021)

The GSA Office of Small and Disadvantaged Business Utilization (OSDBU) is working on behalf of the small business community in these ways:

  • The Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Program. The program encourages participation in innovation by women, people of color, and people with disabilities. The SBIR contracts will fund a varied portfolio of start-ups to encourage technological innovation, meet research and development (R&D) needs and increase commercialization to transition R&D into impact.
  • Furthering the Federal Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) Competitiveness Strategy Framework, thereby making it easier for HBCUs to compete for federal opportunities.
  • Improvements to the certification process for the U.S. Small Business Administration Women-Owned Small Businesses (WOSB) and Economically Disadvantaged Women-Owned Businesses (EDWOSB). These improvements will strengthen oversight, improve customer experience, facilitate participation in the WOSB Federal Contracting Program, and maintaining the integrity of the certification process. (ibid)

GSA is committed to working with small businesses, often considered the backbone of the nation’s economy. Their goal is to break down barriers for small disadvantaged and socioeconomic small businesses advancing their ability to do business with the government. The intent is to create an equal opportunity for everyone. (ibid)

Are you a small business, a women-owned small business, or an economically disadvantaged women-owned small business trying to do work with the federal government? Give us a call.

$355M for Women Owned Small Businesses

Over the past 20 years, the government has aimed to award at least 5 percent of contracts to Women-Owned Small Businesses (WOSBs). In FY2020, WOSBs received $561.7 million in contracts. However, GSA has only set aside $354.9 million for WOSB contracts in FY2021. (ExecutiveGov, March 4, 2021)

According to GSA’s Office of Small and Disadvantaged Business Utilization, 10.47 percent of the total FY2020 contracting obligations for women-owned vendors were prime awards. To lend a hand to these vendors, GSA provides support through training resources and Forecast of Contracting Opportunities. These tools and other activities earned GSA a grade of A+ from the Small Business Administration in FY2019 for their work to support small businesses. (ibid)

Are you a Small or Woman-Owned Small Business looking to prime or sub on an upcoming procurement? Give us a call.

Polaris Replacing Alliant 2

This past July, GSA put to rest the Aliant 2 Small Business contract. The just last week, GSA released a draft RFP named Polaris, a Governmentwide Acquisition Contract (GWAC) to provide customized Information Technology (IT) services-based solutions.  The draft RFP breaks out small business contractors into specific “pools,” for Small Business, HUBZone Small Businesses, and Women Owned Small Businesses. GSA reserves the right to add additional pools when deemed necessary. (beta.SAM.gov, December 31, 2020)

According to the draft RFP, Polaris will provide agencies with customized IT services and IT services-based solutions, which can be tailored to meet particular mission needs and may include any combination of IT services and new and emerging technologies. (ibid)

GSA encourages contractors to provide innovative solutions to task order requirements prioritizing emerging technologies.  Examples of emerging technologies included within the draft RFP are:

  • Advanced and Quantum Computing — cryptography/encryption, secure communications, design of high-performance computers, computer clusters, and networks, Quantum Machine Learning
  • Artificial intelligence (AI) — Computer Vision, Deep Learning, Machine Learning, Natural Language Processing (NLP),  Spatial Computing, Speech Recognition
  • Automation technology — Robotic Process Automation (RPA), Automated Messaging Services, Data Cleaning Scripts, Interactive Voice Response (IVR), Smart Notification
  • Distributed ledger technology — Blockchain Implementation Solutions, DLT Network Design Services, Smart Contract Programming Services
  • Edge computing — 5G Implementation Services, Edge Analytics, Edge Application Services, Edge Computing Architecture Design Services, Internet of Things (IoT) Services
  • Immersive technology  — Virtual Reality, Augmented Reality

Examples of Performance areas within the draft RFP are as follows:

  • Cloud Services
  • Cybersecurity
  • Data Management
  • Information and Communications Technologies
  • IT Operations and Maintenance
  • Software Development
  • System Design

Contractors may “provide ancillary support as necessary to offer an IT services-based solution,” but, as with the GSA Schedule, only “when it is integral to and necessary for the IT services-based effort.” (ibid)

Contractors should take note of the security considerations as purchasers may be from the Department of Defense as well as civilian agencies. In particular, the Defense Department’s Cybersecurity Maturity Model Certification is a developing regulation and requirement included in the draft RFP. Additional Cybersecurity and Supply Chain Risk Management (SCRM) requirements are expected to also be included. (ibid)

All draft RFP feedback is due by 4:00 PM Central Time, January 29, 2021.

Have questions concerning the draft RFP, who can respond, and how? Give us a call.

Self Certification — No More ;-(

The 2015 National Defense Authorization Act mandated that the Small Business Administration (SBA) discontinue self-certification of women-owned and other small businesses. In 2020, SBA plans to finalize a self-certification rule that closes a loophole allowing participants in the SBA’s Women-Owned Small Business (WOSB) program to self-certify. (Federal News Network, June 2019)

Approximately one-quarter of all federal contracts are held by small businesses, which over the past six years has helped federal agencies to  exceed  SBA’s governmentwide small business contracting goal. This year’s spending of more than $120 billion on small business contracts surpasses last year’s spending by nearly $15 billion.

The Government Accountability Office reported in March that almost 40 percent of WOSB-certified businesses were ineligible. Meanwhile, SBA’s Office of Inspector General June 2018 audit found 89 percent of sole-source (50 out of 56 contracts) did not meet all program criteria. Basically, there is currently no way to know if the contracts, listed in the chart below, were actually eligible for the sole-source awards. (ibid)

Rob Wong, SBA’s associate administrator of the Office of Government promotes a formal certification to  give the program some much-needed integrity. Wong said, “simply put, the wrong companies were receiving our contracts, we want to make sure that, if a company receives a contract through these programs, they’re actually eligible to receive it.” (ibid)

SBA has subsequently published a proposed rule in the Federal Register eliminating self-certification and providing a free online certification application to WOSB. Comments on the proposed rule are being accepted until July 15. In Wong’s opinion, it is high time to streamline the vetting process for the many other set-aside programs, all of which have different sets of eligibility criteria. Wong feels that going to three formal certifications for 8(a), Historically Underutilized Business Zones, women-owned, and service-disabled veterans will unify the processes. The rule with set-aside screening is expected to take a year for the changes to take effect. (ibid)

Do you have questions about the new certification process and how it may affect your current contract or an upcoming opportunity? Give us a call at 301-913-5000.