Consolidation of Mentor- Protégé Programs and other Government Contracting Amendments

The U.S Small Business Administration (SBA) initiated a review of their regulations in order to determine which might be revised or eliminated because of government wide regulatory reform initiative. As a result, 8(a) Business Development (BD) Mentor-Protégé Program and the All Small Mentor-Protégé Program merges in order to eliminate unnecessary duplication of functions within SBA. This eliminates the requirement that 8(a) Participants seeking to be awarded an 8(a) contract as a joint venture submit the joint venture agreement to SBA for review and approval prior to contract award, revises several 8(a) BD program regulations to reduce unnecessary or excessive burdens on 8(a) Participants, and clarifies other related regulatory provisions to eliminate confusion among small businesses and procuring activities. This rule became effective on November 16, 2020, except for § 127.504 which went into effect October 16, 2020.

The proposed rule initially called for a 70-day comment period, with comments required to be made to SBA by January 17, 2020. SBA published a notice in the Federal Register on January 10, 2020, extending the comment period an additional 21 days to February 7, 2020. SBA considers tribal consultation meetings a valuable component of its deliberations and believes that these tribal consultation meetings allowed for constructive dialogue with the Tribal community, Tribal Leaders, Tribal Elders, elected members of Alaska Native Villages or their appointed representatives, and principals of tribally-owned and Alaska Native Corporation (ANC) owned firms participating in the 8(a) BD Program.

SBA held a Listening Session in Honolulu, HI to obtain comments and input from key 8(a) BD program stakeholders in the Hawaiian small business community, including 8(a) applicants and Participants owned by Native Hawaiian Organizations (NHOs). SBA received 189 timely comments, with a high percentage of commenters favouring the proposed changes during the proposed rule’s 91-day comment period. A substantial number of commenters applauded SBA’s effort to clarify and address misinterpretations of the rules. For the most part, the comments supported the substantive changes proposed by SBA. The Jobs Act was designed to protect the interests of small businesses and increase opportunities in the Federal marketplace. The Jobs Act was drafted by Congress in recognition of the fact that mentor-protégé programs serve an important business development function for small businesses and therefore included language authorizing SBA to establish separate mentor-protégé programs for the Service-Disabled Veteran-Owned Small Business Concern (SDVO SBC) Program, the HUBZone Program, and the Women-Owned Small Business (WOSB) Start Printed Page 66147Program, each of which was modelled on SBA’s existing mentor-protégé program available to 8(a) Participants. Thereafter, on January 2, 2013, the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2013 (NDAA 2013), Public Law 112-239 was enacted. Section 1641 of the NDAA 2013 authorized SBA to establish a mentor-protégé program for all small business concerns. This section further provided that a small business mentor-protégé program must be identical to the 8(a) BD Mentor-Protégé Program, except that SBA could modify each program to the extent necessary, given the types of small business concerns to be included as protégés.

The explicit purpose of the 8(a) BD Mentor-Protégé relationship has been to enhance the capabilities of protégés and to improve their ability to successfully compete for both government and commercial contracts. All Small Mentor-Protégé Program is designed to require approved mentors to aid protégé firms so that they may enhance their capabilities, meet their business goals, and improve their ability to compete for contracts. If a protégé firm is an 8(a) Program Participant, a joint venture between the protégé and its mentor could seek any 8(a) contracts, regardless of whether the mentor-protégé agreement was approved through the 8(a) BD Mentor-Protégé Program or the All Small Mentor-Protégé Program. Moreover, a firm could be certified as an 8(a) Participant after its mentor-protégé relationship has been approved by SBA through the All Small Mentor-Protégé Program and be eligible for 8(a) contracts as a joint venture with its mentor once certified.

A mentor-protégé relationship approved by SBA through the 8(a) BD Mentor-Protégé Program will continue to operate as an SBA-approved mentor-protégé relationship under the All Small Mentor-Protégé Program. It will continue to have the same remaining time in the All Small Mentor-Protégé Program as it would have had under the 8(a) BD Mentor-Protégé Program if that Program continued. Any mentor-protégé relationship approved under the 8(a) BD Mentor-Protégé Program will count as one of the two lifetime mentor-protégé relationships that a small business may have under the All Small Mentor-Protégé Program. This rule also revises regulations pertaining to the 8(a) BD and size programs in order to further reduce unnecessary or excessive burdens on small businesses and to eliminate confusion or more clearly delineate SBA’s intent in certain regulations. Specifically, this rule makes additional changes to the size and socioeconomic status recertification requirements for orders issued against Multiple Award Contracts (MACs).

Reference : https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2020/10/16/2020-19428/consolidation-of-mentor-protg-programs-and-other-government-contracting-amendments

Sabre88 – Celebrating Our Veterans

Veteran’s day is more than a federal holiday. The date in which we celebrate our veterans, November 11th annually, is set aside in remembrance of the “eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month” which marked the end of World War I. Our great republic and all its citizens are forever indebted to those who bravely fought to protect our borders and our revolutionary freedoms. Our country’s veterans deserve to be honored for their service and their sacrifices, as we would live in a vastly different world without them.

On this day, let us remember those who fought for our freedom and put themselves in harms way to protect our great nation. Let us honor and recognize our veterans for their contribution to our ability to enjoy life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Let us humbly give thanks to our heroes and reflect upon their steadfast sense of duty.

At this time, we are proud to honor our very own Sabre88 Veterans:

Charlie Cernat

James Hansel

Taylor Bradley

Howard Johnson

Robert Lightfoot

Ron Oliver

Brian J. Schweikert

On behalf of all of us here at Sabre88, Thank You for Your Service.

The four pillars of focus for the Army’s new technology office

In the last two months the army split its technology management organization into two, creating a new office of the chief information officer and an office for the G6. Lt. Gen. John Morrison Jr., the deputy chief of staff, G-6, said Tuesday as part of this new organization reaching initial operating capability, its roles and goals are coming into focus. “The CIO is the principle advisor to the Secretary of the Army. They really focused on policy, governance and oversight. It’s all things IT related,” Morrison said during a conference call with reporters on Tuesday. “On the G6, it’s a little bit of a different focus. It’s really about strategy, network architectures and implementation of command control, communications, cyber operations and networks. The CIO establishes the policies. We are responsible for planning and actual implementation of those policies, and then supporting Army organizations worldwide as they actually go out and implement those policies.”

Morrison said he expects the G6 to reach full operating capability in fiscal 2021. “You’ve seen some things that are different. The mere fact that cyber operations are included in the G6 is not traditional. But it gets back to the notion of if you believe in combined arms maneuver in cyberspace to include electromagnetic spectrum, why would we separate that role and function?” he said. “There is work for us to do there. But I’d also submit to you that’s one of the lessons learned from the other services because that’s generally how they organized.”

Morrison said the G6 will focus its efforts across four pillars of effort. The four pillars are as follows:

Setting the unified network

The network also will be the Army’s contribution to the Joint All-Domain Command and Control (JADC2) to ensure networks are interoperable and can share data. Morrison said it’s integrating the work of the cross-functional team with the tactical network and also focused on the notion of vertical integration. “If you buy into many of the things that we are working on from our modernization priorities or our operational framework—long range precision fire, deep persistent intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR), and multi-domain operations where cyber effects at the tactical level could be deployed just about anywhere on the globe—you need a unified network,” he said. “We have to stop talking about an enterprise network that is focused on modernizing our base, post, camp and installations and a tactical network that is very base, post and camp centric. We need to bring those two together so that we support where the Army is going from both a modernization and an operational warfighting construct.” Morrison also said the unified network must take into account new and emerging technologies like 5G and secure wireless.

Posturing our signal and cyber forces to operate for multi-domain operations

He said the effort must support the unified network and building additional cyber capacity to operate at the tactical echelons. “That means taking a look at the training. That means taking a look at the talent management. That means taking a look at the organizational framework that we are putting in place and as we learn, adjusting them over time,” he said. “That means making sure we have signal and cyber underpinned by intelligence, operating in a combined arms fashion in cyber space to include electromagnetic spectrum.”

Reforming and operationalizing cybersecurity processes

Morrison said he wants to review the risk management framework and see how the Army can move from a model that is less focused on bureaucracy and periodic reviews to one that is more focused on operational evaluations to ensure cybersecurity is a part of a system before it gets on the network.

Focus on implementation and execution across the network and cyber

The biggest challenge the G6 faces is hiring and training employees to have the right skillsets. He said the goal is to develop capabilities the Army needs with the right linkages back to the joint environment. “How do we harmonize joint investments in the joint tactical grid which supports the unified network, and how do we make sure we are leveraging all the investments so that we are effective as a joint force, as an Army, and fiscally efficient?” he said. Morrison said he has asked his staff to look at using all current hiring authorities to address these and other needs. G6 is in need of employees who understand the cloud services, data analytics and cybersecurity.

Author: Chandni Mandaviya

Reference: https://federalnewsnetwork.com/army/2020/10/the-four-pillars-of-focus-for-the-armys-new-technology-office/

DISA Success Says Small Business is Key

The governmentwide small business contracting goal has been at 23% since 1997. Agencies have done well for the most part in meeting this goal in the last five years, though there are still many hurdles facing small business contractors as primes and subcontractors. One notable contract vehicle which makes this fact evident is 8(a) STARS II, though there have been many others that have gone awry.

The Defense Information Systems Agency’ (DISA) has taken a unique approach to small business contractors, one that puts them at the forefront and holds large firms accountable. In its SETI contract, DISA has taken steps to ensure that small businesses can and will be successful. For this effort, DISA was awarded the 2020 Verdure award from the Defense Department for demonstrating fresh approaches to balancing the development of efficient procurement methods and the utilization of small businesses.

What is so different about SETI? One prominent feature of this contract is the removal of the clearance barrier. To recap, security clearances have often served as a barrier to entry for many small businesses, as sponsorship is required to obtain a clearance. Here, DISA decided to be that sponsor for small businesses and joint ventures. Also, they have removed the requirement for the cost accounting certification. SETI also allows small businesses to submit for a requirement despite not being able fulfill every task on the SOW. This allowed DISA to reach more than 100 offerors, about 80% did not have experience with DISA.

This move by DISA to be more inclusive and accommodating to the small business contracting community has undoubtedly strengthened their pool of capable contractors but has tapped a well of ingenuity and innovation that would have previously been lost. Small businesses have been hailed by many administrations as the “engine that runs the economy,” and DISA is a prime example of that sentiment being a reality. Look for more agencies to follow suit.

Author: Paul McVeigh

Source: https://federalnewsnetwork.com/reporters-notebook-jason-miller/2020/10/disa-sends-message-to-large-companies-meet-small-business-goals-or-risk-getting-off-ramped/

Pentagon officials see ‘troubling’ small business decline since COVID

In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, there has been a decrease in the number of small businesses competing for contracts as disclosed by the Pentagon contracting arm. Although the U.S. Defense Logistics Agency has awarded lucrative contracts in response to COVID-19, it is questionable whether the department’s regular vendors, notably its small business vendors, have been substantially benefited.

Dwight Deneal, the director of the U.S. Defense Logistics Agency’s Office of Small Business Programs, conveyed that, “participation level from our supplier base’s standpoint has steadily declined” in reference to small businesses during a small business panel at the Association of the U.S. Army’s yearly meeting. To stimulate involvement from smaller suppliers, the Department of Defense has planned virtual outreach efforts for November. As of late, the Pentagon has faced controversy for awarding substantial contracts to inexperienced companies for disposable medical gowns as opposed to awarding them to vendors with considerable experience completing federal procurement contracts.

Furthermore, the Pentagon has faced contention for allocating $688 million for aircraft engine part suppliers, shipbuilding, electronics, and space launch services over implementing those funds to augment the nation’s medical supplies. Deneal did not mention either controversy at the small business panel and instead applauded the DLA’s commitment to reviving the domestic supply chains for personal protective equipment. This move, he communicated, would benefit not only the nation as a whole due to the pandemic but also would benefit small business suppliers.

In addition to the Department of Defense, there has been a decline in small business participation within the Navy, according to Jimmy Smith, the director of the Navy’s Office of Small Business Programs. To combat this, Smith will urge contracting officers to open a direct line of communication with small businesses. Also, he aims to ensure that large contractors will “flow work” to smaller partners.

Author: Donny Sunny

Source:

https://www.defensenews.com/2020/10/13/pentagon-officials-see-troubling-small-business-decline-since-covid/

DoD’s new data strategy

Department of Defense, the Pentagon has finished drafting a new data management strategy and it is likely to release within next 30 days, the Defense Department’s chief information officer said Wednesday. The draft will attempt to answer some of the department’s key questions about becoming a “data-centric” organization , including how a more disciplined approach to data will impact the department’s acquisition programs and how to harness the vast amounts of data it already generates to train future artificial intelligence algorithms, Dana Deasy, the DoD CIO said.

Additionally, “The biggest challenge to getting the flywheel of AI really going across the department is data. And people say to me, ‘the Department of Defense has lots of data.’ Yes, but just having lots of data doesn’t mean it’s accessible,” he told reporters. “How do you secure it the right way? What are the policies, the different classifications? How do you ingest it? … It comes from different sources in different formats. And what that data was originally created for maybe have slightly different purposes. So [the challenge] is curating that data in a way that it’s then usable for the algorithms to learn from.”

David Spirk conducted a “listening tour” across various DoD components to ensure the CIO’s office was asking and answering the right questions about data management.

“The things everybody constantly talked about — and that we needed to build our goals around — were, How do you ensure all data is visible? How do you make sure it’s accessible to everybody at the right classifications and authority levels, and how do you make sure it’s more understandable? How do you make sure that data is better linked? How do you make sure data is trustworthy?” Deasy said. “How do you make sure the data you’re working with is the right source? And then finally, how do you make sure that data is interoperable and secure?”

The forthcoming document will also mark the first time the department has had a full data first time the department has had a full data maturity model that involves every level of the department in a single approach to data governance, Spirk, said in a September interview with the Federal News Network. The data strategy is emerging at the same time the Joint Chiefs of Staff are restructuring their approach to thinking about data requirements for weapons systems.

Gen. John Hyten, the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs, said last month that the Joint Requirements Oversight Council (JROC), which he chairs, will soon begin promulgating joint standards for data interoperability. The new approach will insist that the military services comply with the standards from the beginning of a new system’s development, rather than letting them develop platforms first and send them to the JROC for validation of what they’ve already done.

“They’re not going to be the traditional requirements and capability description documents and capability production documents that you’ve looked at for years,” Hyten said. “They’re going to be capability attributes that programs have to have. If you do not meet those, you don’t meet the job requirements, and therefore you don’t get through the gate and you don’t get money.”

Reference:

The Pentagon: Defense Assisted Acquisition Cell (DA2C) – Born of COVID-19

COVID-19 has changed the world in many ways, not excluding the United States’ federal procurement strategies. During the pandemic, the US federal government spent nearly $17 billion on COVID-related contracts. Due to the overwhelming nature of this beast, a new assisted acquisition organization has been born from the Joint Acquisition Task Force the Pentagon set up. This task force was responsible for acquiring $3 billion in contracts and agreements for other agencies, namely HHS and FEMA.

Starting in 2021, the Joint Acquisition Task Force (JATF) will become the Defense Assisted Acquisition Cell (DA2C) and will be part of the existing Joint Rapid Acquisition Cell (JRAC). Besides the $3 billion in contracts the JATF helped process for end items like personal protective equipment, it also helped HHS use the new Defense Production Act authorities that department gained under the CARES Act to help build domestic production capacity for critical medical items.

DA2C will serve an entity responsible for building and maintaining interagency relationships and fostering swift assisted acquisitions support services. Stacy Cummings, the assistant secretary of Defense for acquisition enablers, states, “With our hundreds of thousands of acquisition professionals, we’re in a position to respond quickly and robustly. But we do need to have that framework and frankly, that trust, to quickly establish the ability to take the authorization and appropriation another executive branch department receives from Congress and take advantage of the depth and breadth of capability DoD can bring to a crisis. So the lesson learned was that we need to always be thinking about how we support the interagency process and be that one stop shop.”

Author: Paul McVeigh

Source: https://federalnewsnetwork.com/defense-main/2020/09/pentagon-transitioning-its-covid-19-acquisition-task-force-to-permanent-office/

‘Huawei ban’ Means Contract Modifications

Agency contract managers at the General Service Administration (GSA) revealed GSA has begun to ban several China-based telecommunications gear manufacturers.

According to Jack Tekus, a GSA Multiple Award Schedule (MAS) Program Management Office analyst, by the end of August, 81% of the MAS contract supply chain modifications were accepted. These modifications are of significance to the GSA’s motivation to ensure contractor compliance with Part B of Section 889 of the National Defense Authorization Act of 2019.

Tekus and his colleagues from GSA’s IT, public building, and leasing operations sectors expanded on these requirements during a webinar sponsored by GSA in September. It was elucidated that if the U.S. Government has identified any particular technology or service as a cybersecurity threat, then government contractors are banned from implementing of these technologies or services. The companies that fall under this ban include but are not limited to Huawei and ZTE and Hikvision, Hytera Communications Corporation, and Dahua Technology Company. The former are telecommunications gear producers while the latter are video surveillance producers. This ban also applies to any subsidiary and affiliate company in association with the aforementioned organizations.

Not only are these products distributed by these companies being banned from federal contract implementation, but also they are banned from daily operation implementation in both domestic and international conditions. The GSA procurement ombudsman, Maria Swaby, conveyed that there is some ambiguity surrounding what qualifies as being “use,” “subsidiaries,” and “affiliates.” The particulars may be evaluated on a case to case basis and questions about this can be submitted to regulations.gov by September14th. These terms hold particular significance due to the intersection of data and traffic with various carrier networks and facilities which may not be held under this ban.

Author: Donna Sunny

Source: https://fcw.com/articles/2020/09/11/huwaei-ban-gsa-modifications.aspx?m=1

DOD’s Ethical Principles Challenges for AI

The Department of Defense issued five Ethical Principles for Artificial Intelligence(AI) this February. They are Responsible, Equitable, Traceable, Reliable and Governable. The DoD AI principles were developed by the Defense Intelligence Board. The recommendations were developed over a 15-month period by AI leaders in government and the private sector and were based on existing Law of War principles and statutes. They are designed to address new ethical issues raised by AI.

The DoD General Counsel, Paul C. Ney Jr., has commented on the importance of applying the existing principles of the law of war to new legal issues and in particular AI saying that ““The advantage of artificial intelligence and other autonomy-related emerging technologies is the use of software or machine control of the systems rather than manual control by a human being.”

DoD has established an AI policy team in the Pentagon’s Joint Artificial Intelligence Center (JAIC) under the command of Air Force Lt. Gen. Jack Shanahan. Shanahan quickly hired attorney Alka Patel to head the policy team implementing the principles. Patel had been the executive director of the Risk & Regulatory Services Innovation Center at Carnegie Mellon University.

Implementation of the DoD principles

Among the first steps taken by using the new DoD principles at JAIC by Patel and her colleagues:

  • Including the principles as applicable standards in requests for proposals, including a May award to Booz Allen Hamilton.
  • JAIC participation, through Patel, in a Responsible AI subcommittee, part of a larger DoD working group writing a broader DoD policy document.
  • Establishment of pilot program, “Responsible AI Champions,” bringing together a broad group inside JAIC to look at the principles throughout the entire cycle of AI programs.
  • Early work on the creation of a Data Governance Council within the U.S. government and other countries.

Issues to be looked

Issues to be looked at carefully while applying ethical principles to real-world business and national security issues.

  • Clarification of the terms used in the principles, including, but not limited to, what is “appropriate,” in the principle of responsibility and “unintended bias” in the second principle of equity.
  • As acknowledged by Ney, Stuart Russell and many others, what will be the scope of human control of AI involved in military applications?
  • As also broadly discussed, what will be the scope of ultimate human accountability for AI decision-making?
  • And finally, the overarching problem about “moral machines”: “what to think about machines that think.”

Implications for the private sector

For the Defense contractors and the private sector, the implications are immense. The Pentagon is continuing to litigate issues regarding its $10 billion cloud computing contract between Microsoft (which won the contract in 2019) and Amazon and others, which are contesting the contract.

References:

https://www.defense.gov/Newsroom/Releases/Release/Article/2091996/dod-adopts-ethical-principles-for-artificial-intelligence/

The Department of Defense plans to modernize acquisition following the impacts of COVID-19

Microsoft wins DoD's controversial JEDI Cloud contract | Federal News  Network

In the midst of the social, economic and political impacts the pandemic, COVID-19, has brought to the American population; the Department of Defense has committed to updating its acquisition system for the post-pandemic era. Doing so by implementing the DoD Directive 5000.01 on September 8, 2020, and by so adapting the departments roles and responsibilities for its acquisition framework. As some businesses have adjusted to the pandemic with, flexible scheduling and teleworking, so too has the Department of Defense. Their plans include digital engineering and software modernization.

            This follows the trend of the federal government’s acquisition modernization, using the new acquisition platform SAM.gov as reference, the Acquisition strategies of the United States government are all moving towards increased digitalization.

            The spur for digitalization stems from realizations created by covid-19. The Department of Defense believes it has demonstrated its capabilities of responsible spending, Under Secretary of Defense for acquisition and sustainment, Ellen Lord, said during the September 9 Defense News Conference, “COVID gave us a burning platform to demonstrate we could be very responsible in terms of taxpayer dollars, very responsible in terms of security of warfighter, but move at speed of relevance to get things done”. This confidence is a result of the department’s ability to absorb the adverse effects COVID-19 has had on its subcontractor businesses, be it production or giving employees time off. Since the pandemic hit, the Defense Management Agency and Defense Logistics Agency have been tracking around 22,000 companies that the Department of Defense works with. And while the DoD has managed to assist in subduing those effects, Ellen Lord believes “they’re going to start showing up. soon”. She later followed up this statement within the press conference saying “When we get to the point where we’re having payments and incentive fees and award fees earned, and if we haven’t done the deliveries, that’s where you’re going to see the hit”. Lord said companies should account for the hits they have taken during the period, March 15 through September 15, following which they should submit proposals showing those impacts for The Department of Defense to assess at once.

            The projected time period for this accounting is six months, Lord said. Roughly half the time will be for the RFPs to flow down the supply chain to subcontractors. The second half will be when the Department of Defense reviews all proposals to determine what may be reimbursable. All proposals would be examined before any spending occurs, as opposed to a standard que’d system. The DoD has been calling for more money for contractors since early summer 2020. The expected amount would be between $10 and $20 Billion USD.

https://www.bls.gov/opub/mlr/2020/article/ability-to-work-from-home.htm