GSA’s procurement programs plan to create opportunities

The General Services Administration (GSA) is the central procurement arm of the federal government. With the change in administration, the GSA plays an integral role in implementing policy priorities. The new administration has set its sights on helping small businesses, establishing green energy alternatives, and increasing domestic sourcing. GSA’s procurement programs, managed by the Federal Acquisition Service (FAS), plays a critical role in supporting customer agencies, accounting for $75 Billion in annual mission support.

FAS’ procurement programs include the Multiple Award Schedule program (MAS), Assisted Acquisition Services, IT GWACs, OASIS, and Global Supplies and Services (GSS). These programs are complementary, bringing a full solution offering approach to GSA’s customer agencies.

Consistency in application and implementation are key elements of the FAS procurement strategy. With respect to the new Administration’s priorities, FAS procurement under these vehicles will support the Buy American Act (BAA), Free Trade Agreements (FTA), and the Trade Agreements Act (TAA).

To create more opportunities, GSA is rolling out a commercial e-commerce pilot program for domestic and foreign sourcing. Awarded in June 2020, the e-commerce pilot program targets $6 Billion, GSA’s estimated addressable market, in open market purchase card spending by the federal government. The pilot program seeks to channel orders through three e-commerce platforms.

Author: Paul McVeigh


GSA MAS Consolidation

Consolidation of the Multiple Award Schedule (MAS) is all about breaking down hurdles, removing stovepipes, and streamlining procurement processes. For this reason, for this major contracting initiative to add quality to government contracting, the General Services Administration (GSA) is to be commended.

MAS consolidation is the cornerstone of GSA’s Federal Marketplace Strategy as the largest commercial commodity deal, responsible for over $30 billion in annual transactions by the federal government.

To date, the focus of the MAS consolidation has been on resolving procurement procedures, demands for MAS, and subsequent contracts. The Federal Procurement Service analyzed and rationalized hundreds of MAS in Phase 1.

Consolidating the MAS solicitation and contracts would expand access to best value goods, facilities, and solutions for consumer agencies. GSA has acknowledged that FAS’s IT systems need to be modernized in order to efficiently interact and fully exploit the benefits of MAS consolidation.

Another wonderful potential for enhancing FAS management and operations is given by MAS consolidation. It sets the stage for a top-down FAS analysis to reduce duplication and remove unnecessary stovepipes for organizations. The Federal Marketplace Policy of GSA has the golden chance of updating, reinventing and reforming FAS.

Writer: Mariatu Alale


The Pandemic Caused Substantial Delays in FOIA Requests

            More than 80 percent of organizations that receive 10,000 or more requests a year have placed a note about FOIA delays on their websites. This is according to a new analysis by the National Archives and Records Administration, part of the Office of Government Information Services. Last May, the Information Policy Office of the Justice Department released guidelines urging agencies to keep requesters informed on status updates. A lengthy to-do list for federal agencies is included in the latest climate executive order by President Biden.

The Executive Regulations in Need of Oversight or REINS Act will require Congress, before they come into force, to pass a joint resolution authorizing major agency rules.

The bill describes a major rule as any regulation that has an effect of at least $100 million, which will lead to a substantial rise in the agency or public costs.

Industry demand for its new cloud office convinced the Defense Information Systems Agency to extend its quest for program support services. As a separate military service, the Space Force moved to distinguish itself, announcing new names for its enlisted labor force.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has overhauled its Freedom of Information Act Requests framework for obtaining and processing.

Starting today, a brand-new software suite for ingesting both FOIA requests and appeals was launched by the commission. The most recent edition, known as System 2021, is a replacement for a system that has been around since 2015. The Commission notes that applicants can continue to use the old system to check the status of earlier requests, but only until March 12.

FOIA requests will also be accepted by the commission via postal mail, email, and fax.

Author: Emely Rivas

Source :White, E. (2021, February 01). Pandemic Pandemic has caused major delays in FOIA requests. Federal News Network.

Possible new federal procurement rules under Biden administration

With the change in administration, federal contractors have been keeping an ear to the wall to determine what, if any, changes may be coming their way. In the past, Democratic administrations have leaned towards more rules and regulations. In an interview between Larry Allen and Tom Temlin on Federal News Network, Larry gives his take on what federal contractors, small business included, can expect from the incoming administration.

In the realm of small business, Larry Allen suggests that increased scrutiny may take place regarding small business conduct on non-government contracts. Specifically, how small businesses have conducted themselves in all arenas on the issues of meeting federal employment, environmental, and other laws. Additionally, with a tighter budget being forecast, the new administration may push to bundle more contracts.

The GSA has also issued a new rule clarifying lowest price technically acceptable (LPTA) for non-DoD contracts. The purpose of this would be to limit the use of the LPTA contracting, which would be good news for many small business contractors. While there is certainly a place for LPTA acquisition, it has reportedly been overused for high level service contracts leading to lower-level performance. This strategy can also box out small businesses.

Author: Paul McVeigh


GSA Begins 2021 with Slew of Acquisition Activity

The General Services Administration (GSA) has come out swinging in 2021 in the acquisition arena. Within the first two weeks of the new year, the GSA’s Federal Acquisition Service has issued two Request for Information (RFI) and a draft solicitation for the GWAC POLARIS, a small business IT focused GWAC that will essentially replace the Alliant 2 Small Business vehicle.

The two RFIs released are for artificial intelligence and machine learning capabilities, and one to develop a new professional services vehicle. “We are looking at fiscal 2021 at being the year where we see some big awards,” said Laura Stanton, FAS’ assistant commissioner for the Office of Information Technology Category, during a recent event sponsored by ACT-IAC. “In fiscal 2020, the IT category facilitated more than $30 billion in annual government spend. We still are wrapping up those year-end numbers, but it represents the trust the federal agencies have put in us, the customer service, the support is reducing the procurement action lead time, innovation and data transparency and all of the things the agencies put their trust in ITC to make that happen. Out of that, we also provided more than $2 billion in savings and cost avoidance for the customers of ITC alone.”

In addition, the GSA is currently reviewing bids for the 8(a) STARS III GWAC as well as the ASTRO program. These are expected to be awarded in the spring of 2021.

FAS has seen formidable growth of late, recording 15% growth rate in 2019, increased spending in 2020 due to the COVID pandemic, and now with Polaris, 8(a) STARS III, ASTRO and several other initiatives like the commercial platform, the 2GIT vehicle and OASIS, new vendors are slated to gain momentum in 2021 and GSA will continue to capture more of the market.

Author: Paul McVeigh


What CMMC Means for Small Businesses

The Cybersecurity Maturity Model Certification (CMMC) is a unified standard for implementing cybersecurity across the defense industrial base (DIB), which includes over 300,000 companies in the supply chain. The CMMC is the DoD’s response to significant compromises of sensitive defense information located on contractors’ information systems. The effort essentially builds from the DoD’s existing DFARS 252.204-7012 regulation. 

Small Business contractors perform a wide range of requirements for the DoD, from administrative and technical work to construction and landscaping. Regardless of what area of expertise a contractor maintains, all will be required to ramp up their cybersecurity efforts under the CMMC initiative.

An interim rule that takes effect on November 30th states that there is an “urgent need for DoD to immediately begin assessing where vulnerabilities in its supply chain exist and take steps to correct such deficiencies.” The rule in the Defense Federal Acquisition Regulation Supplement (DFARS) requires defense contractors to undertake specific data security corrections through the DoD’s Basic Assessment process, which are submitted to the Supplier Risk Management System. Additionally, defense contractors are required to have certification under the CMMC framework, which assesses security processes and practices. These assessments are now to be carried out by CMMC Third-Party Assessment Organizations, rather than through self-certification.

With all that is going on in the world, the security of our nation is a priority. Cyber attacks have become increasingly dangerous and persistent and small business contractors must step up and help in an effort to keep our nation safe.

Author: Paul McVeigh


Federal Contracting in 2021: Pandemic Focus Predicted

Operation Warp Speed saw several COVID-19 vaccines approved for use just before the end of 2020, but it is clear we are not out of the water yet. As this unprecedented time continues its reign, the federal contracting market should expect the pandemic to shape the outlook for 2021. Federal Agencies contract spending in 2021 will likely be dominated by pandemic related requirements. Bloomberg Government predicted spending to be high on vaccines, telework and digital services.

Bloomberg Government published a report earlier this month about the landscape for federal contracts as the new year begins and the new Biden administration prepares to take over. This comes after civilian agencies’ contract spending hit a record high of $228 billion in fiscal 2020––an increase of 17% ($33.5 billion) from 2019––mainly due to the pandemic.

According to the Bloomberg report, “legislators are considering future economic stimulus spending that could replenish disbursement to select agencies such as the Small Business Administration.” With an additional stimulus package still possible, the landscape for the federal contracting market is largely uncertain, though a pandemic focus and small business inclusion seems to be a good bet.

Besides the pandemic, another major trend Bloomberg predicted is an increase in agency spending on artificial intelligence initiatives in fiscal 2021. “The GSA’s AI Center of Excellence and the Pentagon’s Joint AI Center are aimed at speeding the adoption of AI technologies by civilian and defense agencies, respectively, while the departments of Energy and Veterans Affairs have opened AI research offices,” said the report. “Meanwhile, federal contract spending on AI is on pace to grow by almost 50%, according to BGOV projections, reaching $3 billion in fiscal 2021.”

Author: Paul McVeigh


2020 Government Contracting Trends

The pandemic has been the major focus of 2020 in all areas of our lives and the government contracting market was not exempt. These are unprecedented times; every market has been affected by COVID and its presence has forced all of us to adapt. This year in government contracting seems to be yet another record year as far as spending. With the year not quite over yet, it would be premature to declare this feat, however, with 2019 spending exceeding $600B and marking a fourth-straight year of spending increase, 2020 has a shot at a fifth. After all, we the people played a huge part in responding to the demands of the virus, and the government spent a lot of money and sought the help of contractors in its attempt to mitigate.

The federal contracting market has seen some trends this year that are worth noting, some related to COVID and others not. Below are some of said trends provided by Washington Technology:

  • Incumbents Remained Entrenched – With the pandemic, many government agencies were reluctant to move contracts away from incumbents this year. This resulted in less opportunities for small and medium sized companies to expand to new client spaces. It remains to be seen if this trend will continue into 2021 especially given the changing administration.
  • Pricing Became More Competitive – As federal agencies worked through budget constraints, the need for price competitive bids increased in 2020. This forced companies to “prune and tune” throughout the year in an effort to remain at price points that were often tight to begin with.
  • More of a Focus on Best in Class Vehicles – For a few years now, the federal government has been pushing agencies to access best-in-class (BIC) government-wide acquisition contracts (GWACs) to increase their buying power and access to pre-vetted industry partners. In general, this has been a positive for mature small businesses and should continue to expand in the coming year. OASIS, STARS III, CIO-SP4, Polaris and a multitude of other vehicles are becoming more prevalent in federal contracting.
  • New Business and Networking Became Harder – This was mostly due to the pandemic. Meeting prospects and providing capability briefings was much harder in 2020 as there was little opportunity for in-person meetings. It is much harder to make new connections and provide a clear view into company culture and compatibility through Zoom or Google Meet.
  • The Importance of Being “Employee-Centric” – It is no secret that talent is at a premium in today’s federal contracting market. In 2020, employers offered flexible work schedules, increased benefits and telework to attract and retain top employees even before COVID hit hard in March. These benefits certainly help attract qualified candidates. However, a more “employee centric” work environment is key for employee satisfaction. This can include processes and procedures that ensure open communication and positive feedback. It also means offering flexibility in terms of schedules and projects that a team member is assigned. This is a trend that will continue going forward.
  • Teaming was on the rise – There was an uptick in teaming and joint ventures as smaller contractors looked to market collective capabilities and large primes saw more attractive opportunities in the set-aside arena. Teaming arrangements have been becoming more popular over the last several years in federal contracting, and for good reason. Teaming helps contractors gain access, minimize risk, increase knowledge and offer a more competitive price point. In fact, small businesses often find that teaming is the most effective way to compete and thrive in the federal market.

Author: Paul McVeigh


NDAA 2020 Small Business Implications

The National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) is a one-stop-shop for legislation and provisions pertaining to all agencies. These range from cybersecurity to acquisition to management. Congress passed the 2021 NDAA conference report December 3, 2020.

The NDAA is enormous, so let us look at how small business contractors will be affected by the new legislation. There are several provisions that attempt to improve the procurement environment for small businesses. The NDAA included a provision requiring training of contracting officers and others in the acquisition community on best practices for buying goods and services from small firms and ways to avoid conflicts with the requirements of the Small Business Act.

Lawmakers also officially transferred oversight of the service-disabled veteran-owned small business certification requirements to the Small Business Administration from the Department of Veterans Affairs. The NDAA requires this transfer to happen within two years.

Congress continues to give joint ventures of small businesses more power. In Section 868 of the NDAA, lawmakers said agencies should consider the past performance of these efforts as first tier subcontractors. The move to use first tier subcontractor experience has long been a goal of small business advocacy groups. This seems like a first step in an important change.

Author: Paul McVeigh


DOD taking renewed interest in blockchain amid COVID-19 pandemic

Midst the COVID-19 pandemic, health executives in the Defense Department are once again looking at the potential use cases for blockchain. The distribution ledger technology has seen pockets of implementation in federal health agencies. On Wednesday, Bruce Doll, the assistant vice president for technology research and Innovation at DoD’s Uniformed Services University, said that the Military Health System should consider blockchain for everything from credentialing providers at clinics to tracking the distribution of a COVID vaccine as part of Operation Warp Speed.

Doll said on Wednesday during a virtual health IT conference hosted by Federal Computer Week that “You certainly want to be in a situation where you are able to track, whether it’s from Pfizer or Moderna, all the way to delivery to the patient, what is actually the quality of that series of steps.”

By using machine learning and AI, Doll said defense health agencies could clean and evaluate its fitness for use to reduce the risk of bad data making its way into the blockchain. “The idea of identifying friend or foe is elemental to environments that we work in, and then those identifications may only take seconds before a decision has to be made,” Doll said. “Having blockchain operating in that environment, so that you can actually have commands that can be conveyed forward in the field and then evaluated for correctness… would be a great advantage.”

The report proposed the DoD consider using blockchain to reduce single points in failure on the battlefield or in emergency decision-making situations. The commissioned report also recommended that DoD consider blockchain to improve the efficiency of its logistics and supply chains.

The Department of Health and Human Services has pioneered the use of blockchain in government. HHS in 2018 gained the first authority to operate an a blockchain and AI-powered tool called HHS Accelerate.

Author: Chandni Mandaviya