Steps to Follow for Federal Contractors to Continue Working During COVID- 19 Pandemic

We’ve heard a lot about COVID-19 (Coronavirus) lately, and the mountain of misinformation that has followed in its wake. We’re struggling to figure out what is fact and what is fiction. But we probably can lend a hand in understanding the impact of the current health emergency on federal contracts.

Accordingly, we offer the following guidelines to help you prepare for any potential COVID-19 impact on your federal business (and to give you all something to read while you wait in line for your hand sanitizer, surgical masks, and latex gloves).

Communicate early. If you hold contracts that could be impacted by coronavirus, in terms of performance, schedule, or cost, reach out to your CO sooner rather than later. Among other things, explore mutually acceptable ways to handle issues relating to the virus, e.g., employees at Government facilities unable to report to work, shortages of staff delaying performance, inability to access Government facilities, among other potential issues that may derive from the impact of the virus.

Provide timely notice. Be sure to notify your CO promptly, and memorialize it in writing, if you believe your performance will be impacted by the virus. Make sure your personnel know to bring such situations to your attention as soon as they know.

Document everything. You should document any increased costs or delays attributable to the virus, and more generally, document how the virus impacts your performance.

Consider trying to recover or offset your increased costs. If you experience increased costs on your ongoing contracts, consider requesting a contract modification to cover those costs. If you are a commercial items contractor selling at fixed prices or rates, consider requesting an Economic Price Adjustment under your contract’s EPA clause. The standard EPA clause gives a contracting officer discretion to approve unscheduled increases due to surprising national/international events.

Review your sick-leave policy. Many contractors, like many companies, give their employees only limited sick leave. At the same time, having employees attend work because they are out of sick-leave creates significant risk – whether those workers work at a Government site or a company site. Contractors should consider how they plan to handle sick employees who are unwilling to stay home, or employees who need to stay home to care for a loved one.

Equip your employees to work remotely. Contractors should consider providing technology that allows employees to work from home, a laptop with VPN access to your systems, if remote work is permitted under the applicable contract. If the contract does not permit remote work – and some federal contracts do not – then consider reaching out to the CO to discuss modifying the contract. In either case, communicate with your employees now. Give them an action plan. A simple reminder to bring their laptop home with them every day (if allowed) could go a long way.

Consider your cybersecurity obligations if you have personnel working from home. Remember, your federal contracts bring with them a number of cybersecurity rules. For example, your federal contracts may incorporate data security provisions requiring that sensitive information be maintained on secure systems with specific protections.

Be prepared for novel customer requests. Like contractors, federal agencies are struggling to adapt to the realities of a Corona-fueled purchasing and performance landscape. As federal agencies contemplate sending their own employees to work at home, they are going to face a host of questions not contemplated by their current contracts.

Understand GSA’s Cooperative Purchasing Program. If you are a GSA Schedule contractor, keep in mind that state, local, territorial, and tribal government are authorized to purchase through the MAS program when the Government declares a Public Health Emergency. The Government declared a PHE at the end of January. Accordingly, state, local, territorial, and tribal governments that previously were not permitted to make Schedule purchases now may be permitted to make such purchases through GSA’s Cooperative Purchasing Program.

Look around. Companies are being proactive. United Airlines just sent an email to its customers outlining the steps the company is taking to keep them safe and keep them flying. Among other things, United now is wiping armrests and tray-tables with sanitizing wipes between flights. As these things become the norm, equivalent steps, tailored to the given industry, will be expected of other companies as well. No one wants to be implicated in an outbreak caused by a failure to adhere to industry “best practices.”

In addition to the foregoing, federal contractors, like all companies, will be well served by developing a detailed plan of action. Think through the various ways coronavirus could impact performance, schedule, and/or cost, and develop a concrete mitigation plan. The earlier you get started on that, the better off you’ll be down the road.

Obviously, we’re dealing here with a “live event,” and the facts continue to change. The steps outlined above, however, should keep you ahead of the curve at least contractually. Of course, these are not bible steps a company has to follow. Every contract, every company is dealing with the pandemic situation differently and considering their plan of actions.

Author: Prasanna Haresh Patil


Early FY 2021 Budget – Where is the Money

In February, the White House released an early look at the Fiscal Year 2021 budget. This early look is a great indicator for small business government contracting firms looking to make strategic adjustments. No surprise, the IT industry gets the lion’s share. The figure? $92 Billion. That is a 5% increase.

With the Unites States looking to get ahead of the tech curve in areas like 5G, Cloud Computing, Cyber Security, Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning, the monetary requirement plays a huge factor. Federal civilian agencies would receive a combined %53.4 billion, while the Defense Department would receive $38.8 billion.

The biggest question for government contracting firms would easily be, “Where is the money?” Agencies seeing a notable increase in IT-specific funding are departments of Veterans Affairs (27%), Energy (18%), State (16%) Health and Human Services (14%), and Education (14%).

On the opposite end, the General Services Administration, Department of Transportation, and Department of Commerce all saw a decrease in IT funding.

Author: Paul McVeigh


Artificial Intelligence in Federal Agencies

The Administrative Conference of the United States commissioned the report, titled “Government by Algorithm: Artificial Intelligence in Federal Administrative Agencies,” from researchers at Stanford and New York Universities. Released in February, it found that 45% of federal agencies have experimented with AI and related machine learning tools and that those agencies are already improving operations in myriad ways, such as monitoring risks to public health and safety and enforcing regulations on environmental protection. “The growing sophistication of and interest in artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) is among the most important contextual changes for federal agencies during the past few decades,” the report stated.

The Department of Justice’s Office of Justice Programs had 12 AI use cases — the most of the responding agencies. The Securities and Exchange Commission and NASA follow with 10 and 9, respectively. In total, the researchers documented 157 use cases across 64 agencies after studying 142 federal departments, agencies and subagencies.

More broadly, the top three policy areas where AI is used were law enforcement, health and financial regulation. In terms of government tasks, regulatory research, analysis and monitoring clocked in at about 80 use cases, while enforcement had about 55, and public services and engagement had about 35. The report also found that agencies were at different stages of AI and ML use. Fifty-three use cases, or 33%, were fully deployed, whereas roughly 60 were in the planning phase and about 45 were piloting or have partially deployed. More than half — 53% — of the AI and ML use cases were developed in-house, while roughly a third were built by commercial contractors and about 13% involved collaboration with non-commercial entities such as an academic lab.

One agency that uses AI for enforcement is SEC, which has a suite of algorithmic tools to identify violators of securities laws. For example, to detect fraud in accounting and financial reporting, the agency developed the Corporate Issuer Risk Assessment, which has a dashboard of about 200 metrics that can find anomalies in the financial reporting of more than 7,000 corporate issuers of securities. An ML tool identifies filers who might be engaging in suspicious activities by using historical data to predict possible misconduct. Two other tools — the Advanced Relational Trading Enforcement Metrics Investigation System and the Abnormal Trading and Link Analysis System — look for suspicious trading. ARTEMIS hunts for potential serial insider trading offenders by using an electronic database of more than 6 billion electronic equities and options trading records to study patterns and relationships among traders. ATLAS analyzes for first-time offenders.

Author: Prasanna Haresh Patil


State prepares for Coronavirus: Starting from Federal Government

The West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources’ Bureau for Public Health is continuing to prepare for the spread of COVID-19 — more commonly known as the coronavirus — as the federal government increases its response to the disease. There are no reported cases or investigations of coronavirus in West Virginia. The bureau said Wednesday the immediate health risk is low, but international outbreaks make it important for officials to prepare.

Gov. Jim Justice ordered the state Department of Health and Human Resources to monitor the outbreak as well as reach out to local, state and federal health officials as necessary. “We are working to ensure our health systems, emergency management agencies, first responders and county health departments are prepared and have the resources they need to respond to localized outbreaks in West Virginia communities,” said Dr. Cathy Slemp, state health officer and bureau commissioner. Officials are developing tools to prepare and respond to localized outbreaks if needed. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Wednesday disclosed a new COVID-19 case in California which could be the first American case involving the general population.

Author: Prasanna Haresh Patil


Federal IT Assessments: Small Business Concerns

TRAs and TRLs

How do federal agencies know when a new technology is mature enough or safe enough to implement? Worse than remaining stagnant with antiquated software can be the disastrous consequences of investing in an immature new tech. For branches of the military and NASA, these risks are well known and have been accounted for throughout the last few decades.

With the continuous rapid increase of technology of late, other federal agencies and program management offices are looking for a solution to the question, “When is technology safe to implement?” That answer has been provided by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) with the release of their “Technology Readiness Assessment (TRA) Guide,” and more recently by the Air Force Research Laboratory who developed a “Technology Readiness Level (TRL) Calculator.”

Using the guide provided by GAO, agencies can generate a report that can help decision makers decide whether or not a prescribed TRL goal has been achieved, or highlight areas of potential risk. These methods may prove to be critical for the success of future projects and missions. They may also prove critical for those government contractors looking to provide tech solutions to federal agencies.

Implications for Small Businesses

It would behoove small business government contracting firms to understand this process which is becoming more commonplace in a better-connected federal marketplace. Previously, cyber-security certifications had been discussed as potential barriers-to-entry for small businesses looking to compete in government contracting, but now the ability for agencies to utilize these new methods of evaluation for technical solutions may prove to be an additional hurdle.

The moral of the story is that the landscape is always changing. To remain competitive, small business contractors have to play to their strengths and use the responsiveness enjoyed by small organizations to get out in front of the growing technical hurdles that are so frequently materializing. Knowledge is power, so small businesses should strive to stay in-the-know and leverage that to win contracts.

Author: Paul McVeigh


Federal Contractors to Be Limited on Criminal Background Checks

Private employers with federal contracts will soon be prohibited from requesting criminal history information from candidates at the onset of the hiring process; instead, they will have to wait until after an offer is made.

The Fair Chance to Compete for Jobs Act of 2019 (Act) was discreetly tucked into the Defense Spending Bill approved on December 20, 2019. The Act is part of a growing national trend of “Ban the Box” laws, referring to the question on job applications asking whether a candidate has been convicted of a crime. Ban the Box laws largely have bipartisan support and, according to the National Employment Law Project, have been approved in 35 states and more than 150 cities across the United States.

As of March 31, 2017, the U.S. Office of Personnel Management already required most federal agencies to wait until the conditional offer stage of the hiring process to request criminal history information from a job candidate. The Act supersedes this regulation and applies the prohibition to both the federal government and now certain private employers.

Specifically, the Act prohibits private employers that contract with the federal government from requesting criminal history information, including arrests and convictions, from candidates for positions within the scope of the federal contracts until after the conditional offer stage.

A “conditional offer” means an offer that is conditioned upon the results of a criminal history inquiry. The Act does not entirely prevent federal contractors from seeking criminal history information, nor does it impose specific standards or requirements on how the employer uses that information. It only delays the inquiry timing until after a conditional offer has been made.

The Act is crafted so that it only applies to prime contractors and to those employees performing work for the federal government on a federal contract. The language is specifically limited to those who “submit a bid for a contract” and those “receiving a Federal Contract and receiving payments” from the federal government on those contracts.

The Act is intended to be consistent with and not supersede or restrict the application of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits employment discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex and national origin, or other relevant federal civil rights laws. Penalties for violating the Act range from a written warning for the first violation up to suspending payment under the federal contract for subsequent violations.

Critical to the Act, and to most of the state and local Ban the Box laws, is that it includes exceptions to the law. This particular Act does not apply to positions involving access to classified information, law enforcement, or national security positions. Within 16 months of the enactment of the Act, the Administrator of General Services, in consultation with the Secretary of Defense, must issue regulations identifying additional positions to which the prohibitions do not apply, giving consideration to positions involving interactions with minors, access to sensitive information, or managing financial transactions.

The decision to prohibit inquiries into criminal histories at any early stage of the hiring process is intended to help qualified workers with arrest or conviction records compete fairly for employment in federal agencies and with federal contractors. A study in 2019 conducted by Daniel Shoag of Case Western University and Stan Veuger of the American Enterprise Institute found the policy of banning criminal history questions increased employment by 4% in the nation’s most criminalized neighborhoods (i.e., neighborhoods with the highest concentrations of people with records).

The Defense Spending Bill included two other laws which affect the federal government and its employees. The Defense Spending Bill included a 3.1% average federal pay raise increase for federal employees and a paid parental leave program for all federal workers. The program allows federal employees up to 12 weeks of paid time off for the birth, adoption, or foster care of a new child. The paid parental program will begin in October 2020.

The federal government joins several states including California, New Jersey, and New York, which already offer paid parental or sick leave. The Family and Medical Leave Act requires employers with 50 or more employees to offer employees up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave to attend to their own or close family member’s serious health condition or for the birth or adoption of a child, among other things. The Defense Spending Bill’s paid parental leave program only covers leave for the care of a new baby after birth, adoption, or the start of foster care; it does not cover care for a sick relative or oneself.

The Act does not take effect until December 2021, two years from the date of enactment. Nonetheless, employers that contract with the federal government should consider revising their employment applications now to remove questions regarding a candidate’s criminal history. Federal contractors should also begin training management to not ask this question prior to a conditional offer of employment being made. For all other employers, check your state and/or local laws to see whether a Ban the Box law has been passed.

Author: Prasanna Haresh Patil


Core Value Focus: Teamwork

 “Coming together is a beginning, staying together is progress and working together is success.” – Henry Ford

There may be no “I” in team, but being part of a team can help you grow. “By sharing information and essentially cross training each other, each individual member of the team can flourish,” says John Murphy, a specialist in business transformation and author of Pulling Together: 10 Rules for High-Performance Teamwork. You might discover new concepts from colleagues with different experiences. You can also learn from someone else’s mistakes.

 Teamwork is the combined action of a group of people, especially when effective and efficient. At Sabre88 we strive to uphold a company culture of teamwork, selflessness and cooperation. Our back office hosts a modern open office layout, which is being adopted by many large companies in hopes of improving their teamwork. For us at the back office it allows for fluid communication and a friendly, open atmosphere. The practice of prioritizing teamwork resonates not just through the back office. Paul McVeigh, a member of the Sabre88 back office resonates this as he speaks on our office community.

“Our office community is a team. We are a collection of individuals who come together to achieve goals that help the business grow and thrive. To do this, we communicate effectively and efficiently through multiple avenues, making sure to keep everyone in the loop. Both professional and casual communication is encouraged, and this helps build relationships and ultimately strengthens the team. Our “Morning Huddle” is a great example of using communication to forge interpersonal bonds, as we take time each morning to discuss a topic brought by a different team member each day”.

Teamwork is a core value of Sabre88 because of the inherent understanding that strong teamwork raises productivity and happiness. There are many benefits to teamwork, for one, teamwork lowers stress and increases creativity, according to 61% of an interviewed population. When people with different perspectives come together in group brainstorms, innovative ideas rise to the surface with one caveat. Research shows this can only happen when communication within the team is open and collaborative. Sabre88 believes in establishing training and development support mechanisms that will enable the organization to succeed. Consequently, this means the implementation of innovative training measures that expand the knowledge base of all personnel that can address potential weaknesses, develop consistent performance metrics and create overall employee satisfaction.

When asked about Sabre88’s training methods Paul said, “I appreciate Sabre88’s training initiative. I rather enjoy the online trainings which are educational, interactive and mostly fun. They also offer certificates upon completion that can be kept and shown off! Personally, I enjoy going over opportunity scoring methods with my coworkers. We do it in such a way that we are consistently sharpening each other’s skills, helping the effectiveness of the team grow each meeting”. We can all find times within our daily regime at Sabre88 that we rely on the help of others, finding new methods to operate more successfully aligns with our core values and team mentality.

“Talent wins games, but teamwork and intelligence win championships.” – Michael Jordan

“Each individual has unique gifts, and talents and skills,” says Murphy, “When we bring them to the table and share them for a common purpose, it can give companies a real competitive advantage”. The consulting firm McKinsey & Company backs this up in a recent study. It found teams made up of members from diverse backgrounds are more creative and perform better by up to 35 percent, compared to more homogeneous teams. Research from Tufts University suggests that just being exposed to diversity can shift the way you think. A study on a diverse mock jury found that interacting with individuals who are different forces people to be more open minded, and to expect that reaching consensus will take effort.

With teamwork the dream is actualized as everyone needs to motivate themselves. At Sabre88 we have a culture of self-motivation, where each individual is encouraged to grow and develop in their own fashion.

Author: Bobby Cottingham


Small Business Government Contracting in 2020

It is officially the year 2020 and that means it is time to examine what the landscape looks like in the government contracting world as we head into a new year. Some trends will inevitably remain the same, while new trends and certain procedural and legislative changes may mean revisiting the old SWOT analysis for some small business government contractors. In an effort to highlight the major players affectively shaping government contracting in 2020, let’s break it down:


No surprise here, technology is continuing to force businesses to adapt as it evolves with overwhelming rapidity. We aren’t talking flying cars yet, but many groundbreaking technologies have effectively changed the way the world does business, i.e. the cloud, AI and machine learning, blockchain, etc. As small businesses hustle to stay current and weight the pros and cons of investing in the newest tech, it is important to note which capabilities the government is looking to require for contractors when making an award.

According Bloomberg Government (BGOV), cybersecurity will become essential for contractors and their subprimes competing for certain contracts and task orders. The Department of Defense’s Cybersecurity Maturity Model Certification (CMMC) will set different levels of cybersecurity which must be met in order to be considered for various contracts. BGOV added that, “the CMMC program will create opportunities for firms to differentiate themselves based on their cyber defense postures and raise the demand for third-party assessment services”.


The government is taking steps to help small businesses remain competitive in the federal marketplace. The Small Business Runway Extension Act (HR 6330) should become effective in 2020, which extends the calculation period for receipts-based size standards for small businesses from 3 years to 5 years.

Unlocking Opportunities for Small Businesses Act of 2019 (HR 5146) will potentially help small businesses break into new markets by allowing them to use past performance from which they served as subprimes.  

Expanding Contracting Opportunities for Small Businesses Act of 2019 (HR 190) eliminates the inclusion of option years in the award price for certain sole source contracts (i.e., contracts awarded without a competitive process). Under current law, option years in the award price for such contracts limit their dollar award threshold.


As the technological and legal landscape shifts, small business government contractors must be responsive and adaptable. There are many changes that are encouraging for the future of small business government contracting, and it appears that there are many more to come. Staying current is half the battle!

Author: Paul McVeigh


Passed in the House: Unlocking Opportunities for Small Businesses Act of 2019

Image result for unlock

For small businesses hoping to unlock more opportunities to win prime contracts with federal agencies, there may be some good news from Washington. On January 8, 2020, a bill entitled, “H.R.5146 Unlocking Opportunities for Small Businesses Act of 2019,” passed the House of Representatives, and was read in the Senate the following day.

The purpose of the bill, provided on, is as follows: “To amend the Small Business Act to require contracting officers to take a small business concern’s past performance as part of a joint venture into account when evaluating the small business concern, and for other purposes.”

H.R.5146, sponsored by Representative Jim Hagedorn [R-MN-1] and cosponsored by Representative Dwight Evans [D-PA-3], seeks to fix a growing issue concerning the small business government contracting industry. Currently, small business contractors experience a great deal of difficulty expanding their scope of work, since the government will not yet officially consider past performance relevant if the work was not performed as the prime contractor. The current landscape is such that small businesses are joining together more frequently to form stronger, more competitive entities for entering the federal marketplace seeking to win government contracts. This bill aims to catch up to the times, requiring work done within these joint ventures to be considered for future competitive contracts.

This bill is the latest in the increased effort by the U.S. government to help small businesses remain competitive in the government contracting market. Legislation in the Senate (S-3038) seeks to help though greater use of Small Business Association programs and reducing barriers, and the President has signed into law (P.L. 116-103), which standardizes the financial data which agencies will use in the award process.

It is encouraging to observe such legislature achieving success. The economy may be doing well and employment situation figures may be impressive, but it is important the note that when small businesses thrive, everybody wins.

Author: Paul McVeigh


Core Value Focus: Customer Service

“The companies on this year’s Inc. 5000 have followed so many different paths to success,” says Inc. editor in chief James Ledbetter. “There’s no single course you can follow or investment you can take that will guarantee this kind of spectacular growth. But what they have in common is persistence and seizing opportunities.” Sabre88 has never tired in the pursuit of its core values, and uses them as opportunities for growth as it continues to improve upon them.

Sabre88 prides itself on our customer service. Our teamwork and open communication create a welcoming environment, while our understanding of accountability drives us. Community service is a part of our lifeblood, we aim to help the community as much as it has helped us. Our innovation-based solutions offer creative approaches to modern uses of technology and vision to reach the desired product.

Sabre88 was founded as a result of the realization of a need for innovative small businesses that can provide the government with 100% customer-focused service. Sabre88 takes pride in helping its clients improve overall business processes by tailoring best practices into replicable methodologies and by drawing on a capacity to assemble premier experts, processes, and tools tailored to its client’s individual needs. Our mission is to utilize its competitive mindset to enhance customer performance by developing new strategies after an analysis of existing organizational challenges. All of the figures that point to our growth and capabilities are second to the fact that Sabre88 provides our customers with the defined and impactful solutions to everyday problems.

Sabre88, LLC has a solid record of building strategic partnerships with the federal government to achieve mission-focused solutions. Sabre88 believes that building trusting relationships with the clients that it serves is critical to both organization’s success. Sabre88 takes a hands-on approach to serve its clients by making quarterly visits to clients and onsite personnel to identify possible problem areas and gain a deeper insight into the organizational culture. Additionally, the project managers on-site maintain crucial relationships with our customers, Project Manager Rossemery Duran exemplifies the culture we are trying to create saying, “Working in the same facility as the client has allowed my team and me to maintain constant and open lines of communication. I communicate with the client on a daily basis to ensure that they are receiving exceptional support. If any issues arise, I work with the client to rectify the issue as soon as possible”.  Sabre88’s proven ability to help government leaders manage large-scale initiatives and achieve mission goals is unsurpassed in its fervent commitment to the objectives of clients 24 hours a day, 7 days per week. Far too often government requirements are fulfilled by hand- off contractors who lack the technical understanding and the management capabilities to satisfy task directives. Consequently, this leads to dissatisfied clients and growing distrust between federal agencies and contractors who attempt to support them. Sabre88, LLC has displayed a unique aptitude for bridging this gap to meet and satisfy the needs of Sabre88 clients and personnel. For Sabre88, this unique outlook in approach is the foundation of the company’s sustainability and growth which allows the organization to not just win new opportunities but develop exclusive and individualized partnerships based on a customer’s unique circumstances. We strive to maintain this company culture through our entire community, our project managers work hard to maintain strong relationships with our customers, “The client’s needs are always my top priority. I ensure that my team is aware that we need to be flexible in order to adapt to any of the changes that the client may have”. Good customer service starts with flexibility, insight, and resourcefulness. Throughout the organization, we strive to maintain and improve our skills with this core value with every experience.

Author: Bobby Cottingham