An interview with the Pentagon’s small-business director

November 14, 2014 by

Andre Gudger has heard the argument many times that, as he puts it, “small businesses don’t build planes and ships and nuclear weapons.”

It’s his job — or at least part of it — to change that perception.

A Maryland native, Gudger has been the director of the Defense Department’s Office of Small Business Programs since 2011. During the three years prior to his arrival, the share of the agency’s contracts awarded to small companies had shrunk every year. Moreover, in the more than three decades since federal small-business contracting goals had been put in place, the agency had never once accomplished them.

In the three years since, even amid budgetary constraints, small-business participation in Defense Department projects has expanded each year. In fact, this past year, the agency for the first time eclipsed not only its small-business goal, but also the federal government’s target, awarding roughly 23.4 percent of defense contracting dollars, representing about $53 billion, to small employers.

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IG reports continued weaknesses in small business reporting and 8(a) program

November 13, 2014 by

The Office of the Inspector General (IG) of the U.S. Small Business Administration reports on 11 weaknesses in a range of SBA programs.  Two of the “challenges” identified in the Oct. 17, 2014 report pertain directly to small business participation in federal contracting:

  • Procurement flaws allow large firms to obtain small business awards, and allow agencies to count contracts performed by large firms towards their small business goals.
  • The SBA needs to modify the Section 8(a) Business Development  Program so more firms receive business development assistance, standards for  determining economic disadvantage are justifiable, and the SBA ensures that firms follow 8(a) regulations when completing contracts.

SBA - IGThe IG’s full document, entitled “Report on the Most Serious Management and Performance Challenges Facing the Small Business Administration In Fiscal Year 2015″ can be downloaded here, but the text of the IG’s finding on the two point just cited appears below.

Procurement Reporting

The Small Business Act established a Government-wide goal that 23 percent of the total value of all prime contracts be awarded to small businesses each fiscal year. As the advocate for small business, the SBA should strive to ensure that only small firms obtain and perform small business awards. Further, the SBA should ensure that procuring agencies accurately report contracts awarded to small businesses when representing their progress in meeting small business contracting goals.

In September 2014, we issued a report that identified over $400 million in FY 2013 contract actions that may
have been awarded to ineligible firms. We also identified over $1.5 billion dollars in contract actions for
which the firms were in the 8(a) or HUBZone programs at the time of contract award, but were no longer in
these programs in FY 2013. Previous OIG audits and other Government studies have shown widespread
misreporting by procuring agencies, since many contract awards that were reported as having gone to small
firms have actually been performed by larger companies. While some contractors may misrepresent or
erroneously calculate their size, most of the incorrect reporting results from errors made by Government
contracting personnel, including misapplication of small business contracting rules. In addition, contracting
officers do not always review the on-line certifications that contractors enter into Government databases
prior to awarding contracts. The SBA should ensure that procuring agencies accurately report contracts
awarded to small businesses when representing their progress in meeting small business contracting goals,
and that contracting personnel are reviewing on-line certifications prior to awarding contracts.

The SBA revised its regulations to require firms to meet the size standard for each specific order to address a
loophole within General Services Administration Multiple Awards Schedule (MAS) contracts, which contain
multiple industrial codes that determine the size of the company. Previously, a company awarded an MAS
contract could identify itself as a small business on individual task orders awarded under that contract, even
though it did not meet the size criteria for the applicable task. Thus, agencies received small business credit
for using a firm classified as small, when the firm was not small for specific orders under the MAS contract. In
addition, the SBA submitted a final rule to the Federal Acquisition Regulations (FAR) Council to implement the
changes made to its regulations in the FAR. The SBA also updated its standard operating procedure (SOP) to
ensure consistency in conducting its surveillance reviews to assess Federal agencies’ management of their
small business programs and compliance with regulations and applicable procedures.

While the SBA has made substantial progress on this challenge, we are working with the Agency to verify that
the surveillance reviews were conducted in a thorough and consistent manner.


8(a) Program

The SBA’s 8(a) Business Development (BD) Program was created to assist eligible small disadvantaged
business concerns to compete in the American economy through business development. Previously, the
SBA did not place adequate emphasis on business development to enhance the ability of 8(a) firms to
compete, and did not adequately ensure that only 8(a) firms with economically disadvantaged owners in
need of business development remained in the program. Companies that were “business successes”
were allowed to remain in the program and continue to receive 8(a) contracts, causing fewer companies
to receive most of the 8(a) contract dollars and many to receive none.

The SBA has made progress towards addressing issues that hinder its ability to deliver an effective 8(a)
BD Program. For example, the SBA expanded its ability to provide assistance to program participants
through its resource partners—small business development centers, service corps of retired executives,
and procurement technical assistance centers. In addition, the SBA has taken steps to ensure business
opportunity specialists assess program participants’ business development needs during site visits. The
SBA also revised its regulations, effective March 2011, to ensure that companies deemed “business
successes” graduate from the program. These regulations also establish additional standards to address
the definition of “economic disadvantage.” Agency officials stated that the rule-making process served
as an adequate proxy to objectively and reasonably determine effective measures for economic
disadvantage, and were not aware of any reliable sources of data to determine economic disadvantage.

However, for the second consecutive year, the SBA has not completed updating its SOP for the 8(a) BD
Program to reflect the March 2011 regulatory changes. In addition, we continue to maintain that the
SBA’s standards for determining economic disadvantage are not justified or objective based on the
absence of economic analysis. In December 2011, the SBA awarded a contract to develop and deploy a
new IT system by December 2012 to assist the SBA in monitoring 8(a) program participants. However,
the new system has not been deployed, and its delivery date and capabilities are undetermined at this

Dec. 2 webinar to be held on Public Building Service’s contracting

November 12, 2014 by

The General Services Administration (GSA) invites businesses to participate in a webinar on December 2, 2014 on the subject of “Doing Business with PBS.”

The landlord for the civilian federal government, GSA’s Public Buildings Service (PBS) acquires space on behalf of the federal government through new construction and leasing, and acts as a caretaker for federal properties across the country. BS owns or leases 9,624 assets, maintains an inventory of more than 370.2 million square feet of workspace for 1.1 million federal employees, and preserves more than 481 historic properties.

Topics to be discussed in this webinar include:

  • How PBS purchases the services necessary to build and maintain buildings.
  • What Contracting Officers look for when evaluating proposals.
  • How small business can position themselves to become partners with PBS.
  • There will also be a brief preview of some upcoming projects planned by PBS.

The informational webinar is scheduled for Tuesday, December 2, 2014, from 10:00 AM to 12:00 PM EDT.

Register to reserve your webinar seat now at:
https://www4.gotomeeting .com/register/939424719

After registering you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the Webinar.

For additional info, please contact Janice Bracey at vog.asgnull@yecarb.ecinaj

System Requirements

PC-based attendees:
Required: Windows® 8, 7, Vista, XP or 2003 Server

Mac®-based attendees:
Required: Mac OS® X 10.6 or newer

Mobile attendees:
Required: iPhone®, iPad®, AndroidTM phone or Android tablet

Add these federal IT influencers to your call list

November 12, 2014 by

Technology leaders Steve VanRoekel and Todd Park have left the White House, but an important structure they helped devise and set in place remains.

usds logoThe U.S. Digital Service headed by Mikey Dickerson, leader of the well-documented turnaround, is the latest attempt to tackle perennial problems of over-budget, late, and under-functioning government IT projects. A sister effort, the Defense Department’s Better Buying Power 3.0, shares those aims, but with an acquisition process oriented approach.

VanRoekel’s Digital Government Strategy called for a group like Digital Service a couple of years ago, but has given USDS the strategic purpose of helping other government agencies get up to speed on how to develop and deploy digital services the way Silicon Valley does. Its advent should be no surprise; besides, the idea is not even original to the United States.

My advice to vendors regarding the U.S. Digital Services office is to understand it and make sure its couple dozen members understand the domains where your technology offers the best value.

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Fort Gordon schedules vendor open house on Dec. 2

November 12, 2014 by

The Army Contracting Command Office at Fort Gordon is inviting vendors to participate in its open house scheduled for Tuesday, Dec. 2, 2014.

Acquisition forecast details for 2015 will be presented.

Event details are as follows:

Date: December 02, 2014
Time: 8:00 to 11:30 a.m.
Check-In: 7:30 to 8:00 am
Place: Alexander Hall, Building 29805. Fort Gordon, GA 30905

Advance registration is required.  Instructions for registering appear on the flyer located here.

Phoney SDVOSB company ordered to pay $1 million in False Claims settlement

November 11, 2014 by

A company called North Florida Shipyards and its president, Matt Self, will pay the U.S. government $1 million to resolve allegations that they violated the False Claims Act by creating a front company, Ind-Mar Services Inc., in order to be awarded Coast Guard contracts that were designated for Service Disabled Veteran Owned Small Businesses (SDVOSBs), the Justice Department announced today.  North Florida Shipyards has facilities in Jacksonville, Florida.

To qualify as a SDVOSB on Coast Guard ship repair contracts, a company must be operated and managed by service disabled veterans and must perform at least 51 percent of the labor.  The government alleged that North Florida created Ind-Mar merely as a contracting vehicle and that North Florida performed all the work and received all the profits.  The government further alleged that if the Coast Guard and the Small Business Administration (SBA) had known that Ind-Mar was nothing but a front company, the Coast Guard would not have awarded it contracts to repair five ships.

In December 2013, the SBA suspended North Florida, Matt Self, Ind-Mar and three others from all government contracting.  In April 2014, North Florida and Matt Self entered into an administrative agreement with the SBA in which they admitted to having created and operated Ind-Mar in violation of its Coast Guard contracts and SBA statutes and regulations.

“Special programs to assist service disabled veterans are an important part of the SBA’s business development initiative,” said U.S. Attorney A. Lee Bentley III for the Middle District of Florida.  “False claims such as this undermine the integrity of this vital program and, where found, will be vigorously pursued by our Office.”

“This settlement sends a strong message to those driven by greed to fraudulently obtain access to contracting opportunities set-aside for deserving small businesses owned and operated by service disabled veterans,” said Inspector General Peggy E. Gustafson for the SBA.  “We are committed to helping ensure that only eligible service disabled veteran owned small businesses benefit from that SBA program.”

The settlement resolves allegations originally filed in a lawsuit by Robert Hallstein and Earle Yerger under the qui tam, or whistleblower provisions of the False Claims Act, which permit private individuals to sue on behalf of the government for false claims and to share in any recovery.  The act also allows the government to intervene and take over the action, as it did in this case.  Hallstein and Yerger will receive $180,000.

The claims resolved by the settlement are allegations only, except to the extent that North Florida and Matt Self have admitted to the conduct in their agreement with the SBA.

The case is captioned United States ex rel. Yerger, et al, v. North Florida Shipyards, et al., Case No. 3:11-cv-464J-32 MCR (M.D. Fla.).


$20 billion in federal purchasing done ‘under the radar’ in recent months

November 10, 2014 by

Federal agencies collectively have spent at least $20 million in small purchases just this year.  This purchasing activity occurs “under the radar” with little or no public accountability on government credit cards (“Pcards”).  Many of these purchases are questionable, such as the recent revelation that one agency used those cards to buy $30,000 in Starbucks Coffee drinks and products in one year.

Those are among the findings of the local television affiliate of NBC News in Washington, DC in connection with records obtained via the Freedom of Information Act.

The News4 I-Team reported that “the purchases, known among federal employees as ‘micropurchases,’ are made by some of the thousands of agency employees who are issued taxpayer-funded purchase cards. The purchases, in most cases, remain confidential and are not publicly disclosed by the agencies.”    Micropurchases are transactions less than $3,000.

Recent government audits show inappropriate purchases such as a gym membership, spa service, and JC Penney clothing.

Two federal agencies — the General Services Administration (GSA) and the Department of the Interior — shared information about their Pcard purchases with the television news station, but several other agencies refused to do so.  Among those agencies declining to make their records public are the Department of Veterans Affairs, the Environmental Protection Agency, the U.S. Dept. of Transportation, the State Department, the Department of Health and Human Services, and the Department of Homeland Security.

Reasons for not making public their micropurchase records ranged from claims that there are no rules making such purchasing public to not having records in a centralized database.

The complete news report can be seen at:

Georgia Tech honored for economic development efforts

November 10, 2014 by

The Georgia Institute of Technology received an "Innovation" award from the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities for its statewide economic development efforts in a number of sectors. Accepting the award are (l-r), Lynn Durham, assistant vice president; Robert Knotts, director of federal relations; Chris Downing, associate vice president, Enterprise Innovation Institute, and William "Bill" Schafer, vice president of student affairs.

The Georgia Institute of Technology received an “Innovation” award from the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities for its statewide economic development efforts in a number of sectors. Accepting the award are (l-r), Lynn Durham, assistant vice president; Robert Knotts, director of federal relations; Chris Downing, associate vice president, Enterprise Innovation Institute, and William “Bill” Schafer, vice president of student affairs.

The Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU) named the Georgia Institute of Technology and three other public institutions of higher learning its winners of the 2014 Innovation and Economic Prosperity Universities (IEP) Awards.

Tech received the “Innovation” award for its technology-based focus in its economic development efforts. Tech’s Enterprise Innovation Institute (EI2), its key statewide business outreach and economic development arm, is a critical component of those efforts, as well as commercialization of inventions, and other initiatives. The award follows APLU’s designation of Tech as an Innovation and Economic Prosperity University earlier this summer.

The IEP awards, announced Monday, Nov. 3, in Orlando, highlight the efforts of APLU’s member institutions to beef up economic development in their states through a number of initiatives, including innovation and entrepreneurship, technology transfer, talent and workforce development, and other efforts.

Along with Tech, APLU recognized the University of Massachusetts- Boston, North Carolina State University, and the University of Houston.


Start the New Year with a GSA Schedule

November 8, 2014 by

2015 can be the year your business wins a GSA Schedule contract.


Start the New Year off right by attending Georgia Tech’s GSA Schedule Proposal Preparation Workshop.   It will be held on January 26 and 27, 2015 on the midtown Atlanta campus.  (Click here to register.)

Since the Workshop was launched in 2014, folks have traveled from 10 states to attend the GSA Schedule Workshop, sponsored by the Contracting Education Academy at Georgia Tech. Every single businessperson who’s attended has either prepared their proposal or successfully submitted it to GSA for award.

What Attendees Are Saying

Post-Workshop evaluations show that 100% of attendees say the Workshop met or exceeded their expectations.  Here are typical statements made by attendees:

  • “I received a vast amount of information on how to apply for a GSA Schedule contract.  I valued the one-on-one question-answering provided by the instructors.”
  • “I expected a canned presentation consisting of a lot of theoretical advice, but I received practical and specific help to understand the GSA application.  I really valued the instructor’s knowledge and communication skills.”
  • “This workshop provided excellent advice and training, walking through all the documents in detail.  I valued the relaxed environment, the ability to work at my own pace, and the ability to ask lots of questions.”
  • “I now have a complete understanding of the step-by-step process to complete my company’s proposal to the GSA.  The workbook, examples, templates, and the presentation – all very well put together.”
  • “I expected a great presentation from Georgia Tech, but was afraid of information overload.  The presenter and the presentation were fantastic …. I now have a much clearer idea of how to get on a GSA Schedule.”
  • “I received one-on-one assistance with filling-out various proposal forms and walking through the submission and upload process.  Fantastic!”
  • “I received significant information and background on what GSA reviewers and contracting officers are looking for, and I valued the forms for completing my GSA Schedule proposal and building my pricing.”

The Facts about GSA Schedules

Is your company considering going after a GSA Schedule contract?  Maybe you should consider these facts:

  • The federal General Services Administration (GSA) awards about $50 billion in blanket contracts known as “Schedules” to hundreds of companies each year.
  • Eighty percent (80%) of Schedule contractors are small businesses who are successful at 36% of those sales.

The process to win a GSA Schedule contract begins with a proposal, an arduous task that often takes several months to prepare. But, now, thanks to Georgia Tech’s Workshop, a GSA proposal can be actually completed during the Workshop.   If a business is not prepared to submit all the documentation at the time of the Workshop, the GSA proposal preparation process easily can be shortened to within 30 days following the Workshop.

Workshop Benefits

By attending Georgia Tech’s GSA Schedule Proposal Preparation Workshop, you will:

  • Save time and money with instructor-guided, do-it-yourself approach.
  • Avoid mistakes that can delay or stop a GSA Schedule proposal from being considered.
  • Receive expert guidance, hands-on personal help, and answers to all of your questions.
  • Be given access to exclusive templates and sample narratives based on successful GSA Schedule offers.
  • Receive up to 4 hours of individual consulting after the Workshop to review your package and receive further advice.
  • Earn 15 Continuing Professional Education (CPE) credits.

Registration Details

Remember, January 26 and 27 is your next chance to attend.  Don’t miss out!  To register for the Workshop, simply click here. If you have questions or need further information, please email ude.hcetag.ymedacAgnitcartnoCnull@ofni.

GSA Schedule Contract

Is the SBA ‘searching for reasons to deny’ women 8(a) status?

November 7, 2014 by

The SBA’s course of conduct in reviewing the 8(a) applications of companies owned by women “gives the distinct impression that the SBA is simply searching for reasons to deny every claim” of social disadvantage made by women applicants.

These strong words come from a recent SBA Office of Hearings and Appeals decision, in which OHA again overturned the SBA’s denial of a woman-owned business’s 8(a) application.

SBA OHA’s decision in Matter of Ironwood Commercial Builders, Inc., SBA No. BDPE-532 (2014) involved the 8(a) application of Ironwood Builders, Inc., a company owned by Nancy Brinkerhoff.  Ironwood applied to the 8(a) program in February 2012.

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