March 18, 2013 by cs
A software glitch in the government procurement system for contractor work exposed significant amounts of personal and private data of individuals and companies — including Social Security, business tax identification and bank account numbers — open for viewing. The problem could leave many individuals and companies potentially open to a significant threat of identity theft.
The General Services Administration sent an email to parties registered on the System for Award Management, or SAM, on Friday, warning them of the problem, according to a copy obtained by MoneyWatch. The message states that registered SAM users with the proper set of assigned rights “had the ability to view any entity’s registration information, including both public and non-public data at all sensitivity levels.”
SAM is an attempt to consolidate multiple government procurement systems. It is part of a major e-government presidential initiative from 2002 that was expected to take until 2015 to complete and that had spent $54.8 million in fiscal year 2012. IBM is the contractor that build the system and the GSA has had concerns about the software’s performance.
Contractors must provide extensive detailed information about themselves or their organizations, including bank account numbers for payment transfers, tax payer identification and contact details. Such information can be used by criminals to steal the identity of individuals or even corporations. Identity theft is difficult to correct once it happens.
According to a GSA bulletin, the software problem was actually discovered on March 8, 2013, and fixed two days later. However, there is no information posted on how long the vulnerability existed, how many people might have been identified, or even if the software had been written in such a way to identify whose records might have been accessed. The GSA notes that it is undertaking a “full security review” of the system.
Keep reading this article at: http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-505124_162-57574681/gsa-system-shows-contractors-private-information/
March 11, 2013 by cs
To speed eligibility determinations of Veteran-owned small businesses for Department of Veterans Affairs’ “Veterans First” contracts, VA will allow applicants the opportunity to correct minor deficiencies before an initial denial is issued. Starting May 1, VA will begin providing preliminary findings to applicants before completing a comprehensive review of their submissions. This is expected to greatly reduce the number of VA’s initial denials and subsequent requests for reconsideration from companies.
“A large percentage of verification denials are due to single points of failure that can be easily and quickly corrected. This improved process will enable us to bring more deserving Veteran business owners into VA’s system,” said Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki. “Our Center for Veterans Enterprise (CVE) will refine and measure the new process through pilot testing that has begun.”
Firms that would be denied based on easily corrected issues will receive a preliminary finding before a determination letter of eligibility is issued. They will have 48 hours to respond with their intent to correct and resubmit the documents within a specified timeframe. All Veteran-owned companies receiving preliminary findings will be encouraged to work with verification-assistance counselors to address identified issues that might result in denial.
CVE has initiated a series of limited pilots to exercise and refine this new process for applying for verification as a Veteran-owned small business. The program is aimed at eliminating a large percentage of verification denials that are due to single points of failure.
As VA has improved the program and processes, the average time to initial determination has been reduced from more than 130 days during the summer of 2011 to an average of 46 days for those applications completed last month.
This is the most recent initiative aimed at improving the verification process. In June 2012, Secretary Shinseki announced that VA would double the amount of time – from one year to two years – before the owners of service-disabled, Veteran-owned small businesses and Veteran-owned small businesses had to re-verify their status with VA.
The next generation Verification Case Management System (VCMS) is currently under development, with an estimated contract award for a new system in May 2013. This will be a phased program with initial operational capability expected in October 2013.
In addition to the current Verification Assistance program elements, a fourth dimension to the program will launch with the pilot of VA’s first Pre-Application workshop for Veterans on March 13, 2013, at an event hosted by the SDVOSB Council in Virginia. This workshop will outline what a Veteran needs to know and do to put together a successful verification application.
VA encourages feedback on the process and will post additional information and the listing of easily correctable issues on http://www.vetbiz.gov/. CVE has also established a help desk service to address questions at 202-303-3260.
Posted on Mar. 5, 2013 at http://www.va.gov/opa/pressrel/pressrelease.cfm?id=2431
March 6, 2013 by cs
The Department of Defense (DoD) has issued a notice that DoD has discontinued its temporary practice of providing accelerated payments to all contractors. This new rule is found at 78 FedReg 12745, issued on Feb. 25, 2013.
DoD originally provided notice in the Federal Register at 77 FedReg 63298, on October 16, 2012, that it had taken steps to accelerate payments to all DoD prime contractors, in order to implement the temporary policy established in OMB Memorandum M-12-16, Providing Prompt Payment to Small Business Subcontractors (July 11, 2012).
With the latest notice, DoD discontinues its temporary practice of accelerating payments to all prime contractors. This action does not affect DoD’s policy to assist small business prime contractors by paying them as quickly as possible after receipt of an invoice and all proper documentation, while also maintaining necessary DoD internal controls.
DoD plans to continue phased implementation of the policy at DFARS 232.903 and 232.906. This notice is effective February 25, 2013.
March 4, 2013 by cs
Washington is where bad ideas come to live, but there are few ideas worse, or harder to kill, than the sequester. That’s the $1.2 trillion in automatic, across-the-board spending cuts President Obama and House Republicans agreed to back in 2011 to blackmail themselves into reaching an alternative “grand bargain” on the long-term debt. It didn’t work. And now the sequester, which neither side wanted to happen, is about to happen.
The sequester probably won’t push us into a recession. But it will still beat up the economy pretty bad. As explained last week, it will suck roughly $85 billion of government spending out of the economy in 2013 — with half of that coming out of defense — costing us somewhere between 700,000 and one million jobs over the next two years.
But which states will feel these cuts the most (and the least)? The White House has put out a state-by-state breakdown of the sequester’s military cuts, which the Washington Post has helpfully compiled, that gives us a sense of who will get hurt and who won’t.
As can be seen from the chart above, Georgia ranks as the 9th state hardest hit by overall sequestration cuts, but when looking at projected military spending cuts, Georgia fares even worse. Visit http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/special/politics/sequestration-state-impact/ and click on the “Military Readiness” tab. From there, if you click on columns titled “Civilian Job Furloughs” and “Gross Pay Reduction,” you’ll see that Georgia will be the 5th hardest hit state.
March 1, 2013 by cs
A top contractors group on Tuesday published an open letter declaring that “time is up” and imploring President Obama and Congress to hurry toward a new budget compromise to head off automatic spending cuts before they begin on Friday.
A Pentagon official cited looming sequestration in explaining a decision to begin slowing payments to prime contractors to increase on-hand cash, according to a report in the Federal Times. Contractors will be notified in the next few days, an unnamed official said, and Defense accounts will gain about $1 billion in available funds.
The executive board of the Arlington, Va.-based Professional Services Council, in a letter to the White House and all congressional offices, said the group’s 360-member companies “urge you in the strongest terms to act quickly and collaboratively to avoid the threatened sequestration and finally address the fiscal uncertainty that is undermining the government’s ability to execute its many and complex missions.”
February 28, 2013 by cs
The U.S. Defense Department will slow payments to prime contractors in the coming week in an attempt to increase its on-hand cash as defense spending cuts loom.
Pentagon officials said changing these payment processes combined with other initiatives will add about $1 billion, or a few days worth, of available cash within working capital spending accounts. DoD will begin notifying contractors of these payment changes in the coming days.
The Pentagon is facing a $46 billion reduction to its 2013 budget between March and September should across-the-board defense spending cuts, known as sequestration, go into effect.
Also complicating matters is that DoD is operating under a continuing resolution, which freezes spending at 2012 budget levels, creating an $11 billion shortfall from planned 2013 spending. The continuing resolution also keeps funds aligned in the same accounts as 2012, meaning new programs cannot start and ones that have been terminated are still receiving money.
February 15, 2013 by cs
A major revision in the U.S. Small Business Administration’s Surety Bond Guarantee (SBG) Program more than triples the eligible contract amount, from $2 million to $6.5 million, the Agency will guarantee on surety bonds for both public and private contracts. The higher surety bond guarantee limits are expected to help construction and service sector small businesses gain greater access to private and public contracts and secure larger contracts vital to small business growth.
“These new contract ceilings are one more way we can help small businesses, particularly in the construction and service sectors, compete for and win critical contracting opportunities that help them grow their businesses and create jobs,” SBA Administrator Karen Mills said. “Additionally, these changes, which are enthusiastically supported across the surety industry and small business community, will help spur economic growth and recovery in areas that have been hard hit by disasters, bringing jobs and economic activity to regions at a time when it is needed most.”
The revisions are a result of the Fiscal Year 2013 National Defense Authorization Act and are expected to bolster participation by surety bond agents and brokers and their surety companies in SBA’s SBG Program.
The changes also allow SBA to guarantee bonds for government contracts valued at up to $10 million if a contracting officer of a federal agency certifies that the guarantee is necessary for the small business to obtain bonding, and it is in the best interests of the government.
SBA partners with the surety industry to help small businesses that would otherwise be unable to obtain bonding in the traditional commercial marketplace. Under the partnership, SBA provides a guarantee to the participating surety company of between 70 and 90 percent of the bond amount if a contractor defaults or fails to perform.
SBA assistance in locating a participating surety company or agent, and completing application forms, is available online. For more information on SBA’s Surety Bond Guarantee Program, including Surety Office contacts, go online to: http://www.sba.gov/category/navigation-structure/loans-grants/bonds/surety-bonds or call 1-800-U-ASK-SBA.
February 14, 2013 by cs
Karen Mills, head of the Small Business Administration, told agency staff Monday she is stepping down after four years at the helm.
Mills will continue to lead the agency until her successor is named, according to a notice posted on SBA’s web site.
She said small businesses have won more than $286.3 million in federal contracts over the last three years of reporting, $32 billion more than the previous three years.
The agency also supported more than $106 billion in loans to more than 193,000 small businesses and entrepreneurs, including two record years of delivering more than $30 billion annually in loan guarantees, she said.
SBA brought more than 1,000 community banks into SBA lending and secured $20 billion commitment from 13 banks to increase their small business lending over three years, Mills said.
February 11, 2013 by cs
The Department of Defense (DoD) issued a memorandum on February 7, 2013 entitled “Private Sector Notification Requirements in Support of In-sourcing Actions.”
The memorandum provides implementing direction on the notification of private sector providers (contractors) when making a determination to in-source a contracted service for civilian or military performance.
This guidance can be found at: Memorandum – Private Sector Notification Requirements in Support of In-sourcing Actions (29 January 2013)