As the Army’s future takes shape, so does the Defense market

October 20, 2014 by

For two years, the U.S. Army has been pitching new ways it could stay relevant and play a more prominent role in the Pentagon’s pivot to the Pacific, a region where the Navy and Air Force are expected to play a more prominent role. Now, after a turbulent year in which Russia invaded Ukraine over land and Army soldiers have deployed on high-profile missions to Iraq and Africa, there is a wider-spread recognition that the ground service will have a significant role to play after Afghanistan.

But despite this resurgence in missions, that doesn’t mean work will be easy to come by for defense companies. Defense firms descend on Washington this week for the Association of the United States Army, or AUSA, annual convention and arms exposition. This year’s gathering comes after the Army announced major changes to its makeup, including cutting tens of thousands of soldiers from its ranks. But it lands right when a leader like Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ray Odierno has signaled he will revisit those plans to shrink the force – and the budget — thanks to ISISand Russia.

Keep reading this article at: http://www.defenseone.com/management/2014/10/armys-future-takes-shape-so-does-defense-market/96329

DOL releases final rule raising minimum wage for employees working on covered federal contracts

October 14, 2014 by

On October 1, the Department of Labor (“DOL”) announced its final rule raising the minimum wage for employees working on covered federal government contracts from $7.25 an hour to $10.10 an hour.  The final rule implements Executive Order 13658, which was issued by President Obama last February.

The final rule applies to a wide range of contracts issued for solicitations on or after January 1, 2015, including (1) procurement contracts for services or construction; (2) service contracts exceeding $2,500 covered by the Service Contract Act; (3) contracts for concessions; and (4) contracts that are both (a) entered into the with the Federal Government in connection with Federal property or lands and (b) covered by the Fair Labor Standards Act, Service Contract Act, or Davis-Bacon Act.  The rule also applies to (1) individuals with disabilities who were previously paid below the minimum wage because their disability affects their productivity; and (2) tipped employees, whose minimum hourly pay will be raised from $2.13 to $4.90.

Keep reading this article at http://www.mondaq.com/article.asp?articleid=344992 for details on employees covered, impact on employers, and next steps.

A quarter century later, Pentagon’s test program for small businesses still untested

October 9, 2014 by

During its approval of the defense budget back in 1989, Congress added a new test program intended to simplify the subcontracting process for large defense contractors. In theory, proponents said, the tweak would lead large prime contractors to pass more work along to small businesses.

A quarter century later, some of the world’s largest defense contractors are still taking advantage of the program — which, oddly enough, remains in “test” mode. Odder still, the test has yet to be evaluated.

Called the Comprehensive Subcontracting Plan Test Program, the initiative allows large defense contractors to establish company-wide or division-wide subcontracting plans that outline how the US DoD logocompany or each of its units generally intends to partner on any work awarded by the federal government. Any time one of the participating companies competes for work, it can present the general subcontracting strategy.

Normally, prime contractors are required as part of the bidding process to submit a specific subcontracting plan for each individual project, which details how much of the work they plan to outsource and to what type of companies.

Keep reading this article at: http://www.washingtonpost.com/business/on-small-business/a-quarter-century-later-pentagons-test-program-for-small-businesses-still-untesed/2014/09/26/4beec2a2-4422-11e4-b437-1a7368204804_story.html

NASA awards SEWP V IT contracts

October 8, 2014 by

The awards are for Group A — value-added resellers and computer system manufacturers — and Group D — value-added resellers. The number of companies is almost double the 23 that held contracts in those groups in SEWP IV.

Of the 23 companies awarded contracts under SEWP IV, 15 were awarded SEWP V contracts under the same group. Four others under Groups B and C in SEWP IV were awarded Group A and/or D contracts under SEWP V.

Keep reading this article at:http://www.federaltimes.com/article/20141001/ACQ03/310010030/NASA-awards-SEWP-V-contracts

 

SBA data show large firms are nabbing contracts reserved for small businesses

October 7, 2014 by

Federal procurement data show that large companies, including leading defense contractors, last year received millions of dollars in contracts intended for small and disadvantaged businesses. The data was obtained last week by the American Small Business League, which fought a multi-year court battle to obtain the information from the Small Business Administration.

The group, based in Petaluma, Calif., and run by software entrepreneur Lloyd Chapman, has been a thorn in the side of SBA for years. It accuses the agency of catering to large companies that misrepresent themselves as small businesses to win government contracts.

Last week the league obtained from SBA an Excel file containing nearly 107,000 entries of vendors that received $83 billion in small business contracts in fiscal 2013. While SBA annually releases analytical information about small business contracting, it took a lawsuit from the league to force the agency to release its list of vendors who receive small business contracts.

Keep reading this article at: http://www.govexec.com/contracting/2014/10/sba-data-show-large-firms-are-nabbing-contracts-reserved-small-businesses/95699/

Critical vulnerabilities discovered in VA business portal

October 6, 2014 by

The Department of Veterans Affairs has been working to fix multiple critical security vulnerabilities in one of its major public-facing Web portals that links to a massive database containing personal and financial information on millions of veteran business owners, FedScoop has learned.

The VA announced late Thursday it intends to extend its maintenance and support contract with Herndon, Virginia-based Valador Inc. so the company can conduct “critical security vulnerability repair” on the Vendor Information Pages database — the central repository used by VA to track all businesses that have been verified as veteran-owned or veteran-controlled. Those businesses listed in the VIP database, which is accessible through the VetBiz.gov Web portal, are eligible for contracts specifically set-aside for small businesses owned by veterans and disabled veterans.

Keep reading this article at: http://fedscoop.com/critical-vulnerabilities-discovered-vas-business-portal/

SBA zeros out fees on small dollar loans, expands relief for larger loans to vets

October 3, 2014 by

The U.S Small Business Administration (SBA) has announced that fee relief on 7(a) loans of $150,000 or less implemented last year and originally slated to expire on Sept. 30, 2014, will be extended through federal fiscal year 2015.   SBA has also announced that fee relief measures for SBA Veterans Advantage will also be renewed as well as enhanced.   Both the extension of the fee relief for 7(a) loans $150,000 and under, and the extension and enhancement of the fee relief for SBA Veterans Advantage loans became effective October 1, 2014, and will remain in effect through Sept. 30, 2015.

sba-logo“We zeroed out fees on loans of less than $150,000 to any 7(a) borrower because we don’t want SBA fees to be an impediment to getting capital out to communities where it can make a game-changing difference, especially to our under-served communities, who use these small dollar loans more frequently,” said SBA Administrator Maria Contreras-Sweet. “We also owe a debt of gratitude and so much more to our service men and women, and veterans who are the cornerstone of small business ownership. This fee relief will continue to help veterans business owners who grow their businesses, create jobs in their communities, and put their training and passion for our country to work in their neighborhoods.”

The most recent numbers available for FY14, as of September 12, 2014, show that the SBA had guaranteed 28,806 for over $1.74 billion in loans $150,000 and under, up from 23,337 loans and $1.34 billion in FY 2013.  This represents an increase of 23.4 percent and 30 percent, respectively. Fee reductions on these loans resulted in almost $19 million in savings to small business borrowers in FY 2013.

Under the original fee relief for 7(a) loans that began  Oct 1, 2013, both the upfront guaranty fee and the annual servicing fee (“on-going guaranty fee”) were reduced to zero on loans $150,000 and under.

Today, the SBA is announcing that:

  • The provisions that began on Oct. 1, 2013, for 7(a) loans under $150,000, will now be continued for fiscal year 2015. For loans larger than $150,000, the annual servicing fee lenders pay will be 0.519 percent of the guaranteed portion of the outstanding balance of the loan. The upfront guarantee fee will continue to depend on both the amount and the maturity of the loan.
  • For SBA Veterans Advantage loans, the conditions implemented on Jan. 1, 2014 – zero upfront guaranty fee on all SBA Express loans to veterans of $150,000 up to $350,000 – will remain unchanged for FY 2015.
  • Beginning Oct. 1, 2014, the upfront guaranty fee for non “SBA Express” loans $150,000 up to $5 million will now be reduced by 50 percent. There is no reduction on the annual servicing fee for loans over $150,000.

Seventy percent of all SBA loans made to veterans are $350,000 or less. Since its inception through Sept. 20, 2014, SBA had guaranteed 153 loans for $38,861,900 under Veterans Advantage. Fee relief for these loans resulted in savings to borrowers of about $571,000.

For further information on all SBA programs and services, visit the SBA website at www.sba.gov, or contact your local SBA field office.  You can find contact information for your local SBA office at http://www.sba.gov/localresources/index.html.

Changes in False Claims Act make it easier to get in hot water with federal agencies

September 30, 2014 by

Recent changes to the federal False Claims Act have broadened the law, creating more ways for government contractors to find themselves in violation, say attorneys for Huntsville law firm Wilmer & Lee, speaking at a recent workshop for the 2014 GovCon conference at the Jackson Center.

Qui tam lawsuits, under which whistle blowers can bring charges against contractors for alleged violations, increased 15 percent in 2013, say Huntsville attorneys Richard Raleigh and Jerry Gabig.

They advised Huntsville federal contractors how to avoid a host of missteps that can cause False Claims Act lawsuits or, even worse, being banned from seeking government contracts.

The law has big teeth. Since 1987 qui tam provisions allowing whistle blowers to bring charges against companies have helped recover more than $39 billion in taxpayer money, and nearly $4 billion in 2013 alone, Raleigh says.

Keep reading this article at: http://www.al.com/business/index.ssf/2014/09/changes_in_false_claims_act_ma.html

SBA’s inspector general says agencies are overstating 8(a) and HUBZone contracting achievements

September 29, 2014 by

On September 24, 2014, the Small Business Administration’s Office of Inspector General (OIG) issued Evaluation Report 14-18, Agencies are Overstating Small Disadvantaged Business and HUBZone Goaling Credit by Including Contracts Performed by Eligible FirmsThis report presents the results of an evaluation of select Section 8(a) Business Development Program and Historically Underutilized Business Zones (HUBZone) contract awards.

The OIG identified over $400 million in contract actions that were awarded to ineligible firms, which may have contributed to the overstatement of small business goaling dollars for the Small Disadvantaged Business and the HUBZone Business preference programs in FY 2013.  Besides reporting inaccurate information in Federal Procurement Data System-Next Generation (FPDS-NG), procuring agencies may have limited contracting opportunities for firms currently participating in the 8(a) or HUBZone programs.

Further, the OIG found that HUBZone and 8(a) certification information is not consistently transmitted to the Dynamic Small Business Search (DSBS) and the System for Award Management (SAM).  As a result, the affected small businesses are not getting the visibility in the DSBS database, especially the HUBZone firms, and as a result, may impact federal agencies in meeting their HUBZone procurement goals.

Additionally, the OIG also identified over $1.5 billion dollars in contract actions for which the firms were in the programs at the time of contract award, but in FY 2013 were no longer in the 8(a) or HUBZone programs.  Specifically, SBA regulations permit procuring agencies to claim Small Disadvantaged Business and HUBZone goaling credit on certain contract actions even after firms have left the program.  In the opinion of the OIG, the amount of dollars the SBA reports to Congress and the public as being performed by 8(a) and HUBZone firms in the Small Business Goaling Report is significantly impacted by the inclusion of contract actions performed by former program participants.

The OIG made two recommendations to SBA’s Associate Administrator for Government Contracting and Business Development intended to strengthen controls between SBA databases on certification data of 8(a) and HUBZone firms and information reported in FPDS-NG. The recommendations are:

  1. In coordination with the Office of Federal Procurement Policy and the General Services Administration, the SBA should strengthen controls between the SBA’s Dynamic Small Business Search Database and the System for Award Management to ensure accuracy of 8(a) and HUBZone certification data in FPDS-NG.
  2. The SBA should modify DSBS so that a firm’s profile and certification information for HUBZone and 8(a) status remains visible and accurate to agency contracting officers, or develop an alternate list to verify a firm’s status.

The OIG reports that SBA’s management has agreed to pursue both recommendations.

Proposed rule prohibits federal contractors from firing employees who discuss pay

September 25, 2014 by

Federal contractors would have to inform their employees of their right to openly discuss pay in the workplace without fear of retaliation under new proposed rules from the Labor Department.

Firms that do business with the federal government would have to incorporate the new non-discrimination language in their existing employee handbooks and disseminate the information, either electronically or by publicly posting a copy of the requirement, according to draft rules published in the Federal Register. They also would have to include the provision in the existing equal opportunity clause in their contracts. The proposed regulations implement an executive order signed by President Obama in April that protects employees of federal contractors who disclose their pay, or the compensation of other workers, from being fired or otherwise retaliated against by employers.

The proposed rule would apply to all federal contractors that do more than $10,000 worth of business with the government. Approximately 500,000 contractors are registered with the General Services Administration.

Keep reading this article at: http://www.govexec.com/contracting/2014/09/proposed-rule-prohibits-federal-contractors-firing-employees-who-discuss-pay/94115/