Are tight budgets straining trust between agencies and industry?

June 18, 2014 by

Even under the best circumstances, the relationship between agencies and industry can be strained at times.

But are federal budget and staffing shortfalls — particularly among the federal government’s acquisition workforce — fueling a climate of mistrust between the government and its contractors?

It’s not quite that dire yet, contracting experts told Federal News Radio as part of the special series, Trust Redefined: Reconnecting Government and Its Employees.

But improving the relationship between government and industry remains deserving of some attention — especially in today’s austere budget climate.

“It’s no secret that [in terms of] the numbers of federal employees, there’s a decrease, the retirements are going up, certainly the budget issues of the last couple years don’t improve morale within the federal-employee workspace,” said Michael Fischetti, executive director of the National Contract Management Association, in an interview on In Depth with Francis Rose. “And as those folks leave, the ability of the government to hire and retain quality individuals that understand the requirements that they’re levying on the contractor is challenging. So the contractor and the government have to have their best foot forward in this relationship and communicate well to make that happen. And that’s been a concern.”

Keep reading this article at: http://www.federalnewsradio.com/1291/3628149/Are-tight-budgets-straining-trust-between-agencies-industry

GSA plans to double its market share by 2017

June 17, 2014 by

The General Services Administration (GSA) plans to more than double its market share of government spending by crafting a new digital ecosystem of contract offerings and interactive purchasing tools.

Tom Sharpe, the commissioner of GSA’s Federal Acquisition Service, told Federal Times the agency plans to boost its market share from 14 to 33 percent by the end of fiscal year 2016. Reduced budgets at agency procurement shops means now is the time for GSA to show what it can do for agencies, he added.

GSA logo“I would argue the Federal Acquisition Service at GSA should be a centralized buyer — and we are going to make that case and we are going to fight for that,” Sharpe said.

GSA is already rolling out the cornerstone of that case, calling it “The Government Acquisition Marketplace.”  The agency is billing it as a one-stop digital shop for government acquisition and the next stage in an acquisition landscape that requires data-driven solutions.

Keep reading this article at: http://www.federaltimes.com/article/20140521/ACQ/305210016/How-GSA-plans-double-its-market-share-by-2017

Contractor pay cap will apply to all employees under new rule

June 16, 2014 by

A new rule would limit the amount contractors could charge the government for any of their employees’ salaries under cost-reimbursement contracts.

Currently contractors can charge back $487,000 for employee salaries, but the ceiling only applies to top senior executives. With the new Federal Acquisition Regulation rule, that limit would be expanded to all employees including scientists and engineers.

The final rule, issued May 30, would only affect the Defense Department, NASA and the Coast Guard, and applies retroactively to compensation costs on government contracts signed after Dec. 31, 2011.

Keep reading this article at: http://www.fiercegovernment.com/story/contractor-pay-cap-will-apply-all-employees-under-new-rule/2014-06-03

GAO rejects protest of GSA’s massive office supply contract

June 13, 2014 by

The Government Accountability Office (GAO)  denied the protests of the GSA’s Office Supplies 3 (OS3) strategic sourcing contract, leaving the protesters dismayed and in shock.

In issuing their decision Monday, GAO’s lawyers found the General Services Administration (GSA) did indeed meet the requirements under the Small Business Jobs Act to evaluate the economic impact of OS3 on small businesses.

GAO’s decision comes despite the fact that the Small Business Administration in April ruled that GSA’s analysis was faulty. SBA found GSA’s analysis didn’t fully consider the negative impact OS3 could have on small firms.

But GAO stated the Small Business Jobs Act doesn’t require agencies to develop a “more detailed” or “quantified cost-benefit analysis” and therefore GSA’s determination met the letter of the law.

“GSA conducted market research and considered alternatives to the procurement approach set forth in the solicitation,” GAO’s Susan Poling, GAO’s general counsel, said in the opinion. “Further, the agency prepared a consolidation analysis which recognized that there was a potential for a reduction in sales for small business contractors who did not receive awards under the OS3 solicitation. The agency concluded, however, that the benefits to be gained through OS3 outweigh the potential negative impact to small business concerns. We find that GSA’s analysis addressed the relevant requirements of the SB Jobs Act, and therefore find no basis to sustain the protest.”

GAO addressed SBA’s ruling in the protest decision. Lawyers say SBA’s procurement center representative’s disagreement with GSA’s analysis wasn’t a basis for GAO to conclude the evaluation was unreasonable.

Keep reading this article at: http://www.federalnewsradio.com/index.php?nid=851&sid=3638981

4 sectors where most federal procurement is happening, and why that’s bad for small businesses

June 10, 2014 by

The vast majority of federal procurement is happening in four sectors — only one of which meets its goals for divvying contract dollars to small businesses.

According to a report from the Office of Advocacy of the Small Business Administration, more than 80 percent of federal procurement was concentrated in these categories in fiscal 2012:

  • Manufacturing, with nearly $200 billion.
  • Professional, scientific and technical services, with about $141 billion.
  • Administration and support, waste management and remediation, with about $43 billion.
  • Construction, with about $35.44 billion.

But within that massive chunk of contract spending, how much is making its way to small business?  For three of the four categories, not enough to meet the federal goal of 23 percent, according to the report.

Keep reading this article at: http://www.bizjournals.com/washington/blog/fedbiz_daily/2014/06/4-sectors-where-mostfederal-procurement-is.html

Construction company sentenced for veteran-owned business fraud

June 9, 2014 by

Max R. Tafoya, 64, the owner of an Albuquerque-area construction company, and his son-in-law, Tyler Cole, 41, of Los Ranchos de Albuquerque, were sentenced Thursday on fraud charges related to claims Tafoya’s company was eligible for contracts reserved for businesses owned by service-disabled veterans.

Tafoya was sentenced to 57 months in federal prison to be followed by a year of supervised release, according to federal prosecutors. Cole was sentenced to a 37 months in prison.

Tafoya also was ordered to repay the government $1,350,000. Cole was ruled to be jointly liable for $500,000 of that amount, prosecutors said.

“Today Max Tafoya and Tyler Cole were held accountable for abusing a program that seeks to fulfill our obligation to provide disabled veterans with benefits designed to ease the losses and disadvantages they have incurred as a consequence of disabilities they sustained while serving our country,” said U.S. Attorney Damon P. Martinez. “This prosecution is part of a nationwide effort to protect service-disabled veterans who own small businesses by tightening controls to prevent fraud and abuse.”

Keep reading this article at: http://www.bizjournals.com/albuquerque/blog/morning-edition/2014/06/construction-company-owner-sentenced-for-fraud.html

Read U.S. Attorney’s statement here: http://www.justice.gov/usao/nm/press-releases/2014/Jun/200%20-%202014-06-05_tafoya_pr.html

Budgets reveal contracting priorities for state governments

June 4, 2014 by

The Affordable Care Act roll-out that ended March 31 marks the last federal initiative with significant state implications, freeing the nation’s governors to chart their own courses through a wide range of issues.

Each year, Deltek reviews every governor’s state-of-the-state address to learn what trends could influence vendor opportunities over the coming year and beyond. These agenda items provide a comprehensive look at where the states are heading.

A few key subjects tend to dominate the governors’ thinking. For example, this year’s big policy gains were in education, justice and public safety and social services.

Keep reading this article at: http://www.washingtonpost.com/business/capitalbusiness/state-contracting-priorities-are-revealed-in-governors-agendas/2014/05/23/624ea922-df91-11e3-8dcc-d6b7fede081a_story.html 

How one small word change could mean many more contracting dollars for small businesses

June 3, 2014 by

Sometimes, it’s the most subtle nuances in a phrase that matter most — and for small government contractors, that appears to be the case in the federal procurement rulebook.

The Federal Acquisition Regulation, a long list of government-wide contracting rules established by the heads of several federal agencies, requires all large companies bidding on prime contracts to specify what percentage of the money awarded would flow through to small-business subcontractors.

The rule is meant to ensure that small firms “have the maximum practicable opportunity to participate in performing contracts,” according to the FAR, and to help the government meet its annual goal of awarding 35.9 percent of all subcontracting dollars to small companies. Collectively, federal agencies have missed that mark each of the last five years.

Bob Justis says one odd word on page 1,343 in the rulebook isn’t helping.

“Out of all your planned subcontracting dollars, you’re required to set aside some percentage of that for small businesses,” Justis, head of Justis Consulting, a contracting proposal development firm based in Washington, said in a recent interview. “However, it’s required to be stated as a percentage of your total subcontract dollars — not as a percentage of the total contract dollars.”

It’s a subtle but important distinction, Justis explained, because a large prime contractor can, based on that rule, pledge to commit 40 percent of its subcontracting dollars to small businesses. If the company then handles all the work itself, resulting in a total subcontracting spend of zero, it still met its small-business subcontracting goal.

After all, 40 percent of nothing is nothing.

Keep reading this article at: http://m.washingtonpost.com/business/on-small-business/how-one-small-word-change-could-mean-many-more-contracting-dollars-for-small-businesses/2014/05/22/30b4c0d8-e106-11e3-9743-bb9b59cde7b9_story.html

Agencies get tougher on misbehaving contractors

May 30, 2014 by

Federal agencies are strengthening programs to find and punish unethical contractors, and the efforts may have paid off in increased suspension and debarment activity, according to a new watchdog report.

Governmentwide suspensions and debarments have increased from 1,836 in fiscal 2009 to 4,812 in fiscal 2013, the Government Accountability Office reported (GAO-14-513). And at six agencies that had minimal suspension and debarment activity but made changes to staffing, guidance and the case referral process as recommended by GAO in 2011, the increase was even more dramatic. These agencies went from a total of 19 suspension and debarment actions in fiscal 2009 to a collective 271 actions in fiscal 2013.

The six agencies GAO studied — the Commerce, Health and Human Services, Justice, State and Treasury departments and the Federal Emergency Management Agency — all saw a big jump in their suspension and debarment activity in fiscal 2011, the year they began to address GAO’s recommendations for successful programs. The Justice Department, for instance, went from five actions in fiscal 2010 to 50 in fiscal 2011. Though all six agencies made improvements in the same three general areas GAO pinpointed — “a suspension and debarment program with dedicated staff, detailed policies and procedures, and practices that encourage an active referral process” — they emphasized different reasons for their increased activity level, the report said.

House bill would raise small business goals and require bundling justifications

May 29, 2014 by

The defense policy bill that cleared the House May 22 is controversial for multiple reasons, most stemming from its rejection of many of the Obama administration’s cost-cutting proposals in troop compensation, military bases and weapons systems.

But deep inside the 700-plus page National Defense Authorization Act are also provisions to open more federal contracting opportunities to small businesses, and some of these measures are troubling to major contractors.

“The contracting amendments offered to the NDAA are common-sense reforms that will provide opportunities for small companies trying to break into the federal marketplace,” said Rep. Sam Graves, R-Mo., chairman of the House Small Business Committee. “These amendments address many of the barriers created due to the federal procurement system’s bureaucracy and inefficiency.”

The Graves-sought provisions include one to increase the government-wide small business prime contracting goal from 23 percent of contracting dollars to 25 percent and establish a 40 percent subcontracting goal. Another would require that the administration publish contract bundling and consolidation justifications before issuing requests for proposals for awards under the General Services Administration-run Federal Strategic Sourcing Initiative.

keep reading this article at: http://www.govexec.com/management/2014/05/house-defense-bill-would-raise-small-business-contracting-goals/85249/