April 15, 2014 by cs
Competition for government contracts is becoming more cutthroat as federal spending shrinks by billions of dollars, with big companies swooping in on smaller ones and bid protests on the rise.
Routine contracts that in years past would have attracted just a handful of companies have become high-stakes bidding wars. Contractors are forced to make more aggressive offers, with slimmer margins. And industry officials say the gentleman’s agreement that often prevented losing companies from filing bid protests against their rivals has given way to a more desperate mentality.
The number of losing companies’ protests to the Government Accountability Office, which handles the vast majority of bid protests, has increased from 1,352 in 2003 to 2,429 last year. While that is a fraction of the total number of contracts awarded annually — less than 1 percent, by one estimate — the cases often show how tight the market has gotten and the extreme measures companies will take to win.
“Budgets are going down, which means competition for what contracts remain has increased tremendously,” said Jaime Gracia, president of Seville Government Consulting, which helps contractors win bids. Companies “are making strategic decisions about protesting because they have to. A lot of companies can’t afford to lose that contract.”
After the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, spending on contracting soared. Fueled by the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, it peaked in 2008 at about $541 billion, according to the Office of Management and Budget. But as the budget cuts known as sequestration went into effect, the figure dropped to $461 billion last year, and many predict it will continue to fall.
April 11, 2014 by cs
Commonly heard issues with federal government contracting (such as, “it takes too long,” “it’s too expensive,” “it’s overly bureaucratic,” or “it’s too burdensome”) often conclude with a determination that the government should adopt commercial acquisition practices.
Government contracting does have considerable regulation associated with it. The government version of “commercial contracting,” found in the Federal Acquisition Regulation Part 12, was an attempt to address this idea and has been somewhat successful. However, additional government-unique requirements have been added over time.
In many cases, a primary hurdle is that a customer can have unique requirements, making that customer the only customer.
Keep reading this article at: http://www.federaltimes.com/article/20140327/BLG06/303270007/Why-government-can-t-buy-more-like-business
April 9, 2014 by cs
According to the VA OIG, the VA failed to verify the claim of Westar Development Company, LLC to be a VOSB–and “[t]he evidence does not support a finding that Westar is or ever has been a Veteran-Owned Small Business.” The VA’s failure to verify Westar’s VOSB status is just one of many serious flaws identified by the VA OIG in its audit of the award of a major VA lease to Westar.
The VA OIG’s report (which is well worth a read if you have the time) examines the VA’s award of a build-to-suit lease to Westar for the new Butler Health Care Center in Butler, Pennsylvania. The 20-year lease had a total value of $152.7 million.
April 8, 2014 by cs
Braulio Castillo, the president of IT contractor Strong Castle, was arrested April 1 by Loudon County, Va., authorities and charged with first degree murder in the death of his estranged wife, Michelle.
Castillo gained notoriety as a result of a June 2013 hearing of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee that examined the validity of the service-disabled veteran-owned small business (SDVOSB) status enjoyed by the firm he co-owned with his wife.
Castillo’s disability arose from a sports injury incurred at the U.S. Military Academy Preparatory School. Additionally, Castillo’s firm enjoyed a special status as a HUBZone company under a Small Business Administration program that gives preference to firms located in designated neighborhoods. SBA decertified Strong Castle’s HUBZone status in May 2013, while the Department of Veterans Affairs affirmed Strong Castles SDVOSB status last September.
keep reading this article at: http://fcw.com/articles/2014/04/02/castillo-murder-charges.aspx
April 3, 2014 by cs
Agencies are letting noncompetitive contracts awarded on the basis of “unusual and compelling urgency” run past the one year limit they’re not meant to exceed.
The Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) limits the total period of contracts awarded using the urgency exception to one year, unless a determination from the head of the agency is made that exceptional circumstances apply.
Awarding a noncompetitive contract on the basis of urgency is necessary in select circumstances, such as combat operations or preventing unanticipated gaps in program support, says the Government Accountability Offices in a March 26 report,
But those contracts should be limited in duration to minimize the amount of time that the government is exposed to the risks of contracts that are awarded quickly without the benefits of competition, the watchdog says.
Keep reading this article at: http://www.fiercegovernment.com/story/agencies-extended-noncompetitive-contracts-past-time-limits-gao-says/2014-03-27
April 1, 2014 by cs
Members of the House Small Business Committee on Tuesday voted unanimously in favor of several revisions to the Small Business Administration’s new budget proposal, with several lawmakers criticizing the agency for committing too much money to new, unproven programs and too little to fulfilling its underlying responsibilities to small employers.
“By necessity, budgets require hard choices,” Committee Chairman Sam Graves (R-Mo.) said during a brief markup of the budget on Tuesday. “To the extent that the SBA… budget request makes hard choices, they ultimately make them in the wrong place.”
Democrats and Republicans on the panel agreed on revisions that would trim $50 million from the agency’s $710 million budget proposal that was published earlier this month as part of the president’s broader spending blueprint. The committee’s recommendations now move to the House Budget Committee for review.
SBA officials maintain that the proposal would ensure that employers have the resources they need to start and grow their businesses, and it would give the department the resources it needs to expand important exporting, capital access and other educational programs. On the agency’s blog earlier this month, Marianne Markowitz, the agency’s acting administrator, said the plan “builds on SBA’s proven track record of assisting America’s small businesses.”
Keep reading this article at: http://www.washingtonpost.com/business/on-small-business/house-committee-rips-sba-for-unauthorized-pilot-programs-contracting-woes/2014/03/26/15f84f80-b433-11e3-b899-20667de76985_story.html
March 31, 2014 by cs
Effective March 24, 2014, contractors required by the Vietnam Era Veterans’ Readjustment Assistance Act (VEVRAA) to develop a written affirmative action program (AAP) must also establish a hiring benchmark for protected veterans each year or adopt the national benchmark provided by the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP). Federal contractors use the VEVRAA Benchmark Database when establishing a hiring benchmark for protected veterans as required by 41 CFR 60-300.45.
Contractors must compare the percentage of employees who are protected veterans in each of their establishments to the hiring benchmark set for that establishment. Contractors should use the result of this comparison when assessing the effectiveness of their veteran outreach and recruitment efforts.
This VEVRAA Benchmark Database provides additional information regarding the establishment of hiring benchmarks and easy access to the national and State data that may be needed to establish these benchmarks.
OFCCP has now posted the Benchmark Database required by the new regulations implementing the Vietnam Era Veterans’ Readjustment Assistance Act (VEVRAA). The database includes the annual national percentage of veterans in the civilian labor force for contractors that choose to use this number as their benchmark. It also includes data on the percentage of veterans in the labor force in each State and the number of veterans who participate in each State’s employment service, for use by those contractors choosing to develop an individualized benchmark.
To help contractors use this database, OFCCP provides detailed user instructions and examples illustrating how a contractor could use the database to set an individualized VEVRAA benchmark.
You can access the VEVRAA Benchmark Database through OFCCP’s Web site at http://www.dol-esa.gov/errd/VEVRAA.jsp.
March 28, 2014 by cs
The House Small Business Committee recommends cutting almost $50 million from President Obama’s fiscal 2015 budget request of $864.64 million for the Small Business Administration.
Committee Democrats will present their own views on the White House request at a later date, said Ranking Member Nydia Velázquez (D-N.Y.) at a March 25 committee markup.
Although the budget request is for $64 million less than the agency’s current year spending, the March 25 majority committee report says there’s room for more cuts.
Keep reading this article at: http://www.fiercegovernment.com/story/house-small-business-calls-50-mil-cut-obamas-sba-budget-request/2014-03-26
March 26, 2014 by cs
The federal government’s standards for its new construction projects now simply require outcomes instead of dictating the means to achieve them.
The Public Buildings Service, part of the General Services Administration, issued the overhauled standards March 14, 2014. As the document notes, adherence is mandatory. “It is not a guideline, textbook, handbook, training manual, nor substitute for technical competence,” it says.
An example of the increased flexibility is the HVAC system requirement, which previously had to be a type of system called variable air volume. Now, new construction must meet standards for energy efficiency, ventilation and humidity, but any system that satisfies the requirements is acceptable.
Additionally, rather than just setting minimum standards for building features, the PBS has added three tiers of performance that buildings can achieve, each more desirable than the last.
Keep reading this article at: http://www.fiercegovernment.com/story/new-flexibility-federal-construction-standards/2014-03-18