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

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/

Why are so many Army and VA contracts protested?

May 21, 2014 by

Companies have protested more Army contract awards in the last 18 months than any other Defense Department agency’s awards, and the Veterans Affairs Department tops the list as the most protested non-Defense agency, according to an analysis by the open data supporters at GovTribe.

The Government Accountability Office, meanwhile, is researching electronic docketing systems to simplify and organize  the process of protesting contract awards.

Between September 2012 and May 13, the Army posted more than 12,000 contract award notices on the Federal Business Opportunities website and received 891 protests. That’s a 7 percent protest rate, GovTribe said, noting that some awards are protested more than once and not all protests are public, so the statistic may be misleading.

Table by GovTribe, Inc.

VA had a 6 percent protest rate by the same measure, with more than 400 protests. The Homeland Security Department was the next protested non-Defense agency, with fewer than 250 protests. The analysis did not include a percentage rate for DHS, and GovTribe declined to provide one.

Keep reading this article at: http://www.nextgov.com/cio-briefing/2014/05/why-are-so-many-army-and-va-contracts-protested/84589

It’ll cost $1 million to get better data on bundled federal contracts

May 7, 2014 by

A bill that would require agencies to do a better job of reporting when they combine what could be smaller contracts into a single solicitation would cost about $1 million over five years, according to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO).

The 2014 Contracting Data and Bundling Accountability Act aims to improve how agencies report their consolidated and bundled contracts. Agencies consolidate contracts by including multiple requirements in a single solicitation, and if the resulting contract becomes unsuitable for small businesses to bid on — because it’s too large or diverse, for instance  — it’s considered a bundled contract. Agencies are supposed to identify and then justify the move when they’ve either consolidated or bundled a contract.

CBO said it believed agency data on consolidated and bundled contracts is already available, but the analysis conceded that the Small Business Administration would require better software to retrieve that data from the Federal Procurement Data System. The software upgrade would cost about $1 million between 2014 and 2019, CBO said.

Small business advocates argue that the real problem is federal procurement officials are not properly reporting their consolidated contracts.

Keep reading this article at: http://www.nextgov.com/cio-briefing/2014/04/cost-better-data-bundled-federal-contracts/83164 

Grants and missile defense hit hardest in DoD’s science and technology budget request

April 25, 2014 by

Overall funding for the Defense Department’s science and technology budget undergo about a $500 million reduction in the president’s fiscal 2015 budget proposal, with grants and missile defense bearing the brunt of the cut, says a DoD official.

About $200 million of the proposed budget reduction would come from cuts to grant programs nationwide, which equates to about 1,500 grants, said Alan Shaffer, acting assistant secretary of defense for research and engineering.

The department also took about $150 million out of its Missile Defense Agency Science and Technology program, said Shaffer during an April 8 hearing of the Senate Armed Services subcommittee on emerging threats and capabilities. The decision made sense because much of the technology has matured to a level where it could be moved to other parts of the department, he added.

Keep reading this article at: http://www.fiercegovernment.com/story/grants-missile-defense-hit-hardest-dod-st-budget-request/2014-04-17 

Agencies extended noncompetitive contracts past time limits, GAO says

April 3, 2014 by

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 

 

Defense contractor to plead guilty

March 18, 2014 by

A civilian defense contractor accused of giving military secrets to a Chinese girlfriend half his age will be entering a guilty plea, his attorney said Tuesday.

Benjamin Bishop was expected to plead guilty in federal court on Thursday to one count of transmitting national defense information to a person not entitled to receive it and one count of unlawfully retaining national defense documents and plans.

Bishop, 60, was arrested last March at the headquarters for the U.S. Pacific Command, where he worked.

A document for the plea agreement filed Tuesday said Bishop emailed his girlfriend classified information on joint training and planning sessions between the U.S. and South Korea.

It said Bishop had classified documents at his Hawaii home, including one titled “U.S. Department of Defense China Strategy,” another on U.S. force posture in Asia and the Pacific and a U.S. Pacific Command joint intelligence operations center special report.

Keep reading this article at: http://www.federalnewsradio.com/394/3579484/Defense-contractor-to-plead-guilty

Defense getting better at handling False Claims while DOJ short on staff, experts say

March 5, 2014 by

Parties on both sides of False Claims Act cases tend to agree that the number of lawsuits and amount of money they redistribute to the U.S. government has significantly increased since the statute was amended in 1986.

Walter Olson, a senior fellow at the Cato Institute’s Center for Constitutional Studies in Washington, D.C., contends that Congress has been pressured not to rein in the anti-fraud law, but instead, find ways to widen its scope.

“In recent years, you’ve seen some pushback from the business community, but given the record of congressional expansion, they’ll be doing pretty well if they can just keep Congress from expanding it further,” said Olson, who also founded and still runs the popular blog Overlawyered.com.

Olson and other experts claim that excessive False Claims Act lawsuits will continue to cause trouble for businesses. They say when not interpreted properly, the law permits lawsuits that are expensive, time-consuming and often meritless.

The Department of Justice announced in December that it secured $3.8 billion in settlements and judgments from civil cases involving fraud against the government in 2013. According to the office, the amount represents the second largest annual recovery of its type in history and brings total recoveries under the False Claims Act to $17 billion since January 2009.

The DOJ also shows that its 2013 efforts recovered more than $3 billion for the fourth year in a row, surpassed only by last year’s nearly $5 billion in settlements and judgments.

Keep reading this article at: http://legalnewsline.com/in-the-spotlight/247486-defense-getting-better-at-handling-false-claims-while-doj-short-on-staff-experts-say

What’s on the chopping block—and what’s safe—in the Pentagon’s shrinking budget?

February 25, 2014 by

This year’s scramble in Washington over the budget request will start Monday, when Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel is expected to preview the fiscal 2015 Defense Department budget—a week before the official request goes to Congress.

Its first hint at budget priorities will spur the defense industry to start lobbying, lawmakers to stake out their priorities, and the Pentagon to launch a charm offensive on Capitol Hill. And everyone involved will be chasing the same goal: keeping their priorities safe from cuts, even if that means nudging someone else’s pet project.

Before the budget Hunger Games begin, here are a few key priorities that could be on the chopping block as the Pentagon decides how to cut tens of billions of dollars—and what might escape the ax.

Keep reading this article at: http://www.defenseone.com/management/2014/02/whats-chopping-blockand-whats-safe-pentagons-shrinking-budget/79231/?oref=defenseone_today_nl?oref=d-interstitial-continue 

Pentagon to ask for more cyber spending in next budget

February 24, 2014 by

The Pentagon’s cyber budget will get a boost as part of the department’s fiscal 2015 budget request, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said last Tuesday (2/18/2014).

“We are adjusting our asset base and our new technology,” the Pentagon’s top official said, adding that the department will increase spending to help improve its cyber capabilities, including a larger focus on cyber security, intelligence gathering, and reconnaissance.

The department’s budget request will be released March 4, as part of the Obama administration’s budget, and the secretary is expected to offer a preview Monday. Hagel and other top Defense officials have largely sidestepped questions about what spending they are asking to have increased — or what programs to cut.

“Of course, it’s going to shift the proprieties and the balance of forces, and where you invest your money to be able to ensure readiness for your forces, capability, … and capacity,” Hagel said.

Keep reading this article at: http://www.nextgov.com/defense/2014/02/pentagon-ask-more-cyber-spending-next-budget/79040