Contracting facts and fictions

July 2, 2014 by

Many debates on the issues in government acquisition rely on assumed “facts” that may or may not be based on reality.

However, examining the latest actual, comprehensive, uniform, and unbiased information directly provided by contracting officers (from the Federal Procurement Data System) sheds light on some discrepancies.

For example, despite the budget drama of the past two years, inflation-adjusted figures reveal that contract awards remain over 20 percent higher in 2013 than back in 2003. For the contracting profession, this news is encouraging, especially considering the wind-down of the longest war in American history and indicative of the continued increase in government contracting in providing essential citizen services.

Similarly, while awards have dropped within the General Services Administration, the Department of Defense, and the Department of State, other agencies—such as the Department of Education, the Department of the Treasury, the Department of Health and Human Services, the Department of Justice, and the Department of Veterans Affairs—have seen increases, as have contracts awarded to small businesses.

Keep reading this article at: http://www.federaltimes.com/article/20140603/BLG06/306030013/Contracting-facts-fictions 

Defense acquisition rule requiring contractors to report counterfeit parts set to be included in the FAR

June 30, 2014 by

In May, the Department of Defense amended the Defense Federal Acquisition Regulation Supplement (DFARS) to require certain contractors to detect and report counterfeit electronic parts.  (See DFARS rule on “Detection and Avoidance of Counterfeit Electronic Parts” by clicking here.)

Now, the Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) Council has published a proposed rule to greatly expand counterfeit reporting obligations.  The newly proposed rule sets forth sweeping requirements for contractors and subcontractors to report nonconforming items.

Unlike the DFARS rule, which limits application to particular electronic parts and a certain category of contractors, the proposed FAR rule extends beyond electronic parts and specific contractors.  In fact, the proposed rule is designed to effect all contracts for acquisition of supplies or services that include supplies.

Under the proposed rule, contractors and subcontractors at all tiers must screen the Government-Industry Exchange Program (GIDEP) as part of their quality control processes.  Further, the proposed rule requires reporting in GIDEP of any “common” items purchased that are counterfeit, suspected to be counterfeit, or contain “major nonconformance” or “critical nonconformance.”   In addition, contractors must notify Contracting Officers, in writing, when they become aware that “any end item, component, subassembly, part or material contracted in supplies purchased by the government” is counterfeit or suspected to be counterfeit.

Written comments on the proposed rule are due by August 11, 2014.   Comments are to be submitted via the Federal eRulemaking portal by searching for ‘‘FAR Case 2013–002’’.    Select the link ‘‘Comment Now’’ that corresponds with ‘‘FAR Case 2013–002.’’ Follow the instructions provided at the ‘‘Comment Now’’ screen. Please include your name, company name (if any), and ‘‘FAR Case 2013-002’’ on your attached document.  Comments may be faxed to 202–501–4067 or mailed to: General Services Administration, Regulatory Secretariat (MVCB), ATTN: Hada Flowers, 1800 F Street NW., 2nd Floor, Washington, DC 20405.

Big contracts for Defense, Commerce and State departments coming this summer

June 26, 2014 by

More than $13 billion in large and small-business contracts with the federal government is likely to come up for competition in the three-month period ending September.

These requirements are meant to improve efficiency and decrease the cost of services across and between federal agencies. Requirements range from health systems to professional services, all in IT. Several are recurring requirements, while one is a new competition.

Read about three notable contracts anticipated to be advertised for competition by the Defense, Commerce and State departments in the federal government’s fourth quarter here: http://www.washingtonpost.com/business/capitalbusiness/big-contracts-for-defense-commerce-and-state-departments-coming-this-summer/2014/06/13/4a2bc594-f014-11e3-9ebc-2ee6f81ed217_story.html

Course is essential to understanding small business contracting rules

June 18, 2014 by

The Contracting Education Academy at Georgia Tech is repeating its three-day course that delves into the intricacies of the federal government’s Small Business Programs.  The course focuses on the government agencies’ efforts to improve small business participation in both prime contracting and subcontracting.

Because of its relevance and popularity, the course is now scheduled to be held:

  • July 8 – 10, 2014
  • October 7 – 9, 2014

These classes will be held in the world-class Global Learning Center on Georgia Tech’s campus in midtown Atlanta.  Registration details may be found by clicking here.

Academy identifier - gold & black w-white bkgrndKnown as “CON 260B – Small Business Programs,” the course is a Defense Acquisition University (DAU) level 2 contracting course that goes a long way to ensure that those in the acquisition field are more aware of and responsive to small business concerns.  Historically, this class was designed for small business specialists, however The Academy has fashioned this class so that it is applicable to all interested parties – senior executives, managers, contracting officers and contracting staff, small business specialists from all agencies, small business advocates, as well as large and small business concerns.

A review of DAU’s prerequisite course, CON 260A, is included in the Contracting Academy’s course.

Small business participation in federal contracting is a high-profile issue.  For example, a recent Dept. of Defense (DoD) memo (seen here) reiterates how essential small businesses are to our nation’s economic recovery because they produce more jobs, represent a major source of innovative solutions to warfighter needs that help maintain our status as the world’s finest military, and contribute more to gross domestic output.  The Contracting Academy is committed to supporting DoD and other agency directives aimed at achieving higher levels of small business participation in federal contracting.

Uncle Sam's DollarsAll leaders who manage budgets and allocate funds for contracts and contracting officers are collectively responsible for achieving the government’s 23 percent small business goal.  To ensure that this collective responsibility is met, many federal agencies’ senior executives are evaluated and held accountable for small business participation in contracting.  A mandatory performance requirement for supporting this goal includes language that “establishes a command or program climate that is responsive to small business concerns.”

The Academy’s CON 260B is very relevant to the training needs of everyone involved in the process of seeing to it that small businesses participate in government contracting and subcontracting opportunities.  This includes, of course, small businesses themselves — as well as large businesses who are required to establish small business subcontract participation plans.

The Academy offers CON 260B, a 3-day course, as an open enrollment course which virtually ensures seating for all registrants.  Register here for the next CON 260B – Small Business Programs class at Georgia Tech in Atlanta.

2.1 CEUs are granted to those successfully completing this course.

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

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