Why the government can’t buy more like a business

April 11, 2014 by

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

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 


Appeal board reminds contractors not to look the other way when an RFP is missing documents or information

March 25, 2014 by

When an RFP is missing an attachment or information, contractors simply should not look the other way.  This is the lesson of CAE USA, Inc., ASBCA No. 58006, where the Armed Services Board of Contract Appeals (ASBCA) denied a contractor’s appeal due to its failure to inquire about missing information in an RFP before preparing and submitting its bid.

Pursuant to FAR 22.1008-2 and in compliance with Service Contract Act of 1965, 41 U.S.C. § 6707 (c)(1), the contracting officer (the “CO”) provided all bidders with a copy of a collective bargaining agreement (the “CBA”) that would apply to the contract.  The CBA indicated that the contractor’s employees would participate in a corporate benefit program, but did not provide specific details.  The CBA was missing certain relevant attachments but, rather than asking for that information, CAE USA, Inc. (“CAE”) made certain general assumptions about fringe benefits when calculating its proposed rates.  After award, the CO informed CAE that the missing attachments in the CBA required the payment of additional benefits, which CAE had to pay.  CAE submitted a claim for the cost of these additional benefits, which the CO denied, and CAE appealed to the ASBCA.

Keep reading this article at: http://www.governmentcontractsadvisor.com/2014/03/18/asbca-reminds-contractors-not-to-look-the-other-way-when-an-rfp-is-missing-documents-or-information

Course covering the Federal Acquisition Regulation is offered in convenient weekly modules

February 21, 2014 by

Georgia Tech’s comprehensive course on the Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) is conveniently broken-up into four, one-week modules — perfect for busy government officials and business people who want to learn everything there is to know about federal contracting but who can’t afford to be away from work for four consecutive weeks.

The course — CON 090 - FAR Fundamentals — covers every aspect of the government contracting process.  Class participants analyze real contracting business scenarios developed through research of all 53 parts of the FAR and its supplements.  The course covers the entire acquisition process, from defining procurement needs to contract close-out, and everything in-between.

  • For government contracting officers, this course is required to maintain a contracting warrant.   A warrant is a written document providing a contracting officer with the limits of his or her authority.   Per FAR 1.601-2, Contracting Officers have the authority to “enter into, administer, or terminate contracts and make related determinations and findings” to the extent of the authority delegated to them by their warrant.   Georgia Tech’s Contracting Education Academy offers a set of courses — each equivalent to Defense Acquisition University (DAU) course standards — that help contracting officials maintain their warrants and enhance their professional development.
  • For businesspeople who compete for and fulfill government contracts, Academy classes are equally pertinent.  Contractor personnel who attend Academy courses gain real-world knowledge about how government officials are trained to formulate and administer contracts.   Insights in these areas provide invaluable guidance pertinent to reaching greater success in competing for, winning, and fulfilling government contract work.

Each of the four modules are offered multiple times each year to allow students to attend one or more modules with maximum schedule flexibility.  Georgia Tech offers each of its acquisition courses, including the CON 090 course, in world-class facilities on campus in midtown Atlanta.  For groups of 10 or more, Georgia Tech also brings any of its government contracting courses to the workplace.  For details on all classes, including the FAR Fundamentals course, please visit http://www.pe.gatech.edu/courses/con-090-federal-acquisition-regulation-far-fundamentals.   To make arrangements for any of the courses to be taught at your place of work, please call or email us at 404-894-6109 or ude.hcetag.ymedacAgnitcartnoCnull@ofni.

FAR formally amended to provide accelerated payments to small subcontractors

January 3, 2014 by

For two years, it has been the policy of individual agencies of the federal government to encourage prime contractors, upon receipt of progress payments from an agency, to accelerate payments to small business subcontractors.  Now, this policy has been formalized by publication of a rule and contract clause in the Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR), effective December 28, 2013.

Here is the background.  The Department of Defense (DoD), the General Services Administration (GSA), and the National Aeronautical and Space Administration (NASA) originally published a proposed rule in the Federal Register at 77 FR 75089 on December 19, 2012, to implement OMB Memorandum M–12–16 that would provide for the acceleration of payments to small business subcontractors.  OMB released  Memorandum M–12–16, Providing Prompt Payment to Small Business Subcontractors, on July 11, 2012. This policy memorandum outlined the steps agencies should take to ensure that prime contractors pay their small business subcontractors as promptly as possible.  OMB released Memorandum M–13–15, Extension of Policy to Provide Accelerated Payment to Small Business Subcontractors, on July 11, 2013.  This policy memorandum extended the OMB
Memorandum M–12–16’s expiration date by one year to July 11, 2014.

With the publication of a formal rule in the FAR, the accelerated payment policy is now in effect, government-wide.  Below is the clause that is to be placed in all federal contracts containing subcontracting opportunities:

FAR Part 52.232–40 

Providing Accelerated Payments to
Small Business Subcontractors (Dec. 

(a) Upon receipt of accelerated payments
from the Government, the Contractor shall
make accelerated payments to its small
business subcontractors under this contract,
to the maximum extent practicable and prior
to when such payment is otherwise required
under the applicable contract or subcontract,
after receipt of a proper invoice and all other
required documentation from the small
business subcontractor.
(b) The acceleration of payments under this
clause does not provide any new rights under
the Prompt Payment Act.
(c) Include the substance of this clause,
including this paragraph (c), in all
subcontracts with small business concerns,
including subcontracts with small business
concerns for the acquisition of commercial

House panel kicks off Pentagon acquisition reform drive

November 7, 2013 by

The House Armed Services Committee last week kicked off a fresh drive to fix the way the Pentagon buys weapons and services, vowing to “look past Band-Aid fixes and parochial interests” and implement meaningful reforms.

The committee’s chairman, U.S. Representative Buck McKeon, said some successful efforts were already under way, but the U.S. military acquisition system still faced significant challenges including cost overruns and schedule delays, and those would get worse due to mounting pressure on U.S. budgets.

“The Congress, together with the Department of Defense and industry, must be willing to do the hard work to find root causes, look past Band-Aid fixes and parochial interests, and have the courage to implement meaningful, lasting reform,” McKeon said at the start of a hearing on the issue.

McKeon said he had asked Representative Mac Thornberry, a Texas Republican, to lead the long-term effort, aided by Representative Adam Smith, the top Democrat on the committee.

The latest Government Accountability Office report calculates that the Pentagon is slated to spend $1.5 trillion to acquire 85 separate weapons programs in coming years. Those programs are projected to experience $411 billion in cost growth and average scheduled delays of 27 months, the GAO estimates.

Paul Francis, managing director of acquisition and sourcing management for the GAO, told the committee that previous reform efforts had started to slow cost growth, but 39 percent of the weapons programs on the books in fiscal 2012 had experienced cost growth of 25 percent or more.

Keep reading this article at: http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/10/29/us-pentagon-weapons-congress-idUSBRE99S16E20131029

Contractor costs in whistle-blower cases no longer reimbursable

October 29, 2013 by

Contractors and subcontractors can no longer receive reimbursement from the  government for the costs of defending themselves against whistle-blower lawsuits  deemed legitimate.

The fiscal 2013 National Defense Authorization Act (P.L.112-239)  called for the change. On Oct. 22, the Defense Department, the General Services  Administration and NASA published an interim  rule, which was effective Sept. 30, to implement the law.

The Federal Acquisition Regulation previously only forbade contractor reimbursement for legal costs incurred in proceedings brought by a  government–federal, state, local or foreign. The new rule amends the FAR to  include legal costs from proceedings brought by a contractor or subcontractor  employee “submitting a whistleblower complaint of reprisal.”

The rule also broadens the scenarios that render the whistle-blower complaint  legitimate. Previously, the FAR said the contractor would have to be found  liable or fined in a civil proceeding in order to disqualify it from reimbursement. In the case of a criminal proceeding, it would have to be  convicted.

Keep reading this article at: http://www.fiercegovernment.com/story/contractor-costs-whistle-blower-cases-no-longer-reimbursable/2013-10-22

The interim rule can be found in the Federal Register at: https://www.federalregister.gov/articles/2013/09/30/2013-23702/federal-acquisition-regulation-allowability-of-legal-costs-for-whistleblower-proceedings.  Comments are due by Nov. 29, 2013.

DoD, TSA and HHS officials provide contracting advice to small businesses

August 23, 2013 by

The Pentagon’s point woman for hiring women-owned small businesses said this week that she “needed a lift” from the travails of furloughs and sequestration.

“This is a tough time for the federal government and DoD in particular if your’re concerned about small businesses,” said Linda Oliver, deputy director of the Defense Department’s Office of Small Business Programs. “Our travel dollars have been cut to nonexistent, our training dollars cut. I’m not second- guessing the decisions, but it’s kind of a down time.”

Speaking on Tuesday to hundreds of current and prospective contractors at the American Express Open’s annual summit, Oliver’s chief advice was to take advantage of the “debrief,” the optional meeting companies may request within three days of learning that they have been eliminated during a contract award process. “The debrief is not on the contracting officers’ list of fun things to do, since they fear they’re being set up for a bid protest,” she said. “But it’s really valuable and gives all involved perspective and closure,” she said.

Keep reading this article at: http://www.govexec.com/contracting/2013/08/despite-sequester-agencies-continue-hiring-women-owned-contractors/69104


Rule would boost consideration of contractor past performance

August 15, 2013 by

A proposed rule published Wednesday, Aug. 7, 2013 would update the Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) to help agencies consider past performance of contractors in awarding new work while shortening the comment period available to affected firms. The industry appears receptive.

As required by the fiscal 2013 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) President Obama signed on Jan. 2, the Defense Department, the General Services Administration and NASA drafted a rule to allow data on contractor past performance to be added to two databases, the Contractor Performance Assessment Reporting System (CPARS) and the Past Performance Information Retrieval System (PPIRS). The rule would also give contractors 14 days to submit comments, rebuttals or additional information in the database, rather than the current 30 days.

“It is important for past performance information to be shared with source selection officials immediately, so that award decisions can be better informed and made in a more timely manner,” the proposed rule states. “Expediting the time allotted to contractors to respond to performance evaluations should improve communication between the contractor and the government, enable current information to be shared quickly throughout the government, and ultimately ensure the government does business with high performing contractors.”

Keep reading this article at: http://www.govexec.com/contracting/2013/08/rule-would-boost-consideration-contractor-past-performance/68294/?oref=govexec_today_nl

Federal Acquisition Regulation is the subject of 4-day Georgia Tech course beginning Aug. 6th

July 8, 2013 by

The Contracting Education Academy at Georgia Tech (The Academy) kicks-off a four-day course on Tuesday, August 6, 2013 covering the fundamentals of using the Federal Acquisition Regulation FAR).

The course is being conducted at Georgia Tech’s world-class professional education facilities in the Global Learning Center located on campus in midtown Atlanta.

This contracting overview of the FAR, covers Module 1 of CON 090: Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) Fundamentals, and includes the identification of the basic principles of contracting by the federal government, identification of and access to on-line resources, and instruction on the location, citation, and interpretation of the FAR, the Defense Federal Acquisition Regulation Supplement (DFARS), and the DFARS’ Procedures, Guidance and Information (PGI).

This course was originally designed exclusively for federal contracting officers, but The Academy has expanded its scope so that it is relevant to multiple audiences, including  contractors seeking to learn more about the federal contracting process, federal officials who need to satisfy job-related continuous education requirements, and anyone seeking more information about the federal acquisition profession.

More information about this course is available at: http://www.pe.gatech.edu/courses/con-090-1-contracting-overview-far.

In all, there are four Modules that make-up the CON 090 course series.  Information about the entire series can be found at: http://www.pe.gatech.edu/courses/con-090-federal-acquisition-regulation-far-fundamentals.

The Academy’s complete list of government acquisition courses, and course scheduling, is at: http://contractingacademy.gatech.edu/training.

The Contracting Education Academy at Georgia Tech is an official equivalency training provider of the Defense Acquisition University (DAU).