Reflections of a small IT contractor on the government shutdown of 2013 and 2014′s uncertainties

January 14, 2014 by

[Note: This article was written by Terry Verigan, vice president of CompuCure.] 

Hurricane Katrina nearly killed CompuCure. In the wake of the storm, just three of us remained by Oct. 1, 2005, and the weeks ahead promised to be grim for our New Orleans-based IT services firm — what was left of it anyway. But we weren’t going to let that damn storm chase us away from our city.

By September 2013, eight long years after Katrina wiped out so many lives and businesses, CompuCure had rebounded sufficiently to make Inc. Magazine’s list of the fastest growing businesses in America. With a talented staff of 30 delivering projects that had achieved national recognition for quality and value, it was tempting to think we’d made it to some sort of safe high ground, economically speaking. But by late September, our president and owner, Angelina Parker, faced another storm, this one political. The federal shutdown nearly took down the business again.

While we had become accustomed to the disruptions that stemmed from continuing resolutions — the stop-gap budgets lawmakers typically adopted while they continued to disagree over larger spending questions — those rarely impacted our work at federal sites. Employees would clock in while budgets were frozen and eventually CompuCure would be reimbursed. Our line of credit was more than sufficient to carry on. Interest charges eat away at profitability, but we could keep going, knowing that our people and their families felt secure. Our most valuable resources, our employees, would still be on the job.

But the shutdown was different. It meant lost revenue to CompuCure, not just a delay in getting invoices paid. Disturbing questions emerged, notably: How would we keep our talented employees from moving to other companies less dependent on federal contracts?

Keep reading this article at: http://www.nextgov.com/cio-briefing/2013/12/reflections-2013-year-nearly-killed-one-small-federal-it-firm/76097/?oref=nextgov_cio_briefing

Hoping to sell to the government? Then start being a P.E.S.T.

January 10, 2014 by

When my business entered into government contracting in 2005, it did not take long for me to realize that we had entered a whole new world after years in the private sector. Certifications and set-asides were unfamiliar concepts; ones that frankly made me a bit uncomfortable, as I wondered whether I wanted my company to get “special” consideration because of my gender or the size of our operation.

What I have learned is that there really is no “special consideration” but just an opportunity to level the playing field. While certifications can get your business noticed by government agencies, being a woman-owned, veteran-owned, small business, HUB Zone and/or 8(a) organization guarantees you nothing.

This may seem intuitive to some, but it is a barrier to success for many more.

So how can a small business best leverage the power of the set-aside?  By becoming a P.E.S.T. — that is, by being persistent, educated, specific and transparent.

Keep reading this article by Lisa Firestone at: http://www.washingtonpost.com/business/on-small-business/small-business-advice-hoping-to-sell-to-the-government-then-start-being-a-pest/2013/12/19/3f12d3b6-68f4-11e3-a0b9-249bbb34602c_story.html 

 

SBA moves to ban firm from government contracting work

January 7, 2014 by

The Small Business Administration is moving to ban one of the government’s most prominent small-business contractors from new federal work, saying that the firm provided false information about its ownership and operations, documents show.

The SBA said it has information showing that Tysons Corner-based MicroTechnologies LLC and its founder, Anthony R. Jimenez, submitted “false and misleading statements” in order to receive preferential treatment, according to a Dec. 20 letter from the agency to the company. The company and Jimenez are effectively suspended from receiving new government work.

The agency said the false statements included one that “appears to be a complete fabrication” to hide the extensive role of two investors who apparently worked with Jimenez to launch, bankroll and operate MicroTech, according to a copy of the letter obtained by The Washington Post.

The SBA notice is the first step in a civil process that could lead to the banning of both Jimenez and MicroTech “from future contracting with any agencies of the Executive Branch of the United States Government,” the SBA said.

MicroTech did not respond to repeated requests for comment.

The company has 30 days to respond to the claims in the SBA’s regulatory action, which immediately makes the company and Jimenez ineligible for contracting work or any government assistance, such as loans, and proposes the “debarment” of the firm from future federal contracts.

Keep reading this article at: http://www.washingtonpost.com/investigations/sba-moves-to-ban-microtechnologies-llc-from-government-contracting-work/2013/12/27/a83ede02-6f02-11e3-b405-7e360f7e9fd2_story.html 

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. 
2013)

(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
items.

SBA presents Jan. 22 webinar on reasons 8(a) applicants are rejected

January 2, 2014 by

The U.S. Small Business Administration will present The Top Reasons Why SBA Returns and Declines an 8(a) Application on Jan. 22, 2014 at 2:00 p.m. EST.

The hour-long webinar will cover:

  • Eligibility requirements for 8(a) certification;
  • How to present a clean 8(a) application to the SBA to enhance the potential for acceptance into the  8(a) program; and
  • The top reasons why an 8(a) application is declined or returned.

The Jan. 22 webinar will cover basic “must have” requirements and the top reasons why an 8(a) application is declined or returned.

Click on this link to register: http://ems.intellor.com/index.cgi?p=204873&t=71&do=register&s=&rID=432&edID=293

New military spending deal includes help for small business contractors

December 27, 2013 by

In unusually speedy fashion, Congress this week approved both a new federal budget and a military spending bill, both of which provide a sense of clarity to small business owners, particularly those who sell goods and services to the federal government.

But there’s also a little something extra for small business contractors in the latter deal, called the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which authorizes military spending for the coming year and was approved by the Senate late Thursday. In fact, there are two little somethings.

The 2014 version of the legislation, which President Obama is expected to sign in the coming days, included two amendments born earlier this year in the House Small Business Committee, both of which are meant to help small firms in the procurement arena.

The first changes the way prime contractors are allowed to tally up the amount of subcontracting dollars they pass along to small businesses. Currently, the federal government can take into account every small business that works on a given project, even if they are a subcontractor to another subcontractor, when calculating the amount of federal awards that went to small companies in a given year.

Second, the bill includes a rule meant to clarify some confusion over rules concerning the amount of work small prime contractors are allowed to subcontract to large firms.

Keep reading this article at: http://www.washingtonpost.com/business/on-small-business/new-military-spending-deal-includes-help-for-small-business-contractors/2013/12/20/fe0270d2-6990-11e3-ae56-22de072140a2_story.html 

2014 calendar of free government training seminars announced

December 17, 2013 by

Seminars on government contracting topics are being scheduled at locations throughout the state of Georgia in 2014.   These training seminars are free of charge and are sponsored by the Georgia Tech Procurement Assistance Center (GTPAC).

The complete list of GTPAC seminars can be found at: http://gtpac.ecenterdirect.com/Conferences.action

Below are highlights of upcoming topics to be covered:

  • Need a solid introduction — or a refresher – to government contract fundamentals?   Then plan to attend our 3-hour “Introduction to Government Contracting.”  This is GTPAC’s most popular training class — and most frequently offered!  You’ll receive an update on all the basics, plus learn how to sign-up for GTPAC’s free services.   In addition, GTPAC offers a 1-hour orientation on this same topic called “Fundamentals of Working with the Government.”
  • Unsure if you are properly registered in the federal government’s vendor database?   Our webinar entitled “Fundamentals of Navigating SAM and Working with the Government” is the event for you.  You’ll learn all about the System for Award Management (SAM) and how it’s used to identify prospective contractors.
  • Want to learn about preferences given to women and other groups such as veterans in federal contracting?  Consider attending our seminars such as “Women-Owned Small Business Programs” and “Small Business Certification Programs.”  Both of these workshops provide solid orientations to all the federal contracting preference programs, including how to qualify.
  • Don’t know how to find or approach small business specialists?  “Working with Small Business Specialists” is the class for you.  We explain the role Small Business Specialists play within government agencies, how to find them, how to present your credentials, and what to expect.
  • Interested in contracting opportunities at the state and local government levels?   Then “Marketing to State and Local Governments” is the workshop you should attend.  You’ll learn about how to find contracting jobs right in your neighborhood, how to get registered as a vendor, and how to pursue local government contract work.
  • Curious about what resources are available to you on the Internet?  Our workshop entitled “Using Your Computer to Win Government Contracts” will teach you all about the free resources and information available on the web that will help you identify government contracting opportunities, conduct market research about upcoming government buying needs, submit bids on-line, communicate with governments, and get paid.
  • Need help preparing a bid or proposal?   GTPAC offers multiple workshops on “Preparing a Successful Bid or Proposal” where we cover downloading a solicitation, initial preparation steps, analyzing the evaluation criteria, building a bid or proposal, following submittal instructions, and obtaining a debriefing.
  • Trying to figure-out whether a GSA Schedule is right for you?   Our “Understanding the GSA Schedule Process” is your ticket to learning whether there is a GSA Schedule that matches your business and, if so, the fundamentals of how to submit a proposal.
  • What about all the other things you need to know?  GTPAC has regularly scheduled seminars on topics like: “Selling to the Military,”  “Wide Area Work Flow,”   “How to Create a Great Elevator Speech,”   “What is a Capabilities Statement and Why You Should Have One,” and much more.

Be sure to visit http://gtpac.ecenterdirect.com/Conferences.action today for a complete list of classes, locations, dates and other details.

GAO says agencies need to comply with Congressional requirements for bundled contracts

December 17, 2013 by

Federal agencies sometimes can achieve savings by consolidating requirements from separate, smaller contracts into fewer, larger contracts.  However, consolidation may negatively impact small businesses.  Generally, when consolidation makes a contract unsuitable for small businesses, the contract is considered bundled, which is a subset of consolidation. Agencies must justify their actions for both consolidated and bundled requirements.

In a new report issued by the U.S. General Accountability Office (GAO), it’s noted that the Department of Defense (DoD) and the General Services Administration (GSA) — which accounted for more than 80 percent of the consolidated contracts reported by all federal agencies in fiscal years 2011 and 2012 — do not know the full extent to which they are awarding consolidated contracts.  This is the result of contracts being misreported in the federal procurement data system (FPDS).

GAO reviewed 157 contracts — more than half of all DOD and GSA contracts that were reported as consolidated — and found that 34 percent of the DoD contracts and all of the GSA contracts in fact were not consolidated. GAO also identified four DoD contracts with consolidated requirements that were not reported as such.

GAO’s study found that DoD generally justified contracts with consolidated requirements in accordance with existing regulations, but DOD and GSA have not yet implemented 2010 changes in the law.   Eighty-two percent of the 100 DoD contracts confirmed as consolidated followed existing regulations pertaining to conducting market research, identifying alternatives, and justifying decisions. Most of the contracts that did not comply were justified, but the determinations were not made by an official at a level senior enough to meet defense regulation requirements.

The study also found that the Small Business Administration (SBA) does not collect complete information on bundled contracts and has not reported to Congressional committees as required by federal law.

To read the full GAO report, please visit: http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-14-36

GSA updates strategic sourcing tool for office supplies

December 6, 2013 by

The General Services Administration in late November published a draft update of its seven-year-old strategic sourcing initiative aimed at reducing the costs of agency office supply purchasing.

The new statement of work titled “Office Supply Third Generation,” or OS3, is “the agency’s latest effort to cut costs and increase efficiencies by buying everyday supplies like pens, paper and printing items from a list of vendors with negotiated low prices,” GSA said in a release. It is expected to save $65 million a year in reduced administrative costs and $90 million through lowered prices, with 76 percent of purchasing contracts going to small businesses. Since 2006, the program has saved agencies $350 million, according to GSA.

Keep reading this article at: http://www.govexec.com/contracting/2013/12/gsa-updates-strategic-sourcing-tool-office-supplies/74702 

Little guys complain they’re tossed aside as big contractors absorb cuts

November 22, 2013 by

Computer Frontiers Inc.’s owner thought she’d gotten a break when Stanley Inc. agreed to team up with the small technology company in the U.S. government market.

Instead, Barbara Keating says she feels betrayed. Canada’s CGI Group Inc., after buying Stanley, touted the relationship to win orders in the past three years under a State Department visa-processing contract valued at as much as $2.8 billion. Then it mostly cut the small business out of the deal, sending some work overseas, according to a federal lawsuit.

“We were a big part of winning the contract,” Keating said in a phone interview. “We definitely thought we’d all grow together because of this relationship. But that obviously didn’t happen.”

Large companies are increasingly reducing subcontractors’ roles to help cope with $1.2 trillion in automatic federal spending cuts that began in March, according to attorneys and contracting specialists. Those grievances have reached U.S. officials, who want to know when vendors won’t be working with small businesses that helped them get the work.

“We went to many different parts of the country and met with companies, and in almost every city there was someone that said this was an issue,” said Ken Dodds, director of policy, planning and liaison for the U.S. Small Business Administration.

The Small Business Jobs Act of 2010 demanded that the government start requiring contractors that operate under a subcontracting plan to notify agencies when they’re not using small businesses that were part of their bids, Dodds said. A regulation to implement that part of the law hasn’t been approved.

Keep reading this article at: http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2013-11-07/little-guys-said-tossed-aside-as-contractors-absorb-cuts.html