‘How to do business with GSA’ webinar Feb. 27th

December 3, 2012 by

The U.S. General Services Administration’s Office of Small Business Utilization is sponsoring an on-line webinar on Wednesday, Feb. 27, 2013, from 9:30 to 11:30 am EST.

This webinar gives businesses the opportunity to the “learn the federal ropes” from marketing to promoting sustainability.

GSA’s Office of Small Business Utilization advocates for small, minority, veteran, HUBZone, and women business owners.  The webinar will focus on the steps to “Doing Business with GSA” through contracting
options, sustainability, and more, including:

  • GSA’s procurement policies and methods
  • Accessing government solicitations
  • Marketing your products/services
  • GSA Schedules Program Pros and Cons
  • The GSA Mentor Protege Program
  • GSA and Sustainability

Space is limited.  Reserve your webinar seat now at: https://www4.gotomeeting.com/register/152980351

After registering you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the Webinar.

System Requirements:

  • PC-based attendees requirements: Windows® 7, Vista, XP or 2003 Server
  • Mac®-based attendees  requirements: Mac OS® X 10.5 or newer
  • Mobile attendees requirements: iPhone®, iPad®, Android™ phone or Android tablet

For additional information, please contact Janice Bracey at vog.asgnull@yecarb.ecinaj

Suspension and debarment often misunderstood, contractors told

April 18, 2012 by

Though viewed by industry as a punishment, the government’s suspension and debarment procedure for errant contractors is designed to be an “instantaneous” way to protect taxpayers from irresponsible spending, a panel of procurement officials agreed on Thursday. They parted company, however, on whether the current rules afford sufficient due process to affected companies.

Speaking at the first Acquisition Excellence conference staged jointly by the General Services Administration and the American Council for Technology and Industry Advisory Council, current and former procurement officials expressed concern that suspension and debarment has become “a hot topic” in Congress. Government Executive was one of four media partners for the conference.

It’s being used to go after “bad actors in all sorts of endeavors, from failure to pay taxes to fraud convictions,” said William Woods, director of acquisition and sourcing management at the Government Accountability Office, which in October 2011 published a study comparing frequency of suspensions and departments at 10 agencies. Most of the contractors tagged as suspended on GSA’s Excluded Parties List System are there for reasons unrelated to federal contracting such as drug trafficking or violations of export controls, he said.

Seven of the fiscal 2012 appropriations bills contained language requiring use of suspensions and debarments, added Rob Burton, a top White House procurement administrator during the George W. Bush administration and now a partner at Venable LLP. But the purpose of suspension and debarment is “not complicated,” said Dan Gordon, former administrator of procurement policy for the Obama White House who is now associate dean for government contracts law at The George Washington University Law School. “The purpose is to protect the taxpayers, not to replace or supplement the Justice Department’s administration of justice — they take care of the bad guys,” he said. Gordon warned that many misread the GAO report to imply that the more an agency suspends and debars, the better, as if “what this country needs is to hang more contractors high from a tree.”

What the process requires is “a matter of checking, of being careful,” Gordon said. “The system works pretty well,” and doesn’t require new legislation or regulation. The interagency committee on suspension and debarment can help by sharing best practices among specialized staff at agencies, he added.

Burton disagreed, calling the current regulations “flawed in a fundamental way because they allow for no due process.” He described how his private sector clients can suddenly receive a letter informing them they can’t do business with the federal government and “they get no opportunity to present their own information or defend themselves.” He added the current rules “would not pass constitutional muster.”

Joseph Neurauter, GSA’s top suspension and debarment official, stressed that the tool is not intended as punishment for contractors, though he acknowledged it can jeopardize an individual’s job. “It’s about minimizing risk for the federal government,” which is why the suspension is “instantaneous,” he said. His job is to view the problem from the point of view of agency acquisitions teams, Neurauter added. But he does regularly send letters to individuals who are suspended and invite them to meet informally and “show cause” as to why they should regain eligibility for government contracts.

Asked about new legislation that would impose suspension and debarment consideration for war zone contractors involved in human trafficking, Woods said “that’s a policy call for Congress.” Gordon said he is “always concerned when Congress sets up an automatic system of suspension and debarment because it undercuts the process by precluding discretion by officials looking at the full picture.”

At other sessions of the all-day conference that assembled several hundred federal employees and contractors at the Grand Hyatt in Washington, GSA chief Martha Johnson opened proceedings by stressing the value of sustainability as a key to reframing procurement in an age of limited budgets. A related session was titled, Sustainable Acquisition: Is It a Dream or Is It Real?

At lunch, Lesley Field, acting White House administrator for federal procurement policy, and colleagues presented achievement awards to federal contracting professionals in categories of buying smarter, effective vendor communication and strategic sourcing.

In a nod to the challenge of preparing the next generation of acquisition officers, Steve Ressler, founder of the social networking tool GovLoop, moderated a panel of young federal contract specialists from several agencies who are in the Rising Acquisition Professionals program. It was set up in 2010 by the Office of Federal Procurement Policy and the Federal Acquisition Institute.

Other sessions focused on how tight budgets are affecting ongoing relationships among agency contracting officers, program managers and industry. Speakers stressed the importance of engagement and dialogue early in the acquisition process, and many complained that too many agency staff members are fearful of tapping the expertise of contractors for fear of violating the Federal Acquisition Regulation and favoring one potential bidder over others, possibly provoking a bid protest.

“Government and industry too often talk past each other on early engagement,” said Mark Day, director of the Office of Strategic Programs at GSA’s Federal Acquisition Service. “Government asks the wrong questions, asking about prices before we know the cost drives, and then they write requirements that drive costs up.” Contractors, in turn, too often target the title not the role, Day added, and he recommended they talk to the official actually writing the requirements. “Early engagement is a mystery to the government side, and they’re scared of it,” Day said. “But it is an opportunity to find the sweet spot between what the government needs, what the contractor can provide and what the FAR allows.”

– by Charles S. Clark, Government Executive, Mar. 30, 2012 at http://www.govexec.com/contracting/2012/03/suspension-and-debarment-often-misunderstood-contractors-told/41638.

Interim rule updates FAR with sustainability executive orders

June 13, 2011 by

Two executive orders that increase the role of sustainability in federal procurement officially became part of the Federal Acquisition Regulation May 31 with publication in the Federal Register of an interim rule that’s effective immediately.

The rule incorporates E.O 13514, signed by President Barack Obama in 2009, and E.O. 13423, signed by President George W. Bush in January 2007. The first order requires federal agencies to ensure that 95 percent of new contracts, including indefinite delivery, indefinite quantity task or delivery orders, are energy and water efficient, biobased, environmentally preferable, don’t have ozone-depleting chemicals, contain recycled content and are non-toxic or less toxic than the alternatives. The order does not affect weapons systems. The interim rule establishes a new subpart in Part 23 of the FAR, part 23.1–sustainable acquisition policy–to implement it.

The second order requires agencies to conduct environmental, transportation and energy-related activities to be conducted in a sustainable manner. Most of the changes to the FAR as a result of it occur primarily in Part 52, which is where the contractual clauses are kept. In particular, the interim rule adds a new clause, 52.223-19, which requires contractors to conform to the environmental management systems in federal agencies.

The interim rule will not have a significant economic impact since a majority of the requirements from both executive orders have already been implemented, the Federal Register notifications states.

– by dperera – Fierce Government – June 7, 2011 – 11:16am at http://www.fiercegovernment.com/story/interim-rule-updates-far-sustainability-executive-orders/2011-06-07

For more:
- download the interim rule (.pdf)

Agencies told to go green on 95 percent of purchasing

June 3, 2011 by

The Obama administration’s campaign to have agencies “lead by example” in sustainable purchasing became stricter this week when the Federal Acquisition Regulations Council released an interim rule on green procurement.
Following up on President Obama’s 2009 executive order on green management, the draft published Tuesday in the Federal Register would require agencies “to leverage agency acquisitions to foster markets for sustainable technologies, materials, products and services.”
It tasks the head of each agency with ensuring that 95 percent of new contract actions are for products and services that are energy efficient, water efficient, bio-based, environmentally preferable or non-ozone depleting, adhering to criteria set out by the Environmental Protection Agency and the Agriculture Department. With the exception of weapons systems, agencies also must aim to procure items that contain recycled content and are nontoxic.
The toughened policy is being spearheaded by the Defense Department, NASA and the General Services Administration. It requires all federal contractors to support the government’s goals in environmental management, and includes new requirements for electronic or other paper-saving methods for submitting documents required by contracts.
“In the face of changing environmental circumstances and our nation’s heightened energy demands, the federal government must lead by example to create
a clean-energy economy that will increase prosperity, promote energy security, protect the interests of taxpayers and safeguard the health of our environment,” the rule states.

Agencies have until Aug. 1 to submit comment.

– by Charles S. Clark – Government Executive – June 1, 2011 – http://www.govexec.com/story_page.cfm?articleid=47921&dcn=e_gvet

New GSA acquisition chief calls for government-contractor cooperation

March 17, 2011 by

The General Services Administration’s new acquisition chief is calling for greater cooperation and communication between the government and its industry contractors, echoing a familiar refrain from members of the Obama administration’s procurement team in recent months.

In an interview last week with Government Executive, new GSA Chief Acquisition Officer Mindy Connolly said the two sides should have better dialogue in the lead-up to contract awards and during the process of implementing Federal Acquisition Regulations. GSA, like all contracting agencies, is required to develop a vendor communication plan for its workforce and the public by June 30.

“If we want to have a government that is leaner and more transparent and ready for the 21st century, anything we can do to reduce that burden on industry is really to our advantage,” said Connolly, whose first day on the job at GSA was Feb. 28.

The administration has made it a priority of late to myth-bust the perception that contracting officers should not meet with vendors for fear of causing contract delays, or committing potential ethical violations.

Last month, Dan Gordon, administrator of federal procurement policy at the Office of Management and Budget issued a 13-page memorandum that addresses 10 of the most widely held misconceptions, including communicating with a bidder could result in a competing firm filing a protest.

Connolly has experienced the often arcane world of federal contracting from two perspectives, administering awards in both the public and private sectors. She has awarded contracts at NASA, Customs and Borders Protection, and the Treasury Department and was the Transportation Security Agency’s first contracting officer. She previously served as chief of contracting for Bureau of Land Management’s Western Region and held similar roles in industry, most notably as a contracting manager for Honeywell Defense and Space Electronics.

At GSA, Connolly plans to work with industry to clarify the impact of FAR rules so that industry is not left struggling for answers.

“Because of my experience both in government acquisition and in industry acquisition as the government customer, my interest is that it works better,” she said. “It works pretty well, but there are opportunities for it to work better through communications and doing a little different planning in our rule-making.”

Most recently, Connolly served as a senior procurement policy analyst at OFPP, where she led the office’s natural resources’ division on contracting policy matters, including implementing White House requirements for sustainable procurements and green building design.

She helped draft Obama’s October 2009 executive order requiring agencies to set a 2020 greenhouse gas emissions reduction target, increase energy efficiency, reduce fleet petroleum consumption, and “leverage federal purchasing power to promote environmentally responsible products and technologies.”

The order states 95 percent of all new nonweapons contracts meet sustainability requirements, including being water and energy-efficient and safe for the environment, and containing recycled materials.

Connolly’s job is to take the broad-ranging policy for environmentally preferable products and services and sustainable technologies and make it executable through regulations in the FAR.

“Each agency would be able to look at how they can put [directives] into their specifications, or requirements for products,” she explained. “Some things are easy, like office paper. Other things are more challenging like a building, or a lease.”

By Robert Brodsky – GovExec.com – March 14, 2011

Green Government: An interview with GSA’s top Green building officials

December 16, 2010 by

The General Services Administration (GSA) is one of the largest owners of real estate in the country, composed primarily of office buildings and courthouses, land ports of entry, and warehouses.  The GSA owns and leases more than 354 million square feet of space in 8,600 buildings across the nation.

The GSA is also the owner of one of the greenest real estate porfolios.  As of the summer of 2010, the GSA had 48 LEED-certified owned and leased buildings with approximately 150 more working towards accreditation. Eighteen of those projects exceeded the minimum with LEED Gold certifications, and one GSA lease, the FBI Regional Office in Chicago, achieved a Platinum LEED rating for Existing Buildings.  The GSA has required LEED Silver certification for its projects for some time, and now requires that new Federal buildings achieve LEED Gold certification.

While I was at GreenBuild in Chicago, I had the chance to sit down with Kevin Kampschroer, GSA’s Director of the Office of Federal High-Performance Green Buildings and Eleni Reed, GSA’s Chief Greening Officer.

We talked about GSA’s experience greening the Federal government’s real estate portfolio, implementing the GSA’s LEED Gold requirement and the challenge–and benefits–of trying to do four times as many contracts as the GSA normally does because of the influx of $5 billion in Stimulus funding. 

Here is what they said:

GBLB: What has the GSA done with the Stimulus money? 

KK: The GSA has a bit of a different position than other agencies because the GSA actually enters into the contracts with builders and other receipients, as opposed to granting funds to states and other entities that ultimately contract with the recipients.  As of the end of September we had awarded $5 billion [for greening the Federal real estate and fleet].  After the award, it takes some time for the contractor to get the contract and hire the people and do the work, but we have made $1 billion in payments so far.

GBLB: What was impact of the Stimulus money on the GSA?

KK:  As a result of the Stimulus, we awarded four times as many contracts as the GSA usually does in the same period of time.  This forced us to find ways to be more efficient in what we were doing.  For example, we started “speed dating.”  Where decisions had to be made, we put all the decision makers in a room togther to come to a decision quickly.  Executives and managers had to delegate some of the decision-making to ensure efficiency. 

Because the projects had to be “shovel ready,” many of the designs were already done.  The designs met our specifications, but were not necessarily the best possible designs–the most you can do with the budget that you have.  Going forward, we are retooling our performance criteria and specifications to spur teams to be more innovative and creative with the budget they have.

For example, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory is a net-zero building.  We gave the team specifications, and we incentivized the team by paying them mroe the closer they got to the goals.

For other projects, we had a relatively brief minimum performance criteria which was a goal statement for the project.  It has resulted in more rapid and more innovative designs. However, this requires accepting a shift in risk to the Government side.  But the less risk you take, the less you get [in terms of innovation and design.]

This also has implications for allocating capital.  The GSA has to allow for approximation up front and not require everything to be fixed from the beginning of the project.  

GBLB:  Now that you have all these green buildings, what are you going to do next?  

ER: We are looking to get good metrics about whether we are doing what we set out to do [in terms of building performance].  We have 250 buildings with baseline metrics across a wide variety of project types so we should be able to get some good data. 

GBLB: How will the experience with the Stimulus funds impact the agency going forward? 

KK: We will be more efficient and more effective.  We will have achieved significant improvement in our portfolio [of buildings].  The budget will be extremely lean in the future.  It will be important to apply the lessons we have learned [about how to do projects more efficiently] to operating and maintaining the buildings to prevent deterioration.  We have an opportunity in tracking the performance of the inventory over time and across the portfolio.

GBLB: What about your requirement that GSA projects achieve LEED Gold certification?

KK: We select contractors who know that this is the expectation.  We have been doing LEED Silver for a decade, this is raising the bar to LEED Gold, but the architect and engineering firms know how to do it. 

When we budget the project, we have adjusted the process to allow for LEED Gold certification.  We have done studies on standard versus green construction, you can do LEED Silver for less than conventional construction because of integrated design. 

GBLB: Have you ever had a project fail to get the mandated certification? 

KK: The way we started out was that our goal was LEED Silver.  We have had building that did not reach that level of certification, but never had one that failed to acheive minimum LEED certification.

For more on the GSA’s efforts, Architecture Week had an article by Kevin, and Kevin’s testimony before the House Subcommittee on the GSA’s Stimulus efforts is available here.

-  by Shari Shapiro – Dec. 9, 2010 – Sustainable Cities Collective

0