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NDAA Curbs Bid Protests (Somewhat) But Adds Enhanced Debriefings

By Barbara Kinosky  Yes, you read that right.  Deep in the murky depths of the $700 billion fiscal 2018 National Defense Authorization (NDAA) bill is language that puts a chill down the spine of protesters. Companies with revenue more than $250 million will have to pay the costs for filing losing protests on DoD procurements at the GAO.  Now protestors pay their own costs and attorneys’ fees with some exceptions. Section 827 of the NDAA would require DoD to launch a pilot program beginning in late 2019 and ending in late 2022 that would require those unsuccessful DoD protestors to pay DoD’s “costs incurred in processing protests.”  As in pilot programs there will be the usual report (which is where the writers of reports will make out big time) on the success of the pilot program. Why you may ask if this happening?  House-Senate conferees in a rare display of unity, agreed that contractor bid protests needed to be reduced to reduce the time of the procurement cycle, particularly with weapons systems.  This from a Congress who hasn’t done much (my editorial note). Second editorial note from me.  Most weapons systems contacts are very large.  They are larger than the national debt of Venezuela, which is very large indeed.  So, one would think that given the creep on cost on many weapons systems contracts one would want an even greater degree of scrutiny on those procurements.  Need I mention the mid-air refueling tanker cost woes? Other questions that will hopefully be addressed in the regulations.  How are costs computed?  How is revenue computed? Debriefings – NDAA Section 818 New requirements: In the case of a contract award in excess of $100,000,000, a requirement for disclosure of the agency’s written source selection award determination, redacted to protect the confidential and proprietary information of other offerors for the contract award, and, in the case of a contract award in excess of $10,000,000 and not in excess of $100,000,000with a small business or nontraditional contractor, an option for the small business or nontraditional contractor to request such disclosure (2) A requirement for a written or oral debriefing for all contract awards and task or delivery orders valued at $10,000,000 or higher. (3) Provisions ensuring that both unsuccessful and winning offerors are entitled to the disclosure above and the debriefing Plus, a chance to ask follow up questions Both the winning and losing offerors would be entitled to a debriefing – which at this time, I sparkly say, are still free Other Stuff I Read So You Don’t Have to Section 802 – DoD will establish a pool of intellectual property experts to get a handle on exactly who owns what Section 803 – new regulations on using private auditors to do incurred cost audits Section 806 – The micro purchase threshold will be increased from $3,000 to $10,000. Section 808 – another committee will be formed! This one on technology threats Section 811 – increase on submission of cost and pricing data numbers and a bit of an increase on the contracting officer’s authority to get such data Section 822 – a bit of an affirmation of using LPTA for procuring expendable goods Service Contract Act. On another note, I gave four different speeches last week all on the Service Contract Act, now referred to as the Service Contract Labor Standards.  That must be a record.  Guinness Book of Records – is there a category for the most speeches in one week on the Service Contract Act?  In any event, no one at any of the four presentations fell asleep and many even asked questions.  More I cannot ask for!   Happy Thanksgiving all! The post NDAA Curbs Bid Protests (Somewhat) But Adds Enhanced Debriefings appeared first on Centre Law & Consulting.
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Centre Law & Consulting

Centre Law & Consulting

 

Maureen Jamieson Quoted in Bloomberg BNA Article on Trade Agreements Act

Reproduced with permission from Federal Contracts Report, 105 FCR (May 11, 2016). Copyright 2016 by The Bureau of National Affairs, Inc. (800-372-1033) http://www.bna.com GSA Sends Warning Letters to Contractors Over Origins of Products The General Services Administration (GSA) is clamping down on thousands of federal contractors to ensure that products sold to government agencies are made in the U.S. or are otherwise in compliance with the Trade Agreement Act (TAA), Bloombery BNA has learned. Regional GSA offices in Fort Worth, Texas, and Kansas City, Missouri, emailed letters dated May 5 to more than 2,800 schedule contract holders that directed vendors to “review their total offering of product” by submitting a spreadsheet that verified the countries of origin of each schedule contract product, as well as copies of a Certificate of Origin or other certification from the manufacturer on its letterhead for products made in the U.S. or in a TAA-designated country. “The continued reoccurrence of non-compliant product threatens the integrity of the [Multiple Aware Schedule] contracts and GSA Advantage! website which federal customers rely on to make daily purchases that are compliant with the Federal Acquisition Regular (FAR),” the GSA letter said. “This threat cannot be tolerated for the good for the federal procurement community, MAS business line, and continued success of a primary system you rely on to serve federal customers.” The letter provided to Bloomberg BNA was unsigned but included the name of a Fort Worth-based GSA contracting officer at the bottom. The letter, addressed to “Dear GSA Partner,” noted that over the past year, the Multiple Award Schedule program had responded to “numerous” congressional inquiries and Freedom of Information Act requests regarding allegations of failed compliance with the TAA and the Buy American Act. Made In America In January, Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) said the GSA Advantage! website had listed products that were described as “made in America” but in fact were produced overseas. He said the GSA should review its website labels and excise products that are falsely listed. The Buy American Act, in place since 1933, and the regulation that stems from it significantly restricts the federal government from purchasing non-American-made products. The TAA stretches the law by allowing the purchase of end products from the U.S. or designated countries, which, according to GSA’s website, includes World Trade Organization government procurement agreement countries; free-trade agreement countries; least-developed countries; and Caribbean Basin countries. The designated country list, which includes 124 nations, excludes prominent U.S. trading partners China and India. The letter from the Great Southwest Region in Fort Worth ordered companies that have found products manufactured in non-TAA designated countries to remove all such products from their TAA contract; upload a new and revised catalog to GSA’s Schedule Input Program; and send an updated price list and terms and conditions to the National Schedules Information Center. The GSA gave companies that received the letter five days, until the close of business May 10, to respond. Businesses that didn’t reply in time face severe penalties, according to the letter, including, typed in bold letters, “the removal of your entire GSAdvantage file.” In a statement, a GSA spokesperson told Bloomberg BNA: “Once learning of products being offered on a Schedule contract that are potentially non-compliant with the Trade Agreements Act (TAA), or when the country of manufacture is otherwise misrepresented, GSA will conduct an immediate review an take swift action to ensure that vendors remove non-compliant products from Schedule contracts and GSA Advantage!.” Unmanned Vehicles According to the GSA spokesperson, 2,872 letters were emailed to contractors from the agency’s offices in Fort Worth and Kansas City. That included 308 emails sent to Schedule 51V Hardware Superstore contractors; 1,184 to Schedule 84 providers of security, facilities management, marine craft and emergency/disaster response-related goods; 641 to Schedule 56 makers of building materials and supplies and alternative energy solutions; 361 to Schedule 66 producers of test and measurement equipment, unmanned scientific vehicles and geographic environmental analysis equipment; and 378 emails to Schedule 7 makers of hospitality and cleaning equipment, sanitizers and toiletries. The spokesperson confirmed the GSA was targeting those specific schedules and products because of congressional and other complaints. “Those schedules are among the first group of targeted schedules with identified risk that GSA is reviewing,” the spokesperson said. Attorneys who represent contractors that received the emailed letter told Bloomberg BNA they are asking GSA for extensions to conduct necessary research into their product lines, and to complete all the needed paperwork. Maureen Jamieson, executive director of contracts and consulting at Centre Law & Consulting in Tysons Corner, Va., said she has heard from several clients concerned about the letter, including some based in Fort Worth and another that was contacted by GSA’s Kansas City office. She said GSA had not yet responded to her requests for an extension. “I’ve been hearing from clients of many years. They’re coming out of the woodwork,” Jamieson told Bloomberg BNA, adding that she was concerned about the tight turnaround time the GSA’s directive gave contractors. “If you’re going to do it right, it just requires more time, ” she said. Day One “It’s definitely been a scramble, I guess you could say,” Gunjan Talati, a Washington-based partner with Thompson Hine, told Bloomberg BNA. Talati said companies have been responsible for complying with the underlying requirements – that they adhere to the rules put forth in the TAA and Buy American Act – “since Day One.” But regardless of how diligent companies have been in fully adhering to those laws in the past, he said, “I look at this as a wake-up call.” Compliance with the TAA is often a complicated affair that can require “a detailed examination of the product’s manufacturing process,” Talati and fellow Thompson Hine Partner Lawrence Prosen wrote in a client advisory issued a day after GSA emails were sent. This includes a determination as to whether articles from one country have been “substantially transformed” into a new and different article of commerce that is distinctly different from the original item, they wrote.
  The post Maureen Jamieson Quoted in Bloomberg BNA Article on Trade Agreements Act appeared first on Centre Law & Consulting.
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Mandatory Sick Leave Giving Service Contractors A Headache

By David Warner On September 15, 2015, President Obama signed the Executive Order requiring federal contractors and subcontractors to provide one hour of paid sick leave for every 30 hours worked, up to at least seven days per year. Both the EO and its implementing regulations, finalized on September 30, 2016, made clear that the EO only applied to “new contracts,” defined as contracts with the Federal Government that result from solicitations issued on or after January 1, 2017, or that are awarded outside the solicitation process on or after January 1, 2017. With that date a year in the rearview mirror, the “bill” is beginning to come due. As previously reported, one unexpected wrinkle with the EO’s implementation was the DOL’s establishment of an “alternate health and welfare rate” that purports to exclude the sick leave portion of the calculated health and welfare rate. Specifically, as of August 1, 2017, the H&W rate for contracts subject to the sick leave EO is $4.13 per hour – $.28 lower than the $4.41 H&W rate applicable to contracts that do not require paid sick leave. While the higher H&W rate will effectively be phased out as contracts expire and are replaced with “new contracts,” for the next several years contractors will be required to closely monitor their contracts to ensure the correct H&W rate is applied. In addition, a common question contractors pose as more and more contracts require paid sick leave is whether they can combine sick and vacation entitlements into a single paid time off or “PTO” bucket. Per the DOL’s sick leave FAQ, “Sure, why not?” But while the “single bucket of leave” structure may seem simpler to administer, there are several hidden compliance challenges, particularly for contracts subject to the Service Contract Labor Standards (“SCLS”). First, under the SCLS vacation does not accrue over time but instead “cliff vests” in a single lump on a given employee’s anniversary date. Thus, an immediate challenge is coordinating the vesting of the two types of leave within the bucket – i.e., sick leave accruing annually over a calendar year while vacation cliff vesting on a single date. In addition, SCLS has actual cash value for the employee – i.e., once vested the employee must either take or be paid for the leave at the earliest of his or her next anniversary date, the end of their employment or the end of the contract. In contrast, sick leave has no cash value – i.e., it is only paid if taken. Finally, per the above, SCLS vacation cannot be carried forward from year to year. In contrast, EO sick leave must be permitted to be carried forward from year to year (though the carry-over can be capped at fifty-six (56) hours. So, while the combined PTO structure remains a theoretical possibility, it is not at all clear that it can be administered compliantly, or at least done so as efficiently as administering sick and vacation leave separately.   About the Author: David Warner
Partner
David Warner is a seasoned legal counselor with extensive experience in the resolution and litigation of complex employment and business disputes. His practice is focused on the government contractor, nonprofit, and hospitality industries. David leads Centre’s audit, investigation, and litigation practices. The post Mandatory Sick Leave Giving Service Contractors A Headache appeared first on Centre Law & Consulting.
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Maintaining an Approved Purchasing System – Things That Get in the Way

In the past I have written about subcontracting compliance from the Contractor Purchasing System Review (CPSR) audit prospective. The three step process of system existence, system procedure adequacy and compliance is a very effective way to meet the FAR 44.3 CPSR goal of “efficiency and effectiveness with which the contractor spends Government funds and complies with Government policy when subcontracting”. How efficient and effective the contractor procurement system performs goes beyond these three steps. Some of the factors that commonly impact on the acquisition process include planning, proper description of needs and funding. This article touches on a few aspects of these factors that if ignored can degrade the efficiency and effectiveness of your outsourcing processes. Planning is the major factor and can encompass the other two, but each is worth discussing. Planning encompasses many things that don’t always get the attention they deserve. One thing is certain, if you don’t take the time to do a good comprehensive job up front you will pay for it later! One of the major aspects of planning is in the proposal phase make or buy decisions. The make or buy analysis is part of the process for creating a winning team. You want to offer the client a winning team that meets their needs on time and at the right price. Do you provide the goods, components and services in-house or can you improve the “product” and pricing through partnering and subcontracting? The answer is to look for the best combination to win the contract. Is the outsourcing function within your company adequately represented on the proposal team? The subcontracting team can add value through market research identifying potential source and supporting small business plan development. Additionally, the subcontracting team can work with proposal team members on issue including flow down requirements, terms and conditions and pricing support. Have you ever hear the complaint that the government wants you to competitively award scope that was promised to a team member? If the original proposal clearly identifies the team member as the teaming source for a specific scope, then the source selection issue is complete. In fact, you may be able to get the Contracting Officer to include the team member in clause 52.244-2(j) excluding them from the consent process. Unfortunately I have seen cases where the winning proposal used information from a subcontractor but did not clearly describe the teaming arrangement in line with FAR 9.6. If the original proposal had included a clear description of the teaming arrangement, you have a solid basis for the subcontract source selection and a solid response when the CPSR team questions the adequacy of your subcontract competition activities. The outsourcing function needs to be an active member of the proposal team to make sure the ground work is laid right up front! A proper description of needs is not a new subject. Too often the internal customer (aka end user or requisitioner) is left to his or her own to come up with what is needed. The outsourcing function should be involved with the internal customer working with them to identify the best ways to meet their needs. If it is a recurring need, do you set up a competitively awarded catalog or blanket purchase arrangement? Or, do you set up a larger order with multiple deliveries coordinated with the internal customer’s schedule? If the internal customers’ needs are so specific that it limits competition, then you have the opportunity to work with them to do the market research to find alternatives or to substantiate the single or sole-source justification. In either case, you have a solid response when the CPSR team questions the adequacy of competition activities or basis for a commercial item determination. The outsourcing function needs to be actively involved with the internal customer right up front! Funding is a subject that doesn’t always get the attention it deserves. Sure, you need money to support a purchase order/subcontract, and Under DFARS 252.244-7001 (c) (4), properly authorized requisitions are required.  But there are other issues around funding that can hamper efficient and effective outsourcing. One issue that can negatively impact you is adequate funding. Inadequate funding on a requisition can lead to delays and increased costs in prime contract performance. Proper project planning and budgeting helps, but the funding source(s) and acquisition planning need to be worked together. For example, rental of heavy construction equipment should be based on the construction schedule the equipment is supporting. You would think that means a six month rental should be funded for six months. But, sometimes you see it “incrementally” funded through a series of requisitions. Here is where efficiency and effectiveness go out the window. The buyer/subcontract administrator must issue a series of monthly modification to add funds (buyer time away from other work). If the funding requisition is delayed, then invoices sit in Accounts Payable waiting for sufficient committed funds to pay the invoice (both buyer and A/P clerk have time away from other work). Late payments leads to stop work threats, complaints to the Contracting Officer, and questions/findings on accounting and purchasing audits (now management, buyers, A/P clerks and others have more time away from other work). When payment is slow, disgruntled subcontractors are less inclined to bid new work or offer better pricing (more work again and potential system audit issues related to a variety of issues such as; timely award, adequate competition, fair and reasonable pricing, subcontract closeout and file documentation).  Again, early involvement of the outsourcing function can help eliminate problems before they occur saving time and resources that would otherwise be consumed trying to patch and fix things later in the process. I hope my point is clear. Early involvement by your subcontracting and purchasing staff pays big rewards to the overall success of your company. Beyond timely and successful prime contract performance, another benefit is improved compliance. When I see problems during compliance audits and CPSR reviews, the “root cause” is frequently the result of a “reactive procurement system” trying to fix things that could have been avoided by early, effective involvement with internal customer. With time being taken away from the primary task of procuring the goods and services needed, quality and compliance suffer. When people have the time and tools to do their jobs, they are going to give you the kind of results you need, successfully perform the prime contract and meet client audit expectations. That’s how you maintain an approved purchasing system! About the Author Jack Holt has more than four decades of experience as a contracts professional in Government and the private sector. A retired Air Force officer, he served multiple acquisition related assignments with The Air Force and Defense Contract Management Agency. These assignments included Assistant Professor of Acquisition Management, Air Force Institute of Technology, multiple in-plant assignments where he functioned as Principle Administrative Contracting Officer/DACO managing contract administration, pricing, government property, CAS and overhead approvals, supplier quality, and subcontract management. After leaving the Air Force, Mr. Hott became principle consultant to a small veteran owned business developing and presenting training on a variety of government contracting subjects including cost/price analysis, contract administration and Cost Accounting Standards. The post Maintaining an Approved Purchasing System – Things That Get in the Way appeared first on Centre Law & Consulting.
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Centre Law & Consulting

Centre Law & Consulting

 

Lowest-Price, Technically Acceptable (LPTA) Reform Legislation Introduced

Bill Seeks to Limit Improper LPTA Use Although Lowest-Price, Technically Acceptable (LPTA) procurements are conducted as part of the “best value” continuum, nothing seems to get the ire of industry up more than LPTA procurements, and the government’s seemingly ever-increasing use of the LPTA method.  Help may be on the way to curb the use of improper LPTA procurements in civilian departments.  The National Defense Authorization Act of 2017 already placed restrictions on use of LPTA procurements by the Department of Defense for procuring knowledge-based services. Representative Mark Meadows introduced the “Promoting Value Based Procurement Act of 2017,” June 22, 2017.  The Bill, H.R. 3019, currently has three co-sponsors, all representatives from the Federal contractor-saturated Congressional Districts in Northern Virginia. H.R. 3019 would amend the Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) requiring Federal civilian departments and agencies to take additional steps when conducting LPTA procurements. If enacted, H.R. 3019 will require Federal civilian departments and agencies, when it comes to an LPTA procurement, civilian agencies must: Describe the agency’s minimum requirements in terms of performance objectives, measures and standards to determine acceptability of LPTA offers. Articulate in solicitations there is no value in offering items/services which will exceed the technical and performance requirements. Require solicitation language stating technical approaches will require no subjective judgment by the source selection authority for one LPTA proposal over another. Require source selection authorities reviewing technical proposals have high confidence offers other than the lowest-priced offer would not result in the identifying factors which provide value or benefit to the contracting agency. Contracting officers must also document the contract file with a justification for use of the LPTA evaluation methodology. Determine use of LPTA reflects full life-cycle costs, to include costs for operation and support. H.R. 3019 restricts use of LPTA for IT services, cybersecurity services, advanced electronic testing, systems engineering and technical assistance services, and other similar “knowledge-based” professional services.  Restrictions also apply to the use of LPTA procurement strategies for acquiring personal protective equipment, and knowledge-based training or logistics services in support of overseas contingency operations. H.R. 3019 was referred to the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.  There is no related bill in the Senate at this time.   By Wayne Simpson The post Lowest-Price, Technically Acceptable (LPTA) Reform Legislation Introduced appeared first on Centre Law & Consulting.
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Looking Back at GAO Bid Protest Trends from 2017

By Heather Mims GAO recently released its bid protest statistics for fiscal year 2017. The number of bid protests filed saw a slight decrease from 2016 but, overall, the effectiveness rate remained fairly even. Specifically, 2,596 cases were filed at the GAO in fiscal year 2017, which is down 7% compared to the 2,789 cases that were filed in fiscal year 2016. However, the GAO’s “effectiveness rate,” which includes voluntary agency corrective active and sustained protests, remained virtually unchanged at 47% in fiscal year 2017, compared to 46% in fiscal year 2016. In its statistics, the GAO also noted its most prevalent grounds for sustaining protests in the past year. For 2017, these grounds were: (1) unreasonable technical evaluation; (2) unreasonable past performance evaluation; (3) unreasonable cost or price evaluation; (4) inadequate documentation of the record; and (5) flawed selection decision. An example of a protest where the GAO ruled that the agency had inadequate documentation is Threat Management Group, LLC. Threat Management Group protested the issuance of a task order as outside of the scope of the underlying ID/IQ contract and thus the agency should have competed the requirement. In examining the record, the GAO noted that there was no documentation of the specific services the awardee was requested to perform under the task order. The GAO twice requested additional documentation from the agency, which it was unable to provide. In sustaining the protest, the GAO found that the record was so limited that it could not conclude that a task order was within the scope of the underlying contract and the agency had not produced any relevant documents to demonstrate otherwise. In its report each year, the GAO includes a chart showing the statistical changes for the past five fiscal years. Among other things, this chart indicates that the success rate for ADR was the highest this past year (at an astounding 90%) out of the prior five years. Additional information can be found in the below chart:     About the Author: Heather Mims
Associate Attorney
Heather Mims is an associate attorney at Centre Law & Consulting. Her practice is primarily focused on government contracts law, employment law, and litigation. Heather graduated magna cum laude from the George Mason School of Law where she was the Senior Research Editor for the Law Review and a Writing Fellow.   The post Looking Back at GAO Bid Protest Trends from 2017 appeared first on Centre Law & Consulting.
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Kinosky and Blickley Featured on Webinar Discussing HR Issues for Government Contractors

On May 11, Centre Law & Consulting’s attorneys Barbara Kinosky and Marina Blickley were featured guests on Give Me 5, a webinar hosted by Women in Public Policy (WIPP). The online series is designed to educate women business owners on how to apply for and secure federal procurement opportunities. Give Me 5: Where Human Resources and Government Contracts Intersect Webinar Summary: Federal contractors are subject to a unique set of rules, laws and regulations. Many of these laws and regulations also apply to subcontractors. This session covers the more complicated areas where HR and government contracts intersect, including: OFCCP – latest news on increased HR compliance requirements Executive Order actions and recent regulatory changes Common challenges to complying with the Service Contract Labor Standards/Service Contract Act Tips for handling whistleblower and relator complaints Handling mandatory disclosures Changes to implement now  
Listen to the Podcast  |  View the Presentation In addition, Marina also wrote a post for Women in Biz Blog discussing new regulations that came out after the webinar and are planned to go into effect on December 1, 2016.
  The post Kinosky and Blickley Featured on Webinar Discussing HR Issues for Government Contractors appeared first on Centre Law & Consulting.
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IT’S OFFICIAL: “Cascading” Set-Asides Are Now Authorized at the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA)

By Wayne Simpson, CFCM, CSCM   Discretionary Use by VA Contracting Officers Authorized; Must Be Approved First   In what many will see as VA’s continued assault on its Veterans First Contracting Program post-Kingdomware, VA recently implemented “Cascading” set-asides.  VA refers to these set-asides as “Tiered Evaluations,” noting they are also known as “Cascading” set-asides.   VA issued Acquisition Policy Flash (No. 18-15), transmitting Procurement Policy Memorandum (PPM) No. 2018-04, dated and effective February 8, 2018.  VA issued the PPM in response to requests from VA contracting officers requesting guidance and procedures for the use of tiered evaluations within a single synopsized solicitation when applying the “VA Rule of Two.”   The “goal” of the PPM is to minimize delays in the re-solicitation process incurred subsequent to the application of the “VA Rule of Two” at either the Service-Disabled Veteran-Owned Small Business (SDVOSB) and the Veteran-Owned Small Business (VOSB) priority tiers within a single-synopsized solicitation   According to VA, this change will also streamline the process of satisfying VA’s obligation under Section 8127 of Title 38 United States Code when “viable” offers are not received at the SDVOSB or VOSB priority tiers within a single synopsized procurement.   There are three types of tiered evaluations which VA will use.  The first is “Tiered Evaluations Limited to SDVOSB or VOSB.”  The second, “Tiered Evaluations Including Small Business Concerns.  The third is “Tiered Evaluations Including Large Business Concerns.”  The type tiered evaluation used will be based on the results of market research which must be conducted and documented in advance of the solicitation’s issuance.   VA must include a notice in all solicitations issued using tiered evaluation.   VA issued a Class Deviation to the Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) on March 22, 2018, which was also effective immediately.  The FAR Class Deviation was required to allow VA contracting officers to follow tiered evaluation procedures in PPM No. 2018-004.  The language at FAR 19.502, prior to issuance of the Class Deviation limited the effectiveness of VA’s PPM No. 2018-04, as the FAR required contracting officers to withdraw the set-aside and resolicit the requirement if no acceptable offers are received from responsible small business concerns.   PPM No. 2018-04 applies to all competitive procurements using tiered evaluations.  The use of tiered evaluations for procurements of supplies, products, and services (including commercial items) is at the discretion of the contracting officer.  When using tiered evaluations, the solicitation must be approved by a contracting official at least one level above the contracting officer who issues and prepares the solicitation.  The approving official will validate the supporting market research has been thoroughly documented in advance of issuing the solicitation.   About the Author: Wayne Simpson
Consultant
Wayne Simpson is retired from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) after 38 years of federal service. He served as the Executive Assistant to VA’s Deputy Assistant Secretary for Acquisition and Logistics where he was the primary staff advisor to the Deputy Assistant Secretary, who serves concurrently as VA’s Senior Procurement Executive and Debarring Official.   The post IT’S OFFICIAL: “Cascading” Set-Asides Are Now Authorized at the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) appeared first on Centre Law & Consulting.
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Incumbent Files Preaward Protest for Navy’s Failure to Release Incumbent’s Proprietary Data

Just when you think you have heard it all, along comes the preaward protest of Fluor Federal Solutions, LLC, B-414223, March 29, 2017. Fluor alleged that the Department of the Navy, Naval Facilities Engineering Command, solicitation was ambiguous. Fluor claimed that that offerors could not meaningfully price their proposals because of the ambiguous requirement it contained and that proposals received could not be meaningfully compared and evaluated. The interesting quirk was that Fluor was the incumbent, and they wanted to “level the playing field” so that all offerors were bidding to the same requirement and leaving no ambiguity. Fluor’s method of doing so was to have the Navy release Fluor’s proprietary data, after it waived its rights in the data. The Government Accountability Office (GAO) dismissed this ground of protest. They held that the protester failed to establish that it is an interested party to challenge the lack of data. This is legal speak for saying that Fluor cannot protest on behalf of other potential bidders. Fluor was not prejudiced by the failure of other offerors to see the Fluor proprietary data. It’s an interesting twist on a protest.
 
About the Author Barbara Kinosky
Managing Partner
Barbara Kinosky has more than twenty-five years of experience in all aspects of federal government contracting and is a nationally known expert on GSA and VA Schedules and the Service Contract Act. She has a proven track record of solving complex issues for clients by providing strategic and business savvy advice. Barbara was named a top attorney for federal contracting by Smart CEO magazine in 2010, 2012, and 2015.   The post Incumbent Files Preaward Protest for Navy’s Failure to Release Incumbent’s Proprietary Data appeared first on Centre Law & Consulting.
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Increased Micropurchase and Simplified Acquisition Thresholds May be Implemented Sooner Than Later

By Wayne Simpson, Centre Consultant, CFCM, CSCM Good news for Federal contractors and buyers.  On February 16, 2018, the Civilian Agency Acquisition Council (CAAC) issued CAAC Letter No. 2018-02 to Federal agencies regarding a class deviation to the Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) for implementing the new increased micropurchase and simplified acquisition thresholds.  The National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2018 (Public Law 115-91, December 12, 2017) (NDAA 2018), raises the micropurchase and simplified acquisition thresholds for Federal acquisitions. Section 806 of NDAA 2018 increases the micropurchase threshold for products only from $3,500 to $10,000.  The micropurchase thresholds for acquisitions involving services and construction services remain unchanged.  The micropurchase threshold for services remains $2,500 (Service Contract Labor Standards—formerly the Service Contract Act of 1965), and $2,000 for construction services (Construction Wage Rate Requirements Statute—formerly the Davis-Bacon Act). Section 805 of NDAA 2018 increases the simplified acquisition threshold from $150,000 to $250,000. FAR Case 2018-004 was established to implement these statutory changes in the FAR.  CAAC Letter No. 2018-02 indicates agencies may have a need to use the increased thresholds prior to publication of the FAR changes.  The CAAC letter constitutes the consultation required under FAR with the CAAC allowing agencies to authorize a class deviation to implement the changes effective immediately.  Some agencies may elect to implement through a FAR class deviation immediately, while others may wait for publication of the actual rule. A change to the micropurchase threshold contained in Section 217(b) of NDAA for Fiscal Year 2017 (Public Law 114-238) (NDAA 2017), not yet implemented, was overtaken by NDAA 2018.  NDAA 2017 changed a portion of the micropurchase threshold definition in FAR 2.101, to increase the micropurchase threshold for acquisitions from institutions of higher education or related or affiliated nonprofit entities, or from nonprofit research organizations or independent research institutes to $10,000.  The new micropurchase threshold of $10,000 set by NDAA 2018 makes no such distinction. There are some exceptions to the new $10,000 micropurchase threshold.  Acquisitions for supplies or services, as determined by the Agency Head, to be used to support contingency operations; to facilitate defense against, or recovery from cyber, nuclear, biological, chemical or radiological attack; to support a request from the Secretary of State or the Administrator of the United States Agency for International Development to facilitate provisions of international disaster assistance or to support a response to an emergency or major disaster (except for construction) have a higher micropurchase threshold, $20,000 in the case of any contract to be awarded performed, or purchase to be made, inside the United States, and $30,000 if outside the United States. The simplified acquisition threshold increase will affect the applicability of many FAR-prescribed provisions and clauses which are tied to the simplified acquisition threshold, as well as FAR Part 13, Simplified Acquisition Procedures.  The increase will allow government contracting officers to buy more efficiently using FAR Part 13.  FAR clauses applicable at the new simplified acquisition threshold should benefit government contractors by reducing the compliance burden for those clauses and provisions. Please also note changes to FAR Part 19, Small Business Programs because of the threshold changes.  Specifically, FAR 19.203, Relationship Among Small Business Programs, requires the acquisition of supplies and services with anticipated values exceeding $10,000 (and the exceptions noted above) and $250,000 are automatically reserved for small business (see also FAR 19.502-1). There are also some exceptions to the new $250,000 simplified acquisition threshold. Acquisitions for supplies or services, as determined by the Agency Head, to be used to support contingency operations; to facilitate defense against, or recovery from cyber, nuclear, biological, chemical or radiological attack; to support a request from the Secretary of State or the Administrator U.S. Aid to facilitate provisions of international disaster assistance or to support a response to an emergency or major disaster (except for construction) is $750,000 in the case of any contract to be awarded performed, or purchase to be made, inside the United States, and $1.5 Million if outside the United States. Lastly, the simplified acquisition threshold for acquisitions for supplies or services, as determined by Agency heads, to be used to support a humanitarian or peacekeeping operation is $500,000. About the Author: Wayne Simpson
Consultant
Wayne Simpson is retired from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) after 38 years of federal service. He served as the Executive Assistant to VA’s Deputy Assistant Secretary for Acquisition and Logistics where he was the primary staff advisor to the Deputy Assistant Secretary, who serves concurrently as VA’s Senior Procurement Executive and Debarring Official.   The post Increased Micropurchase and Simplified Acquisition Thresholds May be Implemented Sooner Than Later appeared first on Centre Law & Consulting.
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How Worried Are You About Your Firm’s Cybersecurity?

The answer should be: very worried.  Even if you are involved in a small company or small law firm, you can be a target.  Everyone needs to take appropriate precautions. Even though we seem to be hearing nonstop horror stories about servers being held for ransom or personal information stolen from websites, there are things that you can do to minimize the chances that you or your company will be the next victim. You need to establish a set of security rules that will apply to everyone in the firm – and they should be rigorously enforced.  The biggest exposure does not come from hardware or software, but from your humans.  Everyone on the staff should be trained in how to compute safely.   They should never open an email – even if is from someone they know — if it seems suspicious in any way.  Never click on a link in an email unless you are sure that it is taking you someplace safe.  At worst, you’ll delete an email that was legitimate, but if it is important the sender will try to contact you again.  Users should not be able to add new programs to the network. In order to access your network (whether you are in the cloud or have a server in the office), you should utilize two-factor authentication.  In addition to a complex and frequently changed password, the user should be required to input an additional set of numbers that are texted to a smart phone or a different email address.  These systems are not foolproof, but they reduce the chances that a someone who gets a password will be able to get into the network.  The system should automatically lock-out IDs after a certain number (3? 5?) of unsuccessful attempts to log-in.  If it is really an authorized user who keeps screwing up his or her password, they will call the system operator to straighten it out eventually. You should make sure that each workstation has modern anti-virus/anti-malware software installed, and it is updated regularly.  The defensive programs should be installed on any device that it attached to your network, including mobile devices.  If you use Windows, you should be on the latest version. Every time an operating system update is released, it should be installed, as much of the updating is to plug security holes. You should have a back-up system for all of your data, both at the server and workstation level.  If you use a cloud service such as those provided by Microsoft, Amazon, or other big providers, they have a built-in back-up protocol.  If you use a different vendor, check to see what their back-up protocol is.  Often, it will be a replication to a different server farm.   Back-up drives attached to each workstation, if configured properly, will protect against loss of data due to mechanical problems at the workstation.  But they may not protect again a ransomware attack, since the back-up drive may be similarly infected.  Therefore, it is somewhat more secure to use an on-line back-up system be employed since most malware attack software won’t “see” the online connection as an attached drive, and won’t be able to encrypt it. Any device that stores business or client information should be encrypted.  For office workstations this means a program like Bitlocker.  For mobile devices, the default encryption and password may suffice, but you should supplement this with a remote ability to locate and or wipe the device.  Many of the instances of unauthorized access have been due to loss of a mobile phone or theft of a laptop.  Make sure that if this happens, the finder will be unable to do anything with the data on the device. If your business or law firm network is going to be accessed by others, make sure that there is strong firewall protections between the various segments of the network.  The greatest vulnerability may come from access to a contractor’s system that has full access to your system.  Before allowing anyone remote access to your system, make sure that they have adequate security. Lawyers should be aware that there are ethical rules that obligate you to make certain that you have taken “reasonable efforts to prevent the inadvertent or unauthorized disclosure of, or unauthorized access to, information relating to the representation of a client.”  Model Rule of Professional Conduct 1.6(c).  The rules also note that competent representation requires that an attorney, “to maintain the requisite knowledge and skill, . . . keep abreast of changes in the law and its practice, including the benefits and risks associated with relevant technology . . . . “  Comment 8, Rule 1.1 In spite of all of your protections, some bad guy may still be able to penetrate your system and steal or encrypt your data.   Your protection package should include cybersecurity insurance that will cover the expected costs of investigation, remediation, notification, fines, credit monitoring, litigation defense, an damages flowing from business interruption.   Yes, these premiums will add costs to your overhead, but, like every other type of insurance you are buying peace of mind with the hope that you will never need to use it. One final note for federal contractors: there are a few formal hoops that you must just through, as defined by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST).  Read more on that subject here.   About the Author Theodore Banks concentrates his practice on antitrust, compliance, food law, and other corporate matters. Mr. Banks has extensive experience with corporate litigation, including responsibility for contested mergers, environmental contamination, advertising, insurance coverage, products liability, employment law, consumer protection, and packaging and recycling. He has a national reputation for work in corporate compliance and antitrust, and was an early proponent of corporate opt-out suits as plaintiff in antitrust litigation, such as Vitamin, Carbon Dioxide, Corrugated Container, Folding Carton, and Citric Acid Antitrust Litigation, recovering more than $100 million. Through his experience in all aspects of the food industry, Mr. Banks has deep familiarity with the regulatory frameworks and state and federal laws governing food manufacture, distribution, sales, and safety.   The post How Worried Are You About Your Firm’s Cybersecurity? appeared first on Centre Law & Consulting.
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How to Lose an Award in a Single Email Exchange

Federal contractors often feel a great sense of relief when they are selected for an award. However, the recent GAO decision  regarding a request for quotations for supplying diesel shows just how quickly a business relationship with the federal government can sour. Bluehorse Corporation, an Indian Small Business, successfully submitted the lowest price quote on supply and delivery of around 30,000 gallons of diesel for use in a construction project. The Request for Quotations stated; “All fuel delivery must be coordinated with the construction manager who will schedule delivery dates and quantities. Please note: that all fuel will not be delivered at one time but in stages as the project progresses.” Bluehorse submitted its quotation noting it had “the ability to 7,500 gallons of fuel per delivery.” After choosing Bluehorse’s quote, the contracting officer (“CO”) forwarded the purchase order to Bluehorse for 4,000 gallons of fuel every three to four weeks, delivered to two 4,000 gallon capacity tanks. Things between the two quickly turned south in one day. Bluehorse responded in confusion, pointing to the solicitation, which stated the two tanks had a 5,000 gallon capacity.  The CO ignored this provision and instead pointed to language indicating 4,000 gallons would be delivered every three to four weeks.  Bluehorse insisted on clarification for the tank capacity, and receiving no response then wrote, “be aware that our offer was made on the ability to make a 7,500 (gallon) drop (into two 5,000 tanks.)” The CO offered only an ultimatum, sign the purchase agreement or refuse. The two parties went back and forth with the CO informing Bluehorse their delivery of 7,500 gallons was unacceptable. When Bluehorse did not immediately provided the signed purchase order, the CO rescinded the offer.  Bluehorse filed a protest the very next day claiming the Agency relied upon unstated criteria. The GAO disagreed, stating a quotation that fails to conform to a solicitation’s material terms and conditions is unacceptable. Here the solicitation explicitly stated the CO would determine delivery dates and quantities. The solicitation also suggested the Agency “typically” orders 4,000 gallons per delivery. In its email exchange, Bluehorse indicated it would only be making 7,500 gallon deliveries, which is a condition unacceptable in the GAO’s decision. The Bluehorse decision should be takin as a serious warning that awards can quickly dissolve without a tactful hand steering the negotiations.  It is easy to imagine the protest would not have been necessary had Bluehorse approached the tank capacity confusion with more deference or humility to the CO. About the Author: Tyler Freiberger
Associate Attorney
Tyler Freiberger is an associate attorney at Centre Law & Consulting primarily focusing on employment law and litigation. He has successfully litigated employment issues before the EEOC, MSPB, local counties human rights commissions, the United States D.C. District Court, Maryland District Court, and the Eastern District of Virginia. The post How to Lose an Award in a Single Email Exchange appeared first on Centre Law & Consulting.
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GSA’s Streamlined Offer Process for Successful Legacy Contractors

As many contractors are approaching the end of their 20-year contract period in the FSS program, the General Services Administration (GSA) has made it possible for successful legacy contractors to follow a streamlined offer process for their new 20-year contract. Clause A-FSS-11 has been updated so that a contractor can now submit an offer for a new contract under the same Schedule at any time during the existing contract period. Process Requirements In order to follow the streamlined offer process, contractors must meet ALL of the following criteria: The contractor has an existing Schedule and is submitting a new offer for the same SINs and Schedule Sales under the existing contract have averaged a minimum of $25,000 per year for the previous five years of reported sales There is a demonstrated pattern of satisfactory past performance under the existing contract To simplify the process for successful legacy contractors, GSA added clause SCP-FSS-001-S Instructions Applicable to Successful FSS Program Contractors to all solicitations. The following requirements were eliminated from SCP-FSS-001-S: Readiness Assessment Financial Statements Corporate Experience Past Performance (Open Ratings) Relevant Project Experience The Pathway to Success training requirement is also expected to be eliminated from SCP-FSS-001-S in all solicitations via a refresh/mass mod that is due to be released shortly. The Pathway to Success training has already been removed from Schedule IT 70 via Refresh 40. Notes on Proposal Submissions The eMod system has not been updated to distinguish between successful legacy proposals and new contractor proposals, however. In order to override the eMod system, contractors will need to either add a note manually in the system on the applicable page or upload a blank document for all items that are not required by SCP-FSS-001-S. When submitting your legacy proposal, you should include a listing of all active submitted quotes, established BPAs, and awarded orders under the existing contract. For each, the contractor must include the ordering activity name and point of contact, RFQ/BPA/order number, dollar value, and period of performance (including options). This information can be uploaded in eOffer as an “Other (optional – offeror defined)” document. The new legacy contract will overlap with the existing one until the agreed upon cancellation date of the existing contract. Contractors will utilize the new legacy contract for all new business opportunities. Our Recommendation In order to ensure a smooth transition from the existing contract to the new legacy contract, Centre recommends updating your existing contract prior to submitting a new legacy proposal. Review the labor categories, pricing, and other terms and conditions. If changes need to be made, modify your existing contract now so you can move the existing contract to the new legacy contract. However, please note an updated CSP-1 is required when submitting your legacy contract. About the Author: Julia Coon
Consultant
Julia Coon is GSA and VA Contract Consultant at Centre Law & Consulting. Julia works with the GSA/VA team in preparing new schedule proposals and post-award contract administration. She has experience in producing schedule renewal packages, various modification packages, small business subcontracting plans, and updates to GSA pricelists.   The post GSA’s Streamlined Offer Process for Successful Legacy Contractors appeared first on Centre Law & Consulting.
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GSA’s Streamlined Offer Process for Successful Legacy Contractors

As many contractors are approaching the end of their 20-year contract period in the FSS program, the General Services Administration (GSA) has made it possible for successful legacy contractors to follow a streamlined offer process for their new 20-year contract. Clause A-FSS-11 has been updated so that a contractor can now submit an offer for a new contract under the same Schedule at any time during the existing contract period. Process Requirements In order to follow the streamlined offer process, contractors must meet ALL of the following criteria: The contractor has an existing Schedule and is submitting a new offer for the same SINs and Schedule Sales under the existing contract have averaged a minimum of $25,000 per year for the previous five years of reported sales There is a demonstrated pattern of satisfactory past performance under the existing contract To simplify the process for successful legacy contractors, GSA added clause SCP-FSS-001-S Instructions Applicable to Successful FSS Program Contractors to all solicitations. The following requirements were eliminated from SCP-FSS-001-S: Readiness Assessment Financial Statements Corporate Experience Past Performance (Open Ratings) Relevant Project Experience The Pathway to Success training requirement is also expected to be eliminated from SCP-FSS-001-S in all solicitations via a refresh/mass mod that is due to be released shortly. The Pathway to Success training has already been removed from Schedule IT 70 via Refresh 40. Notes on Proposal Submissions The eMod system has not been updated to distinguish between successful legacy proposals and new contractor proposals, however. In order to override the eMod system, contractors will need to either add a note manually in the system on the applicable page or upload a blank document for all items that are not required by SCP-FSS-001-S. When submitting your legacy proposal, you should include a listing of all active submitted quotes, established BPAs, and awarded orders under the existing contract. For each, the contractor must include the ordering activity name and point of contact, RFQ/BPA/order number, dollar value, and period of performance (including options). This information can be uploaded in eOffer as an “Other (optional – offeror defined)” document. The new legacy contract will overlap with the existing one until the agreed upon cancellation date of the existing contract. Contractors will utilize the new legacy contract for all new business opportunities. Our Recommendation In order to ensure a smooth transition from the existing contract to the new legacy contract, Centre recommends updating your existing contract prior to submitting a new legacy proposal. Review the labor categories, pricing, and other terms and conditions. If changes need to be made, modify your existing contract now so you can move the existing contract to the new legacy contract. However, please note an updated CSP-1 is required when submitting your legacy contract. About the Author: Julia Coon
Consultant
Julia Coon is GSA and VA Contract Consultant at Centre Law & Consulting. Julia works with the GSA/VA team in preparing new schedule proposals and post-award contract administration. She has experience in producing schedule renewal packages, various modification packages, small business subcontracting plans, and updates to GSA pricelists.   The post GSA’s Streamlined Offer Process for Successful Legacy Contractors appeared first on Centre Law & Consulting.
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GSA’s Horizontal Tilt Plus Three Things to Know

It’s A Slant Downward When you negotiate a GSA Schedule or renewal, the GSA contracting officer reviews your pricing against, well, your past pricing. But when GSA buyers buy, they will now have tools to compare your pricing with the competition. It started with transactional data reporting, and now GSA is openly moving to a horizontal pricing model at least for products. Your carefully prepared sales data to get a product or service on schedule is becoming meaningless as GSA implements more tools for buyers to compare prices for what may or may not be similar items. Tom Sharpe, FAS Commissioner, has unveiled the latest buying tool, the Horizontal Pricing Analysis Tool. Its purpose is to “analyze price variability for identical Schedule items”. It shows the competitive range of pricing for a specific item and whether or not a vendor is proposing an offer within that range. Now that the Horizontal Pricing Analysis Tool is in use, COs are reaching out to vendors whose prices exceed a competitive range, notifying them of comparative pricing with identical items on Schedule, and engaging them in a dialogue about both pricing and non-price factors. Buyers and sellers, please make sure apples are applies and not avocados. Is delivery FOB origin or destination? What are the warranties? What is the delivery time? We all have stories about the deep discount competitor whose delivery time is in dog years, yet their price is low. That may be okay if you don’t need it soon, as defined in your lifetime. Now on to other news… Protests Jacobs Technology is hanging on to its $132 million Army award. ManTech TSG-1 JV protested that it was unreasonably assigned a weakness in its proposal. GAO held that ManTech couldn’t establish that the Army was unreasonable in assigning a weakness to its proposal based upon unstated evaluation criteria. Champagne flows at Jacobs. That Wall The Department of Homeland Security does not have enough loose change in its sofa cushions to fund THE wall, so President Trump is preparing a supplemental budget request for at least $6.6 billion. And for those of you wall builders, here is the link to the presolicitation notice. Growth Areas 2017 A new study by Onvia lists the top 10 fastest-growing areas in government contracting for 2017 that include technology, telecommunications, healthcare, and construction.
 
About the Author Barbara Kinosky
Managing Partner
Barbara Kinosky has more than twenty-five years of experience in all aspects of federal government contracting and is a nationally known expert on GSA and VA Schedules and the Service Contract Act. She has a proven track record of solving complex issues for clients by providing strategic and business savvy advice. Barbara was named a top attorney for federal contracting by Smart CEO magazine in 2010, 2012, and 2015.   The post GSA’s Horizontal Tilt Plus Three Things to Know appeared first on Centre Law & Consulting.
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GSA Ushers in New Era with Release of Cybersecurity SINs for IT 70

Have you been hacked yet? Has your personal information been exposed by foreign hackers? Worried this year’s election results might be tampered with foreign cyber attacks? Well, you are not the only one worried about future cyber attacks. The U.S. Government is worried too, and to combat that, the General Services Administration (GSA) will release four Cybersecurity Special Item Numbers (SINs) for its GSA Schedule 70 for Information Technology procurement. A refresh of the Schedule 70 solicitation is expected to be released in September that will include these new Cybersecurity SINs. GSA is referring to these new SINs as Highly Adaptive Cybersecurity Services (HACS) SINs. The HACS SINs were mandated by the Obama Administration’s Cybersecurity National Action Plan. This is no small initiative, but rather a plan to invest $19 billion in an attempt to ensure “Americans have the security tools to protect their identities online, that companies can protect and defend their operations and information from hackers, and that the U.S. Government protects the private information citizens provide for federal benefits and services” (Source). The HACS SINs will be divided into four distinct SINs: Penetration Testing under SIN 132-45A Incident Response under SIN 132-45B Cyber Hunt under SIN 132-45C Risk and Vulnerability Assessment under SIN 132-45D The vetting process for vendors will be the most thorough and detailed of any SIN on Schedule 70. While vendors will have requirements similar to those for services SINs such as SIN 132-51, the HACS SINs will also require vendors to pass an oral technical evaluation. These oral technical evaluations will be scenario-based in an attempt by GSA to ascertain the knowledge level of the prospective vendor. Vendors will be given a pass/fail grade after an undetermined time (target is seven days) from the completion of the oral evaluation. Vendors who are not able to pass this oral evaluation will not be allowed to submit an offer or modification for any HACS SIN for at least six months from the date of their previous evaluation. Oral evaluations will be conducted virtually and each SIN will have its own scenario that vendors will have to address and complete. GSA will allow up to five key personnel to attend these oral evaluations from the vendor, but no recording devices of any kind will be allowed during the evaluation. These evaluations could take anywhere between forty minutes to three hours by GSA’s estimates, depending on how many HACS SINs the vendor is proposing in their offer/modification. There will be no limit to the number of awardees of the HACS SINs, but GSA is targeting to have an initial fifteen vendors awarded once the HACS SINs are officially rolled out. The turnaround time for GSA will be dependent on the number of vendors who propose the HACS SINs, but GSA is creating a dedicated tiger team to evaluate new offers and modifications that include the HACS SINs. GSA’s target for evaluation is seven days for modifications and forty five days for new offers. While there is still more to be revealed about these new HACS SINs, it is clear GSA is making a concerted effort to put these new SINs at the top of their priority list. If you want to be in the front of the line to get these new SINs awarded on your contract, be sure to check the GSA Interact site and submit your modifications/offers through the eMod/eOffer site. For more information regarding GSA and the HACS SINs, be sure to register to attend Centre Law and Consulting’s next Boot Camp for GSA Schedules training course on November 9-10, 2016. About the Author Michael Glazer
Contracts Manager
Michael Glazer focuses primarily on GSA/VA Schedule consulting. He regularly assists clients in all aspects of FSS contract management including contract negotiations, modifications, IFF reporting, subcontracting plans and reporting, IOA assessments, and other contract compliance issues. Michael also provides experience with GSA Alliant 1 & 2, ITES 3H and 3S, CIO-CS and SP3, and other large IDIQ contracts on an as needed basis to clients. The post GSA Ushers in New Era with Release of Cybersecurity SINs for IT 70 appeared first on Centre Law & Consulting.
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GSA Schedule Update: Breaking News on Service Contract Act (SCLS) – What To Do Now

Alleluia! Inconsistence SCA implementation from GSA be gone! GSA has finally issued guidance on the implementation of the Service Contract Labor Standards (formerly called the Service Contract Act). It seems like dog years ago and certainly several changes of leadership at GSA when I first met with them about issuing uniform SCLS guidance. How Do We Know This? GSA published a draft refresh of Schedule 23V (firetrucks, auto, and auto parts and accessories) which contains the draft guidance along with some SCA/SCLS questions and answers. However, GSA tells us that this (draft) guidance will be finalized pronto and implemented across the board on all schedules. The grand Wizard of Oz will finally speak to all in Munchkin Land. What You Need to Know Now: We finally have some (forthcoming) guidance from DOL and GSA. In summary, current Wage Determinations (WDs) will be deleted from all existing schedule contracts. GSA policies and procedures will be updated to direct ordering activity contracting officers to incorporate the appropriate Wage Determinations at the task order level. I have always said the FAR directs the contracting officers to make this determination and not the contractor. This is consistent with the FAR. A GSA Mass Mod will be issued in approximately 10 days across all Schedules incorporating these changes. Although the revised Schedule 23V Refresh is a DRAFT summary of what is to come, it highlights the significant changes. There are FAQs that provide a good summary specific to SCA.  
Centre’s Concerns: You can’t bid higher than your Schedule rates. If you are bidding on a task order proposal that incorporates a WD for an area that is higher priced than your schedule rates, you may have to modify your GSA Schedule. We don’t know if GSA will process modifications to support bidding and not billed rates but GSA, this can be an issue. I predict mass confusion here, just like when the Wicked Witch of the West flies over Oz. All GSA Catalogs will need to be revised to remove the SCA matrix. There will be less work at the Schedule level now on SCA/SCLS.  
Need More Information? Email me at bkinosky@centrelawgroup.com if you want the GSA FAQs and Schedule 23V with the pertinent sections. I will also be posting more details on our SCA LinkedIn Forum. For even more help, consider reaching out to us if you need legal or GSA consulting services. We are all about the SCLS/SCA compliance. Want Training? We offer a variety of educational courses throughout the year on these and many other topics. See what’s coming up on our Course Calendar or browse our complete Course Catalog. About the Author: Barbara Kinosky
Managing Parnter
Barbara Kinosky has more than twenty-five years of experience in all aspects of federal government contracting and is a nationally known expert on GSA and VA Schedules and the Service Contract Act. She has a proven track record of solving complex issues for clients by providing strategic and business savvy advice. Barbara was named a top attorney for federal contracting by Smart CEO magazine in 2010, 2012, and 2015.   The post GSA Schedule Update: Breaking News on Service Contract Act (SCLS) – What To Do Now appeared first on Centre Law & Consulting.
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GSA Reviews FY2016 and FedRAMP Looks Ahead to 2017

As we now have FY2016 in the rear-view mirror, the government has begun to look back at the past year and look ahead to 2017. GSA In the case of GSA, the Federal Acquisition Service (FAS) commissioner, Tom Sharpe, reflected on the successes of the FAS program over the past year in a recent blog post. In it, he explains that GSA has achieved its three-year goal as the government acquisition marketplace. Sharpe then goes on to explain that the FAS initiative, Category Management, has helped with those goals. He defines Category Management as “the process of managing product or service categories as strategic business units and customizing them to meet customer needs.” What this means to contractors is that they should expect more initiatives like the Government-wide Laptop/Desktop initiative that includes GSA Schedule 70, SEWP, and CIO-CS. FedRAMP FedRAMP has also released its goals for 2017. These goals fall under three categories: More Cloud to Choose From, Transform Security Authorizations, and Stronger FedRAMP Community. To achieve these goals, FedRAMP wants to increase Cloud Services offerings from 72 to 150 and raise the number of FedRAMP ready service providers to 50 within the next year. Over the next six months, FedRAMP wants to increase the efficiency of providers who are able to receive a Provisional Authorization to Operate (P-ATO), redesign the Continuous Monitoring authorization process to be smoother and more agile, and focus on increasing the number of authorizations for low impact Software as a Service (SaaS) offerings. FedRAMP will work to achieve a stronger community over the course of 2017 by hosting two industry days to connect agencies with service providers and two industry roundtables to help agencies connect with one another. With these goals in place, GSA contractors can anticipate an increase in competition on the Cloud Computing Services SIN 132-40 on the IT 70 Schedule as well as an increase in opportunities. For More Information If you would like more information or additional training regarding IT 70’s FASt Lane initiative, the Formatted Pricing Tool (FPT), Transactional Data Reporting (TDR), the IT 70 Health SIN, the Cloud SIN, or the Cyber SINs, then be sure to attend the next Bootcamp for GSA Schedules training course on February 7-8, 2017.
 
About the Author Michael Glazer
Contracts Manager
Michael Glazer focuses primarily on GSA/VA Schedule consulting. He regularly assists clients in all aspects of FSS contract management including contract negotiations, modifications, IFF reporting, subcontracting plans and reporting, IOA assessments, and other contract compliance issues. Michael also provides experience with GSA Alliant 1 & 2, ITES 3H and 3S, CIO-CS and SP3, and other large IDIQ contracts on an as needed basis to clients.   The post GSA Reviews FY2016 and FedRAMP Looks Ahead to 2017 appeared first on Centre Law & Consulting.
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GSA Proposes New Rule Allowing Other Direct Costs into Schedules Program

GSA has finally acted on the request from customer agencies and industry partners to allow Order Level Materials (OLMs), frequently called Other Direct Costs (ODCs), into the Multiple Award Schedule (MAS) program. GSA is proposing to amend the General Services Administration Acquisition Regulation (GSAR) to establish special ordering procedures per FAR 8.403 (b). These new procedures will clarify the authority to acquire OLMs when placing an order or establishing a BPA against a Federal Supply Schedule contract. As background, currently most commercial Indefinite-Delivery/Indefinite Quantity (IDIQ) contracts have the flexibility to acquire OLMs. This authority extends to contracts awarded pursuant to FAR Part 12 and orders awarded pursuant to FAR Subpart 16.5 and 8.4. However; Subpart 8.4 was never updated and as a result the ability to acquire OLMs was never fully implemented in the MAS program. The proposed GSA rule includes some of the following amendments (a full list can be found in the proposed rule): Add to GSAR 515.408 (c) that “offerors are not required to complete the commercial sales practices disclosure for order level materials” Prohibiting order-level materials from being the primary basis of the order Limiting the total value of order-level materials to 33 % of the overall order value Require the order-level materials to be purchased under a separate Special Item Number (SIN) to allow GSA to monitor sales and evaluate use Requiring the ordering activity contracting officers to determine that all prices for these materials are fair and reasonable Include controls to ensure any ceiling increases have been justified and approved in accordance with FAR 8.405.6. The final rule will only apply to the following GSA Schedules: Federal Supply Schedule 03 FAC: Facilities Maintenance and Management Federal Supply Schedule 56: Buildings and Building Materials/Industrial Services and Supplies Federal Supply Schedule 70: General Purpose Information Technology Equipment, Software, and Services Federal Supply Schedule 71: Furniture Federal Supply Schedule 84: Total Solutions for Law Enforcement, Security, Facilities Management, Fire, Rescue, Clothing, Marine Craft, and Emergency/Disaster Response Federal Supply Schedule 00CORP: All Professional Services Federal Supply Schedule 738X: Human Resources and EEO Services The proposed GSAR rule was published September 9, 2016 and is open for a 60 day comment period. About the Author: Maureen Jamieson
Executive Director of Contracts and Consulting
Maureen Jamieson has more than twenty-five years of experience managing federal contracts. She is highly experienced in solving client pricing problems and implementing effective pricing strategies for placing products and services on GSA Schedule contracts.   The post GSA Proposes New Rule Allowing Other Direct Costs into Schedules Program appeared first on Centre Law & Consulting.
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GSA Order-Level Materials (OLMs) – Updates and Next Steps

By Maureen Jamieson, Executive Director of Consulting Hopefully, you have been following the breaking news regarding the final rule on Order-Level Materials (OLMs). After many years of discussion on this subject, the General Services Administration (GSA) is amending the General Services Administration Acquisition Regulation (GSAR) providing the authority to acquire OLMs when placing task or delivery orders against a Federal Supply Schedule (FSS) or FSS Blanket Purchase Agreement (BPA). And exactly what is the definition of OLMs?  OLMs are supplies and/or services acquired in direct support of an individual task or delivery order placed against an FSS Schedule or BPA when the supplies and/or services are not known at the time of schedule or BPA award. Please note that Other Direct Costs, which are known at the time of schedule award, will remain as an option. Examples of these types of Other Direct Costs can be found on the Professional Services Schedule (PSS) under the Ancillary and Other Direct Cost SIN descriptions. Key points of the OLM final rule: The total value of all OLMs cannot be greater than one-third the volume of the total order. (Note that travel is excluded from this calculation). Fair and reasonable pricing, defined as a minimum of three (3) quotes for each OLM exceeding the Simplified Acquisition Threshold, will be required. However, contractors with approved purchasing systems are exempt. Indirect Costs on OLMs are allowed. GSA training is being updated to address indirect cost application. Industrial Funding Fee (IFF) will be incorporated into pricing at the Task Order level. What are the next steps? Advanced notice of the OLM final rule will be provided this month on interact.gsa.gov. Be sure to review and provide comments back to GSA. Next month, look for OLM webinars hosted by GSA. The month of May will also kick off GSA wide internal training including training for Industrial Operations Analysts. GSA expects to issue Mass Modifications for the addition of OLMs by June or July 2018. You will have ninety (90) days to accept or decline this OLM mod. When and if you accept the forthcoming OLM Mass Modification, a new OLM SIN will be created.  This new SIN will automatically be uploaded into e-library on GSA Advantage. Centre Law & Consulting will keep you updated on OLM developments via our LinkedIn group GSA Schedule News, Updates, & Discussions. We hope to see you at Boot Camp for GSA Schedules on May 8-9. You can bring your colleague for free*! You’ll gain the necessary skills to understand and negotiate your own GSA Schedule and/or make modifications to an existing schedule, as well as keep up with the changes that affect your contract administration and compliance efforts. *Promotion expires May 1. The post GSA Order-Level Materials (OLMs) – Updates and Next Steps appeared first on Centre Law & Consulting.
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GSA OIG Reviews Industrial Operations Analysts: What’s in Your IOA’s Report Card?

As a consultant assisting clients prepare for their Industrial Operations Analyst (IOA) visit, I am surprised by the anxiety that precedes these “I’m here to help you” visits. I receive comments from “I didn’t sleep all night” and “I forgot my Basis of Award (BOA) customer” to “Will the IOA cancel my contract as I forgot to pay my Industrial Funding Fee for the last quarter.” The anxiety has increased over the last two years as the IOAs are now reviewing your GSA Schedule annually if you have annual sales exceeding $150,000. While the majority of IOAs are trying to help you understand compliance with your schedule requirements, there are a few that want to add to your anxiety. I witnessed the IOA who started the visit with the comment that she was there to get money back for GSA and an IOA who threatened cancellation of the schedule (and no, IOAs cannot cancel your schedule contract). In GSA’s Office of Inspector General (OIG) Semiannual Report to Congress for the period of April 1, 2016 through September 30, 2016, the tables were turned and the IOAs were reviewed. IOA Assessment Report Purpose The OIG conducted an audit of the contractor assessments program to determine if: Contractor assessments were effective to determine contractors’ compliance with schedule contract terms and conditions IOAs were conducting their assessments in accordance with FAS guidance IOAs were communicating those results in a timely fashion and in the appropriate format IOAs were developing and completing training in accordance with program requirements   IOA Assessment Report Findings As a result, the OIG concluded the following: Assessments add value as a method to monitor contractor compliance with terms and conditions of schedule contracts IOAs are generally conducting assessments in accordance with guidance OAs are effectively communicating those results in a timely fashion and in the required format   IOA Assessment Areas of Improvement The OIG also concluded that although the assessments were generally effective, they identified areas that could be improved “to enhance the consistency, completeness, and value of the assessments and reports.” For example: FAS guidance does not provide specific requirements for sampling schedule sales transactions to ensure that contractors are properly reporting and remitting Industrial Funding Fees and resumes to verify that qualified labor for services are being provided for customer agencies. IOAs are not consistently reporting on labor qualifications. As a result, FAS does not have assurance that labor qualifications were assessed. FAS has not established a formalized, national training curriculum for experienced IOAs.  
Therefore, recommendations from the OIG to the FAS Commissioner include: Revising the IOA Training Manual to include details on a risk-based sampling methodology Revising the assessment report template to include a specific section for reviewing labor qualifications to ensure consistent assessments Establishing and implementing a formal national training curriculum for experienced IOAs   What Can I Do? In summary, Contract Clause 552.215-71 (Examination of Records) allows the IOA to review contractors’ records to verify contractual compliance. Their role is to conduct contractor assessments as well as monitor sales reporting, sales adjustments, and Industrial Funding Fee remittance (previously conducted by your Administrative Contracting Officer). Remember that the results of the IOA visit are advisory to your Contracting Officer (CO). Their assessment will be included in your GSA file for review prior to your Option Renewal. If you receive a negative assessment or don’t agree with a finding, you should submit a letter of clarification to your CO. The best thing you can do to in advance of your IOA visit is to be prepared. Gather all documents requested by your IOA prior to the visit or virtual call. Review the terms and conditions of your schedule and know your Basis of Award and discounting. Ensure your GSA Schedule catalog is up to date and matches the last awarded modification. If you stay compliant with the requirements of your Schedule, then you will have a successful IOA review. Your IOA contact information can be found at https://vsc.gsa.gov/tools/aco_ioa.cfm and Centre’s GSA Consultants are available to assist you through the process as well. About the Author: Maureen Jamieson
Executive Director of Contracts and Consulting
Maureen Jamieson has more than twenty-five years of experience managing federal contracts. She is highly experienced in solving client pricing problems and implementing effective pricing strategies for placing products and services on GSA Schedule contracts.   The post GSA OIG Reviews Industrial Operations Analysts: What’s in Your IOA’s Report Card? appeared first on Centre Law & Consulting.
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GSA Issues Presentation on Changes to Multiple Award Schedules

The GSA FAS Office of Acquisition Management is planning to refresh all Multiple Award Schedules to incorporate provision and clause updates. For Schedules that offer services, both professional and nonprofessional, the solicitation refresh and corresponding mass modification will also update the application of the Service Contract Labor Standards (SCLS) to align with the U.S. Department of Labor’s SCLS compliance procedures. They recently issued a presentation that outlines the planned changes and updates in the modification. GSA Overview of Planned MAS Changes, courtesy of the GSA to learn more.
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GSA Federal Supply Schedule Description Too Limited For Contractor to Receive Award

In its September 18, 2017 decision, the GAO sustained a protest over a task order awarded to a contractor whom only had one of the two required services listed on their General Services Administration (“GSA”) Federal Supply Schedule (“FSS”). The United States Navy attempted to acquire 120-250 hotel rooms for civil service mariners in the Norfolk, Virginia area. The Agency invited vendors to submit offers through the GSA’s e-buy system, with instructions to only submit services on a current GSA Schedule contract. Unfortunately for the awardee, the request for quotation (“RFQ”) also required shuttles from the hotels to the work sites. While the decision takes pains to describe in detail the intricacies of GSA Schedules, the result is simple. The original awardee simply did not have transportation services included as “additional services” as required. The RFQ listed two separate tasks orders, one of which was transportation by shuttle. Despite the awardee’s ability to provide these services, the RFQ clearly emphasized the award would be made exclusively through the GSA thereby excluding companies without all required services listed on the Schedule. About the Author: Tyler Freiberger
Associate Attorney
Tyler Freiberger is an associate attorney at Centre Law & Consulting primarily focusing on employment law and litigation. He has successfully litigated employment issues before the EEOC, MSPB, local counties human rights commissions, the United States D.C. District Court, Maryland District Court, and the Eastern District of Virginia. The post GSA Federal Supply Schedule Description Too Limited For Contractor to Receive Award appeared first on Centre Law & Consulting.
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Groundhog Day Again, Counterfeit Parts, Too Many Boxes

It’s been a bit chaotic around here recently and I’m surrounded by boxes everywhere I look. More on that below. But I did have a few minutes to catch up on some big developments that have been going on in the federal contracting world. These are a few things that caught my attention, and we’ll see what kind of impact they have for us on the road ahead. Acquisition Reform Once More Holy guacamole. It’s 2007 all over again. Does anyone remember the Services Acquisition Reform Act of 2003 (SARA)? Under SARA a panel was formed to review acquisition laws and regulations and to recommend any necessary changes. I testified before the panel and got a lovely 2007 Report in return that I keep on my bookshelf. It reminds me how hard it is to implement change because not much has changed. Now the Department of Defense (DoD) has announced the creation of a new Advisory Panel on Streamlining and Codifying Acquisition Regulations, with the goal of finding ways to streamline the Pentagon acquisition process. The panel will be headed by Deidre Lee, former Director of Defense Procurement and Acquisition Policy and former Office of Federal Procurement Policy Administrator. Interestingly enough, Dee was also instrumental in creating the 2007 SARA Panel report. I am going to email her and ask her if it is Groundhog Day again. Read more at Defense News. Protests and a Win Against Low Price CACI-Federal and Booz Allen Hamilton protested the Defense Information Systems Agency’s (DISA) Encore III solicitation for IT services. These multiple award contracts have a maximum value of $17.5 billion. The GAO held that DISA conducted a flawed cost/price evaluation. The GAO held that the evaluation scheme precluded meaningful evaluation of proposals’ costs to the government. The solicitation terms were flawed, according to the GAO, because they anticipated the award of both fixed-price and cost-reimbursement contract line item numbers, but they didn’t require offerors to propose cost-reimbursable labor rates or contemplate the evaluation of those rates. This is more of a win against low price “evaluations”. The GAO website has more information. Counterfeit Part Protection DoD issued a final rule on August 30 amending the Defense Federal Acquisition Regulation Supplement (DFARS) to protect contractors from costs incurred when they accidentally use counterfeit electronic parts. The protections only apply if the contractors have an active structure in place to detect and avoid counterfeit parts. Read the details on the Federal Register. Boxes Upon Boxes It’s amazing how much “stuff” an office can accumulate! The best way to know for sure is when you have to pack it all up to move. The Centre Law & Consulting office moved earlier this week into a brand new space. And while the move was only a mile down the road, we still had to take on all the joys and headaches that come with such a relocation. I think the paint is finally dry, but the boxes are still being unpacked. One space that is unpacked – and perhaps one of the best parts of the new office – is our large, light-filled training room. There’s something about the wall of windows that makes it so inviting. Our first course in the new space kicks off tomorrow and we can’t wait to hear what the attendees think of it. We’d love to welcome you to our new training room too. See our training calendar for all our upcoming courses.
 
About the Author Barbara Kinosky
Managing Partner
Barbara Kinosky has more than twenty-five years of experience in all aspects of federal government contracting and is a nationally known expert on GSA and VA Schedules and the Service Contract Act. She has a proven track record of solving complex issues for clients by providing strategic and business savvy advice. Barbara was named a top attorney for federal contracting by Smart CEO magazine in 2010, 2012, and 2015.   The post Groundhog Day Again, Counterfeit Parts, Too Many Boxes appeared first on Centre Law & Consulting.
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Government Shutdown Showdown – Season 3

By Barbara Kinosky Action, cameras, déjà vu of 1995 and 2013, with the same story line except this time the President and both Houses of Congress are all Republican.  However, it is a divided Republican party which is not putting Paul Ryan in much of a party mood.  (And yes, I did steal “Shutdown Showdown” from CNN’s Chris Cillizza.  It will now be a race to the Patent & Trademark Office to get all rights for the new t-shirt line.)  This Friday night is the deadline for either the passage of a real budget, a continuing resolution or a shutdown.   Here is the quick read summary on the issues:   Dems want a DACA solution and Affordable Care Act funding and some Reps are concerned about the debt ceiling. Government Contract Likely Impact: Federal employees received back pay for the last shutdown in 2013.  Most government contractors were not that lucky.  I suspect more of same. Talk to your contracting officer about your options. Wikipedia, the source of all my knowledge has a list of the agencies that closed in 2013. It can probably be used as a guide for what is considered essential and nonessential. If your contracting officer advises you in writing (even if written on a beer-stained napkin which is better than nothing) that the service you perform is essential then keep working. Call me if you don’t get paid (as cribbed from the show Better Call Saul). As of the time this article was posted, House Republicans have proposed a stop gap one-month funding resolution but it is not clear whether this will pass. Bid Protests In other news, here is a quick read on the difference between the Court of Federal Claims and the GAO on bid protest decisions.  Since I was quoted in it I must include it! And for those of you who think you still want to continue with federal government contracting despite the shutdown showdown (thank you again Chris) come to Centre’s Annual Review of Federal Contracting.  We have a full line up of the movers and shakers in DC and all the news you need to know to stay current in the never dull world of federal contracting.  I hope to see you on March 6 at the MGM.     About the Author: Barbara Kinosky
Managing Partner
Barbara Kinosky is the Managing Partner of Centre Law and Consulting and has more than twenty-five years of experience in all aspects of federal government contracting. Barbara is a nationally known expert on GSA and VA Schedules and the Service Contract Act, and she has served as an expert witness for federal government contracting cases.     The post Government Shutdown Showdown – Season 3 appeared first on Centre Law & Consulting.
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