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  1. Yesterday
  2. Last week, the U.S. House of Representatives Small Business Committee held a hearing to discuss how the SBA will meet Small Business Contracting goals, and specifically how the SBA can meet its goals related to socioeconomic programs. The committee challenged the Office of Government Contracting & Business Development to show how they will help grow participation in SBA’s small business development programs, and small business participation in federal contracting as a whole. The Small Business Committee raised questions related to inflation, increasing socio-economic program participation, and SBA technology updates. As is customary, the Small Business Committee released a memorandum illustrating their thoughts prior to the hearing, and the written testimony of witnesses for review. The information in these documents is useful, and are repeated in the hearing itself, all of which (including a link to a vide of the hearing) can be found on the Small Business Committee’s website. The committee brought in Ms. Bibi Hidalgo, Associate Administrator for the SBA’s Office of Government Contracting & Business Development (OGCBD) to testify. If you have a chance to read the testimony, read the committee’s memorandum, and watch the hearing, I highly recommend it, as the committee and its witness had a meaningful discussion on small business federal contracting. However, as advocates for small businesses across the country, we realize your time is limited and you may not have time. So, this blog post will provide you some of the key takeaways. Certification Websites The committee repeatedly requested updates on SBA’s progress on its certification websites such as certify.sba.gov and any other IT solutions SBA have been planning on implementing. Ms. Hidalgo stated that SBA has made it a priority that all websites they utilize for certification are running smoothly so small business owners have well oiled machines to utilize when certifying their socio-economic program status. Ms. Hidalgo also informed the committee that the SBA is processing certifications faster than in previous years, and is pushing technology forward in this realm to prepare for SBA overseeing all SDVOSB certifications. Category Management Contracts The committee really drilled down on category management contracts and how their June 14th hearing on Governmentwide contracts found that these contracts may have a negative effect on small business participation in federal contracting. Consequently, the committee asked what the OGCBD and SBA are doing to mitigate the effects of these contracts decreasing small business contracting. Ms. Hidalgo stated that the SBA and the White House are aware of this effect and are focusing on how these contracts have effected small business participation. As you may know, category management contracts are government wide procurement vehicles in which businesses or products are placed on Tiers (0 through 3), with each tier having separate requirements for contracting, spending, and tracking. The SBA and White House have negotiated with Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to move all socioeconomic firms (SDVOSB, WOSB, 8(a), HUBZone) into Tier 2 of category management. This should allow 33,000 more firms to possibly compete for even more contracts than before. According to Ms. Hidalgo, the SBA is already seeing increases in small business participation due to this tier change in Category Management Contracts. Support of SBA’s Business Development Programs As noted in the hearing and in the released documents, 8(a) participation had declined over multiple years, but in 2021 data finally showed an increase in businesses participating in the program. Meanwhile, HUBZone and WOSB programs were not meeting certain goals, and it seemed to some members of the committee that contracts seemed to be going to the small businesses in a small number of geographic locations. The Committee explicitly wanted Ms. Hidalgo to describe what measures the SBA and OGCBD were doing to help promote these programs and participation in them. Ms. Hidalgo stated to help promote these programs, there have been different initiatives implemented. First, the SBA is now including HUBZone and WOSB participation goals in performance evaluations for agencies and their staff to promote usage. Additionally, the SBA is now tracking new entrants to federal contracting and socio-economic SBA program participation, as well as requiring procuring agencies to track participants in their contracts. This allows SBA and procuring agencies to know the entire pool of possible contractors, and when agencies reach out for data, SBA can provide accurate data about how many businesses are qualified to fulfill contracts in certain SBA programs. SBA is also attempting to build up its own capabilities to help small businesses. Ms. Hidalgo stated that the SBA is attempting to shift focus in their communications with small businesses from compliance with regulations, to helping develop businesses, such as focusing on guidance with businesses on how to qualify for programs. Evidencing this shift, the Committee discussed a recent $5 million dollar increase in staff funding for the SBA Business Development programs, which Ms. Hidalgo believes will give SBA the flexibility to focus more on the aim of helping small businesses, rather than focusing on compliance. The SBA also believes, along with the committee, that contract bundling is a negative factor in promoting small business participation in federal contracting. Ms. Hidalgo stated that it appears when multiple contracts or needs are bundled together, a larger contract is then created which small businesses cannot service, giving more money to large businesses and fewer growth opportunities for small business. The SBA is analyzing contracts to be un-bundled and how to prevent over-bundling from occurring. The SBA also is examining maps of where small businesses awarded contracts are located, so that the SBA can determine which locales may have small business contract awards that are disproportionate compared to other locations around the country. Also, due to the tracking discussed earlier, agencies are able to learn from the SBA what areas of the country have small business contractors, but are receiving less awards proportionately as compared to other areas in the United States. Finally, Ms. Hidalgo stated that SBA recently published a new rule qualifying more NAICS codes for WOSB set-asides, causing, in her words, “92% of all federal spend [to] qualify as a set-aside for [WOSB].” Inflation and Other Topics As is front of mind for many Americans, the Committee asked Ms. Hidalgo what the SBA is doing to combat inflation, or help contractors survive inflation. Ms. Hidalgo testified that the SBA is looking at threshold flexibility on contracts and allowing for more variable price adjustments. In line with that, the SBA is working with the White House, and the seven largest procuring agencies, to make sure any changes undertaken are consistent across federal contracting. The SBA is also looking at shifting the window for reimbursement from the federal government for project performance from every thirty days, to every fifteen days. As Chairwoman Velazquez stated in her opening remarks to the hearing, “when small contractors can thrive, our nation’s small businesses, government and the economy all benefit.” The Small Business Committee has shown in this hearing, and others recently (such as their hearing on Governmentwide Contracts) that they understand the importance of small businesses in federal government contracting, and will hopefully continue to advocate for effective small business contracting initiatives. Small business contractors should also keep an eye out for the different initiatives articulated by Ms. Hidalgo, as there may be significant gains to be achieved for small businesses. Finally, keep an eye out for further data form the SBA, as they stated that they are compiling data to share with Congress on small business contracting and its impact on certain identified groups. Questions about this post? Email us. Looking for the latest government contracting legal news? Sign up here for our free monthly newsletter, and follow us on LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook. The post Small Business Committee Raises Concerns to SBA About Certification Speed, Category Management first appeared on SmallGovCon - Government Contracts Law Blog.View the full article
  3. Good advice. @brian1970 I do like doing initial research on questions posed in Forum. I found this that might help you, not specifically, but to wrap your arms around the whole of TAA.
  4. How would TINA be applicable to one or both of the sales? There is no context to either question.
  5. Have you considered seeking the advice of an attorney who is knowledgeable in these matters? It sounds like your government customer has already given you an answer. I'm not sure of the validity of the answer, as I have never thought of a warranty having any impact of TAA compliance -- are you looking here for information to challenge your government customer's answer? TAA compliance is a very messy area, and even experts will come to different answers with seemingly similar facts.
  6. As I think I read here on WIFCON, TINA is a disclosure statute, not a pricing statute. If the subcontractor disclosed, maybe all is well with TINA? Personally, I don't see a problem with a firm charging different prices to different customers -- it happens all the time. Different circumstances call for different prices, right? Are you suggesting that EVERYTHING* in the two arrangements is identical, so an identical price is mandatory? *but here, we don't know that EVERYTHING is identical -- could be different quantities, different delivery dates, different T&Cs, different bargaining strengths, and so forth...
  7. Last week
  8. Read it and weep. Department of Defense, Office of Inspector General—Legality of Service of Acting Inspector General
  9. All so true. As a nation we don’t want to get personally involved in meaningful ways. We listen to slanted news coverage, whether it’s CNN, MSNBC, Fox, or whatever and take what is said as gospel. We vigorously argue our views in online forums and news source comments page when we don’t agree. I wonder if anyone in those forums really think they can change the views of another? But in terms of active involvement, everyone stays back so they can complain after the fact not realizing they turn the ruling over to others.
  10. I am currently researching several different opinions on what is or should be TAA Compliant for Commercial IT equipment/parts. I am working for a DOD Contractor supporting a DoD legacy system. Even though the vendor is an American company, much of what's inside of the systems are parts that manufactured in a non-TAA designated country, however, the overall system is assembled in a TAA recognized country. There has been much discussion since I have been added to the team whether buying individual parts to stock on our warehouse shelves for spares is legal...meaning, meeting TAA compliance standards. The government customer has agreed if the company replaces the part under warranty, this is TAA compliant. However, if we buy the exact same part from the company and store it for future use as a spare, it is no longer TAA compliant, even though we are replacing the same part as the warranty. If commercial IT is exempt from the BAA, then are we in compliance if we buy the same part from the vendor for future replacement of a part that is already considered TAA compliant? Thank you to whomever can help me navigate this dilemma.
  11. I think this is generally true about all government law and policy. A recent article quoted Supreme Court Justice Clarence as saying people seemed less attentive to the Constitution than they should be. ""I think we as citizens have lost interest and that's been my disappointment. That certainly was something that bothered Justice Scalia, that people tend to be more interested in their iPhones than their Constitution. They're interested in what they want rather than what is right as a country," he said." He went on to say that "I think we are allowing ourselves to be ruled when we turn all that over to someone else and we're saying, 'Rule me.' Does it mean we get to make all the decisions? No. We have a system for doing that, but a part of that is our role in it, and our informed role in it, not what is said on TV, not what is said by some half-informed person."
  12. I came across a situation where a Subcontractor charged one Prime contractor a different price for the same material than it did to a second Prime contractor. Can a Subcontractor Charge 2 different Primes a different price for the same material? Is that a violation of TINA? thanks, Geo
  13. I am. But at least I get paid for doing it. This was a headline in yesterday's Washington Post: "Sixth consecutive year." We must all accept as fact that the federal government of the United States of America is no longer fully functioning and has not been fully functioning for quite some time. Many presidential appointments are unfilled. And even when filled, they are often filled by unqualified persons. This is true all the way up to the cabinet level. The federal government is not fully competent. We cannot expect the best from our government right now. I wonder if we will ever be able to expect the best again. This should be a matter of grave concern to all citizens, but I do not think it is. I think most citizens have little if any direct contact with the federal government, or only infrequent contact, and do not know much about it. But every person I know who knows the federal government and has known it for some time thinks the situation is grave and getting worse, and that it's getting worse just as the challenges we face are becoming ever more serious. All each of us can do is the best that we can.
  14. Yep but all the same...cherry picked quotes from a Department CLP memo....one I am familiar with but I am willing to bet there are others! It might be dated yet demonstrates a viewpoint that I do not think has changed. "...Monitoring progress and completion of continuous learning (CL) is a joint effort between an employee, their Supervisor, and the Bureau CL Manager (typically the ACM designated in the USDA agencies (ACMD))..." "...FAITAS will indicate when employees complete the required number of CLPs for maintaining certification. The employee must then submit a CL Achievement Request for their supervisor’s approval; once approved, the request will be reviewed for approval by the Bureau CL Manager (BCLM). The BCLM is the final approver for accepting CL events and their associated CL points (CLPs). CLPs will not be accepted for attending duplicative events (courses, seminars, conferences, etc.) within a four year period...."
  15. Spot on, Vern, but I feel as if you're shouting into the abyss.
  16. Excellent article. Thanks for sharing/posting. Sadly I don't see improvement any time soon.
  17. When you log-in today, how about clicking your age on this poll.
  18. Another new article from Vernon J. Edwards entitled : OFPP: Dead Letters?
  19. I have two friends who were submariners in Rickover’s Nuclear Fleet. One was an Officer on a Boomer. The other was an enlisted Nuclear Reactor Specialist on an attack sub, who said that some stories of missions on his Boat were in one of Tom Clancy’s books. Yes, my USNA Grad friend (once dubbed “Deck Swabbies” by Gen. Robin Olds) was interviewed by Admiral Rickover for his acceptance into the nuclear sub fleet.
  20. I think this is misinformed. That same link above and my experience tells us all CLPs are approved by the supervisor solely. If the supervisor is worried about what someone might think by approving these CLPs, this tells me one of three things, in progressively worse order: (1) the supervisor is a risk-averse or narrow-minded, (2) the culture somewhere higher up is toxic and the supervisor is afraid of it, or (3) the Acquisition Career Management Program (ACMP) is toxic.
  21. Thanks Bob! Designing and building a nuclear powered vessel (tempted to type wessel) is such a challenge -- and the successful completion of an important milestone is worth noting.
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