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  2. So, you think that Other Trasactions are exempt from bid protest jurisdiction at the Court of Federal Claims? Not so fast. I posted this protest opinion on the Home Page on Friday. If you handle Other Trasactions, you may want to take a look st the Opinion at Independent Rough Terrain Center, LLC v. U. S. and Taylor Defense Products, LLC, No. 24-160, July 16, 2024. You will have to wait for it to download this Saturday because of the conflict between software but it will show up. Independent Rough Terrain Center, LLC v. U. S. and Taylor Defense Products, LLC, No. 24-160, July 16, 2024.
  3. Last week
  4. I did say that, and I still do. That's why you cannot rely on it too heavily. I think learning contracting entails on-the-job observation, hands-on experience, talking to people (which is how you gain essential tacit knowledge, i.e., tricks of the trade), supervisor and peer feedback, coursework, and reading. I'm not convinced that you can get all of that in a purely virtual environment. A lot of know-how gets passed on in off-the-cuff conversation.
  5. Happy Friday! July sure is flying by! We’ve been very busy here at SmallGovCon with all that is happening in the federal government contracting world. We have included an extensive list of informative articles for this week in review. At the top of our week in review articles, SmallGovCon contributor Nicole Pottroff was quoted in a touching Washington Post story that we have included this week, concerning the SBA’s 8(a) Program social disadvantage narrative requirements. Enjoy your weekend! He never saw himself as disadvantaged. Then the government had him write an essay. General Services Administration and Department of Defense seek record-setting federal purchases of clean electricity Maybe the micro purchase threshold is a little too micro GOP lawmakers demand SBA postpone IT upgrades amid year-end contract spending surge Why a federal court sunk a raft of construction industry rules from the Labor Department Election uncertainty doesn’t slow an ambitious regulation agenda Immersive Program Arms DOD, Builds Acquisition Professionals’ Innovation Skills DoD preparing to recompete contract for Advana Understanding Native-entity enterprises’ subcontracting relationships Tribal Consultation for HUBZone Program Updates and Clarifications and Potential Reforms under Executive Order 14112 CIO-SP3 contracts extended through April 2025 amid issues with successor House Passes Bill Establishing Veteran-Owned Small Business Contract Preference Program Why the State Department wants to set up federally-funded research and development centers GSA announces new political appointees Russian International Money Launderer Sentenced to 36 Months in Prison for Illicitly Procuring Large Quantities of U.S.-Manufactured Dual-Use, Military Grade Microelectronics for Russian Entities The post SmallGovCon Week in Review: July 15-19, 2024 first appeared on SmallGovCon - Government Contracts Law Blog.View the full article
  6. Contracting should involve assisting agencies and their program offices in successful mission accomplishment. That involves two things - contracting people knowing the mission and program offices they support and collaborating with program offices so they see contracting as a partner. It takes a long time for that to happen and especially the latter. That can’t be done well working remotely. Some of my learning came through being mentored in my first three years. My intern experience in the first couple years was truely amazing. I supported a senior contract specialist (my mentor) and his boss through handling a number of claims, disputes that went to the ASBCA where I was called as a witness, responding to a GAO audit on defective pricing and negotiating settlement with the contractor, and handling a contractors request for relief under PL 86-804, Amendment without Consideration, with the contractor being essential to the national defense. While I was just beginning in this field and tried to absorb knowledge like a sponge, these experiences and all the details became embedded in my memory even now. Otherwise I believe the job can and probably needs to be learned remotely. That’s the future regardless of what job we have.
  7. Yes, I think so. I think if they participated in a good Community of practice--like Wifcon--they would have opportunities for incidental learning. Also, you may be overvaluing learning in-person in an office. I remember you once described this as learning by rumor and innuendo. A lot of contract specialists find the information they need by Googling the topic and adding "Wifcon" at the end. Also, if I were to go into a random contracting office today I would not be confident that contracting officers would understand line items or equitable adjustments. Just think of all those contracts with "ODC" CLINs.
  8. I apologize for my distraction as I think I understood the question from the get go. My response is essentially the same as my first response in this thread.
  9. @Jamaal Valentine How much of learning contracting is taught in "training programs"? What percentage? Is part of "learning contracting" learning how to deal with the people in the offices that contracting supports? Doesn't it include learning some of what they know and about how they think and interact with contracting? Doesn't it include casual conversations with them and with contractors, and with other contracting personnel? In my experience, very little of what I learned about contracting was from formal training. For instance, I learned about line items, a topic that I consider essential, by arguing with other contracting people around the water cooler. I was taught about equitable adjustments through casual conversations with the head of the contract review office. I learned more at the Officers' Club over beers than I learned in classrooms. How do you do that kind of learning in a virtual environment? Not disputing, just asking.
  10. My personal feeling is that a smart young person right out of college can learn contracting virtually. Most offices I’ve been around didn’t have a sound training programs nor trainers. Training topics were abstract and not comprehensive or fact-based. Instead, newbies learned by doing whatever the culture dictated. That being said, I think individuals generally learn more and faster in an office. They are exposed to more tasks and happenings. Now, the quality of what they learn (norms and traditions rather than rules-based contracting and logic) can be argued.
  11. @formerfed @C Culham @Don Mansfield @joel hoffman Guys, I have to take a hit here for not being clear. The person who asked me was not just talking about learning in virtual classrooms but about learning while working in at home, in a virtual office, instead of in an office with other people actually present. Let me clarify: If you hire a smart young person right out of college, can they learn the job while working at home, at a distance, instead of in an actual office?
  12. Retreadfed, yes I mispoke. I wrote intermittently funded when I meant incrementally funded.
  13. Personal experience. Student in her final year of a 4 year college degree. A relative. End of semester. Sitting in a bar with her. She had a laptop and a cell phone with her to "take" the final. She pulled up the "virtual exam" on her computer, using her cell phone with this app https://socratic.org/ on it, would photo the mulitple choice question, the app would provide plausible answers of which she would read and then choose the multiple choice response. I watched over her shoulder. Many times almost the exact wording would come up in the plausible response. The class - an upper division course in entomology. What I learned - I think the professor might have used the app to develop the test. I also learned about "Google Eye" at the same time. Admittedly I am old with the new virtual world of "learning" unfolding in front of me. But I still wonder if it all makes up for social interaction? Time will tell I guess.
  14. The SBA’s Small Business Mentor-Protégé Program (MPP) is arguably one of the federal government’s most successful undertakings when it comes to supporting our nation’s small business policies, economy, and contracting goals. It fosters the development of small business protégés, allowing many different forms of mentor assistance. It includes opportunity for eligible protégés and their mentors to joint venture (JV) for set-aside contracts—often otherwise off-limits to mentors that don’t qualify for the set-aside status/size standard and/or to protégés incapable of competing for or performing such contracts on their own. MPP JV awards may also incentivize federal government customers—simultaneously getting closer to meeting their set-aside quotas and getting the know-how, qualifications, resources, and personnel of more experienced (typically larger) contractors. While it’s easy to see why this program enjoys immense popularity amongst small and large businesses alike, confusion consistently shrouds SBA’s MPP, nevertheless (hence the need for a two-parter here). In this article, we’ll skip over the “basics” of SBA’s MPP (which you can read all about here) and instead, jump right into the first few common misconceptions surrounding the program (with the rest to follow in Part II). Before we get started, you can reference the rules and requirements covered in this article (and the coming Part II) at 13 C.F.R. § 125.9 and 13 C.F.R. § 121.103, respectively, SBA’s MPP and affiliation regulations. But why must we reference affiliation, you might ask? Well, you can’t really discuss mentor-protégé relationships without having at least a general understanding of the concept of affiliation. In case you don’t–or you just need a refresher–check out these Back to Basics blogs covering an overview of affiliation and the different types of affiliation (for a deeper dive, you can always get ahold of our Handbook covering both size and affiliation). For this article, for now, just keep in mind that the whole purpose of SBA’s MPP is to provide protections from and exceptions to affiliation—and every type of assistance and opportunity the MPP provides depends on such protections and exceptions. We will also touch on SBA’s joint venture (JV) regulations for: small business JVs (found at 13 C.F.R. § 125.8); 8(a) Program JVs (found at 13 C.F.R. § 124.513); HUBZone JVs (found at 13 C.F.R. § 126.616); WOSB/EDWOSB JVs (found at 13 C.F.R. § 127.506); and VOSB/SDVOSB JVs (found at 13 C.F.R. § 128.402). Misconception #1 – “Any JV competing for contracts or pursuing sole-source contracts set aside for small businesses, 8(a)s, HUBZones, WOSB/EDWOSBs, or VOSB/SDVOSBs must have an SBA-approved MPA in place.” Correction #1 – “Any JV competing for contracts or pursuing sole-source contracts set aside for small businesses, 8(a)s, HUBZones, WOSB/EDWOSBs, or VOSB/SDVOSBs must have an SBA-approved MPA in place if either venturer is large for that contract’s size standard.” Indeed, an SBA-approved MPA is only required for two venturers to pursue a set-aside contract through a JV (competitively or through sole-sourcing) if one of those venturers is considered other-than-small for the size standard corresponding to the contract the JV seeks. In that case, once the venturers have an SBA-approved MPA in place, and have properly formed a JV entity/executed a compliant JV agreement, that MPP JV may then pursue any contract the protégé is eligible for, both in size and, if further set aside, in status too (i.e., for a WOSB set-aside contract with a $19 million size standard, the protégé must be a WOSB and must have average annual receipts under $19 million over the last five years). Just a few caveats here—the MPP JV (like all JVs) must: (i) be registered in SAM.gov prior to bidding the project; (ii) ensure the JV agreement is fully-executed prior to bidding the project; and (iii) either be project-specific or have a project-specific addendum (also executed prior to bidding). Also, but only for an 8(a) MPP JV or 8(a) JV pursuing an 8(a) sole-source, SBA will need to approve of the JV agreement and any addendums/amendments to it (in addition to any required-MPA) prior to the JV receiving the 8(a) sole-source award. Otherwise, two (or more) venturers are free to pursue any set-aside contract through a JV (competitive or sole-sourced) without an SBA-approved MPA, provided that: (i) those venturers both qualify as small for the size standard corresponding to the contract’s assigned NAICS code; and (ii) the managing venturer qualifies for any additional status the contract may be set aside for (i.e., for a WOSB set-aside contract with a $19 million size standard, the managing venturer must be a WOSB whose size does not exceed $19 million). Misconception #2 – “The rules prohibit SBA from finding affiliation between a mentor and protégé if they have an SBA-approved MPA in place.” Correction #2 – “The rules prohibit SBA from finding affiliation between a mentor and protégé based on the assistance provided under an SBA-approved MPA but may still find affiliation between such mentor and protégé for other reasons.” Again, the primary purpose underlying SBA’s MPP (and the assistance and JV options allowed thereunder) is the regulatory “shield” from affiliation it provides to a protégé and its SBA-approved mentor. Without an SBA-approved MPA in place: (i) one business providing multiple types of assistance to another could be found indicative of affiliation; and again, (ii) a large business could not JV with a small business for set-aside work of any kind, as they would be deemed affiliates and their sizes aggregated. So, while this “shield” is obviously quite powerful, it is crucial to keep in mind that it still has it limits. Specifically, SBA’s affiliation rules state the following: A firm that has an SBA-approved mentor-protégé agreement authorized under § 125.9 of this chapter is not affiliated with its mentor or protégé firm solely because the protégé firm receives assistance from the mentor under the agreement. Similarly, a protégé firm is not affiliated with its mentor solely because the protégé firm receives assistance from the mentor under a federal mentor-protégé program where an exception to affiliation is specifically authorized by statute or by SBA under the procedures set forth in § 121.903. Affiliation may be found in either case for other reasons as set forth in this section. Just a few things to note here: (i) my use (and SBA’s) of the repetitive precursor “SBA-approved,” as an MPA only provides this affiliation “shield” in the first place if SBA approves of it prior to the mentor providing assistance and, for an MPP JV, prior to bidding; (ii) my careful selection of the term “shield” for your visual representation of the MPP’s affiliation protections, rather than a broader-coverage term (like “blanket” or “immunity”), as the rule above clearly states that affiliation can always be found for “other reasons” than the mentor providing assistance “under the agreement”; and (iii) while most forms of assistance that are not anticipated by nor covered in the written, SBA-approved MPA will not receive protection from a finding of affiliation, it is generally accepted that a protégé and its SBA-approved mentor can JV in accordance with SBA’s rules whether the MPA spells that one out or not. * * * If these first couple MPP misconceptions sparked your interest, keep your eyes peeled for Part II, coming soon! Oh yea, and this is only the first “Common Misconceptions” article in what promises to be a fun and exciting new series for our SmallGovCon blog readers; so stay tuned for many more on a variety of other topics. Questions about this post? Email us. Need legal assistance? call at 785-200-8919. Looking for the latest government contracting legal news? Sign up for our free monthly newsletter, and follow us on LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook. The post Common Misconceptions: SBA’s Mentor-Protégé Program (Part I) first appeared on SmallGovCon - Government Contracts Law Blog.View the full article
  15. What does it mean "to learn"? When can we say that someone has learned contracting? How do we know what and how well they have learned?
  16. Yes, I think they could. They would learn differently, but they could still learn.
  17. @Vern Edwards Vern, I think an objective answer should not be based from people like Carl, Joel, me or yourself. Collectively there’s probably close to 200 years of experience there but probably lots of biases based upon what worked historically. I hate to admit it but I am old. Students today learn differently. The college experience is much different. Some classes aren’t even taught in a big lecture hall but the professor presents remotely. Interaction with professors is done using texts or PMs. So graduates are used to this mode.
  18. True. I jumped ahead to the likelihood of the government deciding to acquire the license
  19. I am incredible honored by the shout-out I received in this recent, powerful Washington Post article, by the talented Julian Mark. Mark also wrote the prior article including my statements about the 8(a) Program litigation and changes that took place last summer, which you can read about here. This second article covers the incredible story of 8(a) Program graduate, Curtis Joachim, and my work with him in drafting a successful social disadvantage narrative to remain in the program for his final year—a requirement (now) for all applicants and participants imposed by Federal District Court and implemented by SBA. I am so fortunate I had the opportunity to work with Curtis and so grateful for his strength and grace in sharing his inspiring story. The post He never saw himself as disadvantaged. Then the government had him write an essay. -Julian Mark (Washington Post) first appeared on SmallGovCon - Government Contracts Law Blog.View the full article
  20. The Veteran-Owned Small Business (VOSB) Program has long held a sort of unheralded position in SBA and federal contracting. Unlike its much more expansive counterpart, the Service-Disabled Veteran-Owned Small Business (SDVOSB) Program, the VOSB Program only allows for set asides for VOSBs for VA procurements (and even within VA SDVOSB companies are in a higher tier than VOSBs). In contrast, all agencies can set aside contracts for SDVOSBs. This has limited the desirability of admission to the program for many veteran owners, many of whom do not do work, that the VA needs. But things might be changing, as Congress has proposed a big step towards expanding what agencies can set-aside contracts for VOSBs. As noted above, at the present time, only the VA can set aside prime contracts for VOSBs. VOSB status can be helpful when it comes to subcontracting in some situations, but otherwise, the program is very limited in its scope. Considering that the VA is quite a small agency compared to some of the behemoths like the Department of Defense (DoD) and Department of Health and Human Services, the VOSB program often is overlooked by contractors, and, to a degree, one can’t blame them. However, on June 14, 2024, the House of Representatives approved language for the upcoming 2025 National Defense Authorization Act that would change things if it becomes law. This language, located at Section 861, would allow DoD to set aside contracts for VOSBs: “…a contracting officer may award contracts on the basis of competition restricted to small business concerns owned and controlled by veterans if the contracting officer has a reasonable expectation that two or more small business concerns owned and controlled by veterans will submit offers and that the award can be made at a fair and reasonable price that offers best value to the United States.” This new provision would also set up a VOSB contracting goal for DoD. On top of this, it also would allow DoD contracting officers to sole source contracts to VOSBs if the contracts are below certain dollar thresholds. All that would be required for such sole source awards is that the contracting officer determines the VOSB is a responsible source and that the award can be made at a fair reasonable price that offers best value to the United States. Steven Koprince (retired founder of SmallGovCon), made a great observation about this sole source rule over on his LinkedIn page: “To me, what’s most striking about the VOSB sole source authority under Section 861 is what’s missing: a ‘rule of two’ restriction. For example, FAR 19.1405, for SDVOSBs, provides that sole source awards are permitted only where ‘[t]he contracting officer does not have a reasonable expectation that offers would be received from two or more service-disabled veteran-owned small business concerns.’ Similar restrictions exist for HUBZone sole source contracts and women-owned small business sole source contracts. Section 861 would create a sole source authority much closer to that available under the 8(a) Program, which omits a “rule of two” requirement…” In other words, VOSB sole sourcing (for DoD) would be far easier for contracting officers to do than sole sourcing for SDVOSBs, woman-owned small businesses, and HUBZone businesses. As Steven notes, it would be more like the 8(a) program’s system. This is quite expansive authority, and it should give a major boost to the VOSB program, if it becomes law. Further, since an SDVOSB is necessarily also a VOSB, it basically helps SDVOSBs too. It is very important to clarify here that the above all only would apply to DoD contracts. Non-VA or DoD agencies still would not be able to set aside contracts for VOSBs, let alone sole source contracts to VOSBs. So, the VOSB program would still not be as expansive as its SDVOSB counterpart or the other socioeconomic programs. It’s also important to note that while the VA must give preference to VOSBs first (after SDVOSBs), there is no such requirement with the DoD. That all said, this should be very welcome news to VOSBs. For a long time, the VOSB program has essentially been neglected by the federal government, and while it is nice that the VA can set aside contracts for VOSBs, the program has been heavily overshadowed by the SDVOSB program and, considering again the VA’s size relative to the rest of the government, the effect is that the VOSB program has been limited to the point that many veteran owners have found the program unhelpful. We think this move makes sense considering the natural connection between the Department of Defense and our veterans, and should make the program far more advantageous for veteran owners to get into. That said, it is not yet a law. We will provide updates as the bill proceeds through Congress. Questions about this post? Email us. Need legal assistance? call at 785-200-8919. Looking for the latest government contracting legal news? Sign up for our free monthly newsletter, and follow us on LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook. The post VOSB Program Possibly Expanding? Congress Takes Next Step Towards VOSB Expansion first appeared on SmallGovCon - Government Contracts Law Blog.View the full article
  21. The majority of students learned what was expected. They did well. But a small proportion (maybe 10-15%) found ways to “cheat” - sign in to online sessions but didn’t stay around during lectures, copied exercise responses from online sources and submitted as their own work, or had coworkers complete exams for them. Those same people conveniently found reasons for not participating in team assignments. Usually the excuses were technical like they couldn’t log on
  22. The question put to me was about learning, not teaching. They are not the same thing. What do you mean by "it worked reasonably well"? You taught reasonably well or they learned reasonably well? I'm asking for clarification about what you said. I'm not disputing the truth of it.
  23. Yes. I taught classes remotely during Covid and it worked reasonably well. The material was divided between online lectures, reading, exercises, and student team activities. The course graphic developers were very skilled and did a remarkable with material presentation. The lectures, discussions, and team exercises were done using virtual tools like Zoom, Teams, Adobe Connect, etc. As far as actual remote working, I think it takes a special combination of individual traits to be successful. Many agencies now literally are working virtually. Even if an 1102 is in the office, most likely the people they interface with like program personnel, budget, finance, legal, technical, etc. are working remotely to vary degrees.
  24. I’m not sure whether this is a pre-award question or post-award, contract administration question. It concerns the “contractors workforce”, although not the “contracting workforce.” The answer depends upon whether it is pre-award or post-award as well as answers to the questions raised above by respondents.
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