The Week Ahead - December 16, 2013

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HOUSE PASSES BUDGET AGREEMENT, PROSPECTS GOOD FOR STABILITY

Federal agencies would be funded through October of 2015 under a bi-partisan budget deal passed by the House of Representatives last week. The Senate is expected to pass the measure before it leaves town for Christmas. The deal greatly scales back sequestration cuts and provides funding for agencies for more than an entire fiscal year. As such, agencies could considerably improve their planning and longer-term management capabilities. This would bring untold stability to the business of government and address a key concern of those who had feared “government via CR” for the rest of President Obama’s term. One key change is that agencies would specifically be empowered to start new projects, so long as money is available, something not technically allowed under a CR. Additionally, though money will not newly grow from trees, the tightness of the federal market will ease a bit, providing more opportunities for contractors. DOD, alone, will see $22.3 billion more under this plan than if sequestration remained in place.

 

GSA ROLLS OUT LIVE CHAT HELP FOR FEDERAL BUYERS

The General Services Administration introduced a new live help chat feature last week to assist federal buyers unsure of how to use Schedule contracts. Fifty-Three Schedules will initially be covered by the program that also features a streamlined e-mail help line. The new program is designed to answer criticism that GSA has traditionally been reluctant to provide help on a consistent basis to entities unfamiliar with how Schedule contracts work. While a step in the right direction, initial advice may be basic and may not always be able to address complex Schedules-use questions. As such, it remains important that contractors be able to provide sound advice to customers on Schedule access and use as well. The creation of the new program was first announced by the Federal Times. At press time, however, no information on the new feature could be found on the GSA website under the news release section or on the GSA Schedules main page. Oddly, a call placed to the “MAS Help Desk” offered two options on how to buy via GSA’s Global Supply system before any Schedules-related help was offered. As such, it is unclear how agencies might access the new service.

 

GOVERNMENT OFFICIALS DEFEND & DEFINE USE OF REVERSE AUCTIONS

Reverse auctions are an important tool that, correctly used, can drive down acquisition costs. This was the thrust of testimony provided by GSA leaders before a House committee last week. Agency officials promoted reverse auctions as a good tool for small business participation and defended the roll out of their own, independent reverse auction tool. VA acquisition officials on the other hand stated that they are adopting a go slow approach for reverse auctions. While VA leaders believe that this tool can also be beneficial, they want to ensure that it provides transparency throughout the acquisition process and that savings can actually be verified. A set of standards is being developed at the VA and training will be provided before the VA moves ahead with reverse auctions once again. Contractors wary of reverse auctions need to be aware of these developments. While reverse auctions are predominantly used now for medical supplies and basic IT hardware, it seems clear that GSA, at least, intends to broaden the use of reverse auctions to more acquisitions. This move, along with others by agency officials to make low price the primary GSA standard, needs to be taken into account as contractors develop their overall federal business strategy.

 

DON’T LET GOVERNMENT INVESTIGATORS CALL YOU “TATER SALAD”

If your contract compliance program isn’t up to date, the government could make tater salad – or worse – of your company’s contract profits. Making sure that you, A. have a compliance program and, B. that it is up to date, really are the very best preventative medicines you can buy. While “pre-existing conditions” are o.k. with Obamacare, that’s not so with contract problems. Call Allen Federal. We have extensive experience in working with companies to ensure they can comply, and sell, through their Schedule contracts. Don’t let the I-Grinch steal your holiday fun! Contact Allen Federal today at info@allenfederal.com to see how we can make your New Year safe and happy!