Monthly Archives: June 2019


GSA would be required to pilot test all three types of commercial e-commerce systems under an amendment offered to the FY’20 Senate National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) by Senator Sunny Perdue (R-GA).  The agency is currently planning to test only the e-marketplace model during its initial pilot program, to the exclusion of e-commerce and e-procurement companies.  The agency had been expected to release a draft RFP for the e-marketplace model any day now. It is uncertain whether the amendment, which would not take effect for months even if adopted, might impact that timeline.  Several industry groups had expressed concern that GSA was limiting the pilot to one model and apparently got the attention of Senator Perdue.  Another Perdue amendment would also prohibit an e-commerce provider from selling its own items, or those of a subsidiary, via their own e-commerce portal through the GSA program.  This amendment is a clear shot at Amazon, a company known for developing private label products that compete with popular sellers on its own web-site.  Floor amendments, such as these, face uncertain prospects. On one hand they could be included in a “manager’s package” of amendments and be voted in.  On the other, they could be ruled out of order or simply not adopted.  If adopted by the Senate, they would have to be approved in a conference committee with the House as the House version of the FY’20 NDAA does not contain similar provisions.  A final NDAA may not be voted on until September.  Stay tuned.


When it comes to IT modernization Congress just can’t put its money where its mouth is.  Despite a recent GAO report showing that some agency IT systems are 50 years old and operate with equipment barely made in the 21st century, Congress still can’t find more than $35 million to dedicate to modernization.  That’s a pretty stark statement, but it’s not necessarily news to IT or telecommunications contractors.  There have been at least two recent federal trade press reports pointing out that rhetoric does not match reality when we’re talking IT modernization.  At least two-thirds of all federal IT spending go to maintain current systemsAgencies also prefer to “lift and shift” existing systems, instead of updating to technology that could actually reduce overall operating costs and improve security.  What really is their incentive, though, when their Congressional overseers dedicate millions to home-state pet projects like buying excess blueberry production?  For all of the talk about IT modernization, the real money is in unglamorous areas like patching existing systems, software upgrades, and incremental hardware improvements.  While contractors should showcase their new capabilities, just as car dealers put their hottest models in the showroom, they should focus their actual sales efforts on the models in the back of the lot.  It would not be surprising for it to take a true national emergency – like a significant part of the electric grid being hacked – before Congress gets the message on increasing IT funding.  Until then, remember the golfing adage:  “Drive for show, putt for dough”.    


NBA fans will have to wait and see whether New Orleans will be the team to watch next year with #1 draft pick Zion Williamson coming to town, but that doesn’t mean you should wait to vet your team members.  In fact, with the federal busy season literally around the corner, now is the time to make sure you know what to look for, and avoid, in a teaming partner.  A good teaming partner will work with you to not only pursue business you might otherwise not get, but will enhance your reputation and agree to reasonable, written terms.  Companies that you’ve never heard of or that don’t want to sign any type of agreement, even a one page document discussing why you want to team, should probably be avoided.  Having a good teaming agreement is essential.  Make sure it spells out things like what team member will be responsible for each part of the project, what happens if one of the team members can’t perform, and, importantly, how and when all team members will be paid.  Provisions on indemnification, disputes, and rights in technical data should also be considered.  Asking a few key questions up front is also important.  Any settlements pending against the company?  Have they met recently with a suspension/debarment official, is their contract current?  All of these may seem obvious, but our experience tells us that they aren’t.  Companies rush to team without doing proper check-ups more than you might imagine, especially when business heats up and deadlines are tight.  You don’t want your team member to ruin your company’s reputation.  Draft your team wisely, unlike some local NFL teams we could mention.


We normally use this space to provide multiple tips on business development steps your company can take now.  Today, we’re recommending that your company do ONE thing that can help protect a portion of your business for years to come.  That action is to comment on GSA’s RFI featuring draft terms and conditions for its Consolidated Schedules solicitation expected later this year.  From our experience in the association world, getting companies to comment is worse than pulling teeth.  Yet, it is absolutely essential in this case.  The changes GSA is contemplating WILL change the foundation of your Schedule contract.  The changes will impact not only how you sell through the contract moving forward, but what you will have to comply with and how. Need more proof?  The consolidation process will almost certainly wipe out any special terms and conditions your company has negotiated into your current contract – if you are not careful.  Make sure that GSA knows how important those terms are to your firm and that you expect to be able to maintain those terms regardless of the overall impact of the consolidation effort.  Taking the time now to submit comments lets GSA know that you care about your Schedule relationship and what you think is important to ensure the success of the program moving forward.  When an agency seeks comment, they really expect it back.  The fewer the comments, the more the agency expects its proceeding as it should, meaning that a rude awakening could be in store for your company if you ignore the comment process and end up with terms you can’t live with.  Comments are due to the agency July 5th, so there’s plenty of time.  Follow the link here for more information:


From fiscal years 2016-2019, Congress sought to drive massive acquisition reform in DOD by passing more than 300 reform provisions, according to analysis that recently appeared inDefense News.  Included among these was a fundamental reorganization of the Pentagon’s acquisition bureaucracy, a host of new flexible funding authorities, and greater consideration for commercial best practices across software development and basic business operations.  The Department of Defense, however, has yet to effectively wield all the new tools Congress gave it.  Now, Ranking House Armed Services Republican Mac Thornberry (R-GA), the catalyst for many of the recent reforms, is urging the Pentagon to get on with it and implement not only already authorized flexibilities, but new ones he is promoting via the Continuing Acquisition Reform measure he expects to attach to the FY’20 Defense Authorization bill.  Thornberry seeks to restore trust between the Pentagon and Congress, citing his belief that the breakdown in that trust is responsible not only for new oversight passed by Congress, but an atmosphere of caution inside the Pentagon.  Rather than saddling the acquisition system with new regulations, reporting requirements and complexity, Thornberry’s bill aims to have the Pentagon actually use the tools it already has.  Contractors can play a role here, as well, by educating DOD customers on the flexibilities Congress has enacted over the last several years and providing use cases that show the specific benefits of these reforms.  Contractors cannot assume that their DOD customers know about all of the changes, and especially not how to use them.  To paraphrase Thornberry, “Help your customer help themselves.”