Monthly Archives: September 2020

AIR FORCE FULLY EMBRACING TELEWORK FOR THE FUTURE

“We’re not going back,” said Air Force Vice Chief of Staff Gen. Stephen Wilson recently to an industry and government audience in discussing his branch’s post-COVID telework plans.  The Air Force is fully adopting telework and is integrating it into its long-term operating plans, seeing it as a way to save money for the service and increase productivity.  Other agencies, military or civilian, may well follow suit.  Productivity has increased in many agencies, as has worker satisfaction. The announcement is a signal to government contractors that the manner in which they did federal business up until March may permanently change.  In the meantime, contractors, too, have likely seen similar changes in their own workforces.  Being able to interact with customers remotely and develop key relationships may pose challenges, but if both customers and employees are demanding increased telework, companies will have to adapt.  Both virtual and smaller in person one-on-one meetings that take place near a federal office, but not in it, are likely components of a new protocol.  Of course, not all Air Force or federal missions will change to telework. “I have not been able to get anyone to explain to me how I fix a B-52 engine through telework,” said General Arnold Bunch, leader of Air Force Materiel Command.  Both contractors and their federal customers will likely take time to adjust to previously unprecedented levels of remote working as they pursue business, fulfill missions, and sustain a trained, capable personnel base. 

GSA MAKING SECURE SUPPLY CHAINS AN IDIQ REQUIREMENT

GSA is moving quickly to insert supply chain risk management (SCRM) language into both existing and new contracts.  While contractors can initially self-certify that they meet some requirements, others, like CMMC compliance, will have to be verified by third parties (though check back in a few months to see if the CMMC train wreck has cleared the tracks).  The bottom line for contractors is that SCRM is becoming another compliance factor that must be taken seriously.  GSA officials have stated clearly that they will monitor and follow up with companies to ensure that their systems meet contractual SCRM requirements.  Section 889 compliance is another part of SCRM compliance, as will be a new set of requirements now being devised by part of the Federal Acquisition Security Council.  The council will refine exactly what those requirements are over the next several months before working with GSA to identify the major contracts that meet federal SCRM business needs.  Those contracts will include 8(a) STARS III, a signal that the agency will not spare small firms from meeting whatever new IT security requirements the government deems necessary.  This is another incremental cost that takes the government further away from buying commercial items according to commercial standards.  It is unclear whether any consideration has been given in GSA or elsewhere to the ability of existing or developing commercial market IT security standards to meet the government’s needs as an alternative to the creation of government unique standards.  For now, contractors should prepare to ramp up their SCRM programs as well as prepare for audits and possible whistle-blower cases.

EVEN SO-SO PAST PERFORMANCE CAN CAUSE TROUBLE

Federal agencies have wide latitude in evaluating contractor past performance, so long as they use consistent methods that follow regulatory boundaries and their own stated RFP/Q evaluation factors.  Negative past performance is obviously something that every contractor strives to avoid.  Even “just ok” past performance, though, can be enough for your company to lose a bid.  A recent GAO decision, Sterling Medical Associates, Inc., shows that one company found this out the hard way.  Even though Sterling had been evaluated as having “Satisfactory Confidence”, it lost out to a company rated as having “Substantial Confidence”.  Sterling protested that the agency’s review included a wide spectrum of CPAR’s evaluations, not only those of projects similar to this one.  GAO denied the protest, however, stating “The scope of past performance information to consider is a matter within the agency’s discretion, and the fact that the agency could have, but did not elect to, further focus its review to only those efforts the protester views as most similar does not render the evaluation unreasonable or inconsistent with the solicitation.”  This decision shows that companies need to not only ensure proper fulfillment on government projects, but that they should maintain written statements with their explanations of less-than-perfect CPAR’s evaluations.  While you may not always get a chance to tell your side of the story, you should always be prepared to do so.  This is especially true on the government’s FAPIIS reporting system.  Companies can respond to negative CPAR’s or other unfavorable posting, but only within a limited time frame.  If you haven’t checked the FAPIIS report (https://www.fapiis.gov/fapiis/index.action) on your company lately, you should and make it a regular practice, as well.  In the meantime, remember that in government contracting, the past can definitely be prologue. 

ARE YOUR END PRODUCTS 95% STEEL (OR IRON)?

A new FAR case has been opened that impacts companies that have products comprised of 95% steel or iron, including companies that supply Commercial Off the Shelf (COTS) items.  The case sets new standards for the domestic content of such items.  If your company sells certain types of office furniture, temporary shelters, or related solutions you should be aware of how these changes could impact your business.  Check out the FAR case here: https://beta.regulations.gov/document/FAR-2019-0016-0001 and be prepared to comment by mid-November.  Allen Federal is happy to discuss the implications further with your company.

TRAINING TIME IS HERE

With the end of the Fiscal year only nine short days away it’s time to plan your organization’s annual government contract training.  Whether its GSA Schedule compliance, ethics rules, or BAA/TAA compliance Allen Federal can develop a class tailored to your needs that’s both information and fun.  Contact us today at info@allenfederal.com and get your training scheduled NOW!