Monthly Archives: September 2020


The General Services Administration continues to create a phoenix to rise from the ashes of what was the Alliant II SB program.  The process, though, shows why new large indefinite delivery indefinite quantity (IDIQ) programs may be vulnerable in a marketplace that increasingly favors speed and, to some extent, innovation.  Simply put, no agency creating a new IDIQ program has the luxury of making it a multi-year proposition.  Federal agencies and industry customers simply vote with their feet and use other acquisition projects.  The demise of Alliant II SB has led to work for the main Alliant contract, GSA’s 8(a) STARS, and the Schedules program, to name three.  It is problematic that work originated under other vehicles will be available to transition back to a new small business GWAC. 

Current examples, though, are not promising.  Both GSA’s aging WITS and Networx contracts continue to see telecom business.  Industry has had to again go to Congress to force agencies to use the newer EIS contract. All of those delays cost companies money, well over seven figures for large programs like the one now being re-created at GSA, all before a single cent of revenue, let alone profit, is seen.  At some point, industry will lose patience with multi-year lead times, labyrinthine RFP’s, and protests. 

Customers, too, continue to fill their needs from other available contract sources. Look no further than the JEDI contract debacle at DOD to see that military agencies readily brought cloud solutions elsewhere during the years-long struggle to have that procurement break free of the tractor beam.  New IDIQ programs must be put in place quickly in order to be relevant. Promising the moon and the stars to industry and customers alike guarantees delays.  To quote one of our previous bosses, “There’s a lot to be said for being a helluva a middleweight”. 

If GSA really wants to innovate it can set an example that all other acquisition shops can shoot for.  The agency should set a goal to have a new small business GWAC in place by April 30, 2021.  The benefits of a good GWAC shouldn’t just be that task orders can be filled quickly.  The contract, itself, should be able to be quickly implemented as well.  That will keep industry partners’ costs down, maintain customer interest, and ensure that a new vehicle is on line in time for the FY’21 fourth quarter.


With FY’21 just days away now is a good time to talk about what it takes to have a successful discussion with a potential federal customer.  Sometimes it seems like these customers are hiding in some remote Afghan cave when your firm is trying to set up even a virtual meeting.  While this may certainly be the case sometimes, more often feds say that contractors don’t know as much about an agency’s mission as they should.  That makes any discussion one-sided and, as such, not productive. It also means you likely won’t get a second meeting

Make sure you know what’s going on with your target customer before you meet.  What are their pain points?  How can you help?  Importantly, did they just buy a solution similar to what you’re offering?  This last one happens way more than you might think

The secret to having a successful 45-minute meeting with a federal customer is to spend at least twice as much time doing your homework.  Who does your customer buy from now?  From whom do they buy?  How can your firm respond to those factors?  “I want to meet with the Colonel in charge” may be a common desire among federal sales executives.  You actually may want to meet with their deputy, or someone in an entirely different office.  Just because an 06 is in charge in one place, does not mean they are in another.  The right feds do want to hear from you – if you have something to say that can help them accomplish their goals.  Focus on those and you may get in more doors than you thought.


A Washington Post report published last week found that $1 billion in CARES Act funding intended for DOD public health use was, instead, diverted to weapons systems, uniforms, and engine parts.  The report is likely to be just one catalyst to the creation of oversight hearings and audits of how special money intended to combat COVID 19 was instead spent on other agency priorities.  Contractors are very likely to become part of the circus and should be prepared to show that they followed applicable laws and customer directives.  Congress has already started voicing its displeasure with the redirection, with the House Armed Services Committee stating, “The Committee’s expectation was that the Department would address the need for PPE industrial capacity rather than execute funding for the (defense industrial base)”.  

Despite DOD assurances that the money was appropriately re-focused, any future money intended to be spent in specific areas may come with additional strings attached to ensure that it goes to where Congress intends.  The impact won’t be limited to DOD spending, either.  Any agency that received emergency funding will be subject to increased scrutiny, as will the contractors that received such money.  

A new round of rules and regulations designed to end the diversion of funds could make the acquisition process more difficult for government and industry.  The Post report is the tip of the proverbial iceberg. A commission of federal Inspector’s General also commented last week on how even a “job well done” could have fraud, waste, and abuse attached.  Expect the issue of misuse of COVID 19 funds to be an area of major Congressional oversight in 2021 and be prepared.


“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 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.