One perennial customer crack, unfair we think, against GSA is “what do we get for our money?” when paying contract access fees.  While Allen Federal believes it should be obvious that customer agencies get a great deal from GSA in terms of vetting contractors and establishing popular acquisition vehicles, the agency is nevertheless adding a new feature to help its customers more easily find contractors that meet specific needs.   The “Market Research-As-a-Service, or “MRAS”, feature will leverage existing GSA research and analytics to assist customer agencies in developing an appropriate acquisition approach and potential contractors that can meet their needs.  MRAS personnel will help customer agencies define and identify suppliers and contracts, research and identify supplier capabilities, access existing market reports, and assist with a comprehensive market plan that includes contract suggestions and socio-economics considerations.  All of these services will be provided at no cost to GSA customer agencies.  MRAS will function differently than GSA’s fee-for-service assisted acquisition offices, which perform many of these same functions, but also manage actual procurements.  Just as with assisted acquisition offices, though, contractors will want to establish relationships with MRAS providers. Working with GSA to meet customer needs is already a proven best practice.  Ensuring that this office has the latest information not only on individual company capabilities, but also on market trends, examples of previously successful acquisition approaches and more, will be critical to ensuring that GSA’s MRAS office has the information it needs to be successful.  Also, never forget that relationships matter in acquisition just as much a process knowledge.  Contractors should get to know MRAS just as customer agencies will


The FAR Council has already issued one clarification to its initial Interim Rule prohibiting companies that do business with the government from using covered IT and telecommunications anywhere in their business.  The new rule, published in late August, clarifies that companies certifying that they do not use such covered equipment must only do so on an annual basis, not in response to each bid.  More guidance is expected to come.  Contractors should not confuse this guidance, though, with a removal of the requirement to get rid of or not acquire covered IT and telecommunications gear from a host of Chinese companies.  Companies are absolutely expected to comply with the requirement.  No Huawei, ZTE or other related equipment can be used by companies wishing to do business with the government, regardless of whether that equipment is used in support of the execution of a government contract.  Be on the lookout, though, for more regulatory changes on this topic.


There are just over three weeks left in FY’20. There will be business right up until the last minute this year.  Here are three things your company should focus on now to finish strong

1.  Be The Easiest-To-Use Solution:  Make sure your customers know that you’re ready to work with them to help with a Schedule buy, small business set-aside (where applicable), sole-source justification, or are even staying open on weekends to take their call.  Be the problem solver and trusted partner.  Don’t over-promise, but make sure your customer knows you are with them. 

2.  Communicate With Partners:  Just as you should not assume that your federal customer knows how to buy from you, you should not assume that your industry partners remember you.  If you haven’t checked in with them this month, do it today.  One company we know recently followed this advice and now has several more projects in their pipeline.  Your partners have lots of companies that want to do business with them.  Make sure they remember you and how well you can work together. 

3. Be Careful Who You Partner With:  A new opportunity that you haven’t been tracking that suddenly drops into your lap from a company you haven’t worked with could be promising, or it could be trouble.  Scammers, or less-than-scrupulous companies, come of out the woodwork when there is so much potential business to be had in a compressed time frame.  Don’t risk your company’s reputation.  Pick your partners wisely and vet them properly.  Bluebirds are great, so long as they don’t fly into your windshield. 

Remember, also, that there is plenty of business that gets done on October 1st in the form of renewals, leases, rentals, etc.  The new year will start under a CR.  Rest then, business now.


Federal investigators may need new authorities to probe cybersecurity breaches in sensitive non-government networks, according to a recently-released unclassified report from the Senate Intelligence Committee and originally reported on FCW.comThough the report dealt primarily with security issues in elections, recommended remedies may not be restricted to entities in that field.  The report, for example, calls for the FBI’s Cyber Division to develop policies to “pressure” victims of hacking to cooperate with federal investigators.  While the most severe consequences, the potential use of compulsory cooperation, are reserved for election-related breaches, that distinction by no means excludes government contractors or others whose sensitive data systems may have been hacked from being “encouraged” to cooperate with the FBI under other circumstances.  Cooperation would extend, also, to third-party companies hired by hacked entities to conduct incident response.  Contractors should pay close attention to this report, just one in a series of Senate Intelligence Committee reports where recommendations may find their way into legislation.  While companies involved in elections may be initial targets, they are likely not the only ones that could ultimately be covered.  Securing your network, purging covered equipment, and reporting breaches all place different kinds of costs on contractor operations.  Understanding those costs are critical to successfully navigating the waters of the federal market.


Federal government use of small businesses continues to increase with 2019 marking the seventh straight year that agencies exceeded small business contracting goals.  Nearly $133 billion in contract dollars were obligated to small firms in FY’19, an increase of $12 billion from FY’18.  That’s good enough to beat the 23% small business contract goal by 3.5%. While there are many reasons why small business use numbers continue to increase, one is the speed and ease of use small business acquisitions offer to over-worked acquisition professionals.  This can be especially important at this time of year when there are many procurement actions to be taken in a limited amount of time.  Over 10.25% of small business dollars, for example, went to disadvantaged businesses last year, an area where streamlined acquisition methods predominate. 

These numbers, however, don’t tell the entire story.  There are definitely winners and losers in the small business contracting arena.  Previous news stories have stated that thousands of small businesses leave the government market each year, likely due to new and costly rules.  This year alone small business prime contractors are having to accommodate Cyber Maturity Model Certification (CMMC) requirements and review IT and telecommunications assets to ensure that prohibited sources aren’t used.  This may be one reason why the newly-released small business subcontracting numbers show an uneven story.  Only the overall goal and the women-owned subcontracting goal were met.  New requirements continue to impact smaller small businesses, while larger small firms, especially those dedicated to federal business, are better able to absorb the costs.