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CHALLENGES FOR THE NEW FAS COMMISSIONER

As noted above, former GSA CIO Sonny Hashmi has been named Commissioner of GSA’s Federal Acquisition Service.  Hashmi’s LinkedIn profile lists an extensive background in all things IT-related.  Balancing and prioritizing FAS’ $30 billion IT portfolio – from the acquisition perspective – will definitely be one challenge, but Hashmi will face other pressing issues, as well.  One will be how to work with FAS service portfolio leaders on transitioning the very popular OASIS contract vehicle to the next generation.  One key here is to ensure that major OASIS customer agencies are on-board with whatever approach the agency takes.  Another area to watch will be Hashmi’s views on the Multiple Award Schedule program.  While previous FAS and GSA leadership was supportive of that program, that has certainly not always been the case.  Will Hashmi view the Schedules as an important FAS asset, or as an uninteresting polyglot of contracts, only from which about half of the revenue is IT-related?  How to manage the commercial E-Marketplace pilot will likely garner some early attention.  This pilot, mandated by Congress, is starting slowly and is likely facing competition for resources and support inside FAS from other acquisition channels.  Within IT, there is the need to ensure that the ASTRO and POLARIS contracts are properly launched, that other socio-economic contracts are awarded on a timely basis, and a push for customer agencies that are slow to update their telecom networks via the EIS contract.  Internally, he will have to continue to oversee the implementation of FAS IT assets used to support all of these programs.  Each organization inside FAS is led by strong personalities, each with their own constituencies.  Hashmi will have to balance an ability to synthesize input from all of these sources while still keeping a firm hand on the FAS helm.  We look forward to working with him again in his new role.

PROCUREMENT ADMINISTRATIVE LEAD TIME (PALT) GETS CONCISE DEFINTION, MANDATE FOR USE

Any government contractor that’s been in a meeting with government acquisition officials over the past several years has heard the term “PALT”.  Heads nodded, as if the term was already well-defined and understood to be part of the acquisition planning process.  This was not the case, though, until recently.  “PALT” – short for Procurement Administrative Lead Time” (not Procurement As Live Theater) – now has a concise definition and guiding benchmarks thanks to a memorandum from the Office of Federal Procurement Policy (OFPP) in the closing days of the Trump Administration.  The new standard PALT definition is “the time between the date on which an initial solicitation for a contract or order is issued by a federal department or agency and the date of the award of the contract or order.”  This language is consistent with the underlying NDAA legislation directing OFPP to provide additional guidance.  PALT data for specific procurements will also be included on GSA’s Federal Procurement Data System – NG.  As such, it will be publicly available to contractors and others who can, in turn, use the information to guide their own business plans concerning a specific acquisition.  Longer-term, the intent of the PALT guidance is to find measurable, repeatable ways to reduce acquisition lead times.  OFPP believes that Best in Class (BIC) contracting has already saved millions and are optimistic that PALT data can lead to similar time savings

I WAS WONDERING WHY THE BALL WAS GETTING BIGGER, THEN IT HIT ME

Many of us may have heard this amusing line before, but it is, unfortunately, the way many government contractors approach compliance.  There’s nothing funny about that.  That unidentified small object in the distance can really pack a punch if you don’t deal with before it can knock you for a loop.  All too often, companies get knocked for a loop.  Then some version of the seven stages of grief kicks in, with denial usually being the largest.  The problem is larger, and exponentially more expensive to deal than if it had been addressed when first observed in the outfield.  It’s not just company expense.  People can, and frequently do, lose their jobs as part of a company clean up.  Don’t let any of this happen to you.  Allen Federal can provide an overview of your contract compliance systems, make recommendations on changes, and even work with counsel if necessary.  Compliance is pennies on the dollar.  Contact us today at info@allenfederal.com to see what we can do for you.

GSA ISSUES RULE CLARIFYING USE OF LPTA ON NON-DOD CONTRACTS

Federal civilian agencies will only be able to use Low Priced Technically Acceptable (LPTA) contracts when “the agency can comprehensively and clearly describe the minimum requirements in terms of performance objectives…” according to a final rule published by GSA this week.  The civilian agency rule comes nearly three months after the issue of a similar Defense Federal Acquisition Regulation Supplement (DFARS) rule.  The net impact of the new rules is that the use of LPTA contracting will be allowed only in certain specific circumstances.  Agencies will have to make a determination that “technical proposals will require no, or minimal, subjective judgment by the source selection authority as to the desirability of one offeror’s proposal versus a competing proposal.”  Each rulefurther directs contracting officers to avoid, to the maximum extent practicable, using LPTA contracting when acquiring a host of services, including information technology services, cybersecurity services, systems engineering and technical assistance services, or other knowledge-based professional services.  The rules come as a result of legislation that essentially expressed Congressional concern over the perceived widespread use of LPTA contracts, sometimes to the government’s detriment.  Industry, too, had long expressed concerns that LPTA contracts were being used in a variety of areas where subjective determinations were required in order to determine which offer actually represented the best overall value to the government.  The overall intent is to ensure that LPTA contracting is used only in appropriate circumstances.  Contractors should be prepared to work with government clients to ensure that they know about both rules and encourage acquisition approaches that are appropriate to specific circumstances.

EXPECT MORE ACQUISITION INVOLVEMENT FROM BIDEN ADMINISTRATION

Government contractors should be prepared for a more activist acquisition policy agenda from the incoming Biden Administration. While this could mean interest in innovative acquisition practices and increased use of technology, it could also mean new rules.  Either way, the acquisition landscape that currently represents your business is about to change.  Democratic administrations traditionally place more emphasis on government management policy than their Republican colleagues.  This means more ideas from people that likely have substantial experience in their specific area and have specific goals they want to achieve.  Management and acquisition positions also traditionally get filled much earlier.   Experienced officials that can get in the door sooner have more time to implement their agenda.  That can cut both ways for contractors.  While some previous Democratic administration officials have wanted to keep industry at arms-length, most welcome such contact.  That’s the up-side of having officials in place who focus on specific areas others might not.  Such a focus, though, also has a potential down-side.  At least one previous OFPP Administrator, for example, took a very dim view of GSA Schedule Blanket Purchase Agreements.  It took education from inside and outside government to prevent that popular tool from being banished.  Contractors can expect to see names for OFPP and GSA administrator surface soon and it’s a bet that some will be familiar.  Make sure your company is prepared to work with the new team, whether it’s to support a beneficial change, or advise on why other ideas might cause more harm than good.