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CONGRESS PASSES 2 WEEK CR FOR AGENCIES WITHOUT APPROPRIATIONS

Congressional leaders have passed a funding bill that will keep agencies without full-year Appropriations open until December 21st.  This provides time to firm up potential support for a border wall as well as pet Congressional projects.  The move means that there will be no shutdown for the time being.  What happens as we near 12/21, though, is harder to predict.  Read more

CONTRACTORS LEARN IMPORTANT IDIQ LESSON WITH POSTPONENT OF EIS CONTRACT

Indefinite Delivery Indefinite Quantity contracts do not guarantee your company any sales.  That point was driven home last week when GSA leaders announced that they are postponing the deadline by which agencies much transition from existing telecommunications contracts to the new EIS vehicle for three years.  Contractors and others may be forgiven if they now believe that EIS stands for “Eternally In Suspension”.  Two legacy telecomm contracts, Networx and WITS, are being extended to meet current agency needs.  The move was expected, though GSA leaders were denying that it would come as recently as 2 months ago.

 

Contractors who “won” an EIS award must be wondering what they’ve really gained.  First, many spent well over a million dollars just to prepare for and bid on EIS.  Years of industry meetings with GSA officials took time as well.  Awardees have continued to incur costs for over the past year to bring billing and other systems into compliance in order to obtain an Authority to Operate (ATO).  That’s a lot of upfront investment for GSA to require with no expectation that these costs will be offset by EIS revenue any time soon. 

 

These challenges are similar to those in pretty much every large IDIQ contract scenario.  Designing, bidding, and prepping for business under such contracts often takes years and a substantial monetary investment.  The pay-off for other vehicles, like GSA’s Alliant and OASIS, is that once the contract is up and running, business flows much more quickly.

 

That’s not been the case with the agency’s telecomm contracts, though, and it is an open question as to whether this contract approach continues to make sense for such solutions.  Experience with Networx certainly showed GSA, and anyone else who was watching, that the model might have been outmoded then.  It took years for agencies to transition to Networx and it will now take years for them to transition from Networx.  So much for “agile acquisition”.

 

Large EIS prime contractors may take some comfort in the delay because many are Networx primes.  What about the smaller and medium-sized businesses, though, who aren’t represented on Networx and have been expecting EIS revenue to start flowing in the coming months?  Some are absolutely counting on this money to stay afloat.  GSA’s decision means that they may sink instead.

 

There’s a strong case to be made that large, stand-alone telecomm contracts are increasingly anachronistic.  The lines between “telecomm” and “tech” are blurry, if they continue to exist at all.  Moving forward, GSA leaders should consider an acquisition strategy that many of their customers already have:  Tear down large stand-alone contracts and run your acquisition through the GSA Multiple Award Schedule program.  It’s agile, comprehensive, can be used today, and is very small business friendly.

PROTESTS CONTINUE TO PROVE USEFUL

Forty-four percent of the protests filed at the Government Accountability Office in FY 2018 received some sort of remedial action, according to annual figures recently released by GAO.  In fact, if out of scope or untimely protests are eliminated, contractors got something that they wanted more than half of the time.  Despite the negative perception some have of protests, these figures indicate that timely and reasonable protests continue to fill an important role in government acquisitionAgencies do take some sort of remedial action when a protest points out potential problems.  While a protest doesn’t ensure that your company will get an award the next time around, it does mean that you have a good shot of getting another chance to compete.  While only one-half of one percent of all protests went to a formal hearing, GAO’s reasons for sustaining protests nevertheless provide clues as to why protests, generally, may succeed. The top three reasons GAO decided protests on in FY’18 were:  1.  Unreasonable technical evaluation; 2.  Unreasonable cost or price evaluation and; 3.  Flawed source selection decision.  As GAO’s new filing fee requirement was implemented half way through the year, it is too early to tell if that had an impact on the total number of protests.  As it is, protests were down only a very small fraction from FY’17.  The bottom line remains that companies with reasonable grounds for protesting a solicitation or award action should seriously consider doing so

DHS, COMMERCE, OTHERS FACING POTENTIAL SHUT-DOWN

Although well over half of FY’19’s discretionary spending has been appropriated, many agencies are operating under a Continuing Resolution that expires at midnight December 7th.  If Congress can’t agree to a deal by then, most of those agencies will run out of money and close down.  The agency in this category of greatest interest to contractors is the Department of Homeland Security.  It’s no surprise that the federal agency so closely tied to a possible Read more

DHS, JUSTICE SLOW PACE OF WORK AS SHUT-DOWN, YEAR-END LOOM

Trying without success to get your DHS customer to respond to your e-mail or meeting request?  Don’t take it personally.  If your contacts are anywhere near senior management they’re likely planning for a potential shutdown next week (see above).  So, too, are other agencies that may run out of money.  Agencies must adhere to Continuity of Operations Plan (COOP) requirements.  This means meetings about “what if” scenarios that must cover what operations would close, stay open, or be altered during shut-downs of various duration. That’s Read more