Humanitarian aid to provide better care for migrants
at the border and increased funds for DOD are the major parts of a massive aid
bill Congress passed late last week and sent to President Trump for his
signature. Significant new money will
flow to the southern border for humanitarian relief if, as expected, the
President signs the measure. Health and
Human Services will get the bulk of the money for things such as improved
migrant child health care. DHS would
also receive funds, mainly for ICE and the Customs and Border Protection
offices. There will certainly be
opportunities for contractors from the passage of this measure. $50
million is included, for example, for data systems and analysis. In addition, logistical help in delivering
aid, tracking technology, medical care, and other assistance to ensure security
are just some areas that will likely see increased need for contractor
help. Some of the money will certainly
make it onto the street during the fourth quarter of the fiscal year,
though there is no way all $4.6B can be processed. In addition to this funding, the
Pentagon will receive $145 million in extra money, likely for missions related
to supporting the other agencies.
Contractors may want to discuss the potential for business here with
their DOD counterparts.
As part of its project to consolidate all Multiple
Award Schedule contracts into a single solicitation, GSA issued a second Request for
Information yesterday seeking contractor input on proposed new large
categories, subcategories and Special Item Numbers (SINs). Realigning solutions on Schedule contracts to
make it easier for customers to find what they need is a major part of the
consolidation project. “Reorganizing our categories and consolidating our SINs
is a big step toward our final goal of a single Schedule,” said GSA’s Federal
Acquisition Service Commissioner Alan Thomas.
The agency is hoping to better align SIN’s with North American Industry
Classification (NAIC’s) codes.
“We’ve worked to ensure the proposed new SINs make sense and are better
aligned with the North American Industry Classification System codes. The
feedback we receive from this RFI is an important building block for GSA’s new
single MAS solicitation,” said MAS Program Management Office Director Stephanie
Shutt. The agency also appears to be
going further in terms of what might constitute a large category of solutions
and how those would, in turn, be divided into subcategories.
Comments on the RFI have a short turn-around time being due to GSA on
July 12th. Comments on the
initial RFI covering consolidated contract clauses are due July 5th.
See more on the new RFI
Federal agencies awarded
contracts worth $120 billion to small businesses in FY’18 according to a
report released last week by the Small Business Administration. The amount broke the previous record by $15
billion and equates to 25% of prime contract dollars, 2% over the
statutory small business use goal of 23%.
Many agencies received an “A+” from the SBA for their small business
use. “The federal prime and subcontract(s)
awarded to small businesses in fiscal 2018 equate to more than one million jobs
created. Every contract that gets in the hands of a small business is a win-win
for our nation, the entrepreneurs, their employees and the communities they
support all across the country,” said acting SBA Administrator Chris Pilkerton. Not all small business contracting news was
good, however, as agencies narrowly missed their women-owned small business goal of 5%,
awarding 4.75% of contracts to such firms.
The HUBZone gap was nearly 1%.
Awards to Small Disadvantaged businesses, on the other hand, nearly
doubled the goal set for them, while Service Disabled Veteran Owned Small
businesses exceeded their goal by 1.27%.
The only real surprise there is that the veteran-owned business number
wasn’t larger due to consistent pressure on the Department of Veterans Affairs
to buy from such firms at every turn. As
the fiscal year-end draws closer both small and large contractors need to
understand the advantages of working with smaller firms. The speed and flexibility they can offer fit
well with the needs of an overworked acquisition workforce.
GSA would be required to pilot test all three
types of commercial e-commerce systems under an amendment offered to the FY’20
Senate National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) by Senator Sunny
Perdue (R-GA). The agency is currently
planning to test only the e-marketplace model during its initial pilot program,
to the exclusion of e-commerce and e-procurement companies. The agency had been expected to release a
draft RFP for the e-marketplace model any day now. It is uncertain whether the
amendment, which would not take effect for months even if adopted, might impact
that timeline. Several industry
groups had expressed concern that GSA was limiting the pilot to one model and
apparently got the attention of Senator Perdue.
Another Perdue amendment would also prohibit an e-commerce provider from
selling its own items, or those of a subsidiary, via their own e-commerce
portal through the GSA program.
This amendment is a clear shot at Amazon, a company known for developing
private label products that compete with popular sellers on its own
web-site. Floor amendments, such as these,
face uncertain prospects. On one hand they could be included in a
“manager’s package” of amendments and be voted in. On the other, they could be ruled out of
order or simply not adopted. If adopted
by the Senate, they would have to be approved in a conference committee with
the House as the House version of the FY’20 NDAA does not contain similar
provisions. A final NDAA may not be voted
on until September. Stay tuned.
When it comes to IT modernization Congress just
can’t put its money where its mouth is. Despite a recent GAO
report showing that some agency IT systems are 50 years old and operate with
equipment barely made in the 21st century, Congress still can’t find
more than $35 million to dedicate to modernization. That’s a pretty stark statement, but it’s not
necessarily news to IT or telecommunications contractors. There have been at least two recent federal
trade press reports pointing out that rhetoric does not match reality when
we’re talking IT modernization. At
least two-thirds of all federal IT spending go to maintain current systems. Agencies also prefer to “lift and shift”
existing systems, instead of updating to technology that could actually reduce
overall operating costs and improve security. What really is their incentive, though, when
their Congressional overseers dedicate millions to home-state pet projects like
buying excess blueberry production? For
all of the talk about IT modernization, the real money is in unglamorous areas like
patching existing systems, software upgrades, and incremental hardware
improvements. While contractors
should showcase their new capabilities, just as car dealers put their hottest
models in the showroom, they should focus their actual sales efforts on the
models in the back of the lot. It
would not be surprising for it to take a true national emergency – like a
significant part of the electric grid being hacked – before Congress gets the
message on increasing IT funding.
Until then, remember the golfing adage:
“Drive for show, putt for dough”.