Friday Flash 01.29.21

21 for 2021: Opportunities to Improve Federal Procurement

As we kickoff 2021, with a new Administration and a new Congress, the Coalition for Government Procurement takes this opportunity to highlight 21 opportunities to improve the procurement system’s support of agency missions.

  1. Assisted Services – Leveraging acquisition capabilities to support agency mission improvement;
  2. Category Management and Best in Class contracts — Time to pause and re-assess;
  3. Cloud Computing and Consumption-Based Pricing – Unlocking best value for customer agencies by promoting competition through the reduction of market barriers;
  4. Cooperative Purchasing – In the face of current challenges faced by state and local governments, leveraging the schedules will be helpful;
  5. Cyber Security and CMMC— The impact of SolarWinds and the coordination of compliance;
  6. Defense Production Act – New efforts to ramp up supplies and reliable domestic supply chains;
  7. DLA-VA Shared Services – Reducing friction in the logistics system;
  8. Domestic sourcing – A holistic approach to the incentives and investments critical to the domestic industrial base;
  9. ECAT – Unfulfilled potential for DLA’s ECAT to support the VA and reduce the dependence on open market purchase card transactions;
  10. E-commerce- What we learn from the pilot and the implications for government policies;
  11. Engagement with Industry – VA’s opportunity to reboot medical facility engagement with industry;
  12. Going Green- what does it mean for government and industry; the Coalition’s Green Committee to engage stakeholders across the procurement and environmental communities;
  13. IT Modernization – New approach to management accompanying investments in the future of government;
  14. MAS Pricing Reform – Policy and operational reforms needed to ensure best value mission support; the world and government have moved beyond the policies of the 1980s; what is in store for a $26 billion MAS services market?
  15. New Administration – Tracking policy developments and what the flurry of EOs mean for contractors;
  16. OTAs – Procurement at the speed of need and the approach to follow-on production;
  17. Searching for an OASIS – What the future holds for GSA’s successful governmentwide services acquisition program;
  18. Section 876 – Two years after the grant of authority, the future is now;
  19. Section 889 – Harmonizing the competing interests in addressing threats from China;
  20. The Industrial Funding Fee – With market changes, it’s time for a review;
  21. VA Modernization – EHR, DMLSS, Financial systems – Huge opportunities and challenges for the VA.

As we pursue these top 21 opportunities, Coalition members recognize that transition years, such as 2021, tend to be dynamic in nature, presenting new areas of interest or unforeseen takes on existing areas of interest.  Whatever the subject, we look forward to engaging with new and returning stakeholders across the procurement community to bring best value solutions and meeting customer agency missions on behalf of the American people.  

President Signs Executive Order on Buy American

President Biden signed an Executive Order (EO) “Ensuring the Future is Made in All of America by All of America’s Workers.” The EO aims to maximize the Federal Government’s use of goods, products, and materials produced in the United States. The EO would create a Made in America Office, housed within the Office of Management and Budget, that would review proposed waivers of “Made in America Laws.” Agencies are also required to review and either suspend, revise, or rescind any actions that are inconsistent with the policies of the EO. The General Services Administration is required to develop a public website to include information on proposed waivers to “Made in America Laws.”  

Additionally, the Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) Council must consider replacing the “component test” in FAR 25 that is used to identify domestic end products with a test to measure the value that is added to the product through U.S.-based production. The FAR Council will also consider increasing the threshold for domestic content and the price preferences for domestic end-products. 

For additional details on the Made in All of America EO, see the Legal Corner below. 

 

$15 Minimum Wage Requirement Anticipated for Contractors

Government Executive reported that President Biden has required the Administration to begin work to issue an Executive Order (EO) that would require Federal contractors to pay at least a $15 minimum wage and provide emergency paid leave to workers. National Economic Director Brian Deese announced that the EO will be issued within the first 100 days of the Administration. 

 

Agencies Expect More Hybrid Work in the Future 

FedScoop reports that agencies believe that there is a shift in workplace culture since the COVID-19 pandemic that may be irreversible. Agencies are anticipating a hybrid workforce that is split between remote and in-person employees. While 42 percent of federal employees are eligible to telework, only about half of those who are eligible telework on a regular basis. This means that all agencies will have to create workplace policies to accommodate the larger amount of telework employees. The National Science Foundation (NSF), for example, already has in place telework and hybrid policies, and Dorothy Aronson, NSF CIO, says that the goal is to make sure that everyone has an equal voice, whether they are working remote or from the office. Vaughn Noga, Environmental Protection Agency CIO, states that working remotely with a disparity of experience is a challenge that agencies will face. 

 

OMB Releases COVID-19 Guidance for Federal Buildings 

On January 24, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) released a memo providing guidance for agencies following the release of the President’s Executive Order (EO) on Protecting the Federal Workforce and Requiring Mask-Wearing. The EO states that agencies should immediately require masks and distancing consistent with current Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidance in all Federal buildings. The guidance provides agencies with safety model principles for Executive departments and agencies as they build their COVID-19 workforce safety plans. Agencies are to use the Safe Federal Workplace principles as a model and make the appropriate modifications for their Federal employee and contractor workforce as necessary. The principles cover basic guidelines for wearing masks, social distancing, telework, travel and other aspects of the work environment. To review these principles, see Appendix 1 of the memo 

 

DHA Resumes Military Health System Transformation  

The Department of Defense (DoD) announced the continuation of the transformation of the Military Health System (MHS). The transformation, which began in 2018 at the direction of Congress, will bring all DoD hospitals and clinics under the authority, direction, and control of the Defense Health Agency (DHA). Although DoD had previously paused the transition in April 2020 in order to respond to COVID-19, the MHS transition has resumed and is expected to be completed by September 2021.  

Join the Pharmaceutical Subcommittee Mtg, Feb. 2

Pharma members are invited to join the Pharmaceutical Subcommittee’s first meeting of 2021 on Tuesday, Feb 2 at 1:30pm EST. The Pharmaceutical Subcommittee co-chairs will present our focus areas and activities planned for 2021 covering the VA, DHA as well as additional outreach to other agencies.  Specifically, we will cover:  

–  The Transition (i.e., developments under the Biden Administration thus far) 
–  Domestic Onshoring and Buy American 
–  VA Action Items 
–  DHA Action Items 
 
The updates and discussion will be led by our co-chairs for the coming year: J’Aime Conrod, UCB; James Kim, McDermott Will and Emery; Greg Madden, Orlaithe Consulting; and Stephen Ruscus, Morgan Lewis.

To attend the virtual meeting, please RSVP to Michael Hanafin at mhanafin@thecgp.org.  

 

VA Policy on Pharmaceutical Representative Visits 

On January 28, the VA Pharmacy Benefits Management (PMB) Services provided the Coalition with the following update on its ‘Temporary Suspension of Visits’ policy to share with members.  Please note that this policy is specific to our Pharmaceutical industry members. 

Each VPE has met with their VISN leadership regarding Industry access during the COVID Pandemic and mass vaccination efforts.  After a thorough assessment of COVID risk of exposure vs benefit of meeting, staff priorities, facility plans for Veteran vaccination /recovery, and how to utilize staff resource toward those goals, the following decisions were made by each VISN.  Thank you for your ongoing partnership and understanding during these unprecedented times!  We will keep you updated on any changes in status moving forward. 

Common themes are: 

In person visits are on hold through the end of June 2021. VISNs will reevaluate at that time.  No pharmaceutical representative should show up in person to a VAMC or CBOC during this time. 

When facilities are open for visitors, there may be additional constraints on visits that will be communicated by the facilities as appointments are made.   

Facility Pharmacy Chiefs may be contacted virtually, however, be aware they are currently focused on COVID vaccinations for our Veterans so we ask you to be respectful of that critical mission. 

VISN  In-Person Meeting Restrictions  Virtual Meeting Restrictions  Comments 
VISN 1  Until Pandemic over                             Through June 30, 2021  Critical messaging during these restrictions may be sent to the VPE via e-mail (brief summary) for distribution 
VISN 2  Until COVID Vaccine, evidence of immunization/herd immunity, and/or non-essential visitor restrictions are lifted  Through Dec 31, 2021  Virtual Visits are discretion of Pharmacy  Chief keeping in mind involvement with COVID vaccine distribution 
VISN 4  Until COVID Vaccine, evidence of immunization/herd immunity, and/or non-essential visitor restrictions are lifted  Through Dec 31, 2021.  Will reevaluate June 30, 2021  Critical messaging during these restrictions may be sent to the VPE via e-mail (brief summary) for distribution 
VISN 5  Until COVID Vaccine, evidence of immunization/herd immunity, and/or non-essential visitor restrictions are lifted  Through Dec 31, 2021.  Will reevaluate June 30, 2021  Virtual Visits are discretion of Pharmacy  Chief keeping in mind involvement with COVID vaccine distribution 
VISN 6  Until COVID Vaccine  Through Dec 31, 2021.  Will reevaluate June 30, 2021  Critical messaging during these restrictions may be sent to the VPE via e-mail (brief summary) for distribution 
VISN 7  Until COVID Vaccine  Through Dec 31, 2021.  Will reevaluate June 30, 2021  Critical messaging during these restrictions may be sent to the VPE via e-mail (brief summary) for distribution 

Pharmacy Chief virtual visits at discretion of Pharmacy Chief 

VISN 8  Until non-essential visitor restrictions are lifted  June 30, 2021  Critical messaging during these restrictions may be sent to the VPE via e-mail (brief summary) for distribution. 

  

Allow VPE and sites to request virtual visits as needed. 

VISN 9  Until non-essential visitor restrictions are lifted  Pandemic over  Pharmacy Chiefs may be contacted virtually, but be respectful of COVID vaccinations mission 
VISN 10  Until visitor restrictions are lifted/modified/re-established – maybe indefinitely; virtual becomes the new normal?  June 30, 2021  Virtual Visits are discretion of Pharmacy  Chief keeping in mind involvement with COVID vaccine distribution 
VISN 12  Until COVID Vaccine, evidence of immunization/herd immunity, and/or non-essential visitor restrictions are lifted  June 30, 2021  Critical messaging during these restrictions may be sent to the VPE via e-mail (brief summary) for distribution 
VISN 15  Until COVID Vaccine  June 30, 2021  Critical messaging during these restrictions may be sent to the VPE via e-mail (brief summary) for distribution 
VISN 16  Until COVID Vaccine, evidence of immunization/herd immunity, and/or non-essential visitor restrictions are lifted  Through June 30, 2021  Critical messaging via email only 
VISN 17  Until non-essential visitor restrictions are lifted  Through June 30, 2021  Virtual Visits at request of Pharmacy Chiefs 
VISN 19  Until non-essential visitor restrictions are lifted  Pandemic over- Will reevaluate June 30, 2021  Pharmacy Chiefs may be contacted virtually, but be respectful of COVID vaccinations mission 
VISN 20  Until COVID Vaccine; verification of immunization; herd immunity attained  Reevaluate 

June 30, 2021* may be extra restrictions by facility 

Critical messaging during these restrictions may be sent to the VPE via e-mail (brief summary) for distribution 
VISN 21  Until COVID Vaccine, evidence of immunization/herd immunity, and/or non-essential visitor restrictions are lifted  Through June 30, 2021  Critical messaging during these restrictions may be sent to the VPE via e-mail (brief summary) for distribution 
VISN 22  Until COVID Vaccine, evidence of immunization/herd immunity, and/or non-essential visitor restrictions are lifted  Through June 30, 2021  Critical messaging during these restrictions may be sent Pharmacy Chiefs  via e-mail (brief summary) 
VISN 23  Until COVID Vaccine  Through June 30, 2021  Virtual visits with Pharmacy Chiefs at their discretion 

 

VA Secretary Nominee Highlights Priorities in Confirmation Hearing 

On January 27, the Senate Committee for Veterans Affairs held a confirmation hearing for VA Secretary nominee, Denis McDonough.  During his remarks, McDonough highlighted his priorities if he were to be confirmed, citing getting veterans through the pandemic as his top objective.  Other priorities for McDonough are: 

  • Providing our veterans with timely world-class healthcare, 
  • Ensuring our veterans and their families have timely access to their benefits, and 
  • Honoring our veterans with their final resting place and lasting tributes to their service. 

McDonough also listed specific priorities that the President has asked him to pursue if he is confirmed: 

  • helping our veterans build civilian lives of opportunity with the education and jobs worthy of their skills and talents; 
  • ensuring that the VA welcomes all our veterans, including women veterans, veterans of color and LGBTQ veterans; 
  • working to eliminate veteran homelessness and reducing suicide; and 
  • keeping faith with our families and caregivers. 

The Senate Committee asked the VA Secretary nominee about his vision for the future of Community Care for veterans.  He explained that the VA should take a balanced approach and that the best medical outcome is the priority.  McDonough supports community care but opposes fully outsourcing such aid.  In his opinion, the best medical outcome should be the priority. 

Next Tuesday the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee is scheduled to vote on his confirmation, after which it will go to the Senate floor. 

 

PIV/CAC Card is Live on GSA Applications 

The General Services Administration (GSA) announced that the Personal Identity Verification (PIV) or Common Access Card (CAC) is live on GSA applications. To gain access to the PIV/CAC card, vendors must register a working PIV/CAC card under your existing GSA Advantage account. The PIV/CAC card is available to use on the following GSA applications: 

  • GSA Advantage! & Virtual Stores (e.g., Air Force Advantage) 
  • GSA Global Supply (GGS) 
  • USMC ServMart 
  • eBuy (Buyer) 

If you have any questions or want more information, contact the GSA Advantage Help Desk at gsa.advantage@gsa.gov or 1-877-472-3777. 

Legal Corner: Biden Leaves in Place Key Portions of Buy American Act Changes, Targets New Domestic End Product Test and Services

Authors: Stephen Ruscus, Morgan Lewis

The Legal Corner provides the legal community with an opportunity to share insights and comments on legal issues of the day. The comments herein do not necessarily reflect the views of The Coalition for Government Procurement. 

President Joe Biden issued on January 25 an Executive Order on Ensuring the Future Is Made in All of America by All of America’s Workers (EO). This EO leaves in place key portions of the prior administration’s July 15, 2019 EO 13881 (Maximizing Use of American-Made Goods, Products, and Materials) and related implementing regulations, orders a sweeping review of multiple domestic preference rules, including proposing standards for domestic products, and establishes a central Office of Management and Budget (OMB) authority to approve federal agency waiver requests of Made in America requirements.

KEY POINTS

Broadly defines “Made in America Laws” as those relating to financial assistance awards, including grants, and contracts requiring or providing a preference for goods, products or materials produced in the United States. This includes the US Department of Transportation’s Buy America provisions and Buy American Act (BAA) requirements, but does not include Federal Trade Commission (FTC) Made in USA labeling issues.

Seeks to maximize use not only of goods, products, and materials produced in the United States, but also services offered in the United States, but does not offer a clear path toward required purchases of US services. 

Click here for the full article.

 

Healthcare Spotlight: Biden Signs “Sustainable Public Health Supply Chain” Executive Order

On January 21, the President signed an Executive Order (EO) to secure the supplies needed for the Federal government (and State, local, Tribal and territorial authorities) to respond to the COVID-19 national pandemic.  In short, the EO requires that:

  • The Secretaries of Defense, Health and Human Services, and Homeland Security take immediate inventory of the critical materials, treatments, and supplies (including personal protective equipment (PPE)) needed to combat COVID-19
    • Where shortages exist, all legal authorities available, including the Defense Production Act, should be used to fill these shortages through additional stockpiles, improving distribution systems, building market capacity or expanding the industrial base
  • The status of the Strategic National Stockpile be provided to the President
  • The Secretaries of the Defense, HHS, State, Homeland Security (and other agencies) provide:
    • An inventory of pandemic response supplies
    • An analysis of their agency’s capacity to produce, provide and distribute pandemic response supplies
    • An assessment of their agency’s procurement of such supplies and their availability on the open market
    • An assessment of any gaps and recommendations to address them
  • Depending on the above agencies’ inventory assessments, the COVID-19 Response Coordinator is to recommend to the President whether additional use of the Defense Production Act would be useful

The EO also addresses the pricing of pandemic response supplies by requiring the Secretaries of Defense, HHS, and Homeland Security to make recommendations for how to address the pricing of pandemic supplies, “including whether and how to direct the use of reasonable pricing clauses in Federal contracts.”  It also asks these agencies to assess “whether to use the GSA Schedules to facilitate State, local, Tribal, and territorial government buyers… in purchasing pandemic response supplies using Federal Supply Schedules.”

Finally, the order requires a strategy be established to design, build and sustain a long-term capability for the U.S. to manufacture supplies for future pandemics and biological threats including an analysis of the roles of the Strategic National Stockpile and other Federal and military stockpiles.  Certain Tribal governments, Indian Health Service healthcare providers, Tribal health authorities and others are also to be given access to the National Stockpile. 

The Coalition will continue to follow policy developments from the current Administration and update members as new information becomes available.  To access the full EO, click here.

Legal Corner: Find Your Path to Polaris: Important Takeaways from the Draft to GSA’s Latest GWAC

Authors: Jeff Clayton, Leo Alvarez, Tim Pergolin, Baker Tilly

The Legal Corner provides the legal community with an opportunity to share insights and comments on legal issues of the day. The comments herein do not necessarily reflect the views of The Coalition for Government Procurement. 

Polaris overview

In an effort to introduce and guide new small business contractors in the U.S. federal government marketplace and provide a replacement vehicle for the recently cancelled Alliant 2 Small Business (A2SB) contract, the General Services Administration (GSA) has released its next-generation Governmentwide Acquisition Contract (GWAC), “Polaris.” GSA’s Polaris GWAC is meant to provide the next generation of IT services-based solutions to all eligible federal buyers.

The Polaris GWAC is designed to provide opportunities for small businesses under socioeconomic categories that may have been underrepresented on previous GWACs. To that end, the Polaris GWAC is slated to include three separate pools based on size and socioeconomic status:

  • Small Business (SB) Pool
  • HUBZone Small Business (HUBZone) Pool
  • Women-Owned Small Business (WOSB) Pool

The Polaris contract provides government agencies with a streamlined approach to the acquisition of both commercial and noncommercial services. Fixed-price, cost-reimbursement, incentive, time-and-materials and labor-hour task orders are all anticipated under the GWAC.

The draft request for proposal (RFP) was released on Dec. 31, 2020, with feedback to the draft RFP due Jan. 29, 2021. It is unclear when the formal release of the RFP will occur, but based on communications from GSA on a speedy rollout, Baker Tilly is expecting the RFP to be released by this summer.

Polaris at a glance

Polaris at a glance

Catering to small businesses

In a recent blog post, Laura Stanton, assistant commissioner of the Office of Information Technology Category (ITC), highlighted that one of GSA’s strategies for increasing the pool of qualified small businesses on Polaris could be the use of Section 876 of the Fiscal Year 2019 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). Section 876 granted GSA the authority to award contracts to qualifying offerors without considering prices for services acquired on an hourly rate basis. The draft RFP does indeed incorporate this new authority, shifting price competition to the task-order level, rather than the IDIQ contract level itself. This should reduce the level of effort for developing a proposal – a welcome addition for many in the small business community.

Also highlighted in the aforementioned blog post, open season on-ramps were contemplated to allow for companies that were not part of the initial award to propose for the GWAC as needed. The draft RFP also incorporates this important feature. In addition to potentially increasing the pool of qualified small businesses, on-ramping new contractors at different times during the contract period would provide federal agencies with access to the most innovative small businesses working at the leading edge of technological advancements – an important consideration given the ever-changing IT marketplace.

Scorecard RFPs

Based on the draft RFP, it appears that GSA intends to use a “Scorecard RFP” approach for the Polaris procurement. GSA has successfully run several of its recent large procurements using a Scorecard RFP approach, including OASIS, ASTRO, HCaTS and Alliant 2. What this means is that offerors will complete a self-scorecard that considers a number of factors and will need to provide supporting documentation along with their scorecard so that GSA can verify the points that an offeror is claiming. Upon receipt of proposals for Polaris, GSA will rank bidders based on their self-scores and then will go down the list to either verify scores, correct scores or remove noncompliant proposals from consideration.

With Scorecard RFPs, there is not typically a traditional written technical proposal that allows a bidder to describe how well they can support the government’s needs; rather, a prospective bidder needs to demonstrate its ability to perform using historical project and past performance documentation. Having worked on a number of Scorecard RFP offers, Baker Tilly believes it is very important for bidders to understand the scoring system, in order to leave enough time to capture relevant data. The data retrieval process can often become a test of a company’s contract management practices and their ability to organize and submit information in a manner that maximizes an offeror’s self-score, while remaining in compliance with RFP instructions.

While the draft RFP clearly indicates that Polaris is being planned as a Scorecard RFP, and it did include many of the areas that are being contemplated for point-scoring, it did not include the actual points being allocated to each area. (We have included a table near the end of this article highlighting the scoring areas that are currently contemplated.)

While the draft RFP did not include information on how points will be allocated under Polaris, we can draw conclusions from the recent scorecards used in similar GWAC solicitations. As highlighted in the table below, Relevant Experience (RE) projects and Past Performance (PP) ratings have accounted for more than 70% of point-scoring opportunities in several recent GWACS that followed a scorecard approach. Based on this, it is safe to assume that RE and PP will play a huge role in deciding awards under Polaris.

RE and PP scorecard allocation

The draft RFP has also stated that “Breadth of Primary Relevant Experience” will be an important deciding factor when evaluating RE. GSA may assign higher point totals to RE projects that cover multiple “performance areas” and also those that use multiple “emerging technologies,” are of higher dollar value and are highly complex.

Key RE factors for Polaris: performance areas

Polaris is placing an emphasis on emerging technologies in both the initial award period and future on-ramp periods. The government is broadening the landscape of the normal performance areas it will assess in the RFP to support the inclusion of new and innovative offerings. One would think that this would also mean that the Polaris procurement will be designed in a manner that allows companies who are somewhat new to the federal space to qualify for Polaris; however, based on what we can see in the draft RFP, it is not clear that this will be the case.

While the draft RFP allows for commercial projects to be submitted to support RE, it is not clear yet whether commercial projects will provide for the same amount of base point-scoring (this has not been true on other Scorecard RFPs). While the total points that can be accumulated for these other areas is yet to be determined, there are several additional point-scoring categories that, if taken at face value, will only be available to bidders who are submitting RE projects where they have served as federal prime contractors.

For example, the draft Polaris RFP indicates that additional points will be available to bidders who can provide primary RE projects demonstrating that they are doing work with multiple federal government customers (up to five different customers). It will include scoring opportunities for contractors with approved cost accounting and purchasing systems. The scorecard also provides points for different Capability Maturity Model Integration (CMMI) levels, International Organization for Standards (ISO) and government facility clearances. Many of these points and some others that fall more into the RE “bucket” will be hard to come by for small and disadvantaged businesses that have not done a lot of federal government contracting. It will be interesting to see how the available points break down if GSA releases a draft scorecard at some point, or if not, how it breaks down in the final RFP.

The five performance areas highlighted in the primary RE portion of the RFP are as follows:

NAICS and performance areas

Per the draft RFP, prospective bidders will be allowed to submit information for up to seven projects to demonstrate their experience in these areas. As noted previously, large volume projects that are highly complex and incorporate a variety of different factors will allow for higher point-scoring. A single project cannot be used to support relevant experience in multiple performance areas. Each primary RE project must be ongoing or have been completed within five years from the proposal due date, and must have at least one year of performance unless it meets certain conditions. Projects must have a project value of at least $1 million.

One should note that while NAICS codes are provided to help organize the performance areas that GSA will be looking at for history of IT services performed, NAICS codes will not be a point-scoring factor itself (as it has been in previous scorecard solicitations). The draft RFP also allows offerors the opportunity to provide projects (and receive points) with specific scopes in cloud services and cybersecurity services – highlighting the importance of these areas to GSA and federal agency customers.

As mentioned earlier, the “breadth of primary RE” will also represent a critical deciding factor when evaluating RE. The scorecard allows for an increasing scale of points for offerors that can demonstrate coverage over all five performance areas. Just keep in mind that you will need to provide a single project for each performance area, so you will want to identify a set of projects representing a diversity of services.

Past performance ratings for relevant experience projects that are provided to support performance areas will also be a very important scoring factor. The Contractor Performance Assessment Reporting System (CPARS) is GSA’s preferred means of providing past performance information, and if prior Scorecard RFPs can be used as a basis, it will be important to provide projects where CPARS scores have been high in order to maximize point-scoring. A past performance rating form is provided for instances where CPARS do not exist – it is not clear if the same point totals will be possible for projects where a rating form is used instead of a CPARS.

Key RE factors for Polaris: emerging technology areas

Although the RE performance areas are the main focus of the draft solicitation for the GWAC, Polaris is encouraging contractors to also highlight project information illustrating innovative technological approaches to servicing customer needs. The specific “emerging technology” service areas cited in the draft RFP are as follows:

  • Advanced and quantum computing: Advanced computing refers to technical capabilities that support computation and data intensive modeling and simulation. This includes the use of quantum mechanics and information theory to enable faster speeds, better precision and optimum functionality.
  • Artificial intelligence (AI): AI, also known as machine intelligence, is a branch of computer science that aims to imbue software with the ability to analyze its environment using either predetermined rules and search algorithms, or pattern-recognizing machine learning models, and then make decisions based on those analyses.
  • Automation technology: Automation is the creation and application of technologies to produce and deliver goods and services with minimal human intervention. The implementation of automation technologies, techniques and processes improve the efficiency, reliability and/or speed of many tasks that were previously performed by humans.
  • Distributed ledger technology (DLT): DLT is a type of ledger that is shared, replicated and synchronized in a distributed and decentralized manner. DLT can be used to decentralize and automate processes in a large number of sectors. The attributes of a distributed ledger technology allow for large numbers of entities or nodes, whether collaborators or competitors, to come to consensus on information and immutably store it.
  • Edge computing: Edge computing brings computation and data storage closer to the devices where it’s being gathered, rather than relying on a central location that can be thousands of miles away. This is done so that data, especially real-time data, does not suffer latency issues that can affect an application’s performance. Processing is done locally, reducing the amount of data that needs to be processed in a centralized or cloud-based location.
  • Immersive technology: Immersive technology refers to technology that attempts to emulate a physical world through the means of a digital or simulated world by creating a surrounding sensory feeling, thereby creating a sense of immersion.

Prospective bidders are allowed to submit up to six emerging technologies RE projects. Each of these projects must have been for the performance of one of the noted emerging technologies, and no emerging technology project may be used to support relevant experience in more than one emerging technology area. However, it is acceptable to use the same project to support one of the performance areas and one of the emerging technologies. Each emerging technology project must be ongoing or have been completed within five years from the proposal due date, and must have at least one year of performance unless it meets certain conditions. Emerging technology projects must have a project value of at least $150,000. There is no indication in the draft RFP as to whether NAICS codes will be important for emerging technology RE.

Additional point-scoring opportunities will exist, related to a number of other factors. While RE is likely to be most important, prospective bidders should be aware of all opportunities in order to maximize their score.

Cybersecurity and supply chain risk management (SCRM)

Many recent GSA-led procurements have included cybersecurity and SCRM requirements. 8(a) STARS III included similar requirements, as did ASTRO. This has become a growing focus given its importance to national security, and it has only been heightened by recent incidents involving bad actors looking to access restricted information, either through cyber-based osupply-chain based hacks, or to disrupt the supply chain.

While Cybersecurity Maturity Model Certification (CMMC) is technically a Department of Defense (DOD) requirement, the Polaris draft RFP highlights it as something that Polaris bidders should prepare for and participate in. The draft RFP also indicates that GSA may survey Polaris awardees from time to time to identify and publicly list each industry partner’s CMMC standing. The draft RFP goes on to state that it reserves the right to require CMMC Level 1 certification as mandatory to be considered for the Polaris option period, as well as for any open season on-ramps.

One of many requirements for companies that are awarded the Polaris GWAC will be to complete and provide a SCRM plan within 30 days of the end of each contract year. The RFP notes that cybersecurity and SCRM are dynamic areas, and refers contractors to NIST 800-161 (a federal government requirement that wasn’t designed for private companies) for guidance in developing a framework for their SCRM plans. GSA, along with DOD and the Intelligence Community, have been at the forefront in requiring contractors to understand and manage risks to their supply chains. We have worked with a number of companies to develop these plans, and they can be complex.

GSA also notes that it will rely on its Vendor Risk Assessment Program (VRAP), to assess and monitor supply chain risks of critical vendors, and that the contractor must agree that the government may, at its own discretion, perform audits of supply chain processes or events. We expect this to be a growing area of concern for or all federal agencies, and as a result, for federal contractors. Given the current environment, we also expect that these types of requirements will continue to evolve and expand, possibly under Polaris, and likely in many other procurement and rulemaking activities.

Teaming arrangements and joint ventures (JV)

Teaming arrangements and JVs are permitted under Polaris, as is the use of past performance information from parents, affiliates and subsidiaries, but there are a number of restrictions and qualifying factors. The manner in which points will be available in all areas is highly nuanced and varies dependent upon which type of relationship is being employed. Some important things to consider here:

  • For teaming arrangements and/or prime-sub bidders, all members must qualify as small businesses
  • For JVs, each member must be small, or it may include two business concerns in a mentor-protégé relationship when both the mentor and the protégé are small, or when only the protégé is small and the concerns have received an exception to affiliation pursuant to 13 CFR 121.103(h)(3)(i) or (iii) – which essentially means that Small Business Administration (SBA)-approved mentor-protégé JVs are eligible to bid; however, for the DOD’s Pilot Mentor-Protégé Program, only JVs where both members are small will be eligible to bid
  • Meaningful commitment relationship letters will be required to demonstrate the relationship that exists between team members, JV members and parents, affiliates and subsidiaries

Please note that GSA will also conduct an “organizational risk assessment,” favoring those organizations with a history of working together. If organizations come together for the purpose of this procurement with no prior history of working together, they will not receive the points associated with this scoring factor.

We recommend that anyone planning to team, rely on affiliates or form JVs in pursuit of Polaris read the draft RFP carefully to ensure they understand how points will be counted for each of these types of relationships.

How to prepare for Polaris

The list below includes some ways to prepare for Polaris:

  1. Identify potential relevant experience projects: Work with key personnel in contracts, finance or program management to find as many projects as possible that:
          a. Were performed in the past five years
          b. Have an IT focus and offer a wide range of services and cover at least one of the performance areas and/or emerging technologies
          c. Have a large annual value (at least $1 million project value, but the larger the better)
          d. Have a strong CPARS rating (at least an average of “Very Good” [4.0] or above) or are              commercial projects for which you believe your customer would be willing to rate your performance very high and give you a positive recommendation
  2. Begin accumulating documentation: The administrative burden associated with these proposals is significant. We recommend beginning to accumulate the following documentation:
            a. For relevant experience projects, identify and organize all contract award documents,        statements of work, contract modifications and most recent CPARS. Make sure the contract documents are signed by the cognizant contracting officer.
            b. Identify and organize documentation to demonstrate DCAA, DCMA or CFA approval for your company’s accounting system and/or purchasing system.
  3. Assign roles and determine responsibilities: To avoid confusion when the solicitation is released, it is best to get the personnel question answered first:
          a. Who is responsible for checking beta.sam.gov and the GSA website for any pre-solicitation updates?
          b. Who will be the lead program sponsor, contracts manager, finance manager and proposal manager?
          c. Who will communicate the status of Polaris to leadership?
          d. Does your team need to outsource support to ensure a compliant proposal?
  4. Assess risk/benefit of proposing as all possible “business arrangements” listed above
         a. Have preliminary dialogue with possible JV organizations or prime contractors/subcontractors
  5. Read the draft RFP and respond with your firm-specific questions 

For more information on this topic, or to learn how Baker Tilly specialists can help, contact our team. As noted above, we have included the draft scorecard below as provided by GSA, which does not show how points will be allocated but does provide information on the different areas for which points will be available.

Polaris Scoring

Volume 2 relevant experience

experience from emerging technologies

 

Legal Corner: White House Issues COVID-19 Response National Strategy and Executive Order Describing Expanded Use of the Defense Production Act

Authors: Marcia Madsen, David Dowd, Luke Levasseur, Mayer Brown

The Legal Corner provides the legal community with an opportunity to share insights and comments on legal issues of the day. The comments herein do not necessarily reflect the views of The Coalition for Government Procurement. 

On January 21, 2021, as part of his administration’s National Strategy for the COVID-19 Response and Pandemic Preparedness (“COVID Response Strategy”), President Biden issued an “Executive Order on a Sustainable Public Health Supply Chain(“Supply Chain EO”). The EO makes clear that in addition to inventorying supplies and developing strategies to improve availability of the supplies necessary for the states’ and the federal COVID-19 response, the federal government will use all available authorities, including the broad authorities under the Defense Production Act (“DPA”), to address shortfalls in needed supplies and develop strategies for their delivery. The Supply Chain EO also emphasizes the development of a robust pandemic supply chain that will secure supplies for responding to the COVID-19 pandemic and future crises while reducing reliance on foreign sources.

The administration’s COVID Response Strategy includes numerous ways that, while establishing clear federal leadership of a nationwide response, the Biden administration will increase emergency funding to the states and bolster the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s response to improve state, local and tribal responses to the pandemic. In addition to the COVID Response Strategy and the Supply Chain EO, the administration published a Presidential Memorandum to Extend Federal Support to Governors’ Use of the National Guard to Respond to COVID-19 and to Increase Reimbursement and other Assistance Provided to States. Among other things, the federal government will reimburse state, local and tribal governments for 100% of the cost of emergency supplies (including personal protective equipment, “PPE”) and 100% of the costs related to use of the National Guard to assist with the pandemic response. In short, the federal government is removing substantial parts of the states’ financial burden resulting from the pandemic in order to facilitate a faster and more comprehensive COVID-19 response.

The administration also intends to address supply shortfalls for vaccination supplies, testing supplies and PPE by use of the DPA. Under the COVID Response Strategy, resolving “twelve immediate supply shortfalls” has been identified as critical to successfully responding to the pandemic. Agencies will use the DPA to the extent possible “to accelerate manufacturing, delivery, and administration to meet shortfalls in these twelve categories of critical supplies.” Within those categories, agencies have been tasked with increasing the availability of supplies such as:

•   N95 masks

•  isolation gowns

•   nitrile gloves

•   polymerase chain reaction (“PCR”) sample collection swabs

•   test reagents

•   pipette tips

•   laboratory analysis machines for PCR tests

•   high-absorbency foam swabs

•   nitrocellulose material for rapid antigen tests

•   rapid test kits, low dead-space needles and syringes

•   all the necessary equipment and material to accelerate the manufacture, delivery and administration of COVID-19 vaccine

There will necessarily be a large number of procurement decisions and actions required to effect the anticipated use of the DPA. With respect to just one of these examples mentioned above, the president’s chief of staff explained that “we’ve got a very carefully coordinated program with the vaccine manufacturers to increase production” and that “one of the orders . . . signed today was to use the [DPA] to ramp up the production of a very specific kind of syringe that allows [a more efficient distribution of vaccine]” and “that DPA authority . . . actually increases our supply effectively 20%.”

The Supply Chain EO, which is intended to facilitate the rapid procurement of significant quantities of the necessary products, emphasizes the development of a robust pandemic supply chain needed to secure supplies for responding to the COVD-19 pandemic and future crises while reducing reliance on foreign sources. It describes the administration’s planned inventory assessment, price analysis and strategic development necessary to complete the effort.

Section 2 of the Supply Chain EO calls for an assessment of the inventory of response supplies and identification of emergency needs. If the assessment reveals a shortfall in the provision of pandemic response supplies, the head of the relevant agency shall take appropriate action using all available legal authorities, including the DPA, to fill those shortfalls as soon as practicable by acquiring additional stockpiles, improving distribution systems, building market capacity or expanding the industrial base.

The Supply Chain EO’s Section 2 also contemplates actions to be taken in response to reports provided by agencies regarding pandemic response supplies. The COVID-19 Response Coordinator must review reports that the Supply Chain EO requires regarding assessment of pandemic response capabilities and provide recommendations to the president that address (i) whether additional use of the DPA would be helpful and (ii) the extent to which liability risk, regulatory requirements or other factors impede the development, production and procurement of pandemic response supplies and actions that can be taken to remove such impediments.

Section 3 of the Supply Chain EO addresses pricing of pandemic response supplies. The Department of Health and Human Services (“HHS”) must “promptly recommend” whether changes should be made to the authorities delegated to HHS by EO 13910 of March 23, 2020 (which concerned hoarding of health and medical resources) regarding scarce materials or materials that would be threatened by accumulation for hoarding or price gouging. Section 3 also requires HHS, the Department of Defense (“DoD”) and the Department of Homeland Security (“DHS”) to recommend how to address the pricing of pandemic response supplies, including whether and how to direct the use of reasonable pricing clauses in federal contracts and investment agreements or other related vehicles. The secretaries also must recommend whether the General Services Administration Schedule program should be used to facilitate purchasing of pandemic response supplies for state, local, tribal and territorial government buyers and compacts.

The Supply Chain EO’s Section 4 directs the development of a Pandemic Supply Chain Resiliency Strategy. DoD, DHS and HHS, among other agencies to be identified, must develop a strategy within 180 days to design, build and sustain a long-term capability in the United States to manufacture supplies for future pandemics and biological threats. Among other elements, this strategy must include an analysis of the role of foreign suppliers in the US pandemic supply chain, the Unites States’ role in the international public health supply chain and options to strengthen and better coordinate global supply chain systems in future pandemics, as well as mechanisms to address points of failure in the supply chains and to ensure redundancies. The Supply Chain EO also calls for an approach to develop a multi-year implementation plan for domestic production of pandemic supplies.

Section 5 of the Supply Chain EO directs HHS to consult with tribal authorities and take steps to facilitate access to the Strategic National Stockpile for federally recognized tribal governments, Indian Health Service healthcare providers, tribal health authorities and Urban Indian Organizations.

The Defense Production Act—What To Expect

Although the DPA authorities are broad, they are not necessarily a “silver bullet.” Section 101 of the DPA gives the president the power to shape civilian markets and control the distribution of materials and resources upon making certain findings about the criticality of the material to national defense and the potential dislocation of civilian markets. Where there is production capacity that needs to be prioritized, the “rated order” process under the DPA allows the president to specify the most important production and flow those priorities down the supply chain. Such orders could potentially be issued to US vaccine manufacturers, as well as suppliers of items such as syringes or cold storage facilities.

Section 101 also allows the president to determine the allocation of health and medical resources. This authority has seldom been used and was used for the first time in EO 13909 on March 18, 2020. This authority would permit the government to actually adjust production capacity and resources. However, the impact of this authority may be longer-term.

Other uses of the DPA require more planning and development. The Title III authorities for loans and loan guarantees (which were enhanced in some respects for a two-year period under the CARES Act) are tools to facilitate domestic production of PPE, for example. However, because so much of that production had moved out of the United States, use of these authorities is longer-term and requires analysis and expertise to structure financial incentives. Such work has been conducted at DoD through its Industrial Policy Office and most recently also through the US International Development Finance Corporation in conjunction with HHS, for example. See EO 13922, May 14, 2020.

In addition, authorities under Title VII of the DPA allow the president and industry to work cooperatively with protection from the antitrust laws. This authority may help facilitate, for example, distribution of vaccines by cooperation among potential distributors such as retail pharmacies.

For further information on the DPA, see David Dowd, Luke Levasseur, and Marcia Madsen, Defense Production Act—Using Authority To Address Emergent Needs, Thomson Reuters Briefing Papers Issue 20-8 (July 2020) [available from Thomson Reuters on Westlaw].

OFPP Administrator Signs Policy Memos in Final Days  

According to Federal News Network, Office of Federal Procurement Policy (OFPP) Administrator Michael Wooten signed three memos designed to streamline Federal procurement in the final days of the Trump Administration. 

Reducing PALT Using Modern Business Practices 

One of these memos is aimed at reducing acquisition timelines, which was a priority for Wooten. In the January 14 memo, Wooten wrote that the guidance “takes an important step toward measuring the timeliness of federal procurements by establishing a common definition of ‘procurement administrative lead time (PALT).’  It also provides guidance on “steps agencies should take to reduce PALT in their acquisition activities through modern business practices that shorten the time from the identification of need to delivery of value.” The memo includes a four-phase approach to reduce PALT, along with 17 agency examples of strategies to reduce lead time. 

Limiting Use of Educational Requirements in Federal Service Contracts 

Administrator Wooten signed another memo on January 11 that reinforces the requirement that agencies should limit the use of educational requirements in favor of stated skills when buying IT and other services. In the memo, Wooten states that “focusing on desired competencies to achieve stated outcomes, rather than imposing degree requirements, helps to break down barriers to entry and promote effective competition by giving prospective government contractors the flexibility they need to build a team with the best suited personnel to address an agency’s requirements.” He adds that this flexibility could be especially important to small businesses..  

Increasing the Participation of Americans with Disabilities in Federal Contracting 

The third memo, issued on October 30, advises agencies to increase the number of people with disabilities in federal contracting, which can be achieved by awarding more contracts to companies under the AbilityOne program. According to the memo, agencies spent about $4 billion with AbilityOne in fiscal year 2019.  

 

GSA Names Advisors on COVID-19 and Executive Action

On January 25, the General Services Administration (GSA) named Zoe Garmendia as the Senior Advisor to the Administrator on COVID-19 and Josh Sawislak as the Senior Advisor to the Administrator focusing on implementing executive actions. Garmendia has more than 20 years of experience in strategic management of people, resources, and operations. She has worked in the White House, the Pennsylvania Convention Center, and the Wisconsin Center District. She also supported the 2020 Democratic National Convention and the Biden-Harris Transition. Garmendia holds deep experience in pandemic prevention and relief. 

Sawislak holds more than 30 years of bipartisan experience working in industry, academia, and for the Bush, Obama, and Biden Administrations with a focus on environmental, infrastructure, planning, and procurement policy. Previously, Sawilsak served as a Senior Advisor to the GSA Administrator, Senior Advisor to the Secretary for Infrastructure Resilience at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, and as Associate Director for Climate Preparedness and Resilience in the Obama White House Council on Environmental Quality.  Additionally, he led the infrastructure team on the President’s Hurricane Sandy Rebuilding Task Force. 

 

DLA Supplier Survey Deadline Extended  

The deadline to respond to the Defense Logistics Agency (DLA) Supplier Survey has been extended to February 12. Additionally, DLA has opened up a general link to the survey to allow for companies to immediately take the survey without requesting a link. The survey can be found here. It will take about 10-15 minutes to complete. The survey will help DLA refine processes, improve responsiveness, and strengthen relationships with suppliers. It is targeting suppliers who have done $50,000 or more in business with the DLA over the past two years. The data will be used to develop action plans based on specific focus areas identified by suppliers. The survey is part of DLA’s industry engagement effort outlined in the 2018 DLA Industry Engagement Plan. 

 

Defense Pricing and Contracting “Year in Review” 

In it’s Year in Review, Defense Pricing and Contracting (DPC) recognizes the accomplishments of the Department of Defense (DoD) over the past year during the COVID-19 pandemic, which allowed DoD to stay on pace or ahead of 2019 productivity. For example- 

  • There was a 4% decrease in contract actions and an 11% increase in contract obligations for the Military Services, in FY20 compared to FY19;  
  • There was an 8% decrease in contract actions and a 9% increase in contract obligations for the Military Services and DLA, comparing FY20 to FY19;  
  • And comparing Quarters 3 and 4 of FY 20 to Quarters 3 and 4 of FY 19, there was an 11% decrease in contract actions and a 9% increase in contract obligations for all DoD.  

DoD has also continued its growth of Other Transaction Authority (OTAs). Money spent on OTAs has grown from $620 million, in 2015, to $16 billion, in 2020.  

For more details, see the DPC Year in Review. 

 

Review of DoD’s Procurement Management 

On January 22, Defense Pricing and Contracting (DPC) released the Fiscal Year 2020 (FY20) Procurement Management Review “Year in Review” Newsletter, which summarize the best practices, observations and lessons learned from the FY20 review of Other Defense Agency (ODA) and Defense Field Activity contracting operations. There were several recommendations made, and within 60 days of the report, ODAs must submit a Plan of Action and Milestones (POA&M) to be approved. Some of the recommendations are: 

  • System for Award Management (SAM): Ensure files are documented to demonstrate SAM is consistently checked prior to negotiations, contract award, and modifications (FAR 4.1103, 9.104-6, 9.405, 17.207(c)(5)). 
  • Contract Action Report (CAR): Ensure CAR submitted to Federal Procurement Data System (FPDS) is included in the contract file and that all fields are accurate and complete (FAR 4.604; DFARS PGI 204.606). Clauses: Include required FAR and DFARS clauses in solicitations and awards tailored to the specific requirement and contract type (FAR Subpart 52.1). 
  • Market Research: Conduct Market Research and ensure documentation is included in the contract file. 
  • Contracting Officer’s Representative (COR): Ensure the Contracting Officer makes a decision that a COR is required and appointed in writing with the responsibilities and limits of authority clearly specified (DFARS PGI 201.602-2). 

The review also has listed best practices that have resulted in improvements to ODAs operations, quality of life, work environment, and collaboration/teaming. 

 

GSA Seeking QPC Board Member 

The General Services Administration (GSA) is currently accepting applications for the Quality Partnership Council (QPC) Board. Please See the notice below about the opening and contact Kristine Stein (kristine.stein@gsa.govwith any questions.  

This current vacancy is for a FURNITURE Industry Board Member Role. If your company is not a provider of furniture products, but rather a provider of furniture services, flooring, or furnishings this application is NOT for you. Future vacancies will be announced when those respective QPC board member terms end. Please see theBoard Member Sheet for a look at the current board members. We ask that only employees or owners of MAS furniture companies apply. No consultants.

We are hoping to fill this new vacancy with a furniture supplier who can provide a small business perspective. You do not need to be a small business to be considered, however, on the application, you will have the opportunity to explain how your role in the federal furniture marketplace supports small businesses. You will also have the opportunity on the application to offer how you believe you can represent the needs of small businesses with a position on the QPC Board.

This new furniture QPC board member will serve alongside Suzanne Renz of Haworth, who was elected in March 2020. This newly appointed board member will fill a current vacancy created when Michelle Warren departed a few weeks ago. Thank you and farewell to Michelle – our valued QPC Board member since 2017.

Applications are being accepted until Friday, February 12 at 4:30 PM ET. Apply here

To learn more about QPC and the QPC Board,see the QPC Charter. Thank you! Please contact me with questions.
 

AFCEA Bethesda’s 2021 Health IT March Forward  

The Coalition is proud to sponsor AFCEA Bethesda’s 2021 Health IT March Forward, a series of month-long, agency focused virtual events that will be held every Tuesday in March. The series will kick off on March 2nd with the CXO Panel, where federal Health IT leaders will provide a high-level overview of the acquisition, technology, policy, and workforce strategies that make transformation possible. Next, leaders from Health and Human Services (HHS) will share how modernization efforts resulted in innovative changes across the agency. Attendees will have the chance to ask questions of the HHS panelists in small group breakouts during the Post-Panel Discussion. Coalition members can save 40% when you register for a March Forward Event Pass with access to all five events! Register here.