Friday Flash 03.05.21

GSA Releases BIC MAC RFI and Coalition Forms New Working Group

Earlier this week, the General Services Administration (GSA) released a request for information (RFI) for the Best in Class Multi-Agency Contract (BIC MAC), which will serve as the follow on to the OASIS program. The RFI represents the first step in a dialogue with industry to gather feedback and craft the BIC MAC procurement. Comments on the RFI are due to GSA by Wednesday, March 17.

As you know, OASIS is one of GSA’s great success stories, providing over $10 billion in mission support for complex professional services to customer agencies in 2020. The program is a strategic asset to GSA and the government as a whole, supporting the efforts of GSA’s Assisted Acquisition Services and key agencies, like the Air Force.

With OASIS set to expire in 2024, the Coalition and its members will pay close attention to BIC MAC and GSA’s engagements with industry. We note that GSA’s overview of BIC MAC contemplates new features for the procurement, including:

  • Creating a single contract for large and small businesses and using small business reserves to support socioeconomic goals (in contrast with OASIS, which utilizes separate contracts for large and small businesses);
  • Utilizing the authority of Section 876 from the 2019 National Defense Authorization Act to award a contract, considering price at the task order level when requirements are definitized and competed among multiple contractors; and
  • Maintaining a continuous open season, rather than utilizing on-ramps.

In response to member feedback, the Coalition has established a new BIC MAC and OASIS Working Group that will provide a platform for all stakeholders to engage in a dialogue about this initiative. In addition to responding to the RFI, the Coalition will be meeting with Jill Akridge, Director of Customer Accounts Management for the Professional Services and Human Capital Categories at GSA, later this month to discuss BIC MAC.

For more information regarding the Coalition’s BIC MAC and OASIS Working Group, please contact Sean Nulty at SNulty@thecgp.org. We look forward to the dialogue with GSA and across the procurement community to ensure the effective, efficient delivery of best value mission support for customer agencies.

IT and VA Acquisition on GAO High Risk List 

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) released the 2021 High Risk List, a biennial report that identifies Government operations with vulnerabilities for fraud, waste, abuse, or mismanagement. The report identifies more than 30 programs that are considered high risk and makes recommendations for their improvement. 

VA Acquisition Management 

VA acquisition management was first added to the high risk list in 2019, and remains on the high risk list. GAO has identified seven areas of concern: 

  • Outdated acquisition policies; 
  • Lack of an effective medical supplies procurement strategy; 
  • Inadequate acquisition training; 
  • Contracting officer workload challenges; 
  • Lack of reliable data systems; 
  • Limited contract oversight and incomplete contract file documentation; and 
  • Leadership instability. 

The VA is developing a high-risk action plan to address these concerns and aims  to complete the action plan in March 2021. The report notes that VA is working to address these issues and other findings from GAO. The VA plans to implement a new Medical/Surgical Prime Vendor (MSPV) 2.0 program in 2021, and implement robust clinician involvement after MSPV 2.0 begins. The VA also plans to assess any duplication between the MSPV and Federal Supply Schedule (FSS) programs to determine if overlap can be reduced. Among the GAO’s recommendations is that the VA develop a comprehensive methodology to measure a pilot for the VA’s use of the Defense Logistics Agency (DLA) MSPV program.  The GAO also recommends that the VA work to implement its supply chain modernization strategy which includes the launch of MSPV 2.0, use of a more modern inventory system through DoD’s Defense Medical Logistics Standard Support (DMLSS) system, and expansion of a pilot effort to use the Defense Logistics Agency’s (DLA) MSPV program to eventually replace MSPV 2.0. 

IT Acquisitions and Operations 

GAO found that Federal IT investments either fail or incur cost overruns, which hinders the ability for agencies to meet their missions, and GAO added IT acquisition and operations to the High-Risk List in 2015. GAO recommends that agencies fully implement the Federal Information Technology Acquisition Reform Act (FITARA), which was passed in 2014, including provisions on CIO authorities and IT workforce practices. The report notes that four of the 24 CFO Act agencies have reported meeting all of their FITARA milestones. 

GAO also recommends that the Government reduce duplicative IT contracts. Agencies continue to implement Category Management, and GAO recommended that agencies improve their spend analysis capabilities to reduce contract duplication.    

 

Lawmakers Push for Section 3610 Extension

According to Federal Computer Week, Senators Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Mark Warner (D-VA) are pushing for legislation to extend the reimbursement authorities of Section 3610 of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act to September 30. This provision allows federal contractors to reimburse employees who are unable to work due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Currently, it is set to expire on March 31.  

Defense industry groups wrote a letter to House and Senate leaders supporting the extension of the provision. The Department of Defense’s (DoD) Acting Acquisition Chief Stacy Cummings told the Senate Armed Services Committee during her testimony on February 25 that the department would need additional resources in order to effectively utilize Section 3610. According to Cummings’ testimony, to date, DoD has reimbursed approximately $50 million to 84 companies under the legislation. She added that more funding flexibilities, along with appropriations, could aid in buying emergency products and services during the pandemic. 

 

COVID Relief Bill May Increase Funds for TMF

Fedscoop reported that a draft of the Senate version of the next COVID relief bill, otherwise known as the American Rescue Plan Act, includes $1 billion for the Technology Modernization Fund (TMF). The $1 billion infusion would be a significant increase from the $25 million received by the TMF in fiscal year 2020. Despite the increase, the Senate proposal is less than the $9 billion that the Biden administration previously recommended for the TMF. The Administration aims for TMF funds to improve cybersecurity and IT modernization, especially projects that assist with the Government’s COVID-19 pandemic response. Additionally, the Senate’s draft relief bill includes $650 million for the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) at the Department of Homeland Security for “cybersecurity risk mitigation.” 

 

GSA Releases BIC MAC RFI  

The General Services Administration (GSA) published a request for information (RFI) for the new Best in Class Multiagency Contract (BIC MAC), which will serve as a follow-on to OASIS. According to GSA’s overview, BIC MAC will be structured with between 9 and 15 domains that align with category management. The domains include: 

  • Technical and engineering; 
  • Research and development; 
  • Management and advisory services; 
  • Business administration; 
  • Financial services; 
  • Environmental services; 
  • Marketing and public relations; 
  • Logistics; 
  • Facilities; 
  • Human services (HR, legal, social services); 
  • Base operation support services; 
  • Counterintelligence; 
  • C4ISR; 
  • Major professional services acquisitions (large dollar value comprehensive services; and 
  • OCONUS. 

GSA is also exploring creating a single contract vehicle that will include both large and small businesses. Instead of creating a separate small business contract, BIC MAC would use small business reserves instead.  

GSA does not plan to cap the number of awards to BIC MAC. GSA plans to establish a continuous open season for BIC MAC.  

The Coalition plans to respond to the RFI. Members who have feedback should submit their comments to Sean Nulty at SNulty@thecgp.org by Friday, March 12. Responses to GSA are due by Wednesday, March 17. 

 

GSA BIC MAC Meeting, March 16

The Coalition will be hosting a joint IT/Services and GWAC/MAC Committee Meeting on Tuesday, March 16 at 11:00 am EST. The focus of the virtual meeting will be on GSA’s new BIC MAC contract. Jill Akridge, Director of Customer Accounts Management for the Professional Services and Human Capital Categories at GSA, will speak to members about BIC MAC acquisition strategy and request for information.

GSA has requested that members submit any questions they have on BIC MAC before the meeting. Please send your questions to Sean Nulty at SNulty@thecgp.org by Tuesday, March 9. If you would like to attend the meeting, please RSVP to Michael Hanafin at MHanafin@thecgp.org to receive the dial-in information. 

The Coalition is also launching a BIC MAC Working Group as described in the FAR & Beyond blog. To join, please email Sean Nulty at snulty@thecgp.org.

 

Upcoming Catalog Management Improvements at GSA 

Fedscoop reported on the General Services Administration’s (GSA) efforts to improve catalog management, which is one of the four pillars of the Federal Marketplace (FMP) Strategy. One of the efforts is the Common Catalog Platform (CCP), which allows customers to easily search, compare, and buy products and services on the GSA Advantage! platform. CCP will also reduce the time it takes suppliers to manage their catalogs by replacing the Schedules Input Program (SIP) for Multiple Award Schedules (MAS) contract holders, and will make the process for reviewing and approving catalogs easier for contracting officers. The pre-solicitation for CCP will seek information from the 12 contractors that are currently on the Chief Information Officer Modernization and Enterprise Transformation (COMET) blanket purchase agreement.  

An additional catalog management improvement that is being made is reducing catalog load times for suppliers through an Authoritative Catalog Repository, which will collect data for CCP. GSA is updating the MAS solicitation in April to allow authorized resellers of Verified Products Portal (VPP) products to use this data without providing a letter of supply. This update will help standardize contractor catalogs and make it easier for GSA to find and remove unauthorized products.  

 

Tokenization for GSA Advantage Orders 

The General Services Administration (GSA) announced that it is exploring the implementation of tokenization on GSA Advantage to protect customer payment data. Tokenization replaces payment information with random alphanumeric characters. Vendors use the token to process transactions, while payment information is securely stored. Tokenization could ease industry burden for handling and protecting sensitive payment information.  

GSA Multiple Award Schedule Program Management Office (MAS PMO) released a request for information to gauge industry interest in tokenization implementation. The RFI is available here 

 

February 2021 beta.SAM.gov Newsletter 

The latest version of the General Services Administration’s (GSA) beta.SAM.gov Update newsletter for February 2021 is now available. Here are some of the highlights: 

  • GSA is merging legacy SAM.gov into the beta.SAM.gov environment on May 24, 2021. After the merge is complete, the system will be known as SAM.gov.  
  • Phase one of the transition will change the look and feel of beta.SAM.gov to prepare for the merge. There will be new designs for the home page, help pages, and search function. The main menu will also have a new design that will make selections easier to find. The feedback tool will be moved to the footer of the site. The new look and feel will remain after the two systems merge. GSA is giving users the opportunity to get used to the new design before transitioning the functionality. Phase one is scheduled for April 26, 2021.  
  • Phase two, which is scheduled for May 24, 2021, will migrate the functionality of SAM.gov into beta.SAM.gov. New security enhancements, known as identity proofing, will be available after the May 24 transition. The enhancements will help GSA validate the identity of each entity administrator. Identity proofing asks individuals to provide a photograph of their state-issued photo identification, their social security number, and a valid phone number. Identity proofing will be voluntary at launch, but will become mandatory by fiscal year 2022.   

 

NSA Releases Zero Trust Guidance 

The National Security Agency (NSA) released a zero-trust guidance, which instructs defense agencies and contractors on how to set up a zero-trust network architecture. In the guidance, NSA implores the Department of Defense (DoD) and defense contractors to implement zero-trust for sensitive systems to better protect against data exfiltration. NSA understands that zero-trust will not occur immediately, and provides a Zero Trust Security Maturity Model. There are several challenges listed in the guidance. The largest mentioned is not having leadership support of zero-trust.  

 

Defense Innovation Unit Highlights Five-Year Growth 

Federal Computer Week reported on the first five years of the Defense Innovation Unit (DIU). Since DIU’s launch in 2015, the agency has issued 208 other transactions (OTs). In 2020 alone, DIU issued 56 prototype OTs, and about 40 percent of the agency’s contracts led to at least one prototype that made it to production. DIU’s annual report highlights the work that the agency has done over the past year, including launching a new portfolio for advanced energy and materials in October.  

During the COVID-19 pandemic, DIU has launched 23 new projects and transitioned 11 to Department of Defense (DoD) partners. One of the agency’s most notable achievements was its Blue small Unmanned Aerial Systems (sUAS) program. Under this effort, DIU has provided five secure and trusted sUAS options for DoD and the Federal Government that are available under a General Services Administration (GSA) schedule. In the future, DIU is looking to work in other technology areas including space systems, robotics, artificial intelligence, and data analytics. 

 

More Oversight of MSPV Distribution Fee Invoicing Needed, According to OIG 

The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Office of Inspector General (OIG) released a report on their assessment on the oversight of the Medical/Surgical Prime Vendor-Next Generation (MSPV-NG). The OIG completed the assessment to determine if (1) medical facility-level staff verified the accuracy of distribution fees invoiced by the prime vendor, and (2) national -and Veterans Integrated Service Network (VISN)-level staff provide proper oversight of this activity. In 2016, the VA awarded four MSPV-NG contracts with a cumulative value of almost $4.6 billion for medical and surgical supplies. The VA pays for requested products and a distribution fee, which covers costs associated with managing medical facilities inventories. In fiscal year 2018, medical facilities paid about $25.4 million in distribution fees. 

The OIG found that (1) the VA controls were not sufficient to ensure VA medical facility staff accurately reviewed, verified, or certified distribution fee invoices for the MSPV-NG and (2) the VA did not make sure staff at medical facilities accurately established and applied the on-site representative rates and paid fees based on annual facility purchases. The audit of the oversight of the MSPV-NG program found that five of the 12 sampled facilities used an on-site representative, who are on-site liaisons for the prime vendors, during fiscal year 2018. None of the five facilities made sure the fees they paid for having on-site representatives were correct. The OIG, also, found there were several discrepancies between the applicable rates and the distribution fees billed and paid for the distribution delivery services between October 1 through October 31, 2018. One of the discrepancies are 25 percent of the facilities had discrepancies between the agreed-upon bulk rate distribution fees and the amounts invoiced by the prime vendor for an estimated 18,200 transaction for medical and surgical supplies totaling about $24,600. The OIG made the following six recommendations: 

  • Chief logistics officers at VISNs monitor facilities’ processes for verification and certification of distribution fee invoices 
  • VISN directors ensure their chief logistics officers develop distribution fee monitoring and review procedures for facility logistics audits and compliance reviews  
  • Facility chief logistics officers and contracting officer’s representatives review and update election forms and provide copies to the prime vendors for acknowledgment 
  • Facility contracting officer’s representatives verify that distribution fee rates billed by prime vendors match those on the election forms and pricing schedule 
  • Medical Supplies Program Office managers clearly define the source VA medical facilities should use to estimate their annual facility purchase amounts and determine the year-end amounts 

VA medical facilities review their on-site representative fees paid during fiscal year 2018 and future years and reconcile payment discrepancies. 

 

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

Authors: Jacqueline Unger and Anna Sullivan; PilieroMazza PLLC

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 Biden signed an executive order (EO) on January 25, 2021, titled “Ensuring the Future Is Made in All of America by All of America’s Workers.” Referring broadly to all statutes, regulations, rules, and executive orders that relate to Buy America, Buy American, or domestic sourcing requirements as “Made in America Laws,” the EO expresses the new administration’s policy that the U.S. government should maximize the use of domestic products and services and “should, whenever possible, procure goods, products, materials, and services from sources that will help American businesses compete in strategic industries and help America’s workers thrive.” This new EO was issued just days after the Federal Acquisition Regulatory Council (FAR Council) finalized a rule to increase the Buy American Act (BAA) domestic content requirements. With the EO directing significant changes to federal procurement practices under the Made in America Laws, we have highlighted key implications for government contractors below.

Strengthening BAA Domestic Content Requirements

The EO proposes significant changes to promote the enforcement of the BAA’s preference for domestic end products. The EO directs the FAR Council to, within 180 days, consider proposing for notice and public comment amendments to the Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) provisions implementing the BAA to replace the “component test” used to identify domestic end products and construction materials with a “value added” test. Under the new proposed test, domestic content would be measured by the value added to the product through U.S.-based production or U.S. job-supporting economic activity—though the EO does not explain how such value would be calculated.

Additionally, the EO states that the FAR Council should consider FAR amendments that would increase the numerical threshold for domestic content requirements for end products and construction materials and increase the price preferences for domestic end products and domestic construction materials. The FAR Council is also directed to promptly review any existing constraints on the extension of the Made in America Laws to information technology that is a commercial item and develop recommendations to lift these constraints to further the EO’s policy.

Importantly, the FAR Council recently published a final rule on January 19, 2021, which increases the BAA domestic content requirements and pricing preferences to implement President Trump’s EO 13881, “Maximizing Use of American-Made Goods, Products, and Materials.” The final rule makes three critical changes: (1) it increases the domestic content requirement to 55% for most products and to 95% for products consisting “wholly or predominantly” of iron or steel (or a combination of both), (2) it removes the commercially available-off-the-shelf exception for products consisting “wholly or predominantly” of iron or steel (or a combination of both), and (3) it increases price preferences for domestic products to 20% for large businesses and 30% for small businesses. This final rule applies to solicitations issued on or after February 22, 2021.

Though Biden’s EO does not invalidate this final rule, it remains to be seen whether these changes will be kept as is or further modified as a result of the new EO.

Increasing Scrutiny of Requests for Waivers of Made in America Laws

Next, Biden’s EO indicates that it may become harder to obtain a waiver of Made in American Laws in the future. The EO directs the Director of the Office of Management and Budget to establish a Made in America Office, headed by a Made in America Director. Before an agency grants a waiver, and unless the OMB Director provides otherwise, the agency will be required to provide the Made in America Director with a description of its proposed waiver and a detailed justification for the use of goods, products, or materials that have not been mined, produced, or manufactured in the U.S. The Made in America Director will review all proposed agency waivers and make a determination as to whether the waiver is justified. Any disagreements between the Director and the agency would be resolved through administrative procedures. Additionally, in order to increase transparency, the General Services Administration is to develop a public website that includes information on proposed waivers and whether those waivers are granted.

Assisting Contractors with Supplier Scouting

The EO also directs agencies to take action to identify suppliers of American-made products, which may be helpful to prime contractors looking for domestic sources for their supply chains. Pursuant to the EO, agencies are to partner with the Hollings Manufacturing Extension Partnership to conduct supplier scouting to identify American companies that can produce goods, products, and materials in the U.S. that meet the federal government’s procurement needs.

Imposing Agency Reporting Requirements

Lastly, the EO imposes new reporting requirements on agencies. It directs federal agencies to, as soon as practicable, consider “suspending, revising, or rescinding” any agency actions that are inconsistent with the aforementioned policy and to consider any additional action necessary to enforce it. More specifically, agencies are directed to submit a report to the newly created Made in America Director within the 180-day window detailing their implementation and compliance with Made in America Laws, a description of any waivers to Made in America laws, and any recommendations on how to further effectuate the EO’s policy. Agencies are thereafter to submit biannual reports on implementation and compliance with Made in America Laws, with analysis on any applicable waivers.

The EO shows the intent of the Biden Administration to prioritize American industry, but it remains to be seen how its directives will play out among federal agencies and their procurements. Contractors subject to the BAA or other Made in America Laws should be cognizant of agency implementation of the EO.

We will continue to monitor developments as they become available. If you have questions about the EO and what it could mean for your business, please contact Jackie Unger or Anna Sullivan, the authors of this blog, or another member of PilieroMazzaGovernment Contracts Group.

 

Healthcare Spotlight: Transition of Military Hospitals to DHA on Track for 2021 

Federal News Network reported that Dr. Brian Lein, Assistant Director for Healthcare Administration at the Defense Health Administration (DHA), expects the transition of military hospitals and clinics to DHA to be completed by the end of 2021, despite reconsiderations of the transition over the past year. The transition was initiated by the 2017 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), and includes the transfer of 721 military treatment facilities (MTFs) and 174,000 healthcare personnel from management by the military services to DHA.  

As part of the transition, DHA plans to close about 50 MTFs and limit the scope of services at other MTFs in order to meet readiness requirements. The closing of the MTFs will move about 200,000 patients from getting care on base to getting assistance from private sector providers using their TRICARE insurance.  

In August 2020, military service leaders asked for a halt in the transition. As a result, DHA temporarily halted the transition. However, Congress made their support for the MTF transition clear in  the 2021 National Defense Authorization Act which stated that the transition should continue. 

 

Three Fraudulent Schemes Aimed at SAM Vendors 

The second annual National “Slam the Scam” Day was held on March 4. 2021 as part of National Consumer Protection Week. This day is intended for Federal agencies to raise awareness about known scams and fraudulent schemes. In conjunction with “Slam the Scam” Day, the General Services Administration (GSA) shared information about three fraud schemes that target vendors registered in the System for Award Management (SAM). The following three schemes were identified: 

  • Sending fake quote requests and fake purchase orders. Scammers can gather public information from legitimate sources, combine it to make a fake document, and then send it to vendors registered in SAM pretending to be government procurement officials.  
  • Pretending to be government contractors. Scammers can submit fake purchase orders to vendors registered in SAM claiming to be fulfilling a government order and promising payment after they (the fake government contractor) are reimbursed by the government. 
  • Pretending to be procurement officials from government agencies, universities, or hospitals. Scammers pretending to represent colleges, universities, or hospitals can send fake purchase orders to vendors registered in SAM and direct delivery to an address not affiliated with the real organization. 

GSA offers a number of tips to identify these schemes, including checking the email address to see if the sender’s domain is valid, researching the delivery address, and reviewing unsolicited requests for quote  or purchase orders carefully. 

If you believe you have been victimized by one of these fraudulent schemes, report the incident immediately to the Federal Bureau of Investigations’ (FBI) Internet Crime Complaint Center. If the scam involved the impersonation of a Government agency or official, you should also report it to that agency’s Office of Inspector General (OIG). A list of OIG hotlines can be found here 

 

DISA Announces New Director 

FedScoop reported that Vice Adm. Nancy Norton retired from her directorship of the Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA) and command of Joint Forces Headquarters-Department of Defense Information Network (JFHQ-DODIN). Lt. Gen. Robert Skinner of the Air Force will serve as the new DISA Director. This change comes at a vital time for DISA. It is planning to issue an $11 billion IT services contract, lead the Fourth Estate network optimization initiative (4ENO), and continue investigating the SolarWinds hack. Norton was the first female director of DISA and pushed for more diversity and inclusion in the military technology community during her leadership. The 4ENO is DISA’s plan to be the single service provider for defense support agencies. The network consolidation has already started with the Defense Technical Information Center transitioning the help desk and IT personnel to DISA. The 4ENO and other initiatives will continue under Skinner’s leadership. 

 

Reminder: GSA to Require FAS ID for eOffer and eMod Starting March 8

On March 4, the General Services Administration (GSA) posted a notice on Interact reminding users that on March 8, contractors will need to use FAS ID to access eOffer and eMod. FAS ID is a centralized identity management system that allows contractors to access GSA applications with one email and password. FAS ID has already been implemented on the FAS Sales Reporting Portal (SRP), GSA Advantage Purchase Order Portal, GSA Vendor Portal, the Mass Mod Portal, and eBuy. Contractors that already have an established FAS ID with one of these applications and have access to eOffer and eMod will not need to re-register. Users without an established FAS ID will need to register for an account starting March 8. GSA noted that contractors will not be able to access eOffer and eMod on March 6 or March 7. The agency also noted that digital certificates will no longer be required to access eOffer and eMod once the transition to FAS ID is completed. However, contractors may still need to maintain their digital certificates for other government and non-government customers.