Friday Flash 03.19.21

Spring Conference 2021: The Biden Administration’s Priorities and the Role of Acquisition

With the recent change to Daylight Savings Time, a sense of hope is in the air.  Daylight is increasing; cardinals are returning to the trees; and there is the hint that winter’s cold winds soon will give way to the mild breezes of spring, unless you are in Colorado. So too, we are blessed to see a steady increase in vaccinations and an overall decrease in COVID cases nationwide.

Against this hopeful backdrop, the Coalition is pleased to announce that its virtual training conference for the spring is also on the horizon. This year’s Spring Training Conference, entitled, The Biden Administration’s Priorities and the Role of Acquisition, will take place on May 19-20, and it will continue the Coalition’s tradition of engagement and dialog among government procurement stakeholders. Veterans of these events know that the conference provides an excellent opportunity for cross-cutting dialogue on a host of government initiatives, enabling government leaders to articulate and receive input on their priorities, goals, and initiatives.

With so many changes unfolding this year, we are featuring a broad range of topics to be covered in keynotes, traditional panels, and breakout sessions. These topics include:

  • The COVID-19 Pandemic Response
  • Cyber and Supply Chain
  • IT Modernization
  • Buy American & Domestic Sourcing
  • Small Business Opportunities
  • Sustainable Procurement
  • The VA – DLA Partnership
  • VA Supply Chain Modernization

Among the panels being held, we look forward to discussions during a pharma panel, several legal panels on healthcare and other acquisition matters, along with panels relating to IG oversight, Defense, and GSA.

As with our successful virtual Fall Training Conference, this virtual conference will provide virtual breakout sessions. More details on the logistics for this event will follow in the near future.

With the change of Administrations and a new Congress, the Spring Training Conference represents an opportunity for our community to engage on the new agendas and initiatives on the horizon. Certainly, that effort is a major part of this year’s conference. In the time since our last Spring Training Conference, however, our community has encountered unprecedented challenges that have influenced, not only how we work, but also how we maintain continuity of operations in the face of changed contracting circumstances. Both government and industry have come together in partnership in the face of these challenges, serving the citizens of this nation. The Coalition’s Spring Training Conference represents an opportunity to highlight these efforts.

We look forward to you joining us for this significant event. To that end, please keep an eye out for the full agenda of Coalition’s Spring Training Conference by March 31.

Administration to Strengthen Cybersecurity Standards 

According to Federal Computer Week, the Biden Administration is considering two new policies that would increase cybersecurity standards for products used by Government, industry, and consumers. These policies come in the wake of two major cybersecurity breaches, including the SolarWinds management software hack. During a March 12 briefing, a senior Administration official said that there will be executive actions in the coming weeks that will give security grades to software companies and add security labels to “Internet of Things (IoT)” devices.  

In its final report last year, the Cybersecurity Solarium Commission recommended that Congress establish a nongovernmental entity called the “National Cybersecurity Certification and Labeling Authority” that would be in charge of establishing a voluntary cybersecurity certification and labeling program for products. The new organization would cover a large range of products, including software, devices, cloud services, and industrial control systems.  

The Biden Administration is looking to engage with the public on the issue of cybersecurity weaknesses. The National Security Advisor has been active on Twitter to alert the public about the seriousness of the issue.  

 

Join GSA’s Virtual FAST Monthly Conferences Series  

This week, the General Services Administration (GSA) announced that the Office of Customer Accounts & Stakeholder Engagement (CASE) will host an online Federal Acquisition Service Training (FAST) Monthly Conference Series. The FAST Conference Series consists of five online training sessions to support prospective and current federal buyers, as well as industry partners. The first session was held on March 18, and covered best practices, tools, and techniques for management & advisory services procurement. The full lineup of dates and topics for the FAST Conference Series can be found here. 

 

White House Announces New Federal CIO 

On March 9, the White House announced that Clare Martorana has been appointed as the new Federal Chief Information Officer (CIO) and the Administrator of the Office of Electronic Government (E-Gov) at the Office of Management and Budget (OMB). Martorana previously served as the CIO at the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) and worked on the Department of Veterans Affairs’ (VA) digital modernization. Additionally, she led the Vets.gov project team. Martorana’s tenure as Federal CIO began on March 10. 

 

VA Receives Supplemental Funding in American Rescue Plan 

The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) announced that the American Rescue Plan includes $17 billion to support the VA in responding to the pandemic. The $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan was signed into law by President Biden last week. The relief package aims to stimulate the economy and help fight the pandemic. The funding for the VA includes: 

  • $100 million to modernize the VA supply chain system and transition to Defense Medical Logistics Standard Support (DMLSS);
  • $14.5 billion for healthcare, including information technology and facilities; and 
  • $1 billion of debt forgiveness for copayments for veterans’ care and prescriptions provided from April 6, 2020 through September 30, 2021. 

 

Bill Introduced to Extend PPP Program for Small Businesses 

The Hill reported that a bipartisan agreement, within the House Small Business Committee, was reached for the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) extension. The PPP loans given to small businesses can be forgiven if employers maintain their current payrolls. The House Small Business Committee negotiated the deal, which is named the PPP Extension Act. The PPP Extension Act will extend the loan application deadline until May 31, and the Small Business Administration (SBA) will be allowed to process applications for an additional 30 days. The current end date for small businesses to receive funding through the PPP program is March 31. The House is expected to vote on the bill next week. To date, the government has distributed over $687 billion in relief through the PPP. 

 

GSA Summary of Section 876 Listening Sessions 

From October through December 2020, the General Services Administration (GSA) Office of the Procurement Ombudsmen conducted a six-part series of listening sessions with presentations from industry representatives and dialogue with GSA stakeholders regarding the implementation of Section 876 of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) of Fiscal Year 2019. The amendment provides an exception to the requirement to consider price as an evaluation factor for the award of certain indefinite-delivery, indefinite-quantity contracts and Federal Supply Schedule (FSS) contracts. Academia, IT companies, small businesses, law firms and industry associations all participated in the listening sessions. 

On December 2, 2020, Roger Waldron, Coalition President, delivered his presentation on Section 876, discussing increased competition at the task order level and recommendations for implementation. The Coalition’s presentation can be accessed here.  

The following is a summary of 14 key themes and recommendations from the sessions provided by GSA as a follow-up to the meetings: 

  • Contractors support the implementation of 876 and GSA should embrace it; 
  • Unforeseen consequences could include disincentivizing competition at the task order level if there’s too much of it, and savings could be offset by increased costs to bid on task orders; 
  • 876 could be beneficial for cooperative purchasing because competitors are now just completing a responsibility or qualification assessment, but could present challenges to state and local governments having to negotiate labor rates at the time of task order solicitation; 
  • 876 will increase small business participation in GSA’s Schedules Program; 
  • The majority of industry said to implement 876 all at once. If a phased approach is taken, implement completely on selected schedules/SINs first (e.g., Schedule 70 & PSS). Potentially implement 876 as contract option periods roll over; 
  • There was split industry support for whether or not to use a pilot program or a prices-paid portal to implement 876; 
  • Unanimous support for getting rid of the Price Reduction Clause (PRC) and the Price Adjustment Clause because they are major barriers to entry in the Schedules, especially for small businesses; 
  • GSA should not request pricing at the Schedule level where 876 applies. Focus at the Schedule level should be elevated for factors such as corporate experience, technical capability, and past performance; 
  • Keep it simple. There doesn’t need to be two different sets of contracts, one with priced, one with unpriced, one with products, one with services; 
  • 876 authority can be used on fixed price contracts; 
  • There is support for controlling 876 implementation at the GSAR level and updating the FAR later; 
  • Education and outreach regarding GSA’s implementation of 876 is needed for small businesses, people internal to GSA, the federal acquisition workforce, customer agencies, and the OIG; 
  • Need implementation and communications plan, a specific point of contact, and clear measurement criteria to measure the success of Section 876; and 
  • There is a lack of transparency in the Schedules program and the eBuy system should be made public. 

For a more detailed summary of the Section 876 listening sessions, click here.  

 

Healthcare Spotlight: VA Issues Guidance on Protection of Veteran’s Personal Information 

The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has issued principles to protect Veteran’s personal information.   The release of Ethics Principles for Access to and Use of Veteran Data is part of an ongoing effort to protect Veteran data. There are nine principles in the guidance that establish an ethical framework for all Veterans, staff, VA partners and other stakeholders to apply when managing data access to or use of Veteran data. The guidance was developed by the Data Ethics Work Group established by the VA Interoperability Leadership team and the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) National Center for Ethics in Health Care, with input from Veterans.  

According to the VA, all parties who oversee access to and use of Veteran data or have access to and use Veteran data should carefully consider and apply this principle-based ethical framework in the context of the specific situation applicable to each data access or use. The VA is working to make sure that all VA directives, policies and standards reflect the nine principles below by end of 2022.  

  1. The primary goal for use of Veteran data is for the good of Veterans. 
  2. Veteran data should be used in a manner that ensures equity to Veterans. 
  3. The sharing of Veteran data should be based on the Veteran’s meaningful choice. 
  4. Access to and exchange of Veteran data should be transparent and consistent. 
  5. De-identified Veteran data should not be reidentified without authorization. 
  6. There is an obligation of reciprocity for gains made using Veteran data. 
  7. All parties are obligated to ensure data security, quality and integrity of Veteran data. 
  8. Veterans should be able to access to their own information. 
  9. Veterans have the right to request amendments to their own information. 

For more details about each principle, visit https://www.oit.va.gov/about/ethical-data-use/ 

 

TMF Funds Department of Labor IT Project 

According to Federal Computer Week, the Technology Modernization Fund (TMF) awarded the Department of Labor (DoL) $9.6 million to modernize its enterprise data infrastructure. This announcement came the day after TMF received a $1 billion boost from the American Rescue Plan. The project will improve the availability of the DoL’s data by increasing operational efficiency and public services to make them easily accessible for other agencies and data consumers. The project will also create a data management capacity and ease the secure delivery of information.  

Additionally, Former Deputy Federal Chief Information Officer Margie Graves said that TMF may need to make administrative changes to accommodate for the increase in funding. Currently, TMF projects require two stages of approval after they are introduced, which has led to concerns that the current approach may not be agile enough. 

 

Off the Shelf: The State of Federal Procurement 

This week onOff the Shelf,Larry Allen, President ofAllen Federal Business Partners, examined the current state of the federal market, with a focus on interagency contracting. 

Allen provided his assessment of GSA’s consolidation for the MAS program and what it means for customer agencies and contractors. He also shared his views on how GSA is currently positioned to support customer mission requirements. 

In addition, Allen looks forward at major procurement programs coming out of GSA, including BIC MAC’s radical departure from the OASIS model and what it may mean for customer agencies and contractors. 

Click here to listen to the full show. 

 

Presentations from GSA’s 2021 Heartland Acquisition Center Industry Day  

On March 10, the General Services Administration (GSA) Heartland Acquisition Center hosted an industry day. The presentations from the event include Center updates, Multiple Award Schedule (MAS) updates, catalog management updates, and more. Access all of the presentations from the industry day here. 

 

CMMC Accreditation Body to Hire Permanent Staff 

Federal Computer Week reported that the Cybersecurity Maturity Model Certification Accreditation Body (CMMC-AB) is shifting to a more permanent staffing arrangement. According to CMMC-AB Chairman Karlton Johnson, the board is in the process of hiring several professional staff members so that those currently on the board can serve in a true advisory role. To date, the CMMC-AB has been run by industry volunteers who participate in addition to their primary careers. The professional staff members who are hired will be paid to serve on the board. This announcement came after two board members stepped down to focus on their primary careers. The board is planning to have the transition for the first vacancy completed by March 23, and the transition for the second vacancy completed by April 30. Currently, the CMMC-AB is working on building an ecosystem to train and certify contractors. The Department of Defense (DoD) plans to begin the rollout of CMMC in contracts for up to 15 pilots this year. 

 

DoD Releases New WOSB Eligibility Verification Procedures 

On March 11, the Department of Defense (DoD) released a class deviation, which provides updated procedures for contracting officers (COs) when verifying eligibility of a contractor for the Women-Owned Small Business (WOSB) Program. The deviation provides a new email address, WOSBpendingcertification@sba.gov, for COs to use to verify eligibility for a procurement set-aside under the WOSB Program when a contractor has a pending application.  

For set-aside or sole-source awards under the WOSB Program, COs must also verify with the Dynamic Small Business Search (DSBS) that a contractor is designated as a WOSB concern or an economically disadvantaged women-owned small business (EDWOSB) concern eligible for the WOSB program. For set-asides only, COs will verify that the contractor is designated as an EDWOSB or WOSB, or has an application pending with the SBA or an authorized third-party certifier. This deviation will be in effect until the Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) and System for Award Management (SAM) are updated to align with SBA’s revisions or the deviation is rescinded. 

 

Webinar: The Latest in Cost & Pricing Issues, March 25

The Coalition is pleased to host Jason Workmaster and Liz Cappiello of Miller & Chevalier for a webinar on March 25 about The Latest in Cost & Pricing Issues. Topics of discussion will include DCMA’s enhanced focus on defective pricing, as well as developments regarding the use of LPTA in best value procurements.

Click here to register.

 

Webinar: CIO-SP4: Is Your Business Equipped to Compete? March 29

The Coalition is pleased to host Cy Alba and Meghan Leemon of PilieroMazza’s Government Contracts Group on March 29, 2021 as they dissect the potential impacts of CIO-SP4 for the government contracting community.CIO-SP4 may be one of the most significant opportunities for both small and large government contractors, particularly those in the healthcare IT space.

Key takeaways include:

  • Key requirements and differences from the draft RFP;
  • CTAs under CIO-SP4;
  • Past performance use for teams, subs, and JVs;
  • Off-ramp provisions restricting growth of M&A activity; and
  • Moving from a CIO-SP4 small to a large CIO-SP4 and back again.

Click here to register.

Webinar: Investigations, False Claims, Suspension & Debarment – What to Expect in 2021, March 30

The Coalition for Government Procurement is pleased to announce we will be hosting a two hour virtual panel discussion on March 30 with Mayer Brown regarding Investigations, False Claims, Suspension & Debarment – What to Expect in 2021.

The scale of government spending for pandemic relief and stimulus programs is unprecedented. Multiple new oversight and investigative bodies have been established, including the Special Inspector General for Pandemic Relief. DOJ has made it clear that Pandemic related fraud is its top priority. Qui Tam plaintiffs’ counsel are geared up and looking for new whistleblower cases.

This webinar will provide insights from attorneys experienced in investigating and prosecuting fraud in government programs and also defending companies in investigations, civil fraud and criminal fraud litigation, and suspension/debarment actions. They will discuss how these investigations work, what types of issues head the list, steps companies can take now to protect themselves. The panelists include the former Chief Investigative Counsel for the TARP bailout and leading prosecutor in securities fraud cases, a former senior executive AUSA who focuses on Cyber fraud and Congressional investigations, and a team of lawyers who advise and companies participating in federal programs and defend actions involving programs across the government.

Click here to register.