Friday Flash 11.13.20

Remembering a Harlem Hellfighter on Veterans Day

Photo By: National Archives photo (VIRIN: 160210-A-YG824-007C)

This week, with the celebration of Veterans Day, our nation again honored those selfless souls that stood in harm’s way to defend our freedom. By so doing, it reminded all that the blessings of liberty and self-determination enjoyed by Americans have been achieved and sustained by the sacrifice of others. One such soul was Henry Johnson who, on a spring night in 1918, demonstrated tenacious courage in the Argonne Forest.

At 5-foot-4 and 130 pounds, he enlisted in the all-black 15th New York National Guard Regiment. The name of this regiment changed and became the 369th Infantry Regiment (named by their German enemies the “Harlem Hellfighters” for their unwavering ferocity in battle) when it traveled to Europe with U.S. military forces to do battle with German soldiers.  Johnson and his fellow soldiers were sent to a short-staffed French Army unit on the front lines of combat. He and another private, Needham Roberts, were provided French equipment and schooled in basic language so they could perform their duties. 

Overnight on May 14-15, Johnson and Roberts were assigned sentry duty.  Soon, Johnson heard perimeter fence wire being clipped, and he and Roberts began tossing grenades to drive back the intruding forces.  The German soldiers charged the two with bayonets at the ready.  Shots rang out as they continued trying to repel the invaders with grenades until their grenade supply was exhausted.

Roberts was disabled. The German soldiers kept charging and tried to take him prisoner.  Johnson would have none of it. Despite being wounded repeatedly, when his rifle jammed, he used the butt end to fight the advancing enemy troops. When his rifle became completely useless, he took hold of his last weapon, his bolo knife, and began stabbing at German soldiers. By then, American and French troops were moving onto the scene, causing the Germans to retreat while Johnson, after sustaining 21 wounds, was dragging Roberts away to safety. All told, “Johnson had killed four Germans and wounded an estimated 10 to 20 more.”[1]

Johnson held the line, and for his efforts, President Theodore Roosevelt identified him among the five bravest Americans to serve in World War I.[2] He and Roberts were awarded the Croix du Guerre in the presence of their French comrades in arms, and Johnson’s medal included the Gold Palm for his valor.  Sadly, Johnson’s heroism and valor would not be recognized by his home country for decades, for he entered the military, served, and returned home in the days of segregation. He died a decade after the war.

Eventually, Johnson would receive posthumously the Purple Heart and the Congressional Medal of Honor.  Though not a perfect cure for the treatment Johnson endured, in a certain sense, this recognition at least provided a modicum of justice where justice certainly was due. His story, however, provides lessons for reflection on Veterans Day. For instance, we recognize that some soldiers, notwithstanding the fact that they did not enjoy the fullness of their status as citizens, still viewed this nation as worthy of their direct efforts to defend.  So too, we see that this nation, though not perfect, strives toward perfection and seeks to right injustice in furtherance of a more perfect union. Finally, we are reminded that this nation provides hope to the world, and that hope only exists because our veterans put their lives on the line to sustain it.  We owe these courageous people our prayers and appreciation. 

[Those wishing to explore the life of Johnson and his heroism can visit the links in this note that served as the sources for this blog.[3]]

[1] https://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/remembering-henry-johnson-the-soldier-called-black-death-117386701/.

[2] Supra, n.1.

[3] https://www.pbs.org/wnet/african-americans-many-rivers-to-cross/history/who-were-the-harlem-hellfighters/;  https://www.nationalguard.mil/News/Article/1515966/wwi-hero-henry-johnson-fought-for-his-life-with-a-bolo-knife/; https://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/remembering-henry-johnson-the-soldier-called-black-death-117386701/; https://www.history.com/news/wwi-hero-henry-johnson-finally-receives-medal-of-honor; https://www.france24.com/en/20180514-france-henry-johnson-harlem-soldier-forgotten-hero-world-war; https://www.blackpast.org/african-american-history/johnson-henry-1897-1929-0/; https://www.army.mil/medalofhonor/johnson/; https://www.defense.gov/Explore/Features/Story/Article/2201270/medal-of-honor-monday-army-sgt-henry-johnson/.

 

Last Chance to Register for the 2020 Fall Training Conference, Nov 17-18 

We hope that you all will take the opportunity to join the Coalition for Government Procurement’s2020 Fall Training Conference: Focusing On The Business Of Government scheduled for next Tuesday and Wednesday, Nov 17-18!  If you haven’t already, please check out the AGENDAwhich features a wide variety of topics and speakers from GSA, the VA, DoD and other agencies.  

Tom Davis, Partner at Holland & Knight and former 14-year Member of Congress representing Virginia’s 11 Congressional District, will be our Keynote Speaker on both days! His discussion both days will be, What Happened this Election and What Does It Mean?  On the first day, Tom will review how the election results will impact government programs, policies, and operations. In particular, Tom will address the budget pressures post-COVID and the procurement challenges facing the agencies in the new year. On the second day, Tom’s discussion will include a briefing on what happens next with COVID legislation, how the election results will impact spending priorities. Tom also will address opportunities for reform. 

Numerous panel discussions and topics will be also be available for your choosing, including: a Legal Panel and Healthcare Legal Panel; Section 889, Cyber, and Supply Chain Issues and Updates; a Policy Panel; GSA Systems and Consolidation Update; The DoD and VA Partnership Panel; VA Logistics and Procurement Panel; GSA Leadership Panel; and more!  

Both days will conclude with your pick of a wide variety of Business Intelligence Sessions, including on day one: Office Products; Industrial Products; Furniture; Services, IT; DLA MSPV and ECAT Programs; VA Pharmaceuticals; Non-Expendable Equipment Program; and on day two, VA MSPV Program; VA Federal Supply Schedules; Prosthetics and Biologics; DoD Pharmaceuticals; GAO Insights on VA Medical Supply Chain – MSPV and FSS; Update from the SSAC; GWAC/MAC; and Global Supply/4PL.  
  
Thank you to our generous sponsors, including Title Sponsors, AvKARE and First Nation Group; Gold Sponsors, CACI, Golden State Medical Supply, SheppardMullin, The Gormley Group, and GDIT; and Silver Sponsors, 3M, AvMEDICAL, BD, Red River, Ricoh, and SAIC.

 

A Reminder for Fall Conference Registrants

If you have already registered for the 2020 Fall Training Conference, you should have received an email from “events@thecgp.org” about your conference registration.  Registrants are encouraged to log-in to the Conference website, create a log-in and sign up in advance for the sessions that you would like to attend.  If you have any questions, please contact Michael Hanafin at mhanafin@thecgp.org. For more details about the conference and to register, click here.

 

Congress Considers Appropriations Bills Before Dec. 11 Deadline 

Earlier this week, the Senate Appropriations Committee released the text of the twelve spending bills for Fiscal Year 2021. The spending bills would provide $1.3T in funding for the Government, including $695B in funding for the Department of Defense. House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) announced that the House also plans to pass omnibus appropriations during the lame duck session. 

Currently, the Government is operating under a Continuing Resolution (CR), which is set to expire on December 11.  

 

Update on Technology Modernization Fund (TMF) Projects 

Earlier this week, Federal News Network reported on the General Services Administration (GSA) projects funded by the Technology Modernization Fund (TMF). The report touches on the NewPay program, which GSA launched to modernize federal payroll services and ensure government-wide consistency for employee payroll. A standards-based software-as-a-service (SaaS) platform for the use of all agencies to deliver timely payroll is being deployed through NewPay. This program used TMF funding to support multiple initiatives related to the SaaS system, including a 2018 NewPay BPA to configure commercial off the shelf (COTS) based SaaS, as weltask order awards in 2019 to support the development of a technical minimum viable product (MVP) for payroll only. The TMF award allowed GSA to start work immediately. The GSA NewPay team has an annual schedule of payments through fiscal year 2024 to pay back the loans.  

TMF Funds were used to modernize 11 applications and to create a playbook that has been used for other non-TMF supported projects. Three of the applications were completed during the first pilot phase in 2019, and the remaining eight are in the process of completion before the end of fiscal year 2021. Without the additional TMF funds, these efforts would not have been possible, specifically the playbook that has played a major role in other projects. GSA-IT’s first payment of about $4 million is still in progress. GSA-IT has been able to meet initial commitments with the first two portions of the TMF funds, and therefore will not be taking the third portion of the award. 

 

IT Modernization a Top Priority during COVID 

Federal Computer Week reported that the COVID-19 pandemic and the pressure to support telework and digital services has pushed IT modernization to the forefront. Since the pandemic, federal agencies have changed their perspectives on IT modernization. The prediction is that the IT spending will grow steadily from year to year. COVID-19 has forced movement around IT modernization.   

 

Christopher Miller Announced as New Acting Secretary of Defense 

On November 9, Federal Computer Week reported that Christopher C. Miller, Director of the National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC), is now serving as Acting Secretary of Defense.  Former Defense Secretary Mark Esper was let go from the position Christopher C. Miller, Director of the National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC), is now filling the role in an acting basis. Miller served in the current administration as a Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director for Counterterrorism and Transnational Threats on the National Security Council. He was also appointed to the NCTC in August.  

 

Legal Corner: What You Need to Know About the Presiden’ts September 22 “Divisive Ideology” Executive Order

By Sheppard Mullin’s GovCon Team*

On September 22, 2020, the President of the United States issued an Executive Order (“EO”) banning federal contractors from conducting training “based on race and sex stereotyping,” as well as training that “portrays certain races as oppressors.” The EO targets “divisive ideologies,” and explains that it became necessary “to combat a radical ideology that has infiltrated diversity training throughout American institutions.” “Federal contractors,” the EO states, “will not be permitted to inculcate such views in their employees.” In light of the extensive efforts contractors have been making to promote diversity and inclusion in their organizations, we offer the following Q&A to help navigate what is most definitely an unprecedented EO.

What Does The EO Ban?

A. The EO bans the training of “divisive concepts.” The EO defines divisive concepts to include any notions that:

(1) one race or sex is inherently superior to another race or sex;

(2) the United States is fundamentally racist or sexist;

(3) an individual, by virtue of his or her race or sex, is inherently racist, sexist, or oppressive, whether consciously or unconsciously;

(4) an individual should be discriminated against or receive adverse treatment solely or partly because of his or her race or sex;

(5) members of one race or sex cannot and should not attempt to treat others without respect to race or sex;

(6) an individual’s moral character is necessarily determined by his or her race or sex;

(7) an individual, by virtue of his or her race or sex, bears responsibility for actions committed in the past by other members of the same race or sex;

(8) any individual should feel discomfort, guilt, anguish, or any other form of psychological distress on account of his or her race or sex; or

(9) meritocracy or traits such as a hard work ethic are racist or sexist, or were created by a particular race to oppress another race.

The term “divisive concepts” also includes any form of race or sex “stereotyping” or any form of race or sex “scapegoating.”

While the definition does not include a comprehensive list of banned training concepts, reading between the lines, and coupling that reading with (a) the examples the White House Fact Sheet provides and (b) the terms the OMB has highlighted as “red flags,” it would appear the following concepts are likely to draw the attention of the Department of Labor:

  • Implicit or explicit bias
  • Historical underpinnings of sexism or racism
  • Affirmative action based on race or sex
  • Blame or responsibility for racism or sexism
  • The singling out of any race or sex as having received any special treatment or privileges
  • The assignment to a race or sex of a stereotype or “character traits, values, moral and ethical codes, privileges, status, or beliefs” 
  • Protecting any class of persons based on their race or sex

These concepts are most likely to draw the attention of DOL’s Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (“OFCCP”) if the training materials and/or communications surrounding the training include words on the DOL dirty-words list: “critical race theory,” “white privilege,” “intersectionality,” “systemic racism,” “positionality,” “racial humility,” and “unconscious bias.” According to the DOJ, “when used in the context of diversity training, these terms may help to identify the type of training prohibited by the E.O.”

Does The EO Ban All Diversity and Inclusion (“D&I”) Training?

A. No. We suspect most of a contractor’s D&I training will be unaffected by the EO. The White House Fact Sheet accompanying the EO notes that diversity training is permitted where “no one feels marginalized because of his or her race or sex.” While that admittedly is an impossibly vague and unhelpful standard, the EO itself makes clear it does not

prevent agencies, the United States Uniformed Services, or contractors from promoting racial, cultural, or ethnic diversity or inclusiveness, provided such efforts are consistent with the requirements of this order.

The EO also makes clear that “[n]othing in this order shall be construed to prohibit discussing, as part of a larger course of academic instruction, the divisive concepts [identified in the EO] in an objective manner and without endorsement.”

That being said, the EO will impact some of the initiatives some contractors currently are undertaking to provide programs that discuss diversity, inclusion, racial justice, implicit bias, and explicit bias. The EO is written very broadly and very vaguely, and likely will be read to cover some training many companies currently are providing, especially some implicit bias / unconscious bias training.

My D&I training discusses the implicit and unconscious biases all people have. Will that training be impacted by the EO?

A. Of all the training likely to be impacted by the EO, implicit/unconscious bias training is at the top of the list. Indeed, the term “unconscious bias” is on the list of OMB’s dirty words, i.e., words that “may help to identify the type of training prohibited by the E.O.”

According to DOL, unconscious or implicit bias training is banned if it suggests that people may be unconsciously biased by virtue of their race or sex. As that pretty much describes what most/all implicit bias training is about, it’s not easy to visualize what compliant implicit bias training would look like.

Here is the actual language from the DOL memorandum: 

Unconscious or implicit bias training is prohibited to the extent it teaches or implies that an individual, by virtue of his or her race, sex, and/or national origin, is racist, sexist, oppressive, or biased, whether consciously or unconsciously. Training is not prohibited if it is designed to inform workers, or foster discussion, about pre-conceptions, opinions, or stereotypes that people—regardless of their race or sex—may have regarding people who are different, which could influence a worker’s conduct or speech and be perceived by others as offensive.

Walking the line between training that is “designed to inform” and training that implies that an individual may be unconsciously biased will be no easy task. 

The task is further complicated because the rule prohibits suggesting “either that the United States is an inherently racist country or that any race or ethnicity is inherently racist.” Here again, suggesting that people are unconsciously biased against certain races comes rather close to suggesting people are inherently racist.

This background notwithstanding, there does seem to be some room to maneuver so long as one maneuvers carefully. One approach is to discuss implicit bias as something that impacts every human being, regardless of race, as opposed to a given race, sex, or ethnicity. That would not seem to run afoul of the rule as written, although it still could put up a red flag.

When Does The EO Go Into Effect, And How Will It Find Its Way Into My Contracts?

A. Much of the EO is effective immediately. For example, DOL’s compliance hotline is up and running, and as of October 7, DOL already has received and started investigating complaints against unnamed contractors. Section 4 of the EO, which requires agencies to utilize the new contract clause, however, takes effect 60 days from the date of the EO. The EO eschews the statutory rulemaking process, and therefore the contract clause can appear in new awards on this expedited timeline (60 days as opposed to 12+ months). That means, beginning November 21, 2020, Contracting Officers will be required to insert the contract clause in new contracts. The plain text of the EO does not require Contracting Officers to modify existing awards, but agencies may choose to do so nonetheless.

Interestingly, the EO does not direct the FAR Council to engage in a rulemaking to develop a new FAR clause. Instead, it directs “all Government contracting agencies” to include “in every Government contract” the specific language from Section 4. Given the lack of a new FAR clause, it’s likely contractors will see this language inserted into their contracts as an agency-level clause (though the mechanics of implementation are up to each agency).

Finally, keep in mind that while the most burdensome elements of the EO kick into effect on November 21, 2020, the DOL OFCCP maintains the right to conduct investigations into pre-November 21 activities pursuant to its existing investigative authority under EO 11246.

Does The EO Apply To Me? Who Does It Cover? Are There Any Exceptions?

A. The EO likely does apply to you. The EO states that all contracts are covered except those “exempted in a manner provided by” Section 204 of the Equal Employment Opportunity Executive Order. (E.O. 11246, Sept. 24, 1965) DOL has not released guidance on the exemptions applicable here, but under its Section 204 authority, DOL has exempted the following classes of contracts (among others) from the Equal Employment Opportunity requirements:

  1. Transactions of $10,000 or less;
  2. Contracts for work outside the United States (and performed by employees not recruited in the United States);
  3. Contracts with State or local governments; or
  4. Contractors who are religious entities.

Remember, though, if this clause makes its way into even one Federal award, it applies company-wide. Also, as discussed below, it is likely the clause will flow down to subcontractors from primes. Therefore, it’s unlikely any government contractor (whether typically a prime contractor, subcontractor, or lower tier subcontractor) will avoid its reach. Even companies that never have accepted a single Federal contract clause previously may see this prohibition soon.

Does The EO Flow Down To My Subs? Will I See It Flowed Down By My Primes?

A. Yes and yes. Prime contractors are required to include the clause in “every subcontract or purchase order” with every subcontractor andvendor. This language represents unprecedented reach for a government procurement clause. Typically, government contractors only are required to flow down contract clauses to subcontractors, not vendors; and certain subcontractors (e.g., commercial item subcontractors) only have to accept a limited number of flowdowns. Clearly, this EO was drafted to reach as many companies as possible.

How Will The Government Audit/Investigate Compliance?

A. The OFCCP has set-up a hotline (both phone and e-mail) to receive complaints alleging violations of the EO. The hotline allows for both firsthand complaints as well as third-party complaints. Upon receipt of a Complaint, the OFCCP immediately will investigate the allegations in accordance with its “standard procedures.” However, unlike other audits performed by the OFCCP, an investigation for violations of this EO likely will be fairly swift as it will be heavily focused on documents reflecting training given and/or available to employees. Additionally, it will not be as data driven as other OFCCP audits; instead, it will be focused on how the complainant subjectively feels and/or how others felt when receiving the training. 

DOL’s enforcement here likely will align with the Agency’s broader efforts to scrutinize companies’ heightened focus on diversity and inclusion programs. To get a sense of what those broader efforts look like, take a look at DOL’s actions with regard to Microsoft.

What Are The Risks Of Non-Compliance?

A. The EO establishes harsh penalties for non-compliance, and provides no way to gauge the level of due process that will be built into the penalty scheme. According to the EO, “. . . In the event of the contractor’s noncompliance with the requirements of paragraphs (1), (2), and (4), or with any rules, regulations, or orders that may be promulgated in accordance with the Executive Order of September 22, 2020, this contract may be canceled, terminated, or suspended in whole or in part and the contractor may be declared ineligible for further Government contracts . . . .” The EO goes on to direct the OIG to conduct audits to ensure compliance with the EO’s provisions.

The EO Called for the Issuance of a Request for Information (RFI). Should I respond?

A. The EO called for the OFCCP to publish “in the Federal Register a request for information seeking information from Federal contractors, Federal subcontractors, and employees of Federal contractors and subcontractors regarding the training, workshops, or similar programming provided to employees.” The RFI went public October 22, 2020. According to the RFI, “there are no adverse legal consequences for choosing not to participate in this request for information.” The RFI gives companies and individuals until December 1, 2020 to respond.

To incentivize contractors to share their training materials with the Government, the RFI promises “compliance assistance as requested to Federal contractors and subcontractors that voluntarily submit such information or materials.” The RFI also promises that the OFCCP

will, consistent with law, exercise its enforcement discretion and not take enforcement action against Federal contractors and subcontractors that voluntarily submit information or materials in response to this request for information . . . , provided that such contractor or subcontractor promptly comes into compliance with the Executive Orders as directed by OFCCP.

However, if the Government decides a contractor’s training materials are not compliant and the contractor fails to take prompt corrective action, the “OFCCP may take enforcement action against the contractor or subcontractor if OFCCP later receives the contractor or subcontractor’s materials through a separate source, such as a neutrally scheduled audit, in connection with a complaint, or if submitted by an employee in response to this RFI.” Neither the RFI nor the underlying EO provides any standards by which the OFCCP will evaluate the materials it receives through the RFI process.

In short, in an effort to convince companies to self-disclose, the RFI creates a race to the OFCCP’s steps between employees and employers. While being the first to share training materials could prevent an enforcement action, it also could put a target on the submitter’s back. And if the contractor does not agree with the OFCCP’s recommendations, the contractor could find itself in a tough spot.

It’s hard to assess whether companies will take OFCCP up on its offer of possible “enforcement discretion” with regard to potentially violative in-house training. Making matters worse, although the EO states OFCCP will treat materials submitted as confidential per Exemption Four to the Freedom of Information Act “to the maximum extent permitted by law,” nothing precludes the DOL from taking the position that the training materials submitted do not meet the legal definition of “trade secrets and commercial or financial information” warranting protection under Exemption Four. Unfortunately, looking at the 24 comments on the RFI published to date provides no meaningful insight. Instead, rather than addressing the substantive issues of the RFI, all 24 simply complain about “critical race theory” generally, which, interestingly, is not even a term mentioned in the EO or the RFI.

CONCLUSION/PATH FORWARD

Every contractor and subcontractor currently is struggling to evaluate what to do about the Executive Order, if anything. Obviously, companies are in a tough spot here. The EO will make it harder to meet the demands of employees, customers, and other stakeholders that we all take meaningful action to right unfairness and injustice. In this complicated context, here is a list of potential steps (in no particular order) a prime contractor or subcontractor might take to mitigate risk.

  • Develop a long-term plan to review current training to identify potentially violative components.
  • Evaluate the language used to described your programs. Again, here are the terms the DOL claims will “help to identify the type of training prohibited by the E.O.”: “critical race theory,” “white privilege,” “intersectionality,” “systemic racism,” “positionality,” “racial humility,” and “unconscious bias.” While these terms are not banned, they clearly will signal a potential non-compliance to an agency reviewer.
  • Review current training and related communications to identify “red flag” words, and consider replacing those words with equally impactful, non-red-flag words. For example, consider focusing on fairness, equity, and inclusion for all rather than focusing on a specific group.
  • Review your hotline and hotline communications to incorporate language that encourages potentially aggrieved employees to notify the Company in the first instance rather than going straight to the Government. Just remember, do not suggest in any way that they do not have the right to go to the Government directly.
  • Ensure required posters are hung appropriately.
  • Ensure unions are notified appropriately.
  • Craft flow-down language for subcontractors and vendors.
  • Craft a flow-down representation for vendors delivering diversity/inclusion training through which those vendors can represent their training meets the requirement of the Executive Order.
  • Evaluate the pros and cons of responding to the OFCCP’s RFI.
  • Evaluate ongoing programs to provide opportunities to under-represented classes of employees.
  • Evaluate implicit/unconscious bias training to ensure it focuses on the inherent biases of all people as opposed to people of a certain race, gender, or ethnicity.

These steps will not eliminate risk, but they should reduce the likelihood a company ends up on the receiving end of a DOL OFCCP hunt for “divisive ideologies.”

*This article was prepared by Sheppard Mullin attorneys Jonathan Aronie, Townsend Bourne, Denise Giraudo, Fatema Merchant, Anne Perry, and Ryan Roberts. For more information, please visit us at https://www.sheppardmullin.com/governmentcontracts. NOTE to any Government official reading this article: The observations herein are offered as part of a larger academic discussion, in an objective manner, and without endorsement. No one should feel “discomfort, guilt, anguish, or any other form of psychological distress on account” of this article.

 

VA’s Electronic Health Record Rollout a Success 

According to Federal News Network, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) declared its initial launch of the electronic health record (EHR) a success. The new EHR was deployed to the Mann-Grandstaff Medical Center in Spokane, Washington two weeks ago, and is part of a ten-year EHR modernization effort that VA anticipates will be completed in 2028. The Spokane facility supports approximately 24,000 veterans. VA employees in Spokane used the new system to place more than 23,000 orders for clinical tests, medications, and admissions. The new EHR was also deployed to the West Consolidated Patient Account Center, a patient billing center in Las Vegas.  

The VA reported that there were no critical IT issues that occurred when the system went live. A 24-hour support desk was set up to field incoming trouble tickets and issues. An after-action group will collect feedback from Spokane end users and will report its findings for future EHR rollouts. More than 2,200 veterans have created accounts for the patient portal in the new system. 

 

GSA’s Catalog Modernization Update on a SIP Replacement and More 

The General Services Administration (GSA) provided an update on the catalog modernization initiative from their briefing at the National Industries for the Blind (NIB) Distributor Forum. GSA’s presentation provides updates on three main parts of the catalog modernization:  

  • The Authoritative Catalog Repository (ACR)- a modernization to GSA’s “back end” catalog data storage environment that will improve catalog processing time and increase catalog data accessibility 
  • The Verified Product Portal (VPP)- a new manufacturer facing portal for authoritative product content and supplier authorization information 
  • The Common Catalog Platform (CCP)- a new web-based, user friendly interface for managing catalogs for GSA workforce and vendors alike that will replace outdated systems such as the Schedule Input Program (SIP) 

GSA also provided an update from their Multiple Award Schedule (MAS) contractor focus groups on catalog modernization. In this update, GSA describes some of the processes that may change to increase ease of use, like: 

  • Vendors may be able to temporarily remove items from their catalog without a contract mod. 
  • Vendors may be able to easy track line item changes 
  • Vendors may be able to easily search their own catalogs using different view types, such as excel format, GSA physical catalog form, GSA Advantage website desktop form, or GSA Advantage website mobile form 

Members are encouraged to review GSA’s update on their interactions with industry and their vision for GSA’s systems mentioned above.  See GSA’s materials here. The catalog modernization is a multi-year project with more opportunities to provide feedback. To be involved in future sessions, please email CatalogManagement@gsa.gov 

The Coalition will also be hosting a catalog modernization meeting with GSA on December 8 at 11am. If you would like to attend this meeting, please email Michael Hanafin at mhanafin@thecgp.org. 

 

DPC Extends Service Contract Reporting 

On November 6, the Department of Defense (DoD) released a memorandum that allows a one-time extension for the FY20 Service Contract Reporting (SCR) submission date. The submission date changed from October 31, 2020 to January 31, 2021. DoD has provided this extension because users are transitioning from Enterprise Contractor Manpower Reporting Application (ECMRA) to the System for Award Management (SAM). If DoD users and/or contractors need assistance with the transition from EMCRA to SAM, reference the DoD Guidebook for Service Contract Reporting, which can be found here. 

 

GSA OIG Finds Mismanagement of Contractor PIV Cards 

On November 4, GSA’s Office of Inspector General (OIG) published a report on the use and management of Personal Identity Verification (PIV) cards. These cards are used to access GSA buildings and information technology systems. Annually, GSA issues about 14,500 PIV cards to contract employees who support GSA’s operations and programs.  

The OIG found that GSA is mismanaging PIV cards that are issued to contract employees. As a result, about 15,00 PIV cards are unaccounted for. GSA also failed to collect over half of the 445 PIV cards that were issued to contract employees who failed their background checks. These issues raised major security concerns for GSA, as these cards can be used to access GSA buildings and information systems. Three factors were identified that affect GSA’s management of PIV cards: 

  • Use of unreliable data to track and monitor PIV cards, which limits its ability to properly account for the cards. 
  • A lack of formal procedures for recovering PIV cards from contract employees. 
  • A lack of oversight needed to ensure all PIV are recovered from contract employees.  

 

DoD Artificial Intelligence (AI) Center to Implement AI Department-wide  

FedScoop reported that the Joint Artificial Intelligence Center (JAIC) is moving away from building products and transitioning to focus on artificial intelligence (AI). Lt. Gen. Michael Groen, JAIC director, says the transition is a part of the “JAIC 2.0.” JAIC is constructing the Joint Common Foundation (JCF), which is an AI development platform for the entire Department of Defense (DoD). In the push to focus on AI, JAIC is creating contract vehicles explicitly for purchasing AI. Some of the contract vehicles will be based on DoD’s Other Transaction Authority (OTA), while others will follow the Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR). 

The Election’s Impact on Leadership in Congress 

The Washington Post has released an interactive map on the election results for the House and the Senate. Democrats have retained control of the House of Representatives.  Politico has reported that Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD), and House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn (D-SC) will likely retain their leadership positions.  

Control of the Senate will be decided by the results of two runoff elections in Georgia scheduled for January 5. Currently, Democrats have 48 seats and Republicans have 50 seats. Additionally, Politico has reported that Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) have both been reelected as leaders of their caucuses.