Friday Flash 12/02/22

Transactional Data Reporting (TDR) Increases Opportunities for Small Business!

This the first in a series of blogs focusing the policy and program value of TDR.

As the Biden Administration focuses on strategies to support small businesses, including small-disadvantaged businesses, implementing TDR across the entire Multiple Award Schedule (MAS) will play a profound, strategic role in reducing barriers to entry, increasing access to the commercial market, and expanding opportunities for small businesses.

The MAS program serves as the central, governmentwide entry point for small businesses seeking to enter the Federal market. Over the years, the success of the program in supporting small business has been impressive. Small businesses, for close to two decades, have represented well over 30 percent of total annual purchases under the MAS program, far exceeding the governmentwide goal of 23 percent. Just last fiscal year, small businesses accounted for $14.1 billion in MAS purchases out of a total spend of $40 billion.

In the Federal market, an MAS contract is considered the “Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval” that lends confidence to government contracting officers when conducting market research and identifying small businesses for potential opportunities, whether through the MAS program or through the open market. Many state and local governments “piggyback” on GSA’s MAS program, establishing their own schedule programs, further providing opportunities for small businesses across the nation.

Expanding TDR across the entire MAS portfolio further streamlines the contracting process by eliminating the unnecessary, burdensome compliance costs associated with the outdated Commercial Sales Practices (CSP) and Price Reduction Clause (PRC). In particular, the terms of the PRC are highly complex. For example, the PRC requires MAS contractors to track pricing for independent private, commercial transactions, and if the PRC is triggered, the lower tracking customer price becomes the MAS contract price.  MAS contractors invest in costly compliance programs, personnel, training, and systems to comply with the PRC. These overhead compliance costs divert critical funding towards unproductive management operations at the expense of direct investment to support customer agency needs.

In this regard, small businesses are most vulnerable to the imposition of these unnecessary, burdensome compliance costs. Small businesses margins are narrower than large businesses, and their resources more limited. The costs of building a PRC compliance regime presents a significant drag on performance, productivity, and profit. The unintended consequence is to hamstring the ability of small business to meet customer needs.

Together, the CSP and PRC serve as a barrier to entry, keeping businesses from seeking MAS contracts, and, as a consequence, they limit government access to innovative commercial products, services, and solutions.  Along the same lines, the PRC restricts the ability of MAS contractors, including small businesses, from competing fully and fairly in the private sector, as those firms will fear triggering impacts in the public space. The result, then, is higher prices and lower growth in the commercial market.  As this blog has noted previously, in effect, the PRC serves as a “restraint of trade” that penalizes small business when they offer competitive pricing to meet private, commercial customer needs.

Finally, the irony is that, despite all the funding dedicated by the government and industry on PRC compliance, the PRC tracking feature does not drive pricing for the MAS program. In 2015, GSA noted that a review of schedule modifications issued in FY2014 indicated that only about 3 percent of price reductions under the PRC were tied to the tracking customer.

In contrast, TDR takes a more focused, relevant, and streamlined approach to reporting market pricing. TDR requires MAS contractors to report their individual task and delivery order transactions under their MAS contracts. The reported information is highly relevant to program operations, as it includes products/services purchases, quantities, and associated pricing. GSA’s implementation of TDR is a recognition that value and pricing under the MAS program are driven by competition at the task and delivery order level. The data collected via TDR will support a host of government priorities, including fair and reasonable price objectives, cyber security, small business utilization, and best value.

Just as impactful, TDR streamlines reporting compliance for MAS small businesses. No longer will small businesses have to build, fund, and maintain a compliance infrastructure for the PRC.  As a result, the reduction in overhead compliance costs will allow small businesses to dedicate additional funding towards direct operational support of customer agencies. Indeed, GSA has already reported that small businesses participating in the TDR pilot have generated much stronger sales growth than small businesses under the CSP and PRC.

Expansion of TDR and its elimination of barriers to entry aligns with the Administration’s goals for increasing procurement spending with small businesses, including small-disadvantaged businesses. It is especially timely given the increasing focus on the shrinking industrial base serving the Federal government, especially among small businesses. For example, according to the SBA, the number of small business prime contractors decreased by 6%, from 69,400 in 2020, to 65,428 in 2021. Further, there is data from GAO and others indicating that, from FY2011 to FY2020, the number of small businesses receiving DoD contract awards decreased by 43% (dropping from 42,723 to 24,296). During that same period, GDP grew by 34% from 2011 ($15.6 T) to 2020 ($20.9 T), and the total number of businesses in the U.S. economy also grew, increasing 7% from 2010 to 2019 (U.S. Census Bureau, 2021).

In sum, TDR makes sense for federal customers, GSA, and contractors, especially small businesses. The Coalition looks forward to working with all stakeholders on the roll out of TDR across the MAS program.

Celebrate the Holidays with Off the Shelf: Live and In-Person! December 15 at the Tower Club

Celebrate the holiday season with The Coalition for Government Procurement! The Coalition cordially invites members to join us on the evening of December 15 at the Tower Club in Tysons Corner for a complimentary holiday gathering to commemorate the past year and toast to the new one ahead! Enjoy food, beverages, and the company of friends and colleagues during this cheerful event. Not only will there be great conversation, but also a special live and in-person episode of President Roger Waldron’s Off the Shelf podcast!

Off the Shelf, aired on Federal News Network, covers the latest and most pressing issues in federal procurement with guests from both government and industry. Roger will be joined by Bill Gormley, President of the Gormley Group, Brian Friel, Co-Founder of BD Squared, and Tim Cook, Executive Director of the Center for Procurement Advocacy, for a live discussion on the state of governmentwide contracting and key legislative developments affecting procurement policy. Don’t miss out on the chance to hear from these recognized experts and join in on the discussion with your questions. We hope that you will join us for this special holiday occasion that will be equally educational and lively!

To register, please click here.

Fall Conference Photos, Recordings, and Slides Now Available!

Thank you to all who attended the Coalition’s Fall Training Conference – Expectations for Government Fiscal Year 2023! We hope that you enjoyed the opportunity to hear about the latest on key Federal contracts and related initiatives from government officials and acquisition experts, as well as network with friends and colleagues.

Click here to view the photos from day one, and here to see the photos from day two. Our sincere appreciation to Susan Hornyak Photography for capturing all of the highlights at the conference.

As a reminder, the session recordings and slides from the conference are available to all registrants for one year through the event website, Pathable. If you need any assistance accessing the slides or recordings, please contact Michael Hanafin at mhanafin@thecgp.org.

Alliant 3 Working Group

On October 19, the General Services Administration (GSA) released a Draft Request for Proposal (RFP) for its Alliant 3 contract vehicle. The Coalition has formed an Alliant 3 Working Group to engage with GSA on the procurement vehicle. The Working Group provides the opportunity for dialogue with GSA regarding the future of Alliant and the follow on. To join the working group, please contact Michael Hanafin at mhanafin@thecgp.org.

The Coalition has invited Larry Hale, GSA’s Acting Director, Office of IT Services, to speak to the Alliant 3 Working Group on December 6 at 2 pm EST. The meeting provides the opportunity for focused dialogue on the future of Alliant and the follow on. Both in-person and virtual attendance are available.

To register for the meeting, please click here. Registration is complimentary for all members.

OASIS+ Working Group Meeting with GSA, December 15

The Coalition is forming an OASIS+ Working Group to respond to GSA’s recent RFP and engage with GSA on the procurement vehicle. Members should plan to submit their initial comments and feedback to the Coalition by close of business on December 2. Additionally, there will be a meeting scheduled with Regional Commissioner Tiffany Hixson on December 15. More details on the location and time will be provided soon. If you are interested in joining the OASIS+ Working Group, please contact Joseph Snyderwine at jsnyderwine@thecgp.org.

Contribute to the Coalition’s Comments on Proposed Greenhouse Gas Rule

Two weeks ago, the Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) Council published a proposed rule that would require Federal contractors to report greenhouse gas emissions and climate-related financial risks and set targets to reduce emissions. To help our members better understand the rule and its potential effects on procurement, the Coalition will be hosting a virtual briefing for our members. The Coalition will then collect member feedback and work with our Green Committee to provide the FAR Council with comments on the proposed rule. Details on registration for the briefing will be provided shortly.

CGP Discusses TDR as the “Next Logical Step” in the Evolution of the MAS Program

Roger Waldron, President of the Coalition, appeared on the November 14 edition of Fedscoop’s Daily Scoop podcast to discuss Transactional Data Reporting (TDR), calling it the “next logical step” in the evolution of GSA’s Multiple Award Schedule program. In the interview, Waldron emphasized that TDR—which requires contractors to report monthly Schedule sales data in lieu of complying with the Price Reduction Clause (PRC)—provides the government with more relevant information and lower prices, while also reducing burdens on contractors and improving competition. Waldron also noted that TDR could help improve supply chain resilience and national security.

Federal Acquisition Service (FAS) Commissioner Sonny Hashmi has stated that FAS plans to continue the current TDR pilot, despite a report in September from the GSA Office of the Inspector General that recommended the program be canceled. Responding to the OIG report, Hashmi referred to TDR as “one of the keys to achieving more modern business practices” and emphasized its pricing, security, and administrative benefits.

Pentagon Releases Zero Trust Strategy

The Department of Defense (DoD) released its Zero Trust strategy to establish a “never trust, always verify” cybersecurity strategy across the Pentagon by fiscal year 2027. As described in the Department of Defense Zero Trust Reference Architecture, “the foundational tenet of the Zero Trust Model is that no actor, system, network, or service operating outside or within the security perimeter is trusted. Instead, we must verify anything and everything attempting to establish access. It is a dramatic paradigm shift in philosophy of how we secure our infrastructure, networks, and data, from verify once at the perimeter to continual verification of each user, device, application, and transaction.”

The key to the strategy is the seven Zero Trust pillars as shown in the figure below: User, Devices, Applications and Workloads, Data, Network and Environment, Automation and Orchestration, and Visibility and Analytics. The pillars represent the different constructs that must be integrated to secure the data pillar, the center of the model.

The strategy’s roadmap expects all goals to be hit by mid FY 2027 with continuous improvement to be tracked into 2032. Beyond the target goals, DoD outlines the possibility of improving continuous monitoring and the use of artificial intelligence in automating systems.

CIO-SP4 Bid Protests Dismissed After NITAAC Takes Corrective Action

FedScoop reports that the Government Accountability Office (GAO) has dismissed 117 bid protests from unsuccessful offerors on the CIO-SP4 contract after the National Institutes of Health Information Technology Acquisition and Assessment Center (NITAAC) agreed to take corrective action. The protests, dismissed on Tuesday, all argued that NITAAC’s threshold for the RFP’s self-scoring assessment was arbitrary and led to proposals being unfairly excluded from the second phase of the competition.

Per GAO, NITAAC has voluntarily agreed to reassess its scoring threshold and reconsider all submitted proposals, rendering the protests moot. NITAAC had previously agreed to a similar measure in October, but only raised the threshold enough to re-evaluate ten companies. Prior to the threshold protests, GAO heard protests regarding NITAAC’s guidance for past performance samples and its treatment of large businesses in mentor-protégé agreements, the latter of which was sustained in part.

CIO-SP4 stands for Chief Information Officer-Solutions and Partners 4 and is a 10-year governmentwide acquisition contract. It is primarily designed to address IT solutions and services related to biomedical and scientific needs but also includes more general IT services. Its predecessor, CIO-SP3, included 137 labor categories and was extended through January 6, 2023 to ensure continuous coverage for customers. As of October, NITAAC planned to announce CIO-SP4 awards by December 15, 2023, and intends to award 305 to 510 IDIQ contracts (with around 100 set aside for small businesses), each with a ceiling of $50 billion.

Legal Corner:

Small Changes During Contract Performance Can Take A Large Bite Out Of The Bottom Line

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.

By Christopher Loveland, SheppardMullin

It is not unusual for agency personnel to request extracontractual changes during performance of a contract, many of which may seem fairly innocuous at first glance.

From changing the type of screw used in a machine, to altering the background colors displayed on computer screens, extracontractual changes requested by agency personnel can seem minor or inconsequential, and contractors often readily agree without immediately recognizing the potential adverse consequences or taking the necessary steps to adequately protect themselves.

But even small extracontractual changes can create a large ripple effect that erodes the profitability of a contract and, in some cases, can even result in delays by the contractor in meeting performance deadlines. No matter how small, extracontractual changes to a design often require, at a minimum, revisions to design plans and a revised or new order for materials, which can increase costs and delay performance. And if the terms of the contract are not followed to fully document extracontractual changes and their impacts, the contractor can be on the hook for increased costs and delay liability, despite the fact that the customer asked for the changes in the first place.

Most government contracts contain a Changes Clause, which gives contracting officers authority to make changes to work within the general scope of the contract. See, e.g., FAR 52.243-1, Changes – Fixed Price; 52.243-1, Changes – Cost Reimbursement; 52.243-4, Changes – Construction. The Changes Clause requires these changes be documented in writing by the contracting officer. The Changes Clause also specifically contemplates the reality that written and oral orders can be issued to contractors during performance that result in changes to a contract. But in order for those changes to be treated as a change order, the Changes Clause requires contractors to give notice to the contracting officer of (1) the date, circumstances, and source of the order; and (2) that the contractor regards the order as a change to the contract. While the Changes Clause contemplates that written and oral orders resulting in changes to the contract will come directly from the contracting officer, that does not always happen.

Contracting officers are not always involved in the day-to-day interactions between contractor and agency personnel during performance. And, on occasion, requests for changes are made by agency personnel without the knowledge or approval of the contracting officer. When that happens, it is up to the contractor to confirm with the contracting officer that extracontractual changes were requested and authorized by someone with authority to actually change the contract. It also is incumbent on the contractor to alert the agency of the potential impacts that those changes will have on the performance schedule and total cost. A cursory discussion of the changes with the contracting officer usually is insufficient to comply with the Changes Clause and to fully protect the contractor’s right to compensation.

Changes to a contract always should be documented in writing. Even when contracting officers participate in discussions regarding extracontractual work, it does not mean the agency ultimately will agree to pay for that work or otherwise accept responsibility for making the contractor whole if the change is not directed in the manner specified by the contract. Nor does it mean that a contracting officer will excuse performance-related delays arising from extracontractual changes, especially if the contractor does not make clear the impact that the changes will have on the project schedule.

While contracting officers may readily agree to a change during a call or meeting, they may not recognize that the change they agreed to will result in a change to the contract or an increased cost. Also, even when contracting officers agree to pay contractors for changes, contract performance can take place over long periods of time, and a contracting officer may not recall an earlier discussion about the change at the time a claim ultimately is made. Additionally, it is not uncommon for there to be a change in contracting officers during the course of the contract. And without written confirmation of a change, it is very unlikely that a new contracting officer will be willing to authorize payment for a prior undocumented change. It is thus critically important that contractors create and maintain strong records and ensure that all agency-directed changes are fully documented in writing. It also is important to document in writing the potential impact of those changes on the performance of the contract so any potential delays can be attributed to changes directed by the agency and not be blamed on perceived performance deficiencies by the contractor.

But what happens if extracontractual changes are made at the direction of agency personnel and were not directed by the contracting officer or later confirmed in writing? Can a claim be filed? Though this situation certainly presents challenges, all is not lost. There remain legal arguments that can be made in support of a timely claim, but it is important to keep in mind that the likelihood of a full recovery is much lower than if the changes were documented in writing. And the likelihood that a contractor will be forced through the formal claim and appeal process – which is an expensive and time-consuming process – also increases if you do not have contemporaneous documentation.

Should you have any questions regarding how to ensure that extracontractual changes are properly documented or your options in pursuing claims for increased costs for changes or delays, our Claims and Disputes Team is here to help. Working with our Team during the performance of a contract can greatly help contractors avoid costly pitfalls later on.

Healthcare Corner:

PACT Act Expansion Creates Surge of Claims

The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is processing an all-time record number of benefit claims and expects 700,000 more in the next few months, reports GovExec. The surge in claims is the result of the passage of the PACT Act expanding benefits to veterans exposed to toxic materials such as the burn pits in the Iraq War. Joshua Jacobs, the acting VA Under Secretary for Benefits, says that the VA plans to transition to a paperless system and hire thousands more employees to avoid a major backlog. Jacobs noted that the VA has worked to reduce its claim backlog to its lowest figure in years, with the total dipping below 150,000 in November.

A View From Main Street
The following blog does not necessarily represent the views of the Coalition for Government Procurement.

By Ken Dodds, Live Oak Bank

Ostensible Subcontractor = Joint Venture = No SBIR Award

The Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program was created in 1982 to foster small business research and development (R&D).[1] The program has three phases. Phase I awards are competitively awarded in an amount typically between $50,000 and $250,000 for a term of 6 months to demonstrate the technical merit, feasibility, and commercial potential of the proposed R&D efforts. A Phase II award is typically for $750,000 for 2 years to further the Phase I efforts. Agencies with R&D budgets set aside a certain percentage each year to fund Phase I and II awards. A Phase III award to commercialize the Phase I and II efforts can be sole source without a limit on value but must be funded out of the agency’s regular budget.[2]

The size standard for the SBIR program is 500 employees, including affiliates.[3] Size is determined at the time of award for a Phase I or Phase II award, or at the time of a request for size determination in connection with a pending award.[4] No size standard limitation applies to Phase III awards.[5] The SBIR program has its own affiliation rules, some of which are modeled on SBA’s general procurement affiliation rules, including an ostensible subcontractor rule which provides that a concern and its ostensible subcontractor will be treated as joint venturers.[6]

The SBIR program also has ownership and control provisions which require 50% ownership and control by one or more U.S. citizens or permanent resident aliens, or other small business concerns directly owned and controlled by U.S. citizens or permanent resident aliens. An SBIR awardee can also be owned and controlled by an Indian Tribe, ANC or NHO.[7] For some agencies an SBIR awardee can also be 50% owned by multiple venture capital operating companies, hedge funds or private equity firms.[8] An SBIR awardee can be a joint venture, but each entity in the joint venture must be able to qualify under the SBIR ownership and control rules.[9]

A firm submitted two proposals for SBIR Phase II awards. The contracting officer filed size protests based on the firm’s relationship with its subcontractor, a foreign-owned concern. The prospective awardee was majority owned by a U.S. citizen but had one employee and the majority owner was also an employee of the subcontractor. The subcontractor owned 49% of the prospective awardee and had at least 190 employees. The prospective awardee acknowledged it was affiliated with its subcontractor but argued that the combined employees of the two concerns did not exceed 500 employees. The SBA Area Office found that the subcontractor would perform the primary and vital requirements of the awards. The subcontractor’s employees would perform the majority of the engineering work, and the Area Office concluded that the firm would not have won the awards without the subcontractor’s employees, technical approach and past performance. The Area Office determined that the two concerns did not exceed the size standard, but the concerns were affiliated under the ostensible subcontractor rule and would be treated as a joint venture. One participant in the deemed joint venture, the subcontractor, was not directly owned by U.S. citizens or permanent resident aliens and therefore the deemed joint venture was not eligible for award under the SBIR joint venture ownership rules. On Appeal, the Appellant argued that the regulatory language concerning treatment as a joint venture for size determination purposes is a size issue not an eligibility issue, and that the Area Office should have limited its review to calculating the combined size of a deemed joint venture under the applicable 500 employee size standard. OHA disagreed and denied the appeal, finding that the rules concerning SBIR joint venture ownership are part of SBA’s size rules and that examining compliance with the SBIR ownership rules is a proper function of an Area Office conducting a formal size determination.[10]

Do you have a topic you wish to be covered or a question on how Live Oak Bank can support your business? Email me at ken.dodds@liveoak.bank.

[1] P.L. No. 97-219.
[2] SBIR and STTR Policy Directive (October 2020), pp. 25-6.
[3] 13 CFR 121.702(c).
[4] 13 CFR 121.704(a).
[5] SBIR and STTR Policy Directive (October 2020), p. 27.
[6] 13 CFR 121.702(c)(2).
[7] 13 CFR 121.702(a)(1)(i).
[8] 13 CFR 121.702(a)(1)(ii).
[9] 13 CFR 121.702(a)(1)(iii).
[10] Size Appeal of NFRL LLC, SBA No. SIZ-6174 (September 28, 2022).


GSA Proposes Changes to Login.Gov, Privacy Advocates Raise Concerns

According to a notice published in the Federal Register on November 21, GSA plans to make changes to its secure sign-in service, Login.gov, that will increase the amount of data it collects for anti-fraud purposes. Under the proposal, Login.gov—designed to provide a single account that allows users to interact with multiple Federal agencies—would begin collecting information about the device, browser type, internet protocol address, and usage patterns (such as keystrokes and mouse behavior) used to access Login.gov accounts. During log-in, that information would be transmitted to a third-party verification service that would assess the information and flag log-in attempts that may be fraudulent. The proposal also eliminates references to outdated National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) standards and establishes new practices for research studies, fraud prevention, and record management. GSA is accepting comments on the proposal through December 21.

Per FCW, the changes have raised concerns from privacy advocacy groups. The Electronic Privacy Information Center has expressed concerns about the practices of the third-party service GSA uses for verification and emphasized the need for audits. The third-party service that GSA uses has stated in a privacy impact assessment that it does not use data from Federal users in the “enrichment” of its products.

Off the Shelf: The Latest Developments in Key Acquisition Policy Programs

On a November 14 episode of Off the Shelf, Tim Cook, Executive Director of the Center for Procurement Advocacy (CPA), and Tom Sisti, Executive Vice President and General Counsel of the Coalition for Government Procurement, joined Coalition President Roger Waldron to discuss key developments in acquisition policy programs.

During the episode, Cook provides an update on the Congressional calendar, including the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), omnibus budget package, and current continuing resolution. He also gives his thoughts on the way forward for these key legislative packages in the coming weeks and highlights some key language in the NDAA that will impact procurement.

Sisti gives his take on the slow, painful death of commercial item contracting through re-regulation and the layering on of administrative processes. Inflation remains a challenge for both government and industry, and Sisti comments on the current state of play as government and industry work to respond to the impact of inflation.

He also discusses the prospects for CMMC and its impact on government and industry.

Click here to listen to the full podcast.

FCC Bans Sale of Communications Equipment from Several Firms from China

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) announced a ban on the sale of communications equipment from several firms from China due to the threat it poses to national security. The companies banned from selling and exporting communications technology to the U.S. are Huawei Technologies, ZTE Corporation, Hytera Communications, Hangzhou Hikvision Digital Technology, and Dahua Technology, along with any subsidiaries or affiliates. This action follows Federal investigation into Huawei and their role in espionage through equipment installed on telecommunication towers. The new rule implements the directive in the Secure Equipment Act of 2021, a bill requiring the FCC to cease review or approval of any authorization application for equipment that is on the list of covered communications equipment or services.

The new regulations, which affect the entirety of the U.S. commercial market, mirror earlier actions taken by Congress to safeguard Federal procurement. Section 889 of the 2019 NDAA prohibited the Federal government from purchasing telecommunications equipment from the same list of companies that the FCC has banned. The law, which took full effect last year, also prohibits Federal contractors from using equipment from these companies in any of their systems, whether or not they are related to Federal procurement.

GSA Webinar on Upcoming Climate and C-SCRM Acquisition Policy, December 13

GSA FAS’s Office of Policy and Compliance will host a webinar for Federal contractors on the latest changes in Federal procurement policy on December 13, 1-2 pm Eastern Time. The webinar will address “cybersecurity supply chain risk management and climate,” and attendees will be briefed on “the policy making and implementation process; how [they] can participate; an overview of climate related initiatives and resources; and an overview of cybersecurity and secure software initiatives.” To register for the meeting, click here.

AFCEA Bethesda’s Engage and Connect Webinar Series

The Coalition is proud to sponsor AFCEA Bethesda’s Engage & Connect – The New IT Frontier: Defeating Threats to the Nation’s Cybersecurity webinar, which will be held virtually on Tuesday, December 13 from 8 – 9:30 am Eastern Time! Government cybersecurity leaders and experts will discuss agencies’ plans for implementing the new cybersecurity executive orders, including the use of software bills of materials (SBOMs) to mitigate cyber risk, thwart cyber incidents, and defend against supply-chain attacks.

Securing IT assets has never been more of a challenge. The IT landscape is under a daily bombardment of cyber-attacks. Disruption and financial loss caused by ransomware, data theft, and security breaches is unsustainable. What does it all mean for agencies, especially chief information officers (CIOs) and chief information security officers (CISOs) responsible for managing the complex requirements, on tight deadlines, using limited budgets? To find out, register on December 13 for a webinar featuring a distinguished panel of cybersecurity experts.

Coalition members can register here.

DoD Looks to Increase Cyber Workforce Through Apprenticeship Programs

FCW reports that DoD released a memo on November 15 designed to increase the number of registered cybersecurity apprenticeships within the department and the defense industrial base. Registered apprenticeship training programs provide an alternative entry into cybersecurity work instead of traditional experience and certifications. Recently, the Administration has been pushing for increased use of apprenticeship programs. The memo states that “removing formal education-rooted barriers, combined with the use of apprenticeships programs, provides a faster pipeline to acquire talent, increases the talent pool, and enhances diversity by allowing applicants to enter the workforce throughout nontraditional pathways.”

In addition, the memo points out that the FAR states that IT services solicitations and contracts should not routinely include minimum experience and/or educational requirements. However, contractors have found that these requirements are often included in contracts, making it difficult for them to leverage these apprenticeship programs. In response to industry concerns, a DoD spokesperson said that “the Department of Defense supports the Biden Administration’s registered apprenticeship program commitment, and is continuing to make changes to accept qualified graduates of these programs.”

Currently, DoD has the largest cybersecurity apprenticeship program, founded in early 2022 as part of its United Services Military Apprenticeship Program. The Department of Labor has been working with other agencies to stand up similar cybersecurity programs, and VA stood up a new program that will bring apprentices in February 2023. Recently, the Departments of Labor and Commerce concluded a 120-day cybersecurity apprenticeship sprint that led to the development of 194 programs and the expansion of several existing ones.

Final Rule on Effective Communication Between Industry and Government

A final rule was issued on December 1 amending the FAR to confirm that acquisition personnel are permitted and encouraged to engage in responsible and constructive exchanges with industry if they follow existing laws and regulations and do not promote an unfair competitive advantage to particular firms. The proposed rule was first published on November 29, 2016 to implement Section 887 of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2016. The rule will go into effect on December 30, 2022.

New Small Business Size Standards Adjust Thresholds for Inflation

The Small Business Administration (SBA) released a new rule finalizing 2019 adjustments for industry size standards with three interim final actions. The first action adds an additional 13.65 percent inflation increase to the monetary small business size standard in response to inflation that has occurred since 2019. The second action adjusts three size standards: the size standards for sales or leases of government property, the size standards for stockpile purchases, and alternative size standards based on tangible net worth and net income for the Small Business Investment Company (SBIC) program. Finally, SBA adjusted the thresholds applicable to the 8(a) Business Development and Economically Disadvantaged Women-Owned Small Business (EDWOSB) programs, and the dollar limit for combined total 8(a) contracts.

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