For those living in the Northern Hemisphere, this past Tuesday (at 5:13 AM to be exact) marked the Summer Solstice, the point at which the Earth is at its maximum tilt relative to the Sun, and the commencement of astronomical summer. It is the longest day of the year for those nations experiencing it, and various nations celebrate the event in accordance with their own customs. Considering current events and the interesting issues raised at the Coalition’s recent Spring Training Conference, this week’s blog offers what might be considered “sleeper issues,” but issues nonetheless that we believe will resonate in the coming months.
Domestic Sourcing – In 2021, President Biden signed Executive Order (E.O.) 14005, “Ensuring the Future is Made in All of America by All of America’s Workers,” which lays out a series of Government actions to strengthen the U.S. supplier base and maximize the use of domestically made goods, products, services, and materials. Subsequently, a proposed rule was issued requiring the Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) Council to “strengthen the impact of the Buy American Act” by proposing an increase to the domestic content threshold, a framework for application of an enhanced price preference for certain domestic products, and a post-award domestic content reporting requirement for contractors.
This march toward domestic content continues with legislation, like the pending United States Innovation and Competition Act of 2021, which addresses, among other things, funding to support U.S. semiconductor manufacturing, research and development, supply chain security, and certain domestic preferences. Recognizing the security challenges of the global environment for the U.S. and its allies, it remains to be seen how U.S. domestic sourcing requirements will evolve to become more “buy allied” than they are now, as the allied relationship between the U.S. and other countries is necessary to address common, evolving national and world threats. In this context, buy allied would afford the U.S. and its allies a dedicated, stable, and sustainable supply base.
Vertical Contract Duplication – It has been said that the Government is good at starting initiatives, but slow at shutting them down. Whether that observation is true is for others to address, but, for Coalition members, the wake of new initiatives leaves the industrial base tossed from program to program chasing requirements to support agency missions.
For instance, in the recent Ascend BPA RFI for enterprise-level cloud acquisition, it is not clear why, in the face of existing Federal Supply Schedule (FSS) contracts covering these types of services, the General Services Administration (GSA) is seeking duplicative multiple-award BPAs. In effect, after FSS contractors negotiate and administer their FSS contracts, they will compete for and manage a generic, government-wide multiple award BPA, and, then compete for and manage task orders issued under BPAs. Moreover, to secure a BPA, contractors will have to commit to competing for 75 percent of the task order requirements issued under the BPA, even if they do not wish to provide them. It is not clear what, if any, benefits are derived from these administrative redundancies.
The Reality of Compliance – Because the Government faces an onslaught of asymmetric cyber-attacks from international competitors, the nation has been prompted to build what one conference panelist called an enduring advantage. This advantage recognizes that international competitors understand the various channels where important data reside, and thus, components of platforms must be secured so as not to serve as an attack vector.
It is important for our nation’s leaders to think this way, but, in the context of other programs, it prompts questions of alignment. During the conference, members heard from representatives of FedMall, GSA Advantage!, and the GSA Commercial Platforms Program. One conclusion drawn early on in their respective presentations is the fact that the Government has outstanding individuals working on these programs. They are mission- and data-focused, driven to maximize efficiency, and committed to enhancing the customer experience of all stakeholders in their programs.
Still, the three programs appear to have significant overlap, and aside from complexity and duplication issues, they beg the question: what is the strategy for compliance?
Equitable Price Adjustments and the Health of the Industrial Base – Finally, we could not end this blog without acknowledging GSA’s efforts to assist the stability of the industrial base during the current inflation challenges. Loosening the Equitable Price Adjustment (EPA) proposal process to allow contractors to address historic supply chain price increases held the promise of maintaining the health of the Government’s industrial base. Unfortunately, although the policy is in place, there are challenges in its implementation.
Specifically, contractors, like our members, are experiencing significant, often months long, delays in EPA proposal implementation. It appears that, in some cases, the unintended consequence is that a streamlined policy intended to speed change and stabilize the Government’s industrial base has been implemented in a manner that increases requirements and burdens on the industrial base.
The foregoing is but a sampling of the issues the procurement community faces as we enter summer. Over the course of the coming weeks, especially as we race toward Congressional recesses and the midterm elections, the Coalition will monitor these issues and apprise you of what unfolds.