Thursday, March 13, 2008

Procurement Rules and Small-Business Set-Asides

A newly proposed rule from the Civilian Agency Acquisition Council and the Defense Acquisition Regulations Council attempts to clarify for contracting officers procurement rules regarding small-businesses set-asides by stating:
  • There is no order of precedence among the 8(a), Historically Underutilized Business Zone or service-disabled veteran-owned small-business programs.

  • Contracting officers first must consider directing any small-business set-aside for a contract worth more than $100,000 to an 8(a), HUBZone or veteran-owned small business before for allowing all small businesses to bid.
  • Contracting officers must reserve acquisitions between $3,000 and $100,000 for small businesses unless the officer determines that two or more businesses will not competitively vie for the job. Even though the acquisition is set aside for small businesses, officers can award it to HUBZone, 8(a) or veteran-owned small businesses.

  • Contracting officers should consider their agency’s progress in meeting federal small-business goals when deciding which program to use for a contract.
Full Article Here: Officials try to clarify acquisition rules

GSA in hot water for Alliant contract award criteria application.

"A federal judge has ordered the General Services Administration to stop all work on the $50 billion Alliant contract, ruling that the agency failed to consistently apply its award criteria when assessing the bids of the 62 vendors."

Read the full text here: Court stops work on $50 billion Alliant contract

Friday, March 7, 2008

No such thing as a free lunch.

It turns out that small-business grants and interest-free loans for female and minority new business owners are right up there with Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny; all lovably fun and widespread stories known by many with absolutely no truth behind them. (I am truly sorry if I just burst several bubbles at once for you.) The SBA and other Small Business Development Centers provide technical assistance, loan information, and standard loans, but unfortunately, few hand out no-strings-attached cash to help business owners get started.

Read the full article here: Busting the 'Free Money' Myth

Don't give up hope, however, because once you get your business up and running, then you can use your small-business designations to qualify for various contracts that are specific set-asides. For example, GSA just recently issued the 21-Gun Salute initiative to help service-disabled veteran-owned small businesses (SDVOSBs) by increasing the amount of agency contracting dollars going to these businesses. GSA has failed to reach the goal of 3% of contracting dollars to SDVOSBs in both 2006 and 2007 and is now pushing to achieve those numbers this year. (For more information on this initiative, read the full article here: GSA launches new initiative to help veterans.) As there are government goals in place for each type of small business designation, there are plenty of ways to into contracting, starting by monitoring FedBizOpps or getting in touch with the Office of Small and Disadvantaged Business Utilization at the agencies with which you wish to work.

Many commercial companies also need to work with small businesses to fulfill subcontracting goals, so there are also plenty of opportunities to be found to help small business owners succeed outside of working directly with government agencies.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Bush Administration Encourages Use of AbilityOne Program

On Monday, February 11, President Bushed signed a memorandum to various Federal procurement officials, reminding them to purchase goods and services from the AbilityOne program. Formerly known as the Javits-Wagner-O'Day Program, AbilityOne employs thousands of blind or severely disabled workers, creates jobs and training opportunities for disabled Americans, and encourages the government to purchase products and services provided by nonprofit agencies that employ disabled workers. According to the Committee for Purchase From People Who Are Blind or Severely Disabled, purchases from AbilityOne aid in the reductions of the 70% unemployment rate of the blind and severely disabled.

Full Article: Bush urges federal agencies to purchase from blind, severely disabled

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Big News for Small Businesses

In a February 5, 2008 hearing on regulatory fairnesss, American Small Business League (ASBL) Communications Director Chris Gunn highlighted a need for greater enforcement of the regulations created to prevent the diversion of Federal small business contracts to large companies and their subsidiaries. As a result of this testimony, the Small Business Administration (SBA) Office of Government Contracting and Business Development will be conducting a high level review to determine whether or not large businesses are receiving small business procurement awards and agencies are receiving credit for these awards.

According to estimations by the ASBL, more than $100 billion in Federal small business contracts go to some of the largest corporations in the United States and Europe, instead of to legitimate small businesses. There have been no fines or penalties for these misrepresentations to date, despite regulations that allow for hefty fines and even imprisonment.

The ASBL believes that the SBA is not enforcing these regulations, and even claims that the SBA falsifies the small business goaling report to make it seem like goals are being met. Solutions like annual re-certification, the Fairness and Transparency in Contacting Act of 2008, and the enforcement of current regulations have been proposed to remedy this gross misconduct.

In a nutshell, this means more small businesses will have a chance to win contracts in the future that might otherwise have been slipped to large corporations. However, it becomes even more important now to make certain that companies contracting as small businesses are not in violation of any size standards. If you're a small business looking for ways to get a piece of the Federal procurement pie, we'll be happy to help.

Full Text: SBA National Ombudsman Mandates High Level Review of ASBL Testimony

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Election 2008

When you head to the polls to vote, chances are that you've chosen your candidates based on their views on the war in Iraq, education, healthcare, same-sex marriage, abortion, gun control, and several other hot button issues. But businesses don't get a chance to cast a unified vote, which means that your vote will have to represent what you want for your company as well. An article published in January 2008 in Washington Technology gives you a broad look at how the turning tides of politics will affect technology, GSA Schedules, Federal spending, and political initiatives. A must read for anyone with their hands in the Federal procurement cookie jar: Forecast 2008: Chart your course.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Business Ethics: No longer just a good idea.

An article published on Monday, February 11 in Washington Technology explains how, as of the end of 2007, the Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) now contains a subpart requiring contractors to establish a code of business ethics and conduct. This will only apply for contracts valued in excess of $5 million or with a period of performance greater than 120 days, but it also carries with it a requirement that all large businesses implement ongoing business ethics training. Several other requirements are also included, and more are likely to follow later in 2008. For more details, read the full article: Business ethics the latest addition to FAR

What does this mean for you? First and foremost, it is essential that you learn what parts of the FAR will apply to your contracts and how to remain fully in compliance. While your company may not have any ethics issues or violations of procurement law, if this subpart applies to your contracts, you will still have to meet the various reporting, training, and other ongoing requirements. Prepare early - get your official ethics systems in place early so compliance is not even a concern. And if you don't enjoy staying up late at night to pour over the FAR and various contract requirements, let us help. We'll be happy to guide you to success.

Monday, February 11, 2008

For all IT companies and contractors...

With only 7% of solicitations fully compliant with Section 508 accessibility requirements in late 2007, the General Services Administration is increasing efforts to bring government agencies in line with Section 508 regulations. This initiative has begun with the implementation of a new grading system based on a random sampling of electronic and IT solicitations on the Federal Business Opportunities website. These inspections will determine whether or not contracting officers and 508 coordinators are complying with the law which requires agencies to buy electronics and technology that people with disabilities can use.

In anticipation of this gradual shift towards enforcing full compliance, you can familiarize yourself with Section 508 requirements and ensure that your IT products are already Section 508 compliant. Following these stipulations will make your company's products more valuable to contracting officers looking to avoid low grades for their agency.

Full Article: GSA to grade agencies on 508 compliance

GSA officials are now reviewing vendors on the information technology schedule to determine if they are offering IPv6-compliant products and services. Vendors are being asked to specify how they comply with IPv6 and what test criteria they used. This is one of several initiatives GSA is undertaking to prepare for the June 30, 2008 deadline to have all network backbones IPv6 compliant and to begin using the new protocol.

As with the Section 508 compliance, this is another area where you can get ahead by ensuring in advance that your products and services are IPv6-compliant. This will make working with the information technology schedule easier for you in the future, and will help you to be better prepared for the eventual transition to IPv6.

Full Article: GSA ensuring offerings are IPv6-compliant

Friday, January 18, 2008

SBA regulations on WOB set asides

This article by highlights the issues with the new regulations pertaining to set aside contracts for women-owned business. In a nutshell, only 4 industries out of the 313 listed in the procurement registry would be eligible for federal agencies to set aside contracts for women-owned business. The article also references statistics from the US Women's Chamber of Commerce indicating women make up 30 percent of the nation's business owners, but receive only three percent of federal contracts -- clearly a disproportionate percentage. Bottom line - women business owners need to be proactive and aggressive in their efforts to positively impact the regulations. Click link below to see full article.

SBA Defends Contract Plan