Your guide to federal contracts


contractI just had a great discussion at a meeting concerning past performance questionnaires (PPQ) and what could be done to effect a change in this obviously inappropriate requirement.  The issue is about the typical RFP/RFQ requiring the contractor/vendor to send a past performance questionnaire to a reference (work of similar size and scope) for them to complete and send directly back to the government contracting office by a specified due date and time.  Failure to have this accomplished can make you non-compliant or, in the best case, be evaluated as a “neutral” for past performance (a sure loser).  This is the very definition of “responsibility without authority.”

I want to emphasize that this issue is not related to whether or not a company has any CPARS past performance information or whether or not the government customer has been remiss in entering CPARS data.  CPARS is a… Continue reading →

cautionOn July 9, 2013 the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA) launched a government-managed reverse auction platform—— available through the National Information Technology Commodity Program (NITCP) of GSA’s Federal Acquisition Service (FAS).  GSA expects the platform to deliver increased savings for federal agencies on the most commonly purchased office products, equipment and services, while also making it easier for small businesses to compete for the government’s business.

In a reverse auction, sellers compete to win business from agencies; prices will typically decrease as the competitive auction progresses.  GSA’s new reverse auction platform reduces federal agencies’ acquisition processing time and costs, drives prices and costs down, improves transparency and collection of data, and allows for small business set-asides.

This approach to government procurement will be used with a significant number of GSA’s Multiple Award Schedules (MAS) as a cost-cutting process for buying commonly used products and services. … Continue reading →

approvedIt is very important that federal contractors, especially those new to federal contracting, understand that only contracting officials (KO) can modify an existing contract. That means that only they can:

  • Change the scope of the work (approve additional or new work)
  • Change due dates or formats for deliverables
  • Authorize additional payments
  • Change the FAR clauses that are part of your contract (add or delete)
  • Change how you must invoice for payment

The point is that your “customer/client/PM” can’t do any of the above without going through the KO. Where businesses get in trouble is usually getting caught between wanting to provide outstanding customer service (the “rock”) and the actual scope of work in the contract (the “hard place”). It is great to expand existing work on a contract but you also want to get paid for doing that work. If you do work without… Continue reading →

This is the fourth and final blog in a series of blogs that I will do related to the recently issued memorandum detailing the Department of Defense (DoD) Source Selection Procedures for acquisitions utilizing FAR Part 15 procedures (see links below). The purpose of this new document is to standardize the methodology and approach that DoD uses to conduct competitively negotiated source selections. The procedures defined are effective as of July 1, 2011.

The contracting official must debrief an offeror upon receipt of its written, timely request (See FAR 15.503 and 15.505). The debriefing serves to assure offerors that the Government properly evaluated their proposals and made the award determination in accordance with the RFP. Since each offeror puts considerable resources into preparing and submitting a proposal, fairness dictates that the contracting official promptly debrief offerors and explain why a proposal was excluded from the competitive range or was successful… Continue reading →

Often businesses seeking information on doing business with the federal government are referred to or discover by “Google” government agency websites. While these are usually good sources of information, especially on process questions such as how to apply for a small business certification, they are not the only sources of very valuable information and insight.

Consistently, when asked, small business owners state that the most important information they can get is from other business owners who have gone through the trials of doing business with the federal government and who can provide them with “been there, done that” knowledge and, more importantly, the aspect of “here’s what I did wrong” so that you can learn from that.

Many, many organizations provide this type of information either to their members or to the public at large. One great example is American Express who through their AMEX OPEN program provides articles, blogs,… Continue reading →

During the Fourth Quarter of the Fiscal Year (Q4) federal agency contracting offices and the contracting officials who “make it happen” are working as diligently as they can to quickly but responsively contract for goods and/or services to meet the needs of their internal customers. The key here is to move the procurement process along as fast as possible without violating any acquisition regulations or other contracting regulatory guidance. One great solution for the busy contracting official is to use existing GSA Multiple Award Schedule (MAS) contracts (often referred to as “schedules”) to procure what they need. And you want to take advantage of this opportunity.

The agency contracting official benefits several ways from using a GSA schedule to contract for goods and services, especially during the Q4 buying season, and it is important that you understand these benefits to the government so that you can position your company to… Continue reading →

Federal agencies try to ensure that they wisely use the funds budgeted for them during a fiscal year. This often leads to conserving funds until the fiscal year is almost over and then identifying requirements that could be funded by remaining budget dollars. This apparent rush to obligate funds to meet the needs of each agency’s internal customer opens a window of opportunity for the prepared contractor. So how can your small business become the prepared contractor?

First and foremost, get your past performance documents ready so that you can successfully respond in the little time you will have available. Why is this so important?

For the following reasons:
• If there is an overall theme it is “if you don’t have it already, you don’t have enough time to start now.”

• Past performance, in all of its variations, is the discriminator most used by the government buyer throughout… Continue reading →

During the fourth quarter of the federal fiscal year, which ends on September 30, government agencies are finalizing their acquisition for the year and assessing their remaining dollars to potentially check off a few items not purchased on this year’s wish list. Many small business contractors find that they can pick up a few hundred thousand dollars or even a few million dollars from various government customers during this period. This is especially true for small businesses with special certifications. In some cases this may be your first chance to get in the door if you are prepared and satisfied to capture something on a smaller scale.

So how can your small business land more dollars in this fourth quarter?

Following are some tips and insights to get you started and on your way to getting your share of remaining procurement dollars before it is taken away.

• Move quickly… Continue reading →

There is a recent proposed rule for the bundling of task and/or delivery orders that could further address the issue and make changes that supplement or reinforce the legislation found in the Small Business Jobs Act (see below). Below is the “proposed” rule that you need to be aware of and understand how it could favorably impact your strategic marketing plan. Take special note of the due date for comments on proposed rule as you can make a positive statement in support of actions that are good for your business.

PROPOSED: Task and Delivery Order Contracts, Bundling, Consolidation (3245-AG20) This proposed regulation addresses task and delivery order set-asides under multiple-award contracts, multiple-award contract partial set-asides, and reserving multiple-award contracts when using full and open competition (See interim FAR rule 2011-024). The procurement authority must publish rationale for bundling on agency website and for consolidated contracts valued at greater than $2M… Continue reading →

The Obama administration has proposed combining the functions and staff of the Small Business Administration; the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative; the Export-Import Bank; the Overseas Private Investment Corporation; and the Trade and Development Agency.

This proposed restructuring is being pitched as a way to ease the regulatory burden on businesses and a savings $3 billion over 10 years is being claimed. That said, there are some trade groups who are concerned about the execution of the proposed restructuring and they are concerned that the move could strip resources from entrepreneurs rather than reinforce the needs of small businesses.

Such a massive reorganization will face difficulties getting approved in an election year and Congress may be less likely to approve the idea because several of the affected agencies currently report to different Congressional committees.

Many small business groups are concerned that the restructuring will take resources away from small-business… Continue reading →

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