The BDO GovCon Week Ahead - September 2019

September 2019

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September 9, 2019

While Associations Cite Burden of Supply Chain Rules, Contractors Must Still Comply:  Federal contractors must bolster the security of their supply chains right now under the terms of a recently released interim rule.  This is the latest in a series of steps the federal government is taking to ensure good cyber hygiene and risk management.  While the specific new interim rule is intended to mainly target hardware from Huawei and ZTE, industry associations are concerned that the specific wording of the rule opens the door to extra burdens.  Particularly frustrating is the fact that the Office of Management and Budget sat on the rule for nearly a year, and then released it as an interim measure, meaning it is now effective, without seeking any advanced public comment.  While interested groups were able to comment on the rule after publication, the terms of the interim measure went into effect essentially upon their publication in the Federal Register.  The bottom line is that contractors providing all types of technology products, must ensure that their suppliers and subcontractors are providing them appropriate items.  Even if a customer says, “we want a lower price, we’re willing to take the risk,” don’t do it.  Organizations are responsible for providing safe and secure solutions that meet all applicable federal rules.  If you’re unsure about the federal rules, a little research will tell you.  Both you and your customer can get in trouble for not following the rules.  Make sure that your supply chain is secure.  Click here to see the full story.

Natural Disasters Provide Acquisition Opportunities – And Each Situation is Different:  When disasters like hurricane Dorian and others hit, contractors and government agencies go into high gear to get critical supplies to where they’re needed.  Whether its basics like water or generators, temporary housing, or even assisting in the processing of government aid forms, contractors are working side by side with federal agencies to help those in need beyond just fulfilling immediate needs.   Recovery from major storms takes many years.  Remember how long it took New Orleans to recover from Katrina?  There should be opportunities for contractors that can provide the goods and services rebuilding community need for some time, although each situation is different.  Survivors from hurricane Harvey in 2017 needed more housing-based assistance.  Glancing blows like Dorian may require more tactical needs, such as flood prevention or recovery, utility restoration, or temporary drinking water.  There is good business to be had around disaster preparation and relief.  However, these initiatives are not just about business, though.  Disaster preparation and relief opportunities are a time for contractors to show how much they value their relationships and the communities in which they live and do business.  Market research can assist in knowing where, and whether the services and products you provide are a good fit for those recovering from disasters.  Your corporate messaging and volunteer work during crises will show a larger audience just what your company values and why customers would want to partner with you in the future.
 
Successful Construction and IT Projects Have More In Common Than You May Realize:  If you think IT projects are over budget and behind schedule, take a look at construction projects.  Only about 30 percent of construction projects are completed within budget and on time.  Whether focusing on IT, construction, or other government projects, following these three steps can help you and your customer achieve better outcomes, on time and on budget.

  1. Manage Contract Scope:  Managing risk starts early in the construction or IT project lifecycle; often during the pre-planning phase.  Construction contracts often make use of an auditor, but the auditor here is closer to an independent project manager, and not what most IT companies would consider as a contracts auditor.  An experienced construction auditor or independent manager can play a vital role in risk avoidance.  To avoid unanticipated cost overruns and adversarial situations, it is important to leverage an experienced construction auditor or independent program manager to provide peace of mind. 

  2. Change Order Management:  In both examples, change orders represent the single largest financial risk on any construction or IT project.  They can increase project scope or modify originally agreed upon terms.  Project managers can have a different view of change orders because of their proximity to day-to-day operations.  Remember, a government contracting officer must sign off on any scope or other change before any new work is done.  A construction auditor or third-party manager can help the project team evaluate and proactively assess change order risk, before seeking a change from the contracting officer.  This can save time and money.

  3. Roles, Responsibilities and Expectations:  Construction and IT projects both have multiple players.  While the roles look separate and distinct on paper, the reality is that people on the ground can sometimes take on the appearance or responsibilities of other team members. While this can ensure that things get done in the short-term, they can ultimately lead to confusion, or project changes that were never officially approved by the right person.  It is vital to maintain separate and specific roles and responsibilities and the expectations of each team member.  A strong team lead is an important part of this process to ensure that one senior person is responsible for ensuring that each team member is following through appropriately. 

 
 

September 3, 2019

Three Things to Focus on in the Last Month of the Fiscal Year: Welcome back from Labor Day break.  There are four weeks left in the Fiscal Year.  Here are three things to focus on to finish your year strong. 
  1. Stay In Constant Contact: End-user customers are the obvious people with whom your sales people should be in touch right now, but don’t forget to reach out to contracting officers and industry partners.  Timing is everything, and your call may be the one that gets you last minute business.  Remember to thoroughly review GSA’s E-Buy system for business you may be able to acquire.  Ignore E-Buy and you will lose business. 
  2. Don’t Get Distracted:  There is a time for conferences, committee meetings, and other networking opportunities.  That time is known as October.  Remain focused on business that you can close now, as well as any RFP’s for large contracts that will position your company well for future business. 
  3. Stay Open Late:  September 30th is on a Monday this year.  That means that your company should maintain staffing through the last weekend of the month to take orders and solve potential customer problems.  NASA SEWP has already announced that they will be open on the weekends in September.  If they sense the urgency and need, your business should as well.  September 30th is the longest day of the federal calendar, too.  It doesn’t end at 5:00 eastern time.  Make sure your customers know that you will be open as late as they need you to be.  Follow these three tips and you will have earned your Bahamas vacation later.
 
DHS Bucks Trend – Goes with Stand-Alone Acquisition Vehicle:  The Department of Homeland Security will continue with its FirstSource IT contract according to recent agency announcements.  In a surprise move that bucks the trend toward abandoning discrete vehicles in favor of Blanket Purchase Agreements (BPA’s) against GSA Multiple Award Schedule contracts, DHS acquisition head Soraya Correa said that her agency will proceed with FirstSource III with a solicitation planned for January.  The move came as surprise to many in the IT acquisition arena as DHS had previously cancelled plans for a next generation Eagle contract in favor of Schedule BPA’s. This change placed the agency in the company of the State Department, Air Force, and others that had elected to use GSA Schedule contracts as the basis for their own agency needs.  Anyone listening to what Correa and others at DHS have been saying recently would not have been caught off-guard.  Correa has said several times this summer that DHS needed its own acquisition vehicles to meet its special needs.  In addition, Correa is high on data analytics and on managing IT spending in DHS, measurements that may be more easily provided via an internal vehicle than from an outside contract.  The FirstSource II contract has captured nearly half of the agency’s IT commodity transactions over the past year, indicating its popularity inside DHS.  Contractors can expect multiple agency engagements between now and January, according to DHS.  A place on FirstSource III could be a gateway to improved DHS business.  Be prepared to participate and listen to what the agency is saying.  See the article here for more.
 
GSA Must Ensure Security, Authenticity of E-Commerce System:  As the General Services Administration (GSA) moves toward awarding pilot contracts for its commercial e-marketplace program, ensuring that the contractors they work with offer authentic goods from authorized sources will be essential.  The success or failure of the program may hinge on the ability of customer agencies to know that they are getting what they ordered from responsible sources when buying from a GSA-awarded e-marketplace provider. The issue of authentic goods, or lack thereof, from such sources was again raised in a recent Wall Street Journal article criticizing one e-commerce site for, “limited oversight” over items on its platform.  The article went on to say that the providers site, “has increasingly evolved like a flea market”, as opposed to “a retailer with goods deemed safe enough for customers.”  An e-marketplace initiative through which government agencies purchase non-authentic products from unauthorized sources is likely to hit the Government Accountability Office’s High-Risk list overnight, with Congressional hearings soon to follow. Commercial e-commerce sites offer the ability to make quick purchases and provide exceptional data analytics. When this process is properly managed, federal agencies can likely benefit from the use of such systems. GSA should ensure that the benefits from commercial sites are equally weighed with the risks.  E-marketplace providers should be able to show the agency how they will ensure that federal agencies get what they ordered from responsible sources to be considered for the pilot contract.