This column was originally published on Roger Waldron’s blog at The Coalition for Government Procurement and was republished here with permission from the author.
Halloween is upon us, bringing an assortment of ghouls, goblins, and monsters to our front doors, for one of my favorite holiday celebrations. Although, sadly, my children have outgrown the Halloween tradition of dressing-up, I still enjoy the air of spookiness, the frightening legends, and, yes, the assortment of leftover, intentionally over-bought candies, that are part of Halloween. In the spirit of this autumn tradition, the Coalition has compiled a variety of procurement sweets for its trick-or-treaters.
Earlier this year, this blog raised questions and concerns regarding the potential impact of the Department of Defense’s (DoD) single-award approach to the Joint Enterprise Defense Initiative (JEDI) cloud contract on its long-term access to competition and innovation from the commercial marketplace.
In light of the recent bid protest filings, it is interesting to note that, in its FAR-mandated Justification and Approval (J&A) document supporting a single award IDIQ, DoD did not focus on technical arguments that would justify its single-award strategy. Rather, it based its rationale simply on the contract type to be used.
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Further, this week, Reps. Steve Womack (R-Ark.) and Tom Cole (R-La.), senior Republicans on the House Appropriations Committee, wrote to the DoD Inspector General (IG) expressing concerns with how DoD developed the JEDI contracting vehicle. After noting that, “The Department has not provided any adequate explanation as to why they continue to insist on a contract structure that has been widely criticized by Congress and industry,” the lawmakers requested that the DoD IG provide an explanation regarding how the department went about developing the final JEDI solicitation’s requirements, as well as why those requirements were determined as worthy of inclusion.
Pursuant to Section 876 of the John S. McCain National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2019, agency heads have the discretionary authority to not include price or cost as an evaluation criterion when awarding services contracts that are acquired at an hourly rate. Effectively, the legislation establishes a so-called “unpriced” Schedules contract, a concept that has long been supported by the Coalition, as it will radically reform the current pricing strategy, reduce burdensome oversight mechanisms that increase costs, increase competition by providing needed flexibility, and decrease barriers to entry into the marketplace.
Currently, the Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) Council is seeking feedback on a proposed rule that would allow DoD, the Coast Guard, and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) to award multiple-award task order contracts for services without considering price or cost as an evaluation factor. Under the proposed rule, however, the government would still be required to consider price or cost when awarding task orders on a contract. The Coalition will be commenting on the proposed rule, and we ask that members submit any feedback they may have to SNulty@thecgp.org by Friday, Nov. 2.
Earlier this month, the Court of Federal Claims (COFC) filed its decision in, Electra-Med Corporation, et al., v. U.S. and American Medical Depot, et al. By way of background, the case centered on a protest filed in response to the Veterans Affairs Department’s (VA) Medical/Surgical Prime Vendor (MSPV) program’s decision to modify its four “prime vendor” contracts. Notably, although the COFC agreed with the plaintiffs on the merits of their protest, the court did not grant an injunction, as it believes that by so doing, it would endanger veterans’ healthcare and increase costs to the government.
The COFC’s decision maintains the status quo for the MSPV program, providing an element of continuity in the program through 2019 (note: there is still a window for an appeal of the decision to be filed). The decision, however, underscores the vital importance of continued conversations between the VA and industry regarding the future of the prime vendor program. The Coalition and all its members remain committed to working with the VA to support an efficient and effective, next generation MSPV program.
Last week, GSA announced an updated schedule for its on-ramping efforts connected to its One Acquisition Solution for Integrated Services (OASIS) vehicle. According to GSA, these efforts will ensure that the OASIS program is well-positioned to continue delivering best-value mission support to meet its customer agency needs by infusing new small, medium, and large business contractors into the OASIS Small Business (SB) and OASIS Unrestricted (U) solutions.
Since OASIS’ inception in 2014, the market has endorsed OASIS as a core, best value professional services contract management program. Agencies have obligated more than $9.7 billion using OASIS, which has an estimated total value of almost $21 billion. Last year, spending on OASIS grew by more than 61 percent, and the market is not slowing down. Significantly, as of this past August, more than 48 percent of obligations ($4.7 billion) have gone to small businesses. This number is impressive and, when combined with the 36 percent of obligations on PSS and 27 percent of obligations on the Alliant GWAC that went to small businesses in fiscal year 2017, demonstrates the depth of quality small businesses on OASIS and across the FAS professional services portfolio.
After releasing a game-changing final rule in January, GSA began incorporating Order Level Materials (OLMs) into the Schedules program over this past summer through mass modifications to a subset of Schedules. This week, GSA announced that it will be issuing a refresh for all GSA Schedule solicitations in November clarifying that, when using the OLM authority under a Blanket Purchase Agreement (BPA), the 33 percent threshold applies against the cumulative value of the BPA.
As many of you know, the Coalition has been a longstanding advocate for the inclusion of OLMs into the Schedules program. OLMs provide a fantastic opportunity for GSA to streamline its Schedules program, thereby reducing incentives for agencies to establish duplicative contracts and minimizing burdens for government and industry. Moreover, OLMs provide increased contract flexibility to meet customer agency needs for integrated, commercial solutions.
Recognizing these many benefits, GSA should immediately expand its application of the OLM rule into Schedule contracts on a program-wide basis this fiscal year. There is no policy or business imperative that would be served by limiting the applicability of the new rule to a subset of Schedules. Indeed, this limitation only enhances the potential for misunderstanding, and it reduces the potential positive impact for the entire Schedules program.
At the request of the Defense Logistics Agency (DLA), earlier this year, the Coalition conducted a survey of more than 700 FedMall suppliers to identify potential enhancements for the FedMall System. The Coalition delivered its final report to DLA in August, which provided the program with feedback regarding needed system functionality enhancements to enable suppliers to deliver products to federal customers efficiently and effectively.
As the supplier representative for both the FedMall Operational Requirements Committee (ORC) and the FedMall Executive Configuration Control Board (ECCB), I look forward to continuing the dialogue between industry and the FedMall program office to improve the FedMall system for all stakeholders. Indeed, in less than two weeks, I will be moderating the FedMall Business Intelligence Session during the Coalition’s Fall Training Conference. The session will feature guest speakers, Adarryl Roberts, program manager, DLA; and Kathleen Lemming, senior procurement analyst, Defense, Pricing, and Contracting (DPC); who will answer questions and address attendees’ concerns. To register for the Conference, click here.
As cyber and supply chain issues continue to evolve, the need for greater collaboration between government and industry on matters of cyber and supply chain security, especially in the acquisition context, is increasingly apparent. To that end, the Coalition is pleased to announce the launch of a new Cyber & Supply Chain Committee, which will provide a forum for collaborative dialogue between government leaders and industry stakeholders.
As we launch this new Committee, the Coalition invites members to attend our upcoming webinar, titled, Federal Cybersecurity Requirements: Staying Ahead in a Continuously Evolving Compliance Environment, on Tuesday, Oct. 30, at 12 p.m. ET. Members who are interested can register for the webinar here.
These are some of the tricks or treats for you to enjoy this Halloween, and I would like to extend my best wishes for a safe and happy Halloween to all!
Roger Waldron is the president of the Coalition for Government Procurement, and host of Off the Shelf on Federal News Radio.