COVID19 presents unique and enduring challenges to business operations and mission fulfillment. While many “lessons learned” regarding best practices to confront natural disasters can be gleaned from such situations as Hurricane Katrina and 9/11, the unprecedented scope and impact of this pandemic raise troubling issues for legacy business models. In terms of “big A” acquisition policy, we believe that the current crisis will fundamentally alter existing programmatic assumptions. Identifying these trends is an important beginning in terms of what lies ahead.
Reading these “tea leaves” allow us to make impacts of recent events upon the broader framework of government IT acquisition. What can we foresee and predict?
From a macro perspective, we believe that the current unprecedented situation has the potential to fundamentally re-align the basic consensus regarding the much-touted benefits of globalization. In terms of government contractors, and IT specifically, we have been discussing the following trends and consequences.
We suggest framing your government-facing response as being that of a solid and reliable government partner, supporting solutions to this crisis for the benefit of the American people. We suggest being very careful not to appear to be taking advantage of the crisis in your branding and government outreach efforts. Nuance is required. Having said that, reinforcing the narrative that private, commercial innovation provides rapid, proven IT solutions to these unprecedented events is an important message and is certainly the case here.
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OMB has released a detailed breakout, by agency, of the proposed coronavirus allocations from the first tranche of stimulus measures. The breakout specifically calls for use of the money to increase and secure telecommunications and compute capabilities for the government. It is no surprise that existing systems are stretched to the max (we have multiple press reports in this regard). Scalability is a central value proposition for cloud-based solutions, and we would be remiss by not pointing this out to our government customers.
First and foremost- stay close to your customers. Recollect that in the event of government-imposed delays or program disruptions, there are specific remedies in the FAR that utilize such procedures as requests for equitable adjustment and the like. On March 30, DOD has issued extensive guidance on requests for equitable adjustment and utilization of existing FAR and DFAR procedures for COVID-19 claims and disputes. The CARES Act also appointed significant oversight resources- a special inspector general for pandemic spending, as well as a Congressional oversight board. These oversight groups will undoubtedly reinforce existing DCAA and DCMA scrutiny over incurred cost audits for COVID-19 work. Coordination with your legal team early on is essential.
This is an unprecedented situation that may have consequences meeting or even exceeding 9/11 in terms of economic impacts and new thinking about many issues. Agility and nimbleness will be at an absolute premium. It needs to be baked into your culture.
Richard Beutel is the founder of Cyrrus Analytics. Rich is a nationally recognized expert in IT acquisition management and cloud policy with 25 years of private sector experience and more than a decade on Capitol Hill working on procurement issues.