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Category Archives: Events

GSA Virtual Industry Day for Professional Services

GSA Virtual Industry DayThe General Services Administration’s (GSA) Management Services Center (MSC) is conducting a two hour GSA Virtual Industry Day on June 9th, 2014 to bring GSA Contractors and Industry Partners up to date on potential changes to the Multiple Award Schedules Program. The event will be centered around six of the 42 GSA Schedules: MOBIS, PES, ENVIRONMENTAL, LANGUAGE, LOGWORLD, CONSOLIDATED but also FABS and AIMS.

For more information and to attend the GSA Virtual Industry Day, register with this form:
https://docs.google.com/forms/d/1Ya42AwOKAS4oxRSBqmzpG6OUdEVRtzGoUw8N_hAEsxc/viewform?c=0&w=1&usp=mail_form_link

GSA Virtual Industry Day Agenda:

  • Welcome/Intro – Gerri Watson
  • Category Management – Tiffany Hixson
  • OASIS Unrestricted and OASIS Small Business – Brad Powers
  • No Sale/Low Sale Cancellation Policy – Trish Ludlow
  • Migrations to the Consolidated Schedule 00CORP – Kim McFall
  • Agency expectations to replies to RFI/RFQs – Geri Haworth/Maureen Duckworth
  • Lack of Contractor Responses to RFI/RFQs on eBuy. And Why?
  • Marketing and Business Development – Andy Randles
  • Wrap up – Gerri Watson

An Insight into the 2014 GSA Mentor–Protégé HUBZone Fair

hubzoneI represented several clients at the 2014 GSA Mentor – Protégé HUBZone Fair on February 24th and gained some valuable knowledge and insight during the experience that I believe can help HUBZone companies looking to expand in the GSA market. Before the meeting began, I was fortunate to have a word with Tony Eiland, the Program Coordinator for the Mentor-Protégé Program at GSA. I told him that I was representing several HUBZone companies, who are very unique and are looking to expand their presence in the GSA market. Tony was interested in HUBZones and mentioned that he would discuss a program that he believed could benefit them during his speech.

The program he was referring to was the GSA Mentor-Protégé Program, which is designed to encourage and motivate GSA prime contractors to help small businesses, and enhance their capability of performing well with their GSA contracts. The overall goal of this program is to increase the number of small businesses receiving GSA prime contract and subcontract awards, resulting from mentorship and refined business practices. This program also benefits the mentor, who from collaboration with small businesses can receive exposure to new business ideas and technology, but more importantly have a higher profile within the GSA community. A higher profile can lead to faster approval of modifications, acquisition of more GSA Schedules, and a leg up on other competition within the GSA. Tony expressed another goal which involved increasing the current 129 members in this program to 150 by the end of 2014. He also stated that out of these 129 members, only 11 are qualified for  the Mentor-Protégé program under HUBZone. He also noted that he is strictly preserving 10 spots for specifically Mentor-Protégé HUBZone members.

This push for additional HUBZone involvement in the GSA is because the GSA failed to achieve its schedule-wide HUBZone sales of 3% last year. 2.5% of GSA sales this past year was through HUBZone, and as stated by Dan Tangherlini, the Administrator of the GSA. “3.5 Billion dollars is allocated to the agency, and it is the GSA’s job to do better sales.” He stressed that HUBZone business is important to him and that the GSA is working to increase HUBZone Sales. All this news is very good to hear as a representative of HUBZone businesses myself, and for any small business looking to prosper in the GSA marketplace.

For more information, you can read more about the HUBZone program.

GSA Expo Canceled for Second Consecutive Year

gsaThe GSA announced Monday that it has canceled its plans for their annual Expo in 2014, making it the second consecutive year the agency will cancel the training event. The announcement was made via the GSA Expo website, citing budgetary concerns as well as low attendance projections due to a loss in funds.

This may not come as a surprise to those who have been following the GSA’s effort to cut down on travel costs in wake of multiple spending scandals and controversies involving lavish spending practices within the agency. This includes the 2010 Western Regions Conference in Las Vegas, which exceeded $800,000 for 300 attendees and the more recently cancelled FedForum last year.

The GSA Training and Expo provides a forum for vendors and Federal buyers to come together to establish rapport and share information. In addition, the budget cuts have pressured the GSA to change the surface of the SmartPay conference, which provides crucial training for utilizing government charge cards. The virtual environment is becoming more embraced by the GSA as budgets continue to drop due to the financial effects of the sequestration. Unfortunately, GSA Expo attendees will lose out on the chance to attend this four day event, which has proven to be a resource for training on GSA practices. The increasing cancellations have many GSA contractors concerned, but the agency has promised to hold the GSA expo in 2015 under a possibility that the event will be held online next year. However, many Federal procurement experts insist that it is impossible to replace the numerous hours of training that are provided during the GSA Expo within such a limited amount of time.

Read more about the cancelation in this article: GSA cancels Expo for second year in a row – FierceGovernment. 

Future of the GSA Integrated Workplace Acquisition Center (IWAC)

Integrated Workplace Acquisition CenterOn Tuesday January 28th I attended the GSA Integrated Workplace Acquisition Center (IWAC) Quality Partnership and Council Meeting (QPC) meeting at the Mid-Atlantic Office Building in Philadelphia, P.A.  The purpose of this meeting is to give an informative update to the following IWAC Schedules:[box type=”shadow” align=”aligncenter” width=”30″ ]36 (Office, Imaging and Document Solutions)
58-1 (Professional Audio/Visual, Telecommunications and Security Solutions)
71 (Furniture)
7-1-II-K (Comprehensive Furniture Management Services)
72 (Furnishings and Floor Coverings)
78 (Sports, Promotional, Outdoor, Recreation, Trophies & Signs)
[/box]

The meeting started with the words of IWAC leadership, Jack Wise, Director for the Office of Regional Acquisition Operations (RAO) and Brian Knapp, Center Director of IWAC. A central IWAC topic discussed dealt with the 50 GSA employees that are currently at the Philadelphia office and how this number was reduced originally from 130 employees due to sequestration. They continued to state that there are still about 20 employees that represent the IWAC sector at the former D.C. office and that it is the ultimate goal of the GSA to move all IWAC contracts from D.C. to the Philadelphia office.  Several other main points were discussed by the Operational Panel, who conducted a Q & A session. Contracting officers discussed the concept of Strategic Sourcing, that involved IWAC officers leaning on tracking high bid and high range projects, which would be handled on a case by case basis. They also brought forth the concept of managing a Federal Strategic Sourcing Initiative (FSSI) that offered print management solution for GSA Schedule 36. IWAC contractors were hopeful of this new strategy being possibly enacted in April or May of this year.

Another topic that was discussed is GSA’s efforts for assisted acquisition under the concept of the “total workplace,” which would be advantageous for Schedule 71 and 72. IWAC does their own procurement and they want a vehicle to streamline this acquisition. The contracting officers also talked about how the GSA wants to control what agencies are buying throughout the GSA. This control would enable GSA to reach its goal of streamlining this process and also save on future purchases. This concept of assisted acquisition is still in the developing stages and would possibly be initiated  anytime between December 2014 through February 2015. An audience member questioned  about the waiver of a non-manufacturer, and wanted clarification as to the difference of a “Class waiver” and an “Individual Waiver.” The IWAC emphasized that a “Class Waiver” is established by the SBA and determines that a product or class of products has no small business available to participate in the Federal procurement market. Furthermore,  they stated that an “Individual Waiver” is determined when no small business manufacturer or processor can reasonably be expected to offer a product meeting the specifications, meaning a Procurement Contracting Officer would  go to a specific RFQ and waive it for SBAs review.

The QPC meeting also enabled the GSA to share their business development (BD) perspective and its BD plans moving forward. IWAC leadership talked about the GSA’s push for quality over quantity for its future basis of award. They believe that there should be fewer suppliers in the market place, due to the rise of contracts reporting zero sales. In addition, they are looking for companies that will excel in the GSA market place. All of these BD initiatives come at the all-encompassing effort of the Government cutting back on spending. The GSA IWAC QPC Meeting gave GSA contractors a well deserved update as to the future plans for the GSA are and how it is working with the present changes to not only promote growth, but to help future and current contracts be informed of their intentions moving forward as well.

GSA Contractor Priority Through the AbilityOne Program

government spendingThe AbilityOne program is a Federal initiative to assist individuals with significant disabilities to find employment. AbilityOne has established a network of more than 600 nonprofit agencies that accommodate for individuals with disabilities such as blindness. These nonprofits are able to sell products and services to the government through GSA Schedule contracts. Vendors with GSA Schedule contracts that participate in the AbilityOne Program receive purchasing priority from government procurement officers over GSA Schedule holders with similar products that do not participate in the program. Furthermore, any GSA Schedule holders with similar items that are listed on www.AbilityOne.com and www.AbilityOne.gov receive purchasing priority from government officers over commercial competitors.

The General Services Administration (GSA) has been working with the AbilityOne Program to launch a series of free online education courses to enhance awareness and knowledge of the AbilityOne program for vendors and Multiple Award Schedule holders. Training will focus on the following three areas:

  1.  The mission of the AbilityOne Program and becoming an authorized dealer
  2.  Overall compliance program launched by the GSA and the AbilityOne Program
  3.  Effective marketing and tools specific to recently launched AbilityOne products

The first session in this educational series will be released in December of 2013 in the GSA Steps newsletter. In addition, the 2013 National Industries for the Blind/National Association EPB National Conference and Expo will take place from October 9th-11th at the National Harbor in Maryland. This event will be a great opportunity for business partners, suppliers, and vendors to learn the mechanics of the industry.

Becoming an AbilityOne vendor provides many benefits to GSA Schedule contractors as their products have priority with government agencies. The AbilityOne Program enables a long term supplier relationship which significantly reduces further competition. GSA Schedule contractors considering their corporate social responsibility should also note that this program provides individuals with significant disabilities an opportunity to gain meaningful employment, lead more independent lives, and reduce their dependence on government assistance.

International Companies can Achieve GSA Success in the Government Market

BusinesswomanThe United States Federal Government is the largest buyer in the world. Last year alone, they spent $2.5 trillion. Of that, more than $37 billion was spent through General Services Administration (GSA) Schedules, the number one contracting vehicle for selling products and services to the Federal Government. Achieving GSA success is possible by utilizing GSA’s Multiple Awards Schedule Program. There are several GSA success areas that are imperative for international companies to be successful.

Key Steps for GSA Success

  • Understanding the U.S. Government: Maintaining and building relationships are crucial to success. People buy from people they know, trust and like. In order to generate a sale, international companies should understand and use this simple formula: Need + Funding + Contract= Sale.
  • Legal Compliance: International companies must be determined responsible by passing an established set of government contractor criteria.
  • Identifying Government Needs: Research several governmental databases such as FBO.Gov and FPDS.Gov to find attractive government prospects for your company.
  • Accessing Contract Vehicles & Teaming Partners: Find preferred contract vehicles to sell through and appropriate partners that will bring value to your company.
  • Marketing & Business Development Basics: Identify and establish your government brand, find early stage opportunities, and understand the importance of technology.

International companies have a tremendous opportunity to compete and thrive in the U.S. Market. This isn’t to say GSA success will come overnight; a company’s success depends on their understanding of the U.S. government market and their ability to execute a refined public sector sales strategy.

To learn more about GSA success for international companies, register to join Silicon Viking’s upcoming webinar on September 19th at 11:00 a.m. ET.

Sequestration: Sales Strategy

Sequestration tightening moneyThis past march, the United States Government cut approximately $85.4 billion from the US budget. These cuts started a movement of  sequestration, and were part of austerity measures put in place to help combat the increasing budget deficit faced by the Sequestration. These decreases impacted government programs and services across the board. Spending cuts were evenly split between defense and non-defense programs.

Sequestration Budget Buster

Due to the decreases in budget, government agencies are going to be more frugal than ever in choosing who to do business with. As a result, the government marketplace is becoming hypercompetitive and increasingly harder for companies to stand out in.

Read more!

GAO Report Finds Agencies Stumbling on Sole-Source Justifications

gao reportAccording to a December 12 GAO Report, without the proper justification, Federal agencies awarded $2.3 Billion to small disadvantaged companies. Section 881 of the 2010 National Defense Authorization Act requires agencies to provide written justification for sole-source awards to 8(a) firms worth more than $20 million. The regulation was passed in April 2010 however it took until March 2011 to put the rules in place. This was due to the 180 days officials had to amend the Federal acquisition requirement.

According to the Office of Federal Procurement Policy, the holdup was due to the American Indian Tribes and Alaska Native Corporations. Fourteen large sole-source contracts were awarded, by five agencies, between the time the law was enacted and the new rules were put in place. Only three of the contracts complied with the new regulations. The United States Government Accountability Office (GAO) also looked into previous year’s data and noticed the sole-source award was dwindling for small businesses. In 2011, only 20 such contracts were awarded, while in 2010 50 contracts were awarded. According to Kevin Allis, Executive Director of the Native American Contractors Association (NACA), said the justification rule has drastically affected American Indian contractors in the Federal marketplace.

Federal government contracts cannot even meet the goal of awarding 23% of the contracts to small business, and are considering raising it to 25%. Now, Section 811 is making it even more difficult. Given the current economic situation the country is going through, we need to make it easier for small business to win the contracts and not harder. Only then can a true recovery start to happen.

Election Impacts on Sequestration and the WARN Act

warm act impacted by electionWith the threat of sequestration looming, and no seemingly solution on the horizon, I’ve seen a lot on the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification (WARN) Act in the news recently. For background reading on sequestration, check out these previous blog entries here and here. The media has focused on how the WARN Act will affect defense contractors, as they will likely have the most layoffs from sequestration, but all GSA contractors should be aware of this law and its impact on your company.

First, you may be wondering what the WARN Act is and if it applies to you. The WARN Act became law in 1989, and it requires many employers to notify employees at least 60 days in advance of mass layoffs or plant closings. So exactly what employers does this apply to? The Department of Labor’s guidance says, “Generally, WARN covers employers with 100 or more employees, not counting those who have worked less than six months in the last twelve months and those who work an average of less than 20 hours a week.” If employers fail to comply, employees can sue for damages under the WARN Act. A mass layoff is defined as affecting at least 33% of full-time employees AND at least 50 full-time employees, OR at least 500 full-time employees.

It’s a noble idea – to provide employees with time to prepare before a potential layoff, try to locate a new job or perhaps enter a training program to make themselves more marketable in the workforce. But between the upcoming election and the sequestration issue, some argue that it’s become politicized. The required 60 day timeline would require contractors facing layoffs due to sequestration to issue notices to employees just days prior to the November 6th election.

The Department of Labor released guidance in July noting that contractors were not required to notify employees regarding the WARN Act because it is speculative whether sequestration will occur, and if it did occur, exactly which contracts it would affect. This memo from the Department of Labor was enough for some large contractors to announce they would not issue WARN notices, but some contractors still planned to notify employees, Lockheed Martin specifically. On September 28th, the Office of Management and Budget issued a memo noting that the Federal government, specifically the contracting/purchasing agency, would cover any legal fees accrued by contractors who did not issue WARN notices and were subsequently sued by employees. After OMB released this guidance, Lockheed Martin announced they would not issue WARN notices in early November.

This isn’t over yet. Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham have sent letters to defense contractor CEO’s urging them to comply with the WARN Act, noting that compliance is not optional. Many Senate Republicans have also said they will block any taxpayer dollars from funding legal fees for companies who do not comply with the law. Will this make contractors reconsider? Will any WARN notices be issued, and will this impact the election? We’ll have to stay tuned.

Recent Senate Hearing on GSA Reforms

Picture 189On September 12th, the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs held a hearing to check in on the recent well-publicized waste scandal at GSA. The hearing was titled Moving from Scandal to Strategy: The Future of the General Services Administration. Video and transcripts of the prepared remarks can be viewed here.

After opening remarks by Senator Joe Lieberman and Senator Susan Collins, Acting GSA Administrator Daniel Tangherlini and GSA Inspector General Brian Miller discussed the steps that have recently been taken by GSA to address the waste, fraud and abuse that came to light earlier this year. Immediate changes have been made, including cancelling 47 planned conferences and instituting new procedures for travel, approval, budgets, hiring and information technology. Additionally, the budget for senior employee performance awards has been cut by 85%. Mr. Tangherlini estimates the changes in conferences and travel alone have already saved taxpayers $11 million.

After the IG’s report was released, Mr. Tangherlini and his team conducted a top-to-bottom review of GSA strategy and operations and GSA has instituted several reforms recommended by the Inspector General. All budget functions have been centralized and re-aligned under the responsibility of GSA’s Chief Financial Officer. Agency-wide information technology has been centralized under GSA’s Chief Information Officer in an effort to increase oversight and reduce redundancy. Similarly, all hiring will now be managed by GSA’s Chief People Officer. Mr. Tangherlini also instituted a GSA-wide hiring freeze.

GSA also started a program called the “Great Ideas Hunt” to solicit suggestions and ideas from employees to improve operations and increase savings. Some of these ideas were implemented quickly, including cancelling some periodical subscriptions and eliminating paper-based surveys. GSA estimates these changes will result in savings of $5.5 million annually. The Inspector General’s team also conducted townhall meetings at GSA offices to remind employees that they are the first line of defense against waste, fraud and abuse. After the May release of the IG’s initial report, hotline tips regarding waste more than doubled. Additionally, GSA is freezing per diem travel rates for Fiscal Year 2013, which should result in $20 million in avoided costs for federal agencies.

Mr. Miller, the Inspector General, identified the use of government purchase cards as another area of concern. Since 2009, the Inspector General has identified and recovered $1.9 million in fraudulent charges on government purchase cards. It was noted that 15% of government purchase cards have been taken away from individuals, in an effort to ensure spending is given proper oversight. Mr. Tangherlini mentioned that some employees who have violated rules have received bills to reimburse the Government for their abusive spending, such as in the much-discussed Las Vegas conference. “If there’s a dollar we can get back, I’m going to go and try to get it,” Mr. Tangherlini stated.

Everyone seemed to think this was a great start, but there is still work to be done. The Industrial Funding Fee is an area for further study, considering revenues raised from this 0.75% fee have exceeded GSA costs for the last several years. There seems to be significant discussion on reducing this fee, and that is undergoing further analysis. GSA is also looking into long-term changes to increase agency usage of GSA contract vehicles, such as proactive outreach to agencies. Another area that is currently under review is reworking GSA’s region-based structure to reduce redundancy and overhead.

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