Part B Interim Rule Bans Contractors from Using Covered Technology Starting August 13th: 5 Steps for Meeting the Compliance Deadline

Justin A. Chiarodo, Merle M. DeLancey, Jr., and Robyn N. Burrows

We previously discussed key elements of the newly released interim rule (“the interim rule” or “the rule”) implementing Part B of Section 889 (“Part B”), which prohibits the federal government from contracting with entities that use certain Chinese telecommunications equipment. This post provides a more detailed analysis of the scope and application of the rule, as well as five compliance recommendations given the impending August 13th deadline.

Rule Applies to All Contracts Effective August 13, 2020

Part B applies to all solicitations, options, and modifications on or after August 13th, including contracts for commercial items, commercially available off-the-shelf (COTS) items, and contracts at or below both the micro-purchase and simplified acquisition thresholds. Like it did with respect to Part A, GSA intends to issue a Mass Modification requiring contractors to certify compliance with Part B. GSA has also released Q&As and FAQs to assist contractors with Part B implementation. The interim rule acknowledges that Part B will have a broad impact across contractors in a range of industries, including healthcare, education, automotive, aviation, and aerospace. The rule, however, does not apply to federal grant recipients (which are subject to a separate rulemaking). Continue reading “Part B Interim Rule Bans Contractors from Using Covered Technology Starting August 13th: 5 Steps for Meeting the Compliance Deadline”

GSA Federal Supply Schedules Contracts and the Coronavirus: Risks and Rewards

Merle M. DeLancey Jr.

On March 19, 2020, the General Services Administration (“GSA”) issued guidance regarding its process for issuing Defense Priorities and Allocation System (“DPAS”) Rated Orders. Significantly, however, GSA reminded its contracting officers that “[e]xisting Government sources of supply and contract vehicles should be considered first. Check to see if the required supplies are available.” See gsa.gov/buying-selling/purchasing-programs/gsa-schedules/gsa-schedule-offerings/consolidated-schedule/industrial-products-services-category and gsaadvantage.gov/advantage/search/specialCategory.do?cat=ADV.DR. GSA federal supply schedules (“FSS”) can be a contracting officer’s one-stop shop for protective equipment, disinfectants, hand sanitizers, and other products and supplies to combat the coronavirus COVID-19. The GSA FSS also offers a variety of solutions for agencies looking for teleworking options. See gsa.gov/buying-selling/purchasing-programs/gsa-schedules/gsa-schedule-offerings/consolidated-schedule/professional-services-category.

The largest active buyer in the market right now remains the federal government. FSS is an important tool for the government to get supplies and services, but do not be fooled. With these potential opportunities, there also are potential risks for FSS contractors that fail to follow the terms and conditions of their FSS contracts and/or seek to cut corners.

As is often the case, FSS vendors go above and beyond to provide services or deliver supplies to federal agencies to respond to emergency situations like the COVID-19 pandemic. As is also the case, months later, after the dust settles, agency offices of inspector general arrive to audit contracts. Inevitably, in the effort to expeditiously fill government orders, things get overlooked or ignored, and “but I was helping the agency fulfill its mission in response to a pandemic” is not a defense that will resonate with government auditors.

Based upon our experience, here are some tips for FSS vendors to follow and/or traps to avoid: Continue reading “GSA Federal Supply Schedules Contracts and the Coronavirus: Risks and Rewards”

GSA’s Big Changes in 2020, Part 5: The Mass Mod Is Coming, the Mass Mod Is Coming . . . Wait, It’s Here!

Merle M. DeLancey Jr.

This is the last in a series of posts updating current and prospective Federal Supply Schedule (“FSS”) contractors about the big changes implemented or being implemented by the General Services Administration (“GSA”) in 2020—including consolidation of 24 schedules into one, streamlined schedule (called the Multiple Award Schedule or “MAS”). This post concerns GSA’s recent release of the Mass Modification (“Mass Mod”) implementing the terms and conditions for the MAS. Here is what you need to know: Continue reading “GSA’s Big Changes in 2020, Part 5: The Mass Mod Is Coming, the Mass Mod Is Coming . . . Wait, It’s Here!”

GSA’s Big Changes in 2020, Part 4: DUNS to UEI

Merle M. DeLancey Jr.

In addition to Federal Supply Schedule consolidation, GSA is replacing the official identifier federal government contractors use. Specifically, GSA is transitioning from and will stop using the Dun & Bradstreet (“D&B”) proprietary system for verification and validation of entities registering to do business with the federal government. Effective December 2020, GSA intends to have transitioned all government systems away from using D&B Data Universal Numbering System numbers (“DUNS”) and instead using new Unique Entity Identifiers (“UEI”). The UEI is a new, nonproprietary identifier that will be assigned through GSA’s System for Award Management (“SAM”) registration process.

Since as early as the 1960s, the federal government has contracted with D&B to provide DUNS numbers to companies seeking to contract with the federal government. Just like a CAGE (Commercial and Government Entity) code, an entity seeking to contract with the government must first contact D&B and obtain a DUNS number. A DUNS number is a unique nine-digit identifier for each entity performing or seeking to perform federal government contracts. Only after obtaining a DUNS number can a company then register in SAM. If a company needs to change its legal business name or physical address, it is must make such changes through D&B. Only after D&B updated a contractor’s DUNS record and made the data available to SAM could a contractor update its SAM registration. Continue reading “GSA’s Big Changes in 2020, Part 4: DUNS to UEI”

GSA’s Big Changes in 2020, Part 3: With GSA’s Schedule Consolidation, What Is Changing and What Is Not

Merle M. DeLancey Jr.

This is the third in a series of posts regarding the General Services Administration’s (“GSA”) consolidation of its federal supply schedules into one schedule contract. Our prior posts addressed GSA’s consolidation process in general and its use of Category Management in constructing the consolidated schedule. Here, we answer common industry questions regarding what is and is not changing as a result of schedule consolidation. Continue reading “GSA’s Big Changes in 2020, Part 3: With GSA’s Schedule Consolidation, What Is Changing and What Is Not”

GSA’s Big Changes in 2020, Part 2: Category Management and the New Consolidated Schedule

Merle M. DeLancey Jr.

This is the second in a series of blogs regarding the General Services Administration’s (“GSA”) Multiple Award Schedule consolidation. Previously, we addressed GSA’s three phases of consolidation. In this post, we focus on certain fundamental, structural changes to the consolidated schedule made during Phase I.

Category Management Comes to the GSA Federal Supply Schedule Program

Generally speaking, GSA’s restructuring can be labeled Category Management. Over the last year, the GSA Category Management Leadership Council and the Office of Management and Budget developed a government-wide category structure to support category management implementation across the federal government.

For years, there has been an increase in Special Item Numbers (“SINs”) under the 24 schedules. Schedules and SINs often overlapped. GSA preferred the overlap as opposed to having gaps in product and services offerings. The overlap, however, led to agency and Federal Supply Schedule (“FSS”) contract-holder confusion. And, as a result, contractors made sure to have their products and services listed under all potentially applicable schedules and SINs. This caused increased administrative work for all involved and less efficient agency purchasing as contracting officers sought to make sure contracting opportunities captured all potential vendors. Continue reading “GSA’s Big Changes in 2020, Part 2: Category Management and the New Consolidated Schedule”

GSA’s Big Changes in 2020, Part 1: Federal Supply Schedules Consolidation

Merle M. DeLancey Jr.

2020 may prove to be one of the most active years for federal contractors holding General Services Administration (“GSA”) Federal Supply Schedule (“FSS”) contracts and certain federal contractor registration requirements managed by GSA. This post is the first of a series on GSA’s changes and addresses GSA’s most publicized action—the consolidation of its federal supply schedules into one schedule.

As promised, in October 2019, GSA released a solicitation that consolidated the solicitations for its 24 federal supply schedules into one solicitation to obtain an FSS contract. GSA’s consolidation involves three Phases. Continue reading “GSA’s Big Changes in 2020, Part 1: Federal Supply Schedules Consolidation”

GSA Announces Pilot Plan for Commercial E-Commerce Portals

Luke W. Meier

The effort to create an “Amazon-like” market for Government purchasing has taken another step forward. After completing its market consultation phase, the General Services Administration (“GSA”) has now put forth a proposal for an e-commerce test portal, through which federal agencies will be able to purchase commercial products from a select group of vendors that will set up new online marketplaces specifically for federal purchasing. (See Phase II Report here.)

To simplify regulatory requirements, all purchases on the test portal must be within the micro-purchase threshold—currently $10,000 for most types of purchases. To expand the breadth of its trial run, GSA has asked Congress to temporarily raise the micro-purchase threshold to $25,000 “for a limited period of five years,” only with respect to purchases “through GSA-approved commercial e-commerce portals.”

The scope of the trial program also will depend on which (and how many) vendors receive the “initial proof of concept contracts” to sell products through portals during the trial run. To avoid being locked in to a single supplier, GSA has said it needs “at least two [vendors] or we won’t award.” Will Amazon itself be a vendor? Right now, GSA says it is unclear “if Amazon will compete” for a spot in the pilot program.

Contractors with an interest in the direction of this effort should continue to express their views. Feedback from the pilot program will guide GSA’s next steps as it decides how to move forward with the commercial e-commerce purchasing concept.

Trade Agreements Act Compliance: Some Welcome News for Some Federal Contractors, But Will It Last?

Merle M. DeLancey Jr.

Recently, the United States District Court for the District of Columbia dismissed a qui tam action involving allegations of fraud in connection with country of origin requirements imposed by the Trade Agreements Act (“TAA”). United States ex rel. Folliard v. Comstor Corp., 308 F.Supp.3d 56 (D.D.C. 2018).

Comstor involved a False Claims Act (“FCA”) action filed by a serial whistleblower who alleged two contractors violated the FCA by selling non-TAA compliant products on their General Services Administration (“GSA”) Federal Supply Schedule (“FSS”) contracts to federal government customers. Depending on the dollar value of the acquisition, most procurements are subject to either the Buy American Act (“BAA”) or TAA. Currently (2018), the BAA applies to supply procurements valued at or below $180,000. Accordingly, the TAA currently applies to such procurements valued in excess of $180,000. GSA has determined the TAA applies to FSS contracts. Continue reading “Trade Agreements Act Compliance: Some Welcome News for Some Federal Contractors, But Will It Last?”