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.
On March 10, 2020, the Department of Commerce extended the deadline for U.S. companies to stop doing business with Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd. and its non-U.S. affiliates. The deadline has been extended multiple times and is now May 15, 2020. Under the extension, U.S. businesses can continue to work with Huawei on the operation of existing networks and mobile services, including cybersecurity research considered critical for network reliability.
Huawei was added to the Commerce Department’s Bureau of Industry and Security “Entity List” in May 2019. The Entity List includes foreign entities who have engaged in activities sanctioned by the State Department and activities contrary to U.S. national security and/or foreign policy interests.
In addition to the extension, the Commerce Department is seeking public comments through March 25, 2020, regarding the continuing need for, and scope of, possible future extensions concerning Huawei. The multiple extensions and new request for public comments are intended to allow time for companies and persons to shift from Huawei or its affiliates to alternative sources of equipment, software, and technology. Continue reading “For Part B of Section 889, Is Compliance by August 13, 2020, Realistic?”
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!”
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”
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”
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.
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.
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?”