PilieroMazza’s Weekly Update is an e-mail sent on Fridays that recaps legislative and regulatory issues affecting businesses of all sizes. When government agencies propose significant changes to existing regulations or Congress passes legislation of special interest to the small business community, we follow-up the Weekly Update with an analysis of the proposed change and the likely impact on small business.

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Weekly Report August 21, 2017

GOVERNMENT CONTRACTS

“Industry Experts Advise GovCon Firms to Prepare for Possible Gov Shutdown.” ExecutiveGov, August 16, 2017. Retrieved from executivegov.com

An ExecutiveGov article from August 16, 2017 analyzes the effects of a looming government shutdown on federal contractors. Expert panelists have advised that it is essential for government contractors to understand the nature of their contracts ahead of a shutdown. Proactively touching base with your contracting officer is the first step to preventing any confusion during a shutdown, as contracting officers may become unreachable in the event that Congress fails to approve funding for fiscal year 2018. Contractors will also need to be prepared to issue stop work orders to their employees, and evaluate their abilities to pay staff if they fail to receive reimbursements from the federal government. It is also advised that government contractors track the costs related to any stop work orders issued due to a federal government shutdown.

“ODCs: The nexus between requirements and execution.” Federal News Radio, August 11, 2017. Retrieved from federalnewsradio.com

An August 11, 2017 article from Federal News Radio discusses the value of including “Other Direct Costs” (ODCs) on Multiple Award Schedule (MAS) service contracts. The Coalition for Government Procurement says MAS is the only commercial item contracting program that has not completely adopted the use of ODC, the Coalition has been a long-term advocate for including ODCs on MAS contracts and task orders, and asserts that doing so would increase the ability of federal agencies to acquire best value comprehensive services solutions from multiple industry partners. Because ODCs are not included on MAS contracts, the article contends, agencies are more likely to seek other contract vehicles that include ODCs, which may be less transparent or competitive than the MAS program, or even create their own service contracts which increase administrative costs all around. Typically, service requirements include ODCs, and agencies prefer contract vehicles that allow competition for complete service solutions.

SMALL BUSINESS ASSOCIATION

“SBA Awards Grants to 21 State and Local Economic Development Entities, SBDCs, and Universities to Support R&D Commercialization and Small Business Innovation.” SBA Press Release, August 14, 2017. Retrieved from sba.gov

The U.S. Small Business Administration has granted up to $125,000 awards in FY 2017 to 16 Federal and State Technology (FAST) Partnership Program recipients including state and local economic development entities, small business development centers, colleges and universities and up to $200,000 awards to five Small Business Technology Development Centers (SBTDCs) that provide support to innovative, technology-driven small businesses.
 
FAST is designed to stimulate economic development with outreach and technical assistance to science and technology-driven small businesses, with a particular emphasis on fostering participation from women-owned and socially and economically disadvantaged firms, helping them to compete in the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) Programs. 
 
“SBA is looking forward to working with these organizations to increase the understanding of the SBIR/STTR programs,” Administrator Linda McMahon said. “FAST partners fill an important role on the state level, providing training, financial and technical assistance for small, advanced technology businesses, by helping them navigate federally-funded innovation and R&D programs.” 
 

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Weekly Report August 11, 2017

FEDERAL AGENCIES

“Defense Federal Acquisition Regulation Supplement: DFARS Subgroup to the DoD Regulatory Reform Task Force, Review of DFARS Solicitation Provisions and Contract Clauses.” Federal Register, August 10, 2017. Retrieved from federalregister.gov

The Department of Defense published a proposed rule in the Federal Register seeking input on Defense Federal Acquisition Regulation Supplements solicitation provisions and contract clauses that may be appropriate for repeal, replacement, or modification. The public comment period is extended to September 11, 2017.
 

“Report to Congress Restructuring the Department of Defense Acquisition, Technology and Logistics Organization and Chief Management Officer Organization.” August 8, 2017. Retrieved from acq.osd.mil

The Department of Defense published a report reviewing and identifying recommended organizational and management restructuring of organizations: Acquisition, Technology and Logistics Organization, and Chief Management Officer. The National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2017 included a provision (Sec. 901) requiring, among other things, that the Secretary of Defense conduct a review and submit a series of reports to the congressional defense committees on the organizational and management structure of the Department. The Report was due by August 2017.

OTHER NEWS

“This Web-Building Tool Is the Target of Civilian Government’s First Bug Bounty.” Nextgov, August 9, 2017. Retrieved from nextgov.com

The General Service Administration’s (GSA) Technology Transformation Service program is the first fully-open civilian bug bounty program in government. Launched in May, the GSA program recruits freelance cybersecurity researchers to root out vulnerabilities in government tech systems. Similar pilot programs have been run by the Pentagon, Army and Air Force.
 

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Weekly Report August 4, 2017

SMALL BUSINESS ADMINISTRATION

“SBA Launches New HUBZONE Maps and Partners with U.S. Digital Service to Streamline and Enhance Online Services for Small Businesses” U.S. Small Business Administration Press Release, July 31, 2017. Retrieved from sba.gov

The U.S. Small Business Administration announced that it has launched a new Historically Underutilized Business Zones map. The HUBZone map is the first step in the modernization effort of SBA’s federal contracting programs. SBA has partnered with the U.S. Digital Service to streamline and enhance online services for small businesses. The new HUBZone map helps small businesses in urban and rural communities determine if they are eligible for participation in HUBZone’s program. It features the latest HUBZone designations, “Qualified Disaster Areas” and new features to improve usability and assist with HUBZone address assertions.

LABOR AND EMPLOYMENT

“2017 Service Contract Act Health and Welfare Fringe Benefit Changes” Department of Labor Memorandum, July 25, 2017. Retrieved from wdol.gov

Effective August 1, 2017, the prevailing health and welfare fringe benefits issued under the SCA will increase to a rate of $4.41 per hour. To comply with EO 13706, which applies to new contracts with the federal government that result from solicitations issued on or after January 1, 2017 (or that are awarded outside the solicitation process on or after January 1, 2017), an alternate health and welfare rate has been established that excludes the sick leave portion of the calculated health and welfare rate. The SCA health and welfare fringe benefits level for employees performing on contracts covered by EO 13706 will be $4.13 per hour. 
 
For helpful information about implementing these new rates, please read Nichole Atallah’s blog “H&W is Increasing and Includes Offsets for Mandated Sick Leave. What Now?

GENERAL SERVICES ADMINISTRATION

“Evaluation of Existing Acquisition Regulations.” Federal Register, July 31, 2017. 

GSA published a request in the Federal Register at 82 FR 24653, on May 30, 2017, seeking input on acquisition regulations, policies, standards, business practices and guidance issued by GSA. The comment period is extended to August 14, 2017, for interested parties to the review and submit comments on the request. 82 Fed. Reg. 35500.

CAPITOL HILL

“Risch, Shaheen: Small Business Committee Approves Six Bipartisan Bills.” U.S. Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship Press Release, August 2, 2017. Retrieved from sbc.senate.gov 

  • S. 1428, Small Business Cyber Training Act of 2017. The bill requires the Small Business Administration (SBA) to develop new cybersecurity counseling and training programs through the nationwide network of Small Business Development Centers to help small business owners prepare for cyber threats and recover when a cyber attack occurs.
  • S. 929, Invest in Rural Small Business Act of 2017. The bill gives state governors the power to petition SBA to create a new HUBZone area in places where the unemployment rate is 120 percent of the national average.  It also requires SBA to approve or deny a HUBZone application from a small business within 60 days and lowers the threshold of employees who must live in a HUBZone to 33 percent (from 35 percent). 
  • S. 154, Small Business Relief from Disease Induced Economic Hardship Act of 2017. The bill expands the definition of a disaster for which SBA may provide disaster assistance loans to include communicable diseases the federal government has issued a travel alert or travel warning.  Disaster assistance loans could be used to mitigate the economic damage to small businesses caused by a disease induced travel alert or warning.
  • S. 650, Support Small Business R&D Act of 2017. The bill requires SBA to create a program with the Internal Revenue Service to educate and train owners of small businesses and innovative startups about the availability of the federal R&D tax credit. 
  • S. 690, HUBZone Investment Protection Act. The bill increases the amount of time (from three to seven years) that a geographic area may temporarily keep its status as a HUBZone when the area no longer meets the program’s criteria (due to changing census data, for example).
  • S. 1038, Utilization of small businesses for federal contracts. The bill directs SBA to conduct a comprehensive study on WOSB participation in multiple award contracts from the federal government and examine the participation of all other socioeconomic categories of small businesses, including service-disabled veteran-owned small businesses and those participating in the HUBZone program.
The House passed two bills relating to veteran owned and service disabled veteran owned businesses participation in VA contracts. The following bills will move to the Senate for consideration:
  • H.R. 2749 – Protecting Business Opportunities for Veterans Act of 2017: To amend title 38, United States Code, to improve the oversight of contracts awarded by the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to small business concerns owned and controlled by veterans, and for other purposes.
  • H.R. 2781 - Ensuring Veteran Enterprise Participation in Strategic Sourcing Act: To direct the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to certify the sufficient participation of small business concerns owned and controlled by veterans and small business concerns owned by veterans with service-connected disabilities in contracts under the Federal Strategic Sourcing Initiative, and for other purposes.

OTHER NEWS

“NASA PROGRAM MAKES BUYING LEGIT IT EASIER.” Nextgov Today, July 31, 2017. Retrieved from nextgov.com 

NASA has launched Established Authorized Reseller Program, a new program for its Solutions for Enterprise-Wide Procurement vehicle (SEWP). The purpose of the new program is to help buyers using its governmentwide IT contract verify that the products they are buying are from legitimate sources. The program limits certain contracts to companies specifically authorized to re-sell technology products to the federal government. The program also allows the customers to determine when they want to use an authorized reseller. Non-authorized sellers, then, will be restricted from sending quotes for certain products if the original manufacturer already has an authorized reseller. 

“THIS AGENCY CAN HELP FAST TRACK YOUR TECH ACQUISITIONS.” Nextgov Today, July 31, 2017. Retrieved from nextgov.com 

The National Technical Information Service (NTIS) is able to secure faster technology procurement at federal agencies through its Joint Venture Partnership program authority. NTIS is able to pair federal agencies with vetted private-sector companies and organizations that best meet their technology needs, most commonly through an iterative and agile approach. Agencies utilizing this authority includes U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (UCIS) and Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General (HHS OIG).


 

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Weekly Report July 28, 2017

FEDERAL AGENCIES

“Class Deviation 2017-O0006, Increased Micro-Purchased Threshold.” Defense Procurement and Acquisition Policy, July 17, 2017. Retrieved from acq.osd.mil.

The Department of Defense issued a memorandum regarding the issued class deviation 2017-O0006, implementing provisions of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2017. The class deviation addresses increases the micro-purchase threshold to $5,000 for DoD procurements and to $10,000 for DoD basic research programs.

“Presidential Executive Order on Assessing and Strengthening the Manufacturing and Defense Industrial Base and Supply Chain Resiliency of the United States.” The White House, July 21, 2017. Retrieved from whitehouse.gov.

An executive order was issued to create a cross-government study on the capabilities of whether domestic manufacturing and defense industrial base can fully supply the country’s military needs. The assessment is due within 270 days of the dated executive order.

“NASA Federal Acquisition Regulation Supplement: Award Term (NFS Case 2016-N027).” Federal Register, July 25, 2017. Retrieved from federalregister.gov.

National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) issued a final rule amending the NASA Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) Supplement (NFS) to add policy on the use of additional contract periods of performance or “award terms” as a contract incentive. This policy provides a non-monetary incentive for contractors whose performance is sustained at an excellent level. NASA does not expect this rule to have any significant economic impact on small entities, because it does not impose any new requirements on contractors. No substantial changes to the proposed rule were made after the comment period.

“Request for Information; Defining and Delimiting the Exemptions for Executive, Administrative, Professional, Outside Sales and Computer Employees.” Federal Register, July 26, 2017. Retrieved from federalregister.gov.

The U.S. Department of Labor published a Request for Information (RFI) for the Overtime Rule. The public will have 60 days to comment whether the rule will have an adverse effect on low-wage regions and industries. The RFI is an opportunity for the public to provide information that will aid the department in formulating a proposal to revise regulations, which define and delimit exemptions from the Fair Labor Standards Act’s minimum wage and overtime requirements for certain employees. The RFI solicits feedback on questions related to the salary level test, the duties test, varying cost-of-living across different parts of the U.S., inclusion of non-discretionary bonuses and incentive payments to satisfy a portion of the salary level, the salary test for highly compensated employees, and automatic updating of the salary level tests.
The RFI will be published in the Federal Register with a 60-day public comment period. Instructions on submitting public comments are in the RFI. Comments may also be submitted electronically.

CAPITOL HILL

“House Passes Small Business Committee Bills to Increase Access to Capital.” U.S. House Small Business Committee Press Release, July 24, 2017. Retrieved from smallbusiness.house.gov.

The House passed three bills to increase access to capital and improve the lending environment for our nation’s small businesses. All following three bills will move to the Senate for consideration:
  1. H.R. 2333 increases the amount of capital made available to small business investment companies (“SBICs”).
  2. H.R. 2364 increases the amount that financial institutions may invest in SBICs, increasing the limit up to 15% of their holdings in SBICs.
  3. H.R. 2056 will raise the microloan lending limit from $5 million to $6 million and provide flexibility to the 25/75 rule which restricts the amount of pre-loan technical assistance a microloan intermediary can offer to their small business.

OTHER NEWS

“IT Modernization Gets Nod, But No Money, In House Funding Bills.” Nextgov, July 25, 2017. Retrieved from nextgov.com.

Government funding bills that are heading to the House floor this week don’t include money for a House-passed bill to upgrade government technology systems but “recognizes the importance” of those legislative efforts.

“Mainstays of GSA's OASIS Contract Office Take New Jobs.” Nexgov, July 26, 2017. Retrieved from nextgov.com.

The General Services Administration’s (GSA) lost the top four managers from the One Acquisition Solution for Integrated Services contract (OASIS) program office. OASIS managers Todd Richards, Tommy Thomas, Valerie Bindel and Cat Renfro have taken undefined jobs at GSA’s Federal Systems Integration and Management Center (FEDSIM), which focuses on complex agency acquisitions. It is unsure how the new OASIS management team may disrupt the fourth-quarter buying season.

“Updated ‘Welcome to FedRAM’ Training Now Available.” FedRAMP, July 20, 2017. Retrieved from fedramp.gov.

FedRAMP announced the launch of their newly revamped “FedRAMP 100-A: Welcome to FedRAMP” online training course, which serves as an update to the original 100-A training developed in 2015. This one-hour introductory course in the FedRAMP Training Series is intended for Cloud Service Providers (CSPs) and Third Party Assessment Organizations (3PAOs) who are not well acquainted with FedRAMP. 

 

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Weekly Report July 21, 2017

GOVERNMENT CONTRACTING

“Proposed Information Collection Request; Federal Contractor Veterans' Employment Report VETS-4212.”  Federal Register, July 18, 2017. Retrieved from federalregister.gov.

 The Veterans' Employment and Training Service (VETS) issued a notice soliciting public comments concerning a request to extend the currently approved VETS-4214 information collection form. Federal contractors and subcontractors track and report the number of employees in their workforces, by job category and hiring location, who belong to the specified categories of protected veterans. This information is sent annually to the Secretary of Labor. The Secretary of Labor is interested in comments as to whether the proposed collection of information is necessary, and to evaluate the agency’s burden for collecting the required information on the employment of covered veterans.  The document comment period ends in 60 days.

“Administrative Amendments to Environmental Protection Agency Acquisition Regulation.” Federal Register, July 19, 2017. Retrieved from federalregister.gov.

The Environmental Protection Agency issued a direct final rule to amend the Environmental Protection Agency Acquisition Regulation (EPAAR). This action applies to contractors who have or wish to have contracts with the EPA. EPAAR Parts 1501, 1504, 1509, 1515, 1516, 1517, 1519, 1535, 1552 and 1553 are being amended to make administrative changes including updates, corrections and minor edits. The document has a comment period that ends in 29 days.

SMALL BUSINESS ADMINISTRATION

“Reassessment of Eligibility Requirements for 30 Firms in SBA's 8(a) Business Development Program.”

The U.S. Small Business Administration Office of Inspector General (“OIG”) reassessed the eligibility requirements for 30 firms in the Small Business Administration’s (“SBA’s”) 8(a) Business Development Program. In a prior audit of 8(a) program eligibility, the OIG determined that for 30 of the 48 applicants reviewed, the Associate Administrator for Business Development (AA/BD) approved the firms without fully documenting in the Business Development Management Information System how all areas of concern regarding eligibility raised by lower-level reviewers were resolved.

The OIG determined that SBA resolved eligibility concerns for 20 of the 30 firms that were reviewed.  However, the OIG continues to question the eligibility of 10 of the 30 firms.  The AA/BD, who has the final authority to determine whether an applicant is admitted into the 8(a) program, did not sufficiently establish that the 10 applicants met the eligibility requirements of the 8(a) program.  The Office of Inspector General made three recommendations to the Associate Administrator for Government Contracting and Business Development to improve how SBA manages the 8(a) program.  Although SBA initially agreed with all three of the recommendations, it did not concur with Recommendations 2 and 3 in its final response; SBA management’s proposed actions, however, resolve all three of the recommendations. The full report can be found here.

CAPITOL HILL

S.1519 - National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2018. Full text retrieved from congress.gov.

Section 821 and 822 of the NDAA for FY2018 proposes reforms to government contracting. Section 821, “Government Accountability Office Bid Protest Reforms,” contains the provision that a contractor who files a protest with the Government Accountability Office on a contract with the Department of Defense shall pay to the Department of Defense costs incurred for processing denied protests. Section 822 pertains to revising the Department of Defense Supplement to the Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) to require that all required post-award debriefings must provide “detailed and comprehensive statements of the agency’s rating for each evaluation criteria and of the agency’s overall award decision.”

“House Boosts Cybercom Budget But Cuts NIST Funds.” Nextgov, July 14, 2017. Retrieved from nextgov.com.

The National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2018 passed the U.S. House of Representatives, and was chock full of tech and cyber provisions. The House bill included a 16 percent funding hike for U.S. Cyber Command and mandated a new Pentagon and State Department plan to combat and deter adversary cyberattacks.

Proposed legislation: “S.1558 - A bill to amend section 203 of Public Law 94-305 to ensure proper authority for the Office of Advocacy of the Small Business Administration, and for other purposes.” Retrieved from congress.gov.

S.1558 would give the Office of Advocacy at the Small Business Administration (SBA) tools to better monitor the impact of federal regulations on small businesses and to hold the government accountable for how regulations impact small businesses. The bill was introduced July 13, 2017.

“Key Lawmakers Move to Improve HUBZone Program.” U.S. House of Representatives Small Business Committee Press Release. July 19, 2017. Retrieved from smallbusiness.house.gov.

H.R. 3294, the HUBZONE Unification and Business Stability Act (HUBS), was introduced to the Small Business Committee. The bill proposes important reforms to the HUBZone program, provisions include:

1.requiring better data collection to determine program performance;

2.requiring faster SBA response time during the application process;

3.establishing a 5-year cycle for determining the geographic boundaries of HUBZones; and 

4.altering the calculations by which certain geographic areas qualify for the program, potentially adding as many as 1,000 rural and non-urban counties. 

The changes would be implemented in 2020. Language of the full bill can be found here.

OTHER NEWS

“Trumps Adds to GSA Leadership.” Nextgov, July 17, 2017. Retrieved from nextgov.com.

The General Services Administration today announced it has filled an important policymaking position. President Donald Trump named Allison Fahrenkopf Brigati as the agency’s associate administrator for the Office of Governmentwide Policy.
 

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