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National Institutes of Health’s IT Acquisition and Assessment Center (NITAAC) to Take Corrective Action on CIO-SP4 After Government Accountability Office (GAO) Sustains 125 Protests, Federal News Network
NITAAC will need several more months before trying to make awards for a second time under the Chief Information Officer-Solutions and Partners 4 (CIO-SP4) program. Ricky Clark, the deputy director of NITAAC, said in a statement it would take corrective action and reevaluate all proposals after the GAO sustained 125 protests, the final 27 of which were sustained on July 10, 2023. GAO announced the first 98 sustainments in late June. Additionally, NITAAC is extending the CIO-SP3 GWAC through April 29, 2024. The vehicle was supposed to sunset in May 2022. Read more here.
COVID-19: Government Accountability Office (GAO) Recommendations Can Help Federal Agencies Better Prepare for Future Public Health Emergencies
As part of the lessons learned regarding the pandemic response, GAO noted that federal agencies, notably the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), could have better “[used] existing mechanisms such as contracts and compacts with Tribes.” Further, GAO recommends that Congress provide emergency relief to Tribes with fund distribution. GAO also recommends the use of self-determination contracts for Tribes in the future. More information is available here. The full GAO report is available here. Highlights are available here.
Department of Justice (DOJ) in Driver’s Seat: High Court False Claims Act Case Explained, Bloomberg Government
The U.S. Supreme Court resolved a 20-year circuit split near the end of its term, when it backed the DOJ’s authority to end a whistleblower’s False Claims Act suit that prosecutors viewed as too costly in government resources to continue. Read more here (subscription required).
House Oversight Panel Votes to Override Biden Contracting Policies and Cut Funding for Unauthorized Programs, Government Executive
The House’s main oversight panel advanced over objections from Democrats bills that would unravel Biden administration attempts to make federal contracting more labor-friendly and climate conscious and legislation that would cut funding for federal programs where authorization lapsed. Read more here.
Contractor Labor Agreements, Software Inventory Bills Advance, Bloomberg Government
Bills affecting contractor labor agreements and federal software acquisitions advanced out of the House Oversight Committee. The committee approved H.R. 1209, the Fair and Open Competition Act and H.R. 1695, the Strengthening Agency Management and Oversight of Software Assets Act. Both measures would impact vendors’ ability to provide services or sell products to federal agencies in areas that see a flood of awards from the government every year. Read more here (subscription required).
House Republicans’ Plan to Curb Fed Pay and Benefits Would Come At A Cost, Experts Say, Government Executive
Republicans in Congress are proposing to cut deficits by way of steep curbs to federal employee compensation—for example, ending “automatic” annual pay boosts and increasing the price of health insurance premiums. But some experts—in public administration, labor, and business—see the plan’s savings as potentially very limited, and the costs potentially high. Read more here.
House Supports a 5.2% Pay Raise in Its Draft Defense Policy Bill, but Slashes Diversity Initiatives, Government Executive
Committee leaders hope to end the National Defense Authorization Act’s reputation as a Christmas tree for non-national security amendments. House lawmakers will vote on an annual Defense policy bill that includes a 5.2% average pay raise for federal workers and members of the military and slashes Pentagon diversity initiatives. Read more here.
Pandemic Response Oversight Plan, Department of Labor (DOL) Office of Inspector General (OIG)
This report, from June 30, 2023, revised the Pandemic Response Oversight Plan. As part of the report, OIG outlines revisions to the impact of audit oversight budget and impact on risk assessments. Over the course of the pandemic, and part of the plan, DOL increased the number of contracts awarded to independent audit firms. However, OIG also had to pause hiring efforts and cancelled contracted audits due to budgetary constraints. The report raises concerns that they will not be able fully investigate and oversee properly due to the budgetary constraints. The OIG recommends and requests access to unemployment insurance data to make available to the Wage and Hour Division to meet its oversight duties and combat fraud. The full report is available here.
Upcoming Labor & Employment Presentations
Department of Defense (DOD) Contract Finance Study Follow-Up Activity
On July 14, 2023, the DOD’s Defense Acquisition Regulations System published a notice requesting input on improving the timeliness of payments to defense subcontractors as a means of enhancing and securing the financial health of these critical members of the Defense Industrial Base (DIB) and attracting new entrants into the DIB while retaining existing participants. Input is solicited from the public, including companies currently participating in the DIB as a prime contractor, subcontractor, supplier, or vendor, as well as other interested parties. The notice is available here. Comments are due September 12, 2023.
Notice of Information Collection: Contractor and Subcontractor Compensation Plans, National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)
On July 14, 2023, NASA—as part of its continuing effort to reduce paperwork and respondent burden—issued a notice of information collection inviting the general public and other federal agencies to comment on NASA’s requirement for submission of total compensation plan information on certain contracts and subcontracts. Specifically, NASA seeks comment on: (1) whether the proposed collection of information is necessary for the proper performance of the functions of NASA, including whether the information collected has practical utility; (2) the accuracy of NASA’s estimate of the burden (including hours and cost) of the proposed collection of information; (3) ways to enhance the quality, utility, and clarity of the information to be collected; and (4) ways to minimize the burden of the collection of information on respondents, including automated collection techniques or the use of other forms of information technology. The notice is available here. Comments are due August 14, 2023.
Small Business Investment Company (SBIC) Investment Diversification and Growth, Small Business Administration (SBA)
On October 19, 2022, the SBA published a notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM or proposed rule) to revise the regulations for the SBIC program to significantly reduce barriers to program participation for new SBIC fund managers and funds investing in underserved communities and geographies, capital intensive investments, and technologies critical to national security and economic development. The proposed rule introduced an additional type of SBIC (Accrual SBICs) to increase program investment diversification and patient capital financing for small businesses, modernize rules to lower financial barriers to program participation, and incorporate the statutory requirements of the Spurring Business in Communities Act of 2017, which was enacted on December 19, 2018. This final rule implements proposed regulatory changes as modified to address comments SBA received. The published final rule is available here and is effective August 17, 2023.
Health and Human Services Grants Regulation, Department of Health and Human Services (HHS)
HHS issued a notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) to repromulgate and revise certain regulatory provisions of the HHS, Uniform Administrative Rule Requirements, Cost Principles, and Audit Requirements for HHS Awards, previously set forth in a final rule published in the Federal Register. The NPRM is available here. Comments are due September 11, 2023.
New Error Messages About Unawarded SINs, MAS Blogger, General Services Administration (GSA)
Contractors may see a new error message as catalog data migrates to the new Authoritative Catalog Repository. The message will say “Special Item Number [SIN] is Unauthorized for Contract.” This will occur even if no products are listed under the SIN. Read more here.
Raft of Procurement Measures Added to House Defense Policy Bill, Bloomberg Government
Dozens of procurement-related amendments were added to the annual defense policy bill by voice vote. Lawmakers in the House voted on 235 amendments to the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal 2024 (H.R. 2670; see BGOV Bill Summary), many of which related to contracts, innovation, and procurement oversight. Read more here (subscription required).
Senate Offers $1 Billion More in R&D Than House in Defense Bill, Bloomberg Government
Contractors working on research and development for the Pentagon could get a boost in proposed funding from the Senate with an extra $1 Billion proposed in its defense policy bill (S. 2226) over both the House and Biden administration’s proposed spending. Read more here (subscription required).
Homeland Panel Advances Bill on U.S.-Mexico Border Contractor Work, Bloomberg Government
A measure to increase oversight of private companies providing services at the U.S.-Mexico border was approved by a House committee. House Homeland Security Committee Chair Mark Green (R-Tenn.) said the bill (H.R. 4467) would bring additional accountability to the Department of Homeland Security after the Office of Inspector General found a “lack of transparency and oversight” with border contracts. Read more here (subscription required).
Seeking Contractor Feedback on New Service File for Federal Acquisition Service (FAS) Catalog Platform, MAS Blogger, General Services Administration (GSA)
GSA is seeking contractor feedback on the new FAS Catalog Platform (FCP) Service File, which will ultimately replace the Services & Training Price Proposal Template (PPT). Contractors can register to attend an informational session about the file on Wednesday, July 26, 2023, at 1 p.m. ET. Read more here.
Multiple Award Schedule (MAS) Contracts Offered Prohibited Items, Putting Customers at Risk of Unauthorized Surveillance by Foreign Adversaries, General Services Administration (GSA) Office of Inspector General (OIG)
On July 10, 2023, GSA submitted a report noting that the Prohibited Products Robomod and contractor self-certifications are “inadequate . . . and insufficient to prevent contractors from including prohibited telecom items on their MAS contract price lists.” The report lists three major problems with the Federal Acquisition Service’s attempts to address prohibited telecoms on MAS contracts: (1) inadequate actions against repeated contractor violations of Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) on prohibited telecoms; (2) inadequate procedures to notify agencies about purchases of prohibited telecoms; and (3) noncompliance with FAR requirements regarding subsidiaries and affiliates of entities to identify prohibited telecoms. The full, redacted OIG report is available here.
Small Business Administration (SBA): Exploring Potential Use of Blockchain
In this report, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) applauds the General Services Administration (GSA) for the use of blockchain technology as a “solution for automating its contract review process” as well as the Department of Homeland Security’s Customs and Border Protection and the Department of the Treasury. GAO recommends the consideration of implementing blockchain within SBA to combat delays in annual reporting for Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) programs, monitoring applicants and progress for the 8(a) Business Development Program, and combat fraud risk relating to the 7(a) Loan Program. GAO also notes that blockchain technology will assist small businesses in having more access to research and development contracting opportunities. More information is available here. The full GAO report is available here.
Upcoming Government Contracts Presentations
WEBINAR: The Impacts of Foreign Ownership, Control, or Influence on Federal Government Contractors, August 1, 2023, Isaias “Cy” Alba, IV. Read more here.