Pondering the Post-Pandemic Landscape

As the country slowly starts to reopen businesses and we attempt to get on the road to normalcy, it will be useful to reflect on lessons learned and identify what lasting changes may affect our businesses, particularly on the federal contracting side. The lessons learned from this experience will apply not only to pandemics, but also to a myriad of possible future disasters such as terrorism, dirty bombs, wildfires, earthquakes, floods, and food shortages. Problems of this magnitude require ingenious solutions — you, the federal contractor, are in an ideal position to aid in the recovery from our current national crisis. Look forward and brainstorm areas in which the Government may choose to make investments, so that we can be on the look-out for future opportunities. Some examples based on recent discussions in the news are:

  • Manufacturing critical items and supplies (e.g., PPE, ventilators, other medical equipment) inside our borders so that we have control over supply and quality
  • Stockpiling or solidifying supply lines for these items, so that they are available when needed
  • Training first responders and hospital workers so that they have the skills already in place to cover emergencies
  • Developing fast-track methods for testing and vaccine development
  • Improving early detection of potential problems through monitoring and testing
  • Establishing in-place rapid response teams, ready to act once a problem occurs
  • Establishing capability to rapidly close borders, airports, seaports if the need is detected

Of course, these are only some initial ideas, but now is the time to anticipate areas where your company’s capabilities align with likely future Government investment. It is not too early to start conversations with the appropriate agencies and position yourself to partner with the Government. Ultimately, it will help prepare our country to fight unknown threats more effectively and ensure we’re better prepared for the next emergency.

COVID-19 Guidance and Relief Programs for Federal Contractors

Businesses and economies around the world have been rocked in an unprecedented way by COVID-19 — the Federal Contractor marketplace is no exception.

ClientView is committed to keeping you informed. We have created a list of informational websites specifically tailored to Federal Contractors, which may be helpful.

Economic relief programs are available for small businesses:

  • SBA Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDL) – working capital for temporary loss of revenue; a $10,000 immediate advance upon successful application, which will not have to be repaid
  • Paycheck Protection Loan Program – direct incentive for small businesses to keep their workers on the payroll
  • Unemployment Insurance is being expanded to include self-employed and part-time workers that have lost work due to COVID-19 in addition to traditional employees; this program is administered at the state level, so contact your state for more information

Watch for our upcoming blogs on topics like the effective use of downtime and how to prepare for potential changes in the Federal contracting landscape.

Stay safe, healthy, and engaged. We will get through this.

OTA’s Rising

When issuing new contracts, the Federal Government is increasingly bypassing the Federal Acquisition Regulations (FAR) and increasingly using a long underused, but recently updated approach called Other Transaction Agreements (also OTA). Given this significant shift, you will benefit from knowing what changes to anticipate and how to adjust your company’s approach to pursuing Government work.

OTA’s allow Government agencies to cast their nets wider when considering a broader range of businesses now eligible to win Government contracts. The OTA is designed to prioritize opportunities for small businesses or “nontraditional” defense contractors that do not typically work with the Government. Traditional defense contractors can also be eligible when they meet specific criteria, meaning defense industry leaders such as Lockheed Martin and Raytheon can participate as well.

In a study by Bloomberg Government, DoD’s OTA obligations have grown by almost 80% year-over-year, with total Pentagon OTA contract obligations expected to reach as high as $7 billion for the fiscal year ending in 2019. If this trend continues, 2020 could easily see $12 billion in OTA obligations. Clearly, this is an area worth watching closely if you are working with the Government (or wish to be). Examples of recent OTA awards include:

  • The Army issued $265 million to Microsoft Corp to date as part of a pilot program to develop heads-up displays for ground personnel using its Hololens augmented reality headset
  • DHS issued $10 million to the Border Security Technology Consortium for development of surveillance tools
  • HHS issued $41 million to date in fiscal 2019 to Johnson & Johnson as part of a five-year, $273 million contract to develop drugs to mitigate the threat of pandemic illnesses
  • The Army recently finalized a $384 million deal with Raytheon for six missile defense radars called LTAMDS, designed to replace the Patriot missile defense radar

The vast majority of OTA funding has been awarded through various consortia, the largest of which is Advanced Technology International (ATI). In these cases, OTA requests are not posted through official government channels such as SAM (System for Award Management) – they are typically issued as Requests for White Papers from the consortia to its members. Thus, if you are not a consortium member you may never see the RFW and cannot submit a bid. Fortunately, becoming a member of a consortium is not difficult or expensive, but it takes planning to decide upon which consortia to join.

If you need help navigating the OTA landscape, please give us a call.

DUNS® is DONE: The Federal Government is Phasing Out the DUNS Number – and what it means to you.

The current process for registering a business to work with the Federal Government is changing.  In the past, registering a business was a two-step process.  First, register your company with Dun & Bradstreet (D&B) to get a Data Universal Numbering System (DUNS®) number assigned. The DUNS is used to identify your company and verify/validate that your company is a federal contractor. Basic information such as the business name, address, and other information were first registered with D&B. The second step was to register your company with the System for Award Management (SAM) database, which allows access to conduct business with the Federal Government.

Since D&B is a commercial enterprise and the DUNS is a proprietary system, issues of licensing and competitiveness can arise. Rather than having two distinct organizations involved in the process, the Government chose to consolidate both registration and validation control under one organization — SAM. Business entities will soon go directly to SAM to accomplish all registration and validation requirements.

SAM is introducing a new Unique Entity Identifier (UEI) to replace the DUNS number. The new UEI is a 12-character, alpha-numeric value that will be used within the Government databases to identify all business entities. SAM is rolling out a transition process to accomplish this, gradually phasing out the DUNS number and replacing it with the new UEI.

This transition is currently underway.  The General Services Administration (GSA) opened the UEI management contract to competitive bids and announced last year that a new vendor, Ernst & Young, will take over the entity validation system under a one-year base period, with four one-year options.

What does this mean for you?

Existing businesses that are already registered in SAM will be assigned a new UEI automatically by SAM.gov. Next time you access your SAM Profile, you may see your UEI has been already assigned. Business data currently stored in SAM will not need to be re-entered in order to obtain a UEI and the DUNS number will still be retained for reference.

New businesses that are not already registered in SAM will go directly to SAM to register the business and receive a UEI. The DUNS will no longer be needed.

For details on the transition, see the following link to the GSA UEI update webpage:

https://www.gsa.gov/about-us/organization/federal-acquisition-service/office-of-systems-management/integrated-award-environment-iae/iae-information-kit/unique-entity-identifier-update

The DoD Is Putting Their Money Where Their Mouth Is About Using Non-Traditional Contractors

The Federal Government has spoken about using non-traditional sources for their products for some time. The idea behind this shift in thinking is that technology is progressing at a rapid rate and smaller, more nimble commercial companies (think Silicon Valley) are more adept at staying on the leading edge of technological advances.  Rightly or wrongly, traditional military contractors are perceived as large, slow-moving behemoths that cannot react to changing technology trends as quickly as smaller, more agile venture-backed companies. Continue reading “The DoD Is Putting Their Money Where Their Mouth Is About Using Non-Traditional Contractors” »

Six Common Misconceptions that Lead to a Losing Proposal

As proposal consultants, we often encounter misperceptions about the proposal process – particularly from those new to the proposal game. These misperceptions can lead to noncompliant proposals, unrealistic win-probability assessments, and general failure to fulfill customer needs. In short, a losing proposal. Here are some real-life examples:

1. “We don’t need to meet with the customer – once they see our proposal they’ll be won over.”

It’s essential to meet with the customer. Face-to-face is much better than a phone call. Assuming your meetings go well, over time you’ll become a familiar, credible vendor and ideally, you’ll pick up valuable information about what the customer really wants. I once had a customer say during a meeting, “Don’t pay attention to what we wrote in the RFP background – this is our real challenge.” How can you compete with that if you don’t have the conversation?

2. “We don’t need to follow the RFP religiously, we’re much more creative than that.”

Oftentimes the RFP doesn’t make sense or flow well. It’s very tempting to get creative and change the order of things so that the proposal “reads better.” But evaluators already have scoring sheets set up based on the RFP layout. If they don’t find what they are looking for in the designated part of the proposal, you won’t get credit, even if it appears in a different section. Worst case, you may be disqualified for noncompliance and the merits of your solution will never be assessed. Remember, there’s a team of evaluators: each person is assigned a different section of the proposal to score. You want to make their job easier, not harder. Follow the RFP outline.

3. “They don’t really know what they need – we’re the experts, so we know better.”

You may be the expert and you may know better, but don’t say it in the proposal. First, you will come across as arrogant. Second, no matter how much you know, the customer is still going to use the RFP as a yardstick to evaluate you against the competition. Once you’ve won, you may then be able to discuss possibly changing direction. You must first get your foot in the door.

4. “We’ll dazzle them with our credentials and examples of our work.”

You may be proud of your credentials, and so is every other company. Highlight your relevant experience and capabilities to underscore the value of your solution – not to glibly pat yourself on the back. Focus on how your capabilities align with and bring value to the customer’s needs. And never bid only because you can “do the work,” or because the “SOW is in our wheelhouse.” It’s likely in your competitors’ wheelhouse also.

5. “We’ll offer them more than they ask for, to really wow them.”

The Evaluation Team or Source Selection Evaluation Board (SSEB) rates the technical solution against baseline requirements. Sometimes they give extra points for going beyond the baseline performance (threshold vs. goal); in these cases, the scoring is spelled out in the RFP. If you go beyond what’s required, be sure to frame your offering as a either a risk mitigator or strength – i.e., a solution feature that 1) they care about, 2) saves them money or time, and either 3) lowers risk or 4) increases performance by X%. Quantifying the increase in performance provides the assurance the SSEB needs to back your value-add, especially if it ends up costing more money in a Best Value procurement.

6. “Cost is low on the list of evaluation factors – we can charge more because of our superior technical solution.”

In a Best Value evaluation, technical, management, and past performance rank higher than price and are evaluated before cost proposals are opened. Proposals that score high (Outstanding, Good) under these factors are then evaluated on cost or price. If you’re “charging more,” be sure to link solution features to strengths and low risk (see #5). The Government typically pays more to avoid risk. I once heard an SSEB member say up to 40% more; but more typically the rule of thumb is between 5 and 10%. It’s your job to convince the evaluators that your solution, even if not the lowest price, is the one that mitigates the most risk to them.

We Just Won — Now What?

By Paul McTaggart

Hearing you won a major Government contract usually brings tremendous satisfaction! — all the sacrifice and long hours needed to put together a compelling proposal have paid off.  But once the well-deserved celebration winds down, the reality often sets in that now you MUST do ALL of the things you promised in the proposal! You wrote a winning proposal that proves you can do the job. Now you get to prove it all over again by actually doing it.

During the proposal effort, every statement of work requirement had to be addressed or the proposal would be judged non-compliant. Even if there were areas where you did not have the required in-house expertise, you still addressed those areas in the proposal – such as systems engineering, reliability, logistics, Government contracting, compliance, scheduling, planning and reporting. You may have included a plan to demonstrate compliance by using subcontractors or outside consultants, or building an internal capability so that you can eventually do the work in-house.

In the Government’s eyes, performing these disciplines are as important as delivering the product.

If you find yourself needing to build an internal capability, or provide short-term crossover support, we can help.

ClientView assists our clients by bringing a wide range of capabilities to your organization, allowing you to be compliant in areas that you don’t have internal capabilities. With staff members that have previously held high-level roles in the Government and industry, we can bring our in-house resources and our network of partner organizations to your team, adding whatever additional capabilities that you require to win. We can also help you build internal capability in new areas, transitioning our expertise to your staff once the new capabilities are in place and operational.

“We’ll Worry About That Later If We Win”

We have all felt the intense pressure of a proposal deadline, when we will do just about anything to get a proposal submitted on time. Every requirement and statement of work item outlined in the RFP must be met for the proposal to be acceptable to the customer. During these times of high stress, it is tempting to say, “Just tell them we can do it – we’ll worry about that later if we win,” even if you have no capability or experience in a critical area. Trying to develop a new capability while under contract to deliver it is much like building an airplane in the air — risky business! Continue reading ““We’ll Worry About That Later If We Win”” »

Your Proposal Has Been Submitted – Now What?

Your Proposal Has Been Submitted – Now What?

For the last month or more you put 110% of yourself and your team into preparing your proposal, pushing off other work and life activities in order to meet the submission deadline. Now that it has been submitted, what should you do next? Continue reading “Your Proposal Has Been Submitted – Now What?” »