SAM I AM (a re-boot)

If you did not like that beta.sam,

Then say so long, let the door SLAM!

Soon sam.gov begins to serve,

Here’s to hoping it performs with much more verve…

Your favorite Government agency – the General Services Agency (GSA) – is finally merging your favorite two websites (beta.sam.gov) and (www.sam.gov) into one platform for all your Government contracting needs.

Effective on May 24th, 2021, both sites will merge (without difficulty, we are sure…) accomplishing the next step in a multi-year consolidation of several Government information / transaction websites such as:

  • Central Contractor Registry (CCR) – now closed
  • Federal Procurement Data System (FPDS) – now merged
  • Federal Business Opportunities (FBO.gov) – now closed
  • Funding Accountability and Transparency Act (FFATA) – soon to merge
  • Electronic Subcontracting Reporting System (ESRS) – soon to merge
  • Wage Determination Online (WDOL) – soon to merge

And, just because they can, GSA is also releasing a revamped www.sam.gov website on April 26th, 2021.

If you are curious to see how things will look before the release date – here is a link to a pre-release guide available from the Federal Service Desk (yes, it is another GSA website):

https://www.fsd.gov/sys_attachment.do?sys_id=6d9521581b3e28902fe5ed7ae54bcb5d

For many of these websites, if you want to access certain features, you may need credentials issued by Login.gov – also a GSA website. You can sign up at www.Login.gov.

Of course, as a current Government contractor, you likely have already done so.

Writing High-Scoring Proposal Responses within Severe Page Limitations

Government evaluators have arduous jobs. When assigned to a Source Selection Evaluation Board they’re tasked to read and score several proposals to select the right contractor. Depending on RFP Section L and M requirements – that can amount to reviewing hundreds, if not thousands, of pages, in addition to fulfilling their ‘day jobs.’ This is one reason why the Government smartly sets page limitations,, much to the chagrin of contractors, who are often challenged to be compliant, never mind compelling.

I remember one customer’s struggle with a particularly challenging proposal. Volume II was to include an Executive Summary, Management Capabilities, Experience, and a Technical Approach within 75 pages at 12-point font. While this may seem reasonable at first blush – it was not. Addressing the Technical Approach was particularly onerous:

  • Per L&M, responses had to demonstrate a “clear understanding, the methodology and flexibility that will be utilized, and how the approach will accomplish all tasks, subtasks, and administrative tasks as are necessary to ensure program success within the required time frame.”
  • High-level technical requirements, part of a 43-page PWS, included 7 Objectives with 36 “Key” Tasks.

Situations like these challenge Subject Matter Experts (SMEs), whose strengths may not include concise technical writing.

ClientView helped by providing a framework to facilitate a succinct, compliant response. Our annotated outline included page limits, simple guidance, and example text that demonstrated how to achieve compliance and a high score within relatively abbreviated page real estate.

We attacked the requirement to address “tasks, subtasks, and administrative tasks” as follows:

Address each PWS Key Task with this outline:

  1. 1-2 sentence Task Understanding
  2. 3-5 sentences on your solution (approach) – discuss HOW you will accomplish the task (e.g., people, process, tools), not WHAT you will do
  3. Proof example – this is brief but replete with quantitative results your solution/approach provided to other customers

Example:

“Conduct inquiries (PWS 3.2, Assess/Plan). Good Voice of Customer (VoC) information is at the heart of successful CPI: without it, organizations risk investing resources in projects and initiatives that do not improve the customer experience – or worse, negatively impact it. With all-inclusive VoC, GOV’T AGENCY [CUSTOMER] is better informed and, therefore, better equipped to prioritize needed process improvement.Adding Value -Conducting Inquiry

Typically, inquiries regarding CPI initiatives are conducted via impersonal “paper” methods. COMPANY X’S approach includes face-to-face interviews, led by KEY PERSON, geared toward engaging GOV’T AGENCY customers as integral process improvement team members. If a particular stakeholder is unable to commit in-person, COMPANY X uses a variety of classical organization- and process-level VoC identification methods (e.g., surveys, focused telephone interviews, Kano model-based inquiry, CTQ tree development, and Quality Function Deployment matrices) to ensure we are continually working on meaningful projects.”

By following this template, the SMEs were able to focus on crafting language that 1) addressed the Government’s requirements, 2) was scorable, and 3) avoided unnecessary elaboration.

Having trouble being compliant, compelling, and succinct? Give us a call – we can help.

If Necessity is the Mother of Invention, Then Crisis Breeds Ingenuity (and BOY DO WE NEED IT!)

COVID-19 is indiscriminate in its damage — to both our public health and our economy, no person or business is immune to its debilitating effects. Yet, much like a phoenix rising from the ashes, SOME small businesses have held their own, or even prospered during the current economic crisis. How? Consider the story of a New York City hotelier with an interesting take on how small businesses have responded to the challenges of 2020-2021. In his view, you do not get through a crisis by being stronger, you get through it by being different. He adapted his business model to meet the new needs of his clients. With New York City restaurants and attractions suddenly largely unavailable, he, “…transform(ed) the hotel into a fantastical place completely removed from the grim reality outside.” He made his hotel the destination rather than just a stop on the itinerary. And his hotel did not shutter.

There is reason to hope that normal life and business practices will resume with the vaccine roll out in progress. Yet does anyone imagine that we will simply pick up where we left off in early 2020? It is more likely that those who have successfully navigated small business challenges through the pandemic will again need to adapt in the aftermath of COVID-19. Unknown circumstances post-COVID promise to be just as impactful and risky to our businesses as was the onset of the disease. Having made all the adaptations required for our employees and ourselves to work safely and effectively, when do we return to our old business models? Or do we ever? As we contemplate these questions for ourselves, all of our partners, competitors, associates, and clients will be thinking them through as well. There will be new opportunities as well as risks, and those of us with our eyes open and who are prepared to be different – again – will thrive.

Phishing, Malware, State Sponsored Hacks…DoD Demands Data Security from its Government Contractors

According to some estimates, more than 70% of DoD data resides on contractor networks. Given the ever-growing security risk posed by cybercriminals, the DoD has developed a new set of standards called Cybersecurity Maturity Model Certification (CMMC) to help protect Government contractors and their data from cyberattacks.

What is it?

CMMC is a new certification that addresses the cybersecurity processes used by contractors and subcontractors to perform work on Government contracts. The certification process assesses a contractor’s cybersecurity procedures and practices with respect to defined levels of maturity (CMMC Level 1-5). The assessment is conducted by an outside third-party assessment team.

Why is it Important?

In a word – hackers. As we see in the news every day, commercial companies, state, and federal Government agencies (including DoD) are continually being targeted by hackers – individuals, criminal organizations, or nation state actors. Just recently – on Dec 13th, 2020 – the U.S. Treasury admitted it had been breached by a foreign government backed cyberattack. Government data is targeted and exploited, so safeguards must be implemented and updated to stay ahead of threat actors. CMMC seeks to ensure that Controlled Unclassified Information (CUI) and Covered Defense Information (CDI) is adequately protected.

Who is affected?

Basically, all contractors and subcontractors that work on DoD programs will be required to have some level of certification (at least Level 1). Each contract will specify the CMMC level required for the prime contractor and subcontractors.

What is the timing?

DoD released the initial set of CMMC standards on January 31, 2020. CMMC language has already started appearing in Requests for Proposals (RFPs) and Requests for Information (RFIs). The DoD will implement a phased rollout of CMMC with 15 pilot programs in FY2021, increasing in number each year until FY2025. All new DoD contracts will require an appropriate level of CMMC certification by 2026. Existing contracts up for renewal will reflect the CMMC level required by the contracting authority.

What does this mean for me and my company?

CMMC will be implemented soon, so if you currently work, or plan to work, on DoD programs then you need to be ready. Review the initial release of the CMMC standards to gain a comprehensive understanding of its stipulations. Discussions with the DoD agency or prime contractor should give some insight into which level certification may be required for existing contracts. Future RFIs and RFPs will include CMMC requirements. You need to be prepared ahead of time – don’t be excluded from a bid because you failed to meet the CMMC requirements!

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.

My Contract Due Dates Are Extended – Right?

Contract Due Dates Don’t Automatically Extend When Your Business Is Forced to Close

On top of trying to keep your business running during the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s important to remember that delivery dates in your government contracts are not altered because of external events – including business closures forced by State governments trying to stem the spread of COVID-19.

You must seek delivery extensions on all your contracts.

During the COVID-19 crisis, closures and restrictions on businesses are becoming the norm to “flatten the curve” and shield our health care system from an impossibly high surge in critical cases.  During these times it is important for government contractors to be sure we are in sync with government expectations.

On March 20th, Undersecretary of Defense for Acquisition and Sustainment Ellen Lord issued a memo that read in part, “If you work in a critical infrastructure industry you have a special responsibility to maintain your normal work schedule. That applies to prime contractors and subcontractors that support essential production and services required to meet national security commitments to the federal government and the U.S. military.”

While government contractors are expected to perform during this crisis, state and local government restrictions on business operations may not consider DoD requirements.  And since government contract deadlines can only be changed by the Procuring or Administering Contracting Officer, you cannot safely assume that missing a delivery date is permitted if restrictions in your area have impacted your ability to perform.

If that happens – either because your state or local government requires your business to close, or because your suppliers work in states where those restrictions have occurred, you MUST take immediate steps to communicate your situation.  It is critical that you:

  • Immediately send notifications to your KO informing that you are unable to perform, and why (include copies of shutdown declarations)
  • Request immediate extensions to all due dates affected by the shutdowns – on a day-for-day basis plus a minimum 2-week buffer

The earlier this communication occurs, the higher the possibility of a resolution that is beneficial to both your business and to the customer.

Given the uncertainty facing everyone in this situation, you may not even hear back as many government installations are equally affected by COVID-19 response. But, by having submitted a request for extension and citing the extenuating circumstances, you have at least put the government on notice and sought relief. This will help you in later exchanges and negotiations.

But the worst thing you can do is just assume that the government will offer an extension simply because of what’s going on. They may – but you cannot assume that; especially if the government deems your product / service as essential.

Our last two blogs offered actions you can take at both the federal and state / local level to receive an exemption from closures.

URGENT COVID-19 ACTION for GOVERNMENT CONTRACTORS

Is My Business Essential under COVID-19 Shutdowns?

URGENT COVID-19 ACTION for GOVERNMENT CONTRACTORS

Our nation is facing a health and economic challenge unseen since the early 20th Century – far exceeding the problems caused by the SARS epidemic only a few years ago.

State and local governments are closing businesses in their individual jurisdictions in response to the COVID-19 virus and preventing defense and aerospace contractors from performing work vital to both our national interest and our economic security.

Yesterday, ten major industrial associations jointly signed a Joint Letter to the U.S. Senate and House leadership seeking Congressional action to exempt federal government contractors working in the defense intelligence, aerospace, and manufacturing sectors from local closure directives.

This exemption is essential to continue research, development, and production of critical national security related activity, and will bring much needed economic relief to working families and local communities.

Shutting down defense contractors, who are capable of effectively managing operations under this health crisis, makes no sense and only leads to further economic damage for the country – which we cannot afford.

Federally exempting businesses in this sector would resolve the confusion and allow us to keep working for the benefit of our nations defense and economic security.

The Joint Letter, dated 19 March 2020, can be found on the NDIA’s website.

https://www.ndia.org/-/media/sites/press-media/arwg-letter-to-hill-on-equitable-adjustments-final-with-logos_19march.ashx?la=en

It outlines the challenges facing the defense, intelligence, and aerospace industry – as well as suggesting language for Congress to consider including in upcoming legislation to address the COVID-19 crisis.

Please consider sending along your own letter, along with a copy of the Joint Letter, and push for immediate legislation to help exempt many Government Contractors from State and Local closures.