The state of procurement in 2018

This week’s Off the Shelf features  Federal News Radio Executive Editor Jason Miller on the state of procurement in 2018.

In a wide ranging discussion, Miller tackles the Trump Administration’s government reorganization plan, the use of Other Transaction Authority (OTA),  the state of category management and GSA’s ongoing implementation of Section 846.

Other topics include “Best in Class” contracting’s impact on the market, the OFPP administrator vacancy, and GSA’s increasing profile across government. Throughout the show Miller not only provides his thoughts but “turns the tables” on the host—seeking my thoughts and observations.

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Reforms Deliver Wins for Small Businesses

By some metrics, 2017 was a banner year for small business federal contractors. In May 2018, the Small Business Administration announced that, for the first time, the federal government exceeded $100 billion in prime contract awards to small businesses in fiscal year 2017.

Despite reaching this milestone, small business federal contracting still has room for improvement. For example, the SBA’s data also show that the percentage of total federal contracting dollars earned by small businesses declined for the second year in a row, falling to 23.8 percent from a historic high of 25.7 percent for fiscal year 2015.

Given these mixed results, is there a case for near-term optimism for the small business contracting community? Recent changes to federal caps on the use of micro-purchasing and simplified acquisition methods hold the promise of more agile acquisition, benefiting small businesses.

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Acquisition Reforms Survive in Defense Authorization Bill

Contractors hoping to protect their right to file bid protests got much of what they wanted in the conference report for the fiscal 2019 National Defense Authorization Act, which also contained several provisions to streamline the Pentagon’s acquisitions.

In reconciling the two chambers’ bills, House members accepted a Senate provision to require the Defense secretary to study the frequency and effects of bid protests related to the same contract award filed at both the Government Accountability Office and the Court of Federal Claims.

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Disaster and Procurement Opportunities


  1. Explore the full range of procurement opportunities. Do not limit your vision to only those events which capture the attention of the national media. Unfortunately, it is a very real reality that there are events which occur all too frequently that destroy lives and property and require federal government assistance. These events can displace families, impact infrastructure and cause havoc to local economies  In 2017, there were three major hurricanes that caught the national spotlight. In contrast, in 2017, there were 137 Disaster Declarations or roughly one declaration every three days. Since 2010 there have been an average of 120 Declarations per year. This average may be skewed on the high side since there were 242 Declarations in 2011. Therefore, the median value of 105 Declarations per year may be a more representative number. Focusing only on disasters that make the nightly news may limit procurement opportunities. Research and preparation are critical to understanding the needs and being able to respond.
  2. Identify those contracting offices which play a major role in disaster response. Research their mission, geographic area of responsibility and organizational structure to determine how and with whom to communicate. Develop a contact/communication/marketing plan to introduce your company and services. Tailor your Capabilities Statement to synch with their needs. Why is there a need to focus? 30% of the 125 Contracting Offices which awarded contracts during Hurricane Irma awarded only one contract. Similarly, 35% of the 110 Contracting Offices supporting Hurricane Harvey also awarded one contract. On the other hand, there were several contracting offices that awarded more than 200 contracts. Research the market and customer to make your time and effort count.
  3. Gain an understanding of how your top customers purchase. The vast majority of awards for the three major hurricanes were via Delivery Orders – (Harvey – 45%, Irma-53%, Maria-38%). There were also a large number of awards using Purchase Orders. While the large number of purchase orders seem to indicate a valid market, it is also worth considering that the dollar value was significantly less as compared to dollars spent using Delivery Orders. For Hurricane Maria, the ratio is 23.8 dollars awarded using delivery orders for every dollar awarded using a purchase order which implies that the value of items procured via a purchase order was much less than awards which used other vehicles.
  4. Determine what acquisition vehicles are being used – a GSA schedule or other type of Indefinite Delivery Contract or other Long Term Contract. These vehicles may only open for new offers occasionally. Research and plan ahead to create maximum opportunity and the potential for increased awards/revenue.
  5. Insure that you (your company) is administratively ready to support disaster relief operations. Register in SAM, make sure that you have selected your registration information to be visible in the SAM Disaster Response Registry. Update your Dynamic Small Business Search page information. These are two  of the primary research sources utilized. Thoroughly review the information you have entered. For example, buyers will be looking for NAICS codes/PSC codes that are needed and may not have time to look at NAICS codes entered and determined if they match. Remember, the applicable NAICS code that will be assigned to a solicitation may not be the one the vendor inputs but rather the NAICS code under which the opportunity is classified. Details matter.
  6. Be prepared to respond! Establish systems and supply chains that are supportive of pressing needs and urgency of response. Emergency response event will probably have a quicker pace of response and performance in comparison to those which may be viewed as routine procurements which occur under more normal circumstances. Preparation matters – Time matters.
  7. Research your market and identify the terms and phrases that will immediately be recognized by those who are seeking resources. Seek to become visible – maximize your visibility through identifying, selecting and using descriptive and focused language on registrations, web sites and capability statements. Utilize publically available data to determine the most applicable codes to use and products/services obtained. There is no central FEMA bid list or approval process. Per FAR 9 contracting officers must insure a company is responsible prior to the award of a contract. It will be the contracting officer that makes these determinations. Endeavor to provide information that establishes responsibility. Also, except for certain exceptions, contracting officers must also insure maximum competition. Take time to research and learn about these processes. Incorporate the knowledge gained through research, discussions and attending outreach events into your marketing materials, marketing efforts and capabilities statement.
  8. Reach out to and market to FEMA’s Local Business Transition Teams (LBTT) see: . LBTT’s are organized by region and their primary mission is to purchase.  Businesses should focus their marketing on the LBTT in the region where they want to sell because each LBTT is responsible for their own market research and purchasing.
  9. Visit WPI’s web site and sign up for our July 24th Webinar titled – The Lifecycle of Federal Disaster Response and Support.