LABOR & EMPLOYMENT
Federal Agencies Can Relax Their Mask and Testing Requirements
Government Executive reported that federal agencies can relax their mask and testing protocols in the wake of new public health guidance. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released a “new framework” that moves beyond looking only at cases and test positivity to evaluate factors that reflect the severity of disease, including hospitalizations and hospital capacity, to determine whether the level of COVID-19 and severe disease are low, medium, or high in a community. Recent guidance from the Biden Administration’s Safer Federal Workforce Task Force reflects this new framework. Read more here. The guidance from the Safer Federal Workforce Task Force is available here.
LITIGATION & DISPUTE RESOLUTION
DOJ to Name a Chief Prosecutor for Pandemic Fraud
The Hill reported that President Biden announced that the Department of Justice will name a chief prosecutor for pandemic fraud. “We’re gonna go after the criminals who stole billions of relief money meant for small business and millions of Americans,” Biden said during his State of the Union address. Read more here. A related White House fact sheet is available here.
DOJ Scraps Trump-Era China Initiative for Broader National Security Program
The Hill reported that the Department of Justice is scrapping its controversial China Initiative in favor of a broader program to confront diverse national security threats from foreign countries, a pivot the agency said was also needed in the wake of an increase in anti-Asian hate crimes and rhetoric. The China Initiative was created in 2018 under the Trump Administration, quickly racking up indictments against Chinese companies accused of economic espionage. Read more here.
Government Contractor Agrees to Pay Record $48.5 Million to Resolve Claims Related to Fraudulent Procurement of Small Business Contracts Intended for Service-Disabled Veterans
The Department of Justice reported that TriMark USA, LLC has agreed to pay $48.5 million to resolve allegations that its subsidiaries, TriMark Gill Marketing and TriMark Gill Group, Inc., improperly manipulated federal small business set-aside contracts around the country. A former TriMark executive in charge of the company’s government business, Kimberley Rimsza, has agreed to pay an additional $100,000 as an individual civil penalty for her conduct in connection with the scheme. The settlement constitutes the largest-ever False Claims Act recovery based on allegations of small business contracting fraud. Read more here.
Statement by SBA Administrator Guzman on President Biden’s State of the Union Address
Administrator Isabella Casillas Guzman, head of the Small Business Administration (SBA), issued a statement following President Biden’s State of the Union address. Among other items, it praises his “bold vision to the American people of an economy centered around families, workers, and small businesses,” and claims that “the future for American small businesses looks bright[,] and at the SBA we’ll continue to work to help entrepreneurs to face down market challenges and to access the capital and resources they need to start, grow, and thrive.” Read more here.
White House Unveils Plan for Next Phase of COVID-19 Fight
The Hill reported that the White House unveiled a plan for fighting COVID-19 in its new phase, with the virus moving from a crisis to a lower-level risk that does not dominate daily life. The White House said the plan will require new funding from Congress, though there are not specific dollar amounts for each item in the plan. Ahead of the March 11, 2022, deadline for funding the government, the White House recently informally outlined the need for $30 billion focused on domestic needs and $5 billion for global vaccinations. Read more here.
How the Russian Invasion of Ukraine Could Impact the U.S. Economy
The Hill reported that the Russian invasion of Ukraine and the unprecedented sanctions imposed in response by the U.S. and western allies have rattled the global economy and financial markets. They have also upended supply chains for crucial food and energy and industrial products amid a global burst of inflation; derailed global travel; and driven volatility into the stock market. Read more here.
Update to the USAID Implementing Partner Community Regarding Ukraine
The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) published a resources page that collates guidance for the USAID Implementing Partner community regarding the crisis in Ukraine. Read more here.
Contracts with Performance in Designated Countries in the United States European Command Area of Responsibility
The Department of Defense published a memorandum that provides guidance on the use of Defense Federal Acquisition Regulation Supplement (DFARS) Clause 252.225-7040, “Contractor Personnel Supporting U.S. Armed Forces Outside the United States.” It clarifies that contracting activities shall ensure DFARS Clause 252.225-7040 is included in solicitations and contracts with performance in a country east of Sweden, Germany, Austria, and Italy within the United States European Command area of responsibility. Read more here.
U.S. Presents ‘Buy American’ Plan to Ease Supply Chain Squeeze
Bloomberg reported that the Biden Administration announced several new actions intended to ease supply-chain disruptions that have plagued the economy during the coronavirus pandemic. Among other items, the White House said in a statement that it plans to issue a new “Buy American” rule that would allow the federal government to pay more for certain “critical” domestic-made products. Read more here.
Statement by Administrator Guzman Applauding Biden-Harris Administration’s Whole of Government Approach to Strengthen America’s Supply Chains
Small Business Administration Administrator Isabella Casillas Guzman released a statement praising newly released action plans by the Departments of Defense, Transportation, Energy, Homeland Security, Commerce, and Health and Human Services to strengthen the resilience, diversity, and security of America’s supply chains and tackle rising challenges that hamper the success of small businesses. Read more here.
U.S. Treasury Issues General License to Facilitate Economic Activity in Afghanistan
The Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) issued a new General License (GL) to expand authorizations for commercial and financial transactions in Afghanistan, including with its governing institutions. The GL aims to ensure that U.S. sanctions do not prevent or inhibit transactions and activities needed to provide aid to and support the basic human needs of the people of Afghanistan and underscores the United States’ commitment to working with the private sector, international partners and allies, and international organizations to support the people of Afghanistan. OFAC also updated seventeen FAQs and released seven new FAQs clarifying the scope of the GL. Read more here.
Defense Department Releases Report on Strengthening Defense-Critical Supply Chains
The Department of Defense published a press release on the publication of a report that will serve as its strategic roadmap to address supply chain vulnerabilities in the defense industrial base. The report outlines a wide-ranging set of recommendations, including applied research, workforce development initiatives, policy and procedure reviews, and more. Read more here. The report is available here.
New Industry Engagement Plan Maintains DLA’s Focus on Strong Partnerships
The Defense Logistics Agency (DLA) issued a press release on the publication of its updated Industry Engagement Plan, which refreshes the 2018 version of the plan by reflecting changes in the acquisition environment and incorporating DLA’s latest Strategic Plan to prioritize modernizing acquisition and supply chain management. Read more here.
Small Business Committee Hearing on the 8(a) Program
The House Small Business Committee held a hearing titled “The 8(a) Program: Overview and Next Steps to Promote Small Business Success.” During the hearing, lawmakers examined the 8(a) program at large and evaluated how the program prepares small businesses for success in the federal and commercial marketplace following graduation. Read more and watch a recording of the hearing here.
Administrator Guzman Visits Navajo Nation Tribal Leaders and Native American Small Business Owners to Highlight Small Business Recovery Efforts
The Small Business Administration (SBA) reported that SBA Administrator Isabella Casillas Guzman visited Window Rock, AZ, to meet with Navajo Nation leadership and highlight the economic impact of President Biden’s American Rescue Plan and other relief programs. She also discussed opportunities presented by President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. Administrator Guzman kicked off her trip by joining Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez. They discussed new federal contracting changes that will level the playing field and help underserved and small disadvantaged businesses compete for contract opportunities. Read more here.
NIST Refreshing Voluntary Cybersecurity Framework Amid Push for Mandates
Federal Computer Week reported that the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) is requesting feedback on ways to improve its cybersecurity framework alignment and integration with NIST’s other risk management resources as the agency prepares to update it. Read more here.
Why Vendors Can’t Wait for CMMC to Raise Their Cyber Standards
Federal Computer Week reported that, despite the fact that Cybersecurity Maturity Model Certification not taking full affect for another two years, Pentagon officials are urging contractors to increase their cybersecurity posture in the wake of Russia invading Ukraine. Read more here.
GSA Outlines Plan to Spend $3.4B on Infrastructure Upgrades Along U.S. Borders
Federal News Network reported that the General Services Administration, as part of the Biden Administration’s infrastructure agenda, is moving ahead with a multi-billion-dollar upgrade of its land ports of entry along the country’s northern and southern borders. Read more here.
Planned SAM.Gov Downtime Schedule for Unique Entity ID Transition
The General Services Administration published a blog to announce that SAM.gov will be down for maintenance to complete the transition from the DUNS Number to the Unique Entity ID beginning on April 1, 2022, at 8:00 PM ET until no later than April 4, 2022, at 9:00 AM ET. Read more here.
Services MAC Program Update – Small Business Strategy
The General Services Administration’s Office of Professional Services and Human Capital (PSHC) announced that it has finalized its small business acquisition strategy for the new Services Multi-Agency Contract (MAC) to ensure maximum small business participation and procurement equity. After completing additional market research and holding discussions with key stakeholders, PSHC intends to solicit and award separate indefinite delivery indefinite quantity contracts designated under the following categories:
- 8(a) Small Business
- HUBZone Small Business
- Service-Disabled Veteran-Owned Small Business
- Total Small Business
- Woman-Owned Small Business
Read more here.
NGA Developing Commercial Buying Guide for Satellite Imagery
Federal News Network reported that the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency is building a commercial buying guide for its partners across the defense, intelligence, and federal community, as the agency increasingly turns to commercial sources for imagery analysis and other geospatial intelligence. Read more here.
The Federal Reserve Bank Small Business Credit Survey Report
Earlier this week, the 12 Federal Reserve Banks issued the Small Business Credit Survey: 2022 Report on Employer Firms. The report includes experiences from 10,914 firms across all 50 states and the District of Columbia.
- The pandemic continues to have a significant impact, with 77% of surveyed firms reporting negative effects.
- 66% percent of employer firms received pandemic-related financial assistance, down from 87% in 2020.
- 59% of firms reported being in fair or poor financial condition, a figure little-changed since the 2020 survey. Firms of color, smaller firms, and leisure and hospitality firms were most likely to be in fair or poor financial condition.
- Hiring or retaining qualified staff and navigating supply-chain issues are the top operational challenges that firms faced.
- The share of applicants receiving all of the traditional funding they sought fell from 51% in 2019 to 36% in 2020 to 30% in 2021.
Read more here.
DFARS: Exception to Competition for Certain Follow-On Production Contracts
The Department of Defense published a final rule that amends the Defense Federal Acquisition Regulation Supplement to implement a section of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2016 that modifies the criteria required to exempt from competition certain follow-on production contracts. The final rule is effective as of February 28, 2022. Read more here.
DFARS: Reauthorization and Improvement of Mentor-Protégé Program
The Department of Defense (DOD) published a proposed rule that would amend the Defense Federal Acquisition Regulation Supplement to implement a section of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2020 that reauthorizes and modifies the DOD Mentor-Protégé Program. Comments are due April 29, 2022. Read more here.
GSAR: Extending Federal Supply Schedule Orders Beyond the Contract Term
The General Services Administration (GSA) published a final rule that amends the General Services Administration Acquisition Regulation to incorporate existing internal GSA Federal Supply Schedule (FSS) policy concerning the option to extend the term of a contract and the performance of orders beyond the term of the base FSS contract. The rule is effective March 28, 2022. Read more here.
FAR: Small Business Program Amendments
The Department of Defense, General Services Administration, and National Aeronautics and Space Administration published a proposed rule that would amend the Federal Acquisition Regulation to implement several revisions that the Small Business Administration (SBA) made to its regulations in a final rule published on November 29, 2019, at 84 FR 65647.
The revisions address the following topics:
- The point in the procurement process at which small business size status is determined for offers for multiple-award contracts.
- A new ground for a socioeconomic status protest.
- The eligibility requirements for 8(a) participants under long-term contracts (i.e., contracts with a duration of more than 5 years).
- The small business size standard for information technology value-added resellers under North American Industry Classification System Code 541519.
Comments are due April 25, 2022. Read more here.
Upcoming Government Contracts Presentations
EVENT: Changes to SBA Rules, March 9, Peter Ford. Read more here.
WEBINAR: Legal Issues for Small Business Enterprises, March 9, Meghan Leemon. Read more here.
WEBINAR: Commercial Businesses New to Government Contracting: GovCon Basics, March 10, Lauren Brier and Eric Valle. Read more here.