Set-Asides

Proposal would expand 8(a) program

The Small Business Administration has proposed new rules for its 8(a) minority business development program designed to open the program to more firms and to give agencies more incentives to award contracts to small companies.

Among the changes the proposal would let all small businesses not just 8(a)s team up to compete for large set-aside contracts. For 8(a) set-asides 8(a) firms would have to perform the majority of the work. Another change would make it easier for business owners who are not presumed to be socially and economically disadvantaged such as white women and people with physi-cal disabilities to take part in the 8(a) program.

The proposal was prompted by a 1994 Supreme Court decision Adarand v. Pena which said affirmative action programs had to be narrowly targeted as well as concerns that new federal buying practices are leading to larger contracts that are harder for small firms to win.

Regs in place for EBT

The Federal Reserve Board last week issued regulations that would exempt state-run benefits programs from requirements to replace lost or stolen funds clearing the way for Electronic Benefits Transfer. The new rules carry out part of the welfare reform law that Congress passed last year to protect state and local governments from the costs of complying with the rule known as Regulation E.

The rule covers food stamps and other federal means-tested programs that are managed by state and local governments. Federal benefits such as Social Security are still covered by Regulation E which also protects consumers from lost or stolen credit card charges.

DOD consolidates three offices

The Defense Department consolidated three offices into a new Life-Cycle Information Integration Office (LCIIO) which will focus on making it easier to integrate and manage shared acquisition and logistics information.

The Continuous Acquisition and Life-Cycle Support (CALS) Logistic Business Systems and the Electronic Commerce/Electronic Data Interchange offices were merged into one office.

Mark Adams former director of the CALS office will head up the new LCIIO. The decision was made to further DOD's policy to migrate acquisition and logistics operations to digital form by 2002.

The LCIIO also will be responsible for the effort under way to create a paper-free contracting process in DOD by Jan. 1 2000.

GSA eyes FTS 2001 change

The General Services Administration issued a statement last week anticipating "a significant amendment" to the FTS 2001 solicitation for governmentwide long-distance services. The statement said the amendment will be released in October.

GSA officials have been meeting this summer with vendors interested in the contract and will address these vendors' concerns in the amendment the statement said. "Great emphasis is being placed on bringing FTS 2001 more closely into line with commercial practices wherever this is possible without compromising the government's fundamental requirements " it said.

Navy pens draft policy on multiple awards

The Naval Research and Development organization is developing policy for Navy contracting shops to use when deciding whether to make multiple awards under indefinite-quantity contracts (IDQs) or when issuing task orders under multiple-award contracts.

The Navy directs that "except for IDQs for certain advisory and assistance services preferences shall be given to making multiple awards under a single solicitation for the same or similar supplies or services to two or more sources " according to the draft policy. Among the possible exceptions are cases where "only one contractor is capable of providing performance at the level of quality required" because the requirements are "unique or highly specialized " or where a single award would result in more favorable contract terms.

Advisory or assistance services can be excluded where such contracts do not exceed three years and $10 million according to the draft.

Under the proposed procedures a contracting officer would be required to define in writing the reasons for not making multiple awards unless the reasons are already spelled out in a written acquisition plan.

The draft policy also spells out the "basic tenets" of multiple awards when competing task orders and a list of criteria that can be used.

OFPP issues best-practices guide

The Office of Management and Budget's Office of Federal Procurement Policy last month issued an interim guide outlining the best practices in the use of task- and delivery-order contracts specifically multiple-award contracts.

The document which is designed to help contracting officials take advantage of the flexibility authorized by the Federal Acquisition Streamlining Act highlights best practices in key phases of the multiple-award contracting process such as acquisition planning and developing a statement of work.

The guide advises that during the acquisition process contracting officers program officials and industry should work together to develop a clear statement of work. It notes that as part of acquisition planning it is in the agencies' best interests to ascertain the maximum scope of work that could be required during contract performance. Although agencies have the authority to develop a broad statement of work the guide warns it should not be so vague that it fails to describe the general purpose of the contract or that subsequent orders could be challenged as being outside the scope of the contract.

Agencies also should use an interactive solicitation-development process to shorten the request for proposal development process from months to days to increase communications between industry and government and to increase understanding of the requirements through a dynamic approach according to OFPP.

Other best practices in the guide advised agencies to make a reasonable number of awards which are designed to ensure competition but also keep the ordering process from being overly burdensome to use simplified procedures and award documentation when issuing orders under multiple-award contracts to develop publications that describe the fair opportunity and ordering processes to help when multiple-award contracts are issued for multiple-agency use and to consider using oral presentations to reduce lead time and contractors' proposal-preparation costs.

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