FEMA official: Local businesses must understand federal procurement

The biggest problem with post-Hurricane Katrina emergency procurements is that few local companies understand how federal procurement works, Tina Burnette, acquisitions director at the Federal Emergency Management Agency, has said.

“The problem is trying to get these local communities acclimated to federal contracting,” Burnette said Sept. 18 as part of a panel of federal emergency officials at an event of the Bethesda, Md., chapter of AFCEA International.

She said federal acquisitions laws are so complicated that large companies sometimes hire consultants to teach acquisitions employees how the they work.

Adding to the confusion, a number of new acquisitions regulations were introduced for emergency situations after the huuricane, and one stipulates that disaster relief funds be used to hire local companies.

“We’re trying to stimulate the economy where the disaster happened so you can rebuild it,” she said.

Burnette said FEMA is working with the General Services Administration to inform Gulf Coast businesses on how federal procurement works, get them into the Central Contract Registry and prepare them for the requirements that come with taking contracts.

Other regulations require that no more than 65 percent of emergency funding be used to hire subcontractors and limit noncompetitive acquisition orders to no more than 150 days.

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