What's next for procurement after the shutdown?

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Federal contracting shops, including government wide acquisition vehicles and the General Services Administration, are preparing for an uptick in orders from agencies in the coming days as they get back up to speed following the shutdown.

Post-shutdown agency buying is hard to pin down so soon after the re-opening of the affected agencies, managers of federal contracting agencies said. Those FCW asked had varying expectations.

Joanne Woytek, program manager at NASA's Solutions for Enterprise-Wide Procurement contract, told FCW she expects "a slew" of orders this week, as thousands of federal employees return to work and sift through thousands of emails.

"We have seen a few credit card orders and requests for quotes," she told FCW in an email on Jan. 29, one day into the post-shutdown climate.

Woytek said, however, that increasing ordering activity could liven up a typically sluggish month, especially since the next shutdown deadline is Feb. 15.

"It is likely that the next three weeks there will be more action than normal for February as people will want to get as much work done as possible while funding is certain," she said. "Unlike stereotypes, federal workers in general want to do their jobs and will work hard to do so."

SEWP stands ready to "handle a more August-type atmosphere than February," meaning it won't worry about internal paperwork and focus on customer service, she said.

The General Services Administration is also prepared to handle additional orders. A GSA spokesperson told FCW, however, that the agency isn't expecting a huge rush, since 75 percent of its agency customers were unaffected by the shutdown. The agency's Federal Acquisition Service remained operational during the shutdown because it is fee-funded, but some portions of GSA were closed during the period, said the spokesperson. The agency had also halted some work on assisted acquisition services at FAS.

"FAS is resuming all work on assisted acquisitions that were stopped, delayed or descoped during the partial shutdown," the official said. "While FAS does not expect a large surge in activity, we are prepared to handle any temporary influx that may occur."

On the agency side, DHS, one of the largest affected by the shutdown, froze its acquisition deadlines during the closing. The department gave commercial contractors who tried to bid on agency projects in December up to seven days to respond to those opportunities when the shutdown ended.

Even with the delay, DHS doesn't expect a heavy influx of new contract filings in the next seven days, a spokesperson in the office of the undersecretary for management told FCW in a Jan. 28 email.

The agency, said the spokesperson, "will process solicitation responses and other procurement actions consistent with normal business procedures." However, the official added that solicitations affected by the shutdown "will be reviewed and contracting officers will communicate any specific adjustments or further extensions to prospective offerors on a case by case basis."

About the Author

Mark Rockwell is a senior staff writer at FCW, whose beat focuses on acquisition, the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Energy.

Before joining FCW, Rockwell was Washington correspondent for Government Security News, where he covered all aspects of homeland security from IT to detection dogs and border security. Over the last 25 years in Washington as a reporter, editor and correspondent, he has covered an increasingly wide array of high-tech issues for publications like Communications Week, Internet Week, Fiber Optics News, magazine and Wireless Week.

Rockwell received a Jesse H. Neal Award for his work covering telecommunications issues, and is a graduate of James Madison University.

Click here for previous articles by Rockwell. Contact him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter at @MRockwell4.


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