There have already been many articles published regarding the changes to federal procurement for pandemic response. In the current environment, changes are happening daily as agencies flex to continue working, stop or postpone projects and find the supplies and services they need. It is difficult to stay on top of the changes and how they affect your business. It all seems to be getting more tangled.
A quick review of some of the federal contracting changes when an emergency is declared. Emergency declarations enact FAR 18 (https://www.acquisition.gov/content/part-18-emergency-acquisitions). This law allows for threshold increases, local focused procurement, reduced competition, dropping mandatory acquisitions sources, oral requests, letter contracts, sole source awards, and much more. This also allows for individual agency changes, so staying connected with your clients is very important.
Increases to thresholds. According to Jason Miller’s article at Federal New Network (https://federalnewsnetwork.com/acquisition-policy/2020/03/agencies-initiate-emergency-acquisition-authorities/), several agencies have increase their purchasing thresholds. Since this article in March additional agencies have increased thresholds as well. Purchases inside the United States threshold changes are: Micro purchase to $20,000 and Simplified Acquisition Threshold has increased to $750,000. These changes are planned to stay in effect for COVID 19 purchasing through July 1.
8(a) sole source thresholds for the Department of Defense has been raised to $100 million. This is actually part of the 2020 Defense authorization bill but comes in a timely manner.
Another area that needs to be mentioned is Defense Production Act DPA and Defense Priorities and Allocations System DPAS. Washington PTAC has a great free webinar on DPA and DPAS, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C4hqGoozyk8&feature=youtu.be.
We are seeing unusual contracts as well. The USDA’s announcement for a $3 billion purchase of fresh produce, dairy, and meat products to be provided to food banks and non-profits serving Americans in need. This 10-month program has an extremely short timeframe for procurement and start up: https://www.ams.usda.gov/content/usda-purchase-3-billion-agricultural-commodities-issue-solicitations-interested-participants
How to cope with these changes?
Communication is imperative. Clarify with your contract officers how to connect with them if they are not allowed to work in their office or while remote working how they are connecting to the systems they need. Sign up for newsletters and announcements from the agencies you work with to stay in the know.
Research COVID-19 2020 pandemic on Federal Data Procurement System, www.fpds.gov. Use the National Interest Action identifier P20C to research what contracts have already been awarded. This is a great way to identify how supplies and services are being purchased, coded and described.
Consider how your products and services might change to support the current need. There have been many manufacturers who have changed their products entirely or shifted to focus on one item to make more personal protective equipment available. Services might find a place in need for contract tracking across the country.
Now is the time to see where you fit and prepare for more change.