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Monday, December 9, 2019

GOVERNMENT ACQUISITION CATEGORIES

https://blog.gao.gov/2019/05/28/federal-government-contracting-for-fiscal-year-2018-infographic/


GOVERNMENT ACQUISITION CATEGORIES

The federal government generally recognizes 6 principal categories of acquisitions. Below is an extract from the FAR for each. It is possible for a product to go through, or be supported by, all 6 acquisition categories during its life cycle.

FAR 34.005-3 - CONCEPT EXPLORATIONS

Whenever practicable, contracts to be performed during the concept exploration phase are for relatively short periods, at planned dollar levels. These contracts are to refine the proposed concept and to reduce the concept's technical uncertainties. The scope of work for this phase of the program is consistent with the government's planned budget for the phase. Follow-on contracts for such tasks in the exploration phase are awarded as long as the concept approach remains promising, the contractor's progress is acceptable, and it is economically practicable to do so.

FAR 34.005-4 - DEMONSTRATIONS

Whenever practicable, contracts for the demonstration phase provide for contractors to submit, by the end of the phase, priced proposals, totally funded by the government, for full-scale development. The contracting officer provides contractors with operational test conditions, performance criteria, life cycle cost factors, and any other selection criteria necessary for the contractors to prepare their proposals.

FAR 34.005-5 Full - FULL SCALE DEVELOPMENTS

Whenever practicable, the full-scale development contracts provide for the contractors to submit priced proposals for production that are based on the latest quantity, schedule, and logistics requirements and other considerations that will be used in making the production decision.

FAR 34.005-6 - FULL PRODUCTION

Contracts for full production of successfully tested major systems selected from the full-scale development phase may be awarded if the agency head (a) reaffirms the mission need and program objectives and (b) grants approval to proceed with production.

FAR 35.002 - RESEARCH AND DEVLEOPMENT

The primary purpose of contracted R&D programs is to advance scientific and technical knowledge and apply that knowledge to the extent necessary to achieve agency and national goals. Unlike contracts for supplies and services, most R&D contracts are directed toward objectives for which the work or methods cannot be precisely described in advance. It is difficult to judge the probabilities of success or required effort for technical approaches, some of which offer little or no early assurance of full success. The contracting process is used to encourage the best sources from the scientific and industrial community to become involved in the program and must provide an environment in which the work can be pursued with reasonable flexibility and minimum administrative burden.

Contracts are used only when the principal purpose is the acquisition of supplies or services for the direct benefit or use of the federal government. Grants or cooperative agreements are used when the principal purpose of the transaction is to stimulate or support research and development for another public purpose.

FAR 37.1 - SERVICES

"Nonpersonal services contract" means a contract under which the personnel rendering the services are not subject, either by the contract's terms or by the manner of its administration, to the supervision and control usually prevailing in relationships between the Government and its employees.

"Personal Services Contract" means a contract that, by its express terms or as administered, makes the contractor personnel appear, in effect, Government employees.

"Service Contract" means a contract that directly engages the time and effort of a contractor whose primary purpose is to perform an identifiable task rather than to furnish an end item of supply. A service contract may be either a nonpersonal or personal contract. It can also cover services performed by either professional or nonprofessional personnel whether on an individual or organizational basis. Some of the areas in which service contracts are found include the following:

(a) Maintenance, overhaul, repair, servicing, rehabilitation, salvage, modernization, or modification of supplies, systems, or equipment
(b) Routine recurring maintenance of real property
(c) Housekeeping and base services.
(d) Advisory and assistance services
(e) Operation of Government-owned equipment facilities, and systems
(f) Communications services

Sunday, December 8, 2019

Unallowable Costs Under Federal Government Contracts



I. INTRODUCTION:

Over the years the federal government has determined that certain costs cannot be allowed in prices, cost reimbursements or settlements under contracts with the US Government. The government is unwilling to pay for these costs as direct charges to federal government contracts or through indirect expense pools applied to federal government contracts. A company is not prohibited from incurring unallowable costs, but they cannot be recovered either directly or indirectly under federal government contracts. To manage unallowable costs, separate accounts must be established for these type expenses and they must not be priced directly into federal governement contracts during the proposal process. Such costs cannot be made a part of the expense pools which are applied to federal government contracts through an overhead, material handling or G&A cost allocation at accounting period close or during forward pricing rate planning.

II. UNALLOWABLE COST CATEGORIES:

The following cost categories are generally unallowable under federal government contracts:

A. Advertising Costs are allowable only if they are necessary to meet the requirements of the contract peformance.

B. Public Relations Costs are unallowable except for (1) costs specifically required by government contracts, (2) cost of communicating with the public and press pertaining to specific accomplishments which result from government contracts or (3) costs of conducting communication and liaison necessary to keep the public informed on matters of public concern such as notices of awards, financial matters, etc.

C. Alcoholic Beverage Costs are unallowable.

D. Bad Debt Costs are unallowable.

E. Automobile Costs for Personal Use are unallowable.

F. Defense and Prosecution of Criminal and Civil Proceedings, Claims Appeals and Patent Infringement are generally unallowable.

G. Donations and Contributions are unallowable.

H. Entertainment Costs are unallowable.

I. Executive Lobbying Costs Incured in Attempting to Impropertly Influence either Directly or Indirectly an Employee or Officer of the Federal Government Regarding a Contract are unallowable.

J. Fines and Penalties resulting from failure of the company to comply with federal, state, local or foreign laws and regulations are unallowable.

K. Goods and Services Cost for Personal Use are unallowable.

L. Personal Housing and Living Expenses are unallowable. (Not to be confused with direct travel costs which are allowable)

M. Insurance Costs to Protect Against Defects in Materials or Workmanship are unallowable.

N. Interest and Investment Management Costs are unallowable except for cost related to the physical custody and control of monies and securites and for interest cost paid to external parties for asests (buildings and equipment) used to support government contracts.

O. Losses on Government or Other Contracts are unallowable.

P. Membership Costs in Civic, Community Organizations, Country Clubs or Social or Dining Clubs are unallowable.

Q. Pre-Contract Costs, unless approved by the Contracting Agency are unallowable.

R. Airfare Travel Costs in Excess of the Lowest Available Commercial Discount or Standard Coach Airfare are unallowable.

Tuesday, December 3, 2019

INTRODUCING FEDERAL GOVERNMENT CONTRACTING INTO YOUR COMMERCIAL SMALL BUSINESS

Image: FCW.com
The purpose of this article is to compare small business federal government contracting as opposed to selling commercial products and services. The comparison may be useful for those who are considering melding commercial and federal government business or starting an enterprise involving both venues.

WHAT FEDERAL GOVERNMENT CONTRACTING IS - AND IS NOT


Small business federal government contracting is not rocket science - to succeed you must take what you do well in the commercial market place or what your experience leads you to believe you can plan successfully as a commercial enterprise and then apply it in a slightly different manner from a business perspective to accommodate federal government contracting requirements. Very few companies enter federal government contracting without some commercial experience and success. Very few startups entertain contracting exclusively to the federal government without commercial work to sustain operations while the more lengthy government procurement process is being pursued.


Federal government contracting is controlled by the Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR). Bid and proposal types are driven by the nature of the supply or service being procured. No one reads the FAR cover to cover - It is a source book for when you need it. The FAR and associated regulations are taught in only a few colleges, such as the Defense Systems Acquisition University at Ft. Belvoir and the George Washington School of Government Contracting. Very few CPA's are familiar with the US Government FAR Cost Accounting Standards (CAS) and I am not aware of any questions regarding CAS on current CPA exams. In general one must grow to understand these requirements and that usually happens by doing business under them.


BUSINESS DRIVER COMPARISONS


The following are some common driving business factors and a commercial versus federal government comparison for each:

PLEASE CLICK ON IMAGE OR DOWNLOAD TO ENLARGE


SUMMARY


The above are not all the driving factors you should consider when weighing the differences between commercial and government work, but they are some of the most significant. Becoming a government supplier may not result in the highest profit-making product/service line in your enterprise but the venue has the potential to pay the bills and be a major platform for stability and long term growth. It should not be your only endeavor but it could be a major element of your total business plan.

Please see the Table of Contents at this site and the free downloads of books and materials for further details.

Sunday, December 1, 2019

DCAA Audits and Small Business Job Cost Accounting




INTRODUCTION

Small Businesses typically have a learning experience growing into government contracting. Part of that process is undergoing reviews by the Defense Contract Audit Agency (DCAA). It takes knowledge of the requirements and strategic focus to set up the type of business processes required for accommodating government contract job cost accounting and fit those processes into the way your company does business.

DCAA or other agency representatives do not approve job cost accounting software packages. They approve contractor job cost accounting practices in compliance with Federal Cost Accounting Standards (CAS). If you are a small business, you are probably going to come under modified CAS Coverage that you can read about at the following link:

What is a "Compliant" Federal Government Contracting Small Business System?

Perhaps you have already examined the above background, but I would encourage you to review it again in connection with planning for your business system. Perhaps you have discovered that CAS compliant job cost accounting effects your estimating structure, your long range planning for indirect rates, as well as your general ledger, overhead and G&A structure. You may have discovered as well that DCAA wants to see your government contracts accounted for in a separate cost center from your commercial work and that there are certain unallowable costs that cannot be charged directly or indirectly to government contracts.

PROPOSAL AUDITS

Proposal audits are performed by DCAA on your cost proposal at the request of the Procurement Contracting Officer (PCO) and verify your direct and indirect rates against your long range plan, your labor category pricing, contingent hire agreements, vendor quotes, subcontractor proposals and all other data related to the cost volume of the proposal. Results go to the PCO. Arithmetic checks are made. No opinion is offered on the merit of the pricing, only that it has been documented in a long-range plan or a vendor or subcontractor quote and it is accurate.

PROGRESS BILLING AUDITS UNDER FIRM, FIXED PRICE CONTRACTS

This type of audit is on live data from your billing system. It is triggered by your submitting a progress payment under a firm, fixed price contract. Progress payments can be allowed in long-running firm, fixed price contracts that are front-end loaded with material and labor investment and have lengthy schedules for delivering the end product.

The DCAA Auditor will get the audit request from the contracting activity and will ask to examine the complete set of job cost records in your accounting system for incurred cost on the fixed price contract and tie those records out to the progress payment requested amount (usually 85-90% of the incurred cost to date - they hold some billed amount in retention). Records audited are at the time card and expense report level, as well as purchase orders, travel vouchers and any other transactions that are booked and billed in your accounting system to the fixed price contract. They will want to see the time cards and other documents and will trace them back through the system.

If you do not have a progress billing clause in your firm, fixed price contract, it is unlikely you will be audited. The contracting activity or the Defense Finance Accounting System (DFAS) will simply compare the final amount you bill to the firm, fixed price amount in your contract and pay if the item or service has been accepted and delivered. (Usually a sign-off by the PCO, Contracting Officer's Technical Representative (COTR) or a DD Form 250 signed by a government inspector on product deliveries)

COST PLUS AND TIME AND MATERIAL CONTRACT AUDITS

Billing audits are performed by DCAA, again at the request of the contracting activity. The auditor will go into all actual cost records submitted with your billing. Cost plus and T&M billings must have all the billing detail behind them or they will not be paid. The detail must be at the transaction level and the audit is identical to the one discussed above for progress payments.

INCURRED COST AUDITS (OFTEN REFERRED TO AS "RATE AUDITS"

These audits are conducted when you are closing out contracts with the government and they have been billed at provisional rates, or the government needs to establish that you are billing accurately from a rate standpoint. If the contract is fixed price with progress payments, cost plus or Time and Material in nature and has been billed over a long period, particularly if it has crossed more than one government fiscal year, then a system-wide incurred cost audit will be necessary to verify the rates that were charged to the government and determine the difference between the provisional rate billed and the actual rate incurred (where applicable).

In addition it is periodically necessary for the government to establish that no unallowable costs have found their way into government contract billings.
The government allows provisional billing rates for the convenience of the contractor based on his long-range plan and mix of business. The government holds a retention amount on each billing and then at closeout determines with the contractor through an incurred cost audit the final amount due on the contract, releases the retention accordingly, and the contract can then be closed if all other obligations have been completed. At closeout the government pays the final bill.

A rate audit determines the compliance of the job cost system if it occurs while the contract is in process. If an incurred cost audit occurs on contract closeout actions, results will directly impact final contract billing approval and amounts.

JOB COST ACCOUNTING SOFTWARE TOOLS

My experience with job cost accounting software tools is that complete packages are pretty expensive. COTS accounting packages such as Quick Books do not provide job cost accounting. I have installed JAMIS, which is the 'Cadillac', DELTEK, which is the 'Fairlane 500', and SYMPAQ, which is the 'Volkswagen'. They are all expensive, even for single user licenses. You can go to these and other product sites on the web and examine their capabilities:

DELTEK

SYMPAQ

JAMIS

Here are some products especially designed for small business:

ICAT

PROCAS

All of the above suppliers are used to long sales cycles and competing against each other. They will do remote demos for you and bend over backwards to show you their products. You can learn much about government contract job cost accounting just by taking the time to go through a demo. For companies whose direct job cost records are growing fast, these tools offer the utility to manage data volume and efficiently handle requirements such as changes to existing records driven by rate changes, fiscal period closing or contract closeout.

GROWING YOUR JOB COST SYSTEM

Many small companies doing government work start out with a rudimentary direct job cost accounting software package such as Peach Tree or the add-on tool for Quick Books mentioned above and crutch it with manually maintained records on spreadsheets for indirect cost allocation, time keeping, expense reporting, purchasing and supplier commitments. There is nothing wrong with such an approach as long as you can supply job cost (individual contract) records complying with modified CAS Coverage and demonstrate such things as:

Time Cards and time keeping process by worker and labor category by contract or indirect cost pool

Expense Reports and expense report process by worker by contract or indirect cost pool

Purchase Orders with job cost accounting data traceable thru invoices to contacts or indirect cost pools after payment

Overhead Allocations in a Government-unique cost center to individual contracts at month end based on individual contract direct labor cost

G and A Allocations in a Government-unique cost center to individual contracts at month end based on individual contract total cost.

A semi-manual approach gets burdensome as the company grows and the number of accounting transactions at the direct and indirect cost level increase in volume.

If you do not have a good job cost software tool, I recommend you begin looking for one and plan strategically to implement it if  significant progress billings and service contracting transactions, to include time and material and cost plus contracts, are in your future. Implementing a government compliant job cost system is a sensitive matter and must be planned. '

As companies grow and get involved in larger programs they come under full CAS Coverage that requires a disclosure statement and considerably more controls on the structure of the business system. You can read about full CAS coverage at the link contained in the introduction to this article.

SUMMARY

If you have the investment budget available, you may wish to consider the job cost accounting system software suppliers I mentioned above and compete them against each other for a price. Installing one of these packages is critical from an accounting period standpoint. I recommend a new year starting point and running in parallel on your old system for at least a quarter.

Keep in mind that DCAA does not approve COTS job cost accounting system software. Buying the software will not make you "DCAA Compliant" or "CAS Compliant" You do that through careful process development, specific to your company, utilizing software as a tool to operate your own unique business processes. Your processes will include long range planning, pricing, job cost accounting, indirect cost allocation, time-keeping, expense reporting, purchasing and commitments and billing - all geared to accurate job cost records at the individual contract level.

To the extent that you cannot demonstrate the above features to DCAA when they audit your business you CAN demonstrate that you are aware of the necessity to set these things up, lay out your plan to do so, and specify a time frame within which DCAA can expect to see you complete your compliant government contract pricing and accounting structure.

I have found that DCAA auditors are reasonable people who understand small companies must grow into government business systems. Showing them your accounting structure and your business system plans will display knowledge they will appreciate and assure them you understand the requirements, even if you cannot demonstrate all the processes at the point in time that the government initially audits your company.

Chapters 45 and 51 through 53 of my Book, "Small Business Federal Government Contracting" provides further detail and examples on establishing CAS-Compliant small business planning, pricing and job cost accounting. The book is free as a download in the right margin of this site in the "Box Net" cube.

NOTE:  Comments at this post have been retained from previous discussions on the topic at "Small to feds" 





Sunday, November 24, 2019

10 TIPS TO EXPAND YOUR CLIENT BASE MIX FOR STABILITY IN GOVERNMENT CONTRACTING

Image:"grindstone.com"


1. A mix of commercial and government business is good. In fact, most small business federal government contractors who move from commercial to government work, remain in  commercial business.  They separate government from commercial work in unique cost centers of the company for pricing and cost control purposes, recognizing the market and competitive differences in the two venues.

 Cost Center Strategic Planning 

2. Your marketing efforts must be sensitized to swings in world events, geopolitics, domestic priorities and technology trends. 
 
3. The over 100 federal government agencies all have the same small business contracting requirement under the law. Focus on government contacting applications for your core business by exploring agencies other than those with whom you have been doing business.

SAM Contract Opportunities (Formerly FEDBIZOPPS) 
 
4. Industry partners are an excellent way to move into new fields.


Small Business Teaming 

5. Keep an eye on USA Spends and a close view of the domestic vs. foreign emphasis in the federal budget.  (War vs. bridge repairs). 

 USA Spends

6. Remember there is not much agencies of the federal government do not buy and they buy in huge quantities. 

 7. If your high-end navy IT customer requires support, security or related services, it is likely his or her counterpart in the Department of Agriculture or Health and Human services requires the same expertise.   This rule holds true for other services as well.

8. Maintain Your Capability Statement current with evolving trends and your growth. Seek to utilize it as a vital tool in your company marketing program.


9.   Preserve your credit rating and your finances in top shape to respond effectively when opportunities arise.
 
10. Remember market research is a continuing and ongoing process

Saturday, November 16, 2019

SECURITY CLEARANCES IN SMALL BUSINESS FEDERAL GOVERNMENT CONTRACTING

Image Source MGN
While exploring the federal government marketplace the small business will encounter programs and potential contracts that involve security clearances. This is common in the Departments of Defense, Energy, Homeland Security and many other agencies.


"FedTeDs" (Federal Technical Data Solutions) is a password-protected, web-based tool designed to safeguard the distribution of sensitive, unclassified, acquisition-related information for all federal agencies. FedTeDS allows Contracting Officers (COs) to use the internet to disseminate sensitive information in a secure way and eliminate the need to create and distribute CDs or paper documents. On some programs access to bid documentation may require a company and/or individual registration to acquire access.


Small business must grow into federal government classified programs. Individual and company clearance designations exist at various levels, depending on the relative risk to national security if unauthorized disclosure occurs. Clearances for key management are necessary to achieve a company clearance and all clearances are expensive. Either your company or a sponsor in the form of a prime contractor or government agency must pay for the process; the higher the security clearance the more costly the clearance. For facility clearances involving housing classified material, a building itself may require modifications for classified storage, communication devices or meeting accommodations (Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility or SCIF).


Becoming involved in the classified contract venue requires that you budget the time, the expense and the processes necessary and that you expense them in your forecasted overhead rate budgets so the costs can be appropriately priced and recovered via government contract billing. You must also carefully research government regulations such as the "National Industrial Security Program Operating Manual" (NISPOM) which governs the classified environment across all federal agencies:






The US Government security clearance process is based on two major principles:


1. A "Need to Know"


2. A requirement to perform a job on a specific government contract containing classified work.


Initial clearances are obtained by developing a business relationship with an agency or a prime contractor performing classified work and then getting assigned to a contract effort which is classified. Thereafter, clearances at certain lower levels can be carried by your employees or your company to other contracts at the same level of clearance requirement or even to a different agency within certain time constraints. At higher levels of clearances every employee is "Read On" and "Read Off" each and every contract on a singular basis after extensive background checks and in certain instances a polygraph. The process can involve lifetime nondisclosure commitments by an individual.


So you need a sponsor, a prime contractor company or an agency that will process your clearance based on your need to know classified information to participate in classified government contracts. Naturally they must be convinced via your marketing campaign that you can add value to the program involved. If it seems like a "Chicken and Egg" process - it is; but every business working in the venue has to go through the gates discussed in this article and maintain a vigilant program of compliance with associated regulations.

NOTE:  Comments at this post have been maintained from previous discussions on this topic at "Small to feds" in the interest of demonstrating the often complex and confusing nature of the clearances process. 

As one anonymous commentor (not published due to anonymity)  pointed out, some of the published comments are wrong and ill advised.  It pays to read the latest issue of the NISPOM, linked above. 

The anonymous commentor also maintained that clearances no longer cost the company.  I do not agree. The indirect costs of maintaining training programs to keep company and individual clearances is an ongoing tangible cost that must be planned for. The government considers  that cost allowable through the overhead on contracts, much the same way they are now considering a similar allowability for cyber-security certification.  

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Meeting Veteran & Employer Challenges During Transition from Military to Civilian Work


Image Eastern Illinois University

Expectations and Reality are Far Apart on Both Sides of the Employment Spectrum
By Ken Larson 

Aside from the legal and moral obligations to employ returning veterans, there is a third, vital challenge in the employment transition equation: understanding the vast difference between the military and civilian work environments.  The expectations of both parties must be carefully assessed and communicated with realistic processes for effective transition from military to civilian employment by the veteran.

Civilian Knowledge of the Military Environment Has Diminished

As a country, America has been at war nonstop for the past 13 years. As a public, it has not. A total of about 2.5 million Americans, roughly three-quarters of 1 percent, served in Iraq or Afghanistan at any point in the post-9/11 years, many of them more than once.

War was much closer to home when the draft existed and military participation ran higher during WW II and the Vietnam Conflict.

The Nature of Today's Wars and a Cynicism with Regard to Their Outcome Impacts the Veteran and the Civilian Outlook

Ultimately, the military’s discontent may stem from dissonance between the commitment to, and pride in, the mission in Iraq and Afghanistan and the knowledge that these sacrifices have not yielded the desired results.

The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan arguably have prompted a crisis of confidence within the military itself.

Despite a six-year, $287 million effort to make troops more optimistic and resilient, an Army survey found that 52 percent of soldiers scored badly on questions that measured optimism, while 48 percent reported having little satisfaction or commitment to their job.


Veterans bring these issues home and find a civilian employment environment that does not have a focus on combat life and death, but rather an emphasis on long term thinking, collaboration, viewing actions with respect to the impact on internal and external customers and politically correct human resource considerations.

The assumption on the part of the employer is that the strength and training of the individual coming out of the military environment permits a reasonable transition. It does not.

We Must Educate and Develop Programs to Bridge the Gap from Both Ends.

A transition partnership between the veteran and the company is necessary. Expectations must be adjusted to reflect the differences in both venues.


Military core values such as – oaths, the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ), a culture of direct command, and a narrow focus on the task at hand are no longer available when the veteran leaves the military. 

In the civilian environment political correctness, strategic group awareness, tact, organization factors, and a broad view of mission and achievement are required.

A veteran is therefore is not so much entitled to a job as he or she is entitled to be understood, and to be allowed to understand the civilian job environment, growing into it.

Professional Roles are Vital

There are two important types of professional roles to consider when hiring and managing military veterans in the business venue.

As a veteran who made the transition to civilian professional work and ultimately owned a small enterprise, and as a counselor who supports veterans in becoming business owners, my experience over several decades indicates military men and women do well in Role 1 below. They have the most challenges with Role 2.

Role 1 Technical - Scientific, engineering, logistics, electronics, design and similar skill sets where direct supervision, team building, corporate policy compliance and human resource planning and utilization are not major factors.

VS

Role 2- ManagementFunctional process capacities responsible for hiring, evaluation, supervision, compliance with civilian law and department activities involving group dynamics, customer relations and sensitive human factors.

Image: The Military Wallet








I came out of the military having had a leadership role in engineering, base development planning and combat support. I served in war zones in Southeast Asia and on highly classified missions. I was not a manager. I was a military leader in specialized skill sets under Role 1 above.

I knew how to direct people who followed orders without question because the Uniform Code of Military Justice to which we swore an oath said they must do so.

I felt uncomfortable in jobs involving Role 2 above because they were foreign to me. I later adjusted, learned the venue and became skilled as a manager in the corporate world. I preferred staff assignments, however for most of my career.

The corporate venue seemed enormously political and bureaucratic to a former war fighter like me. I was not that tactful. I cut to the chase often and did not always take everyone with me when I made a decision.

Once I grew into a Role 2 performer, I found in interviewing, hiring, evaluating and managing young veterans, even seasoned ones, who had retired and joined the civilian work force, that almost all were better suited for Role 1. It took years and effort on my part to fit them into Role 2 and some never made it.

Management Analysis  and Moving Forward

The principal reason for the logic conveyed above is that the military environment may seem to be structured in a way that fits Role 2, but the military does not turn out individuals who are suited in the knowledge and experience necessary in the civilian environment and they are not very good at it without extensive training and adaptation.

Enterprises have multiple-faceted challenges and they require multiple- faceted people. Even though individuals may hold a specific position job title, success in the civilian work force demands avenues where the human resource can contribute in multiple ways.

If a contributor has experience and training in several areas the business can utilize, that makes him or her a valuable resource and it is likely they will be professionally fulfilled and rewarded from doing so. Military personnel have specialty training and focus; few have a wide view of what is in front of them, particularly with respect to military vs. civilian professional settings.

It all comes down to the workers having an element of control in the future success for both themselves and the company and having the opportunity to realize their potential in that regard.

If the professional is in a narrow, technical discipline and his or her expectations are to have others support them in that role or if they are more comfortable in a "Stove-piped" professional setting and not attuned to group dynamics and the often politically correct nature of the civilian organization, they perhaps belong in technical roles and they do not belong in management roles at the onset of their employ.

Summary

In fairness to veterans and to our hopes for them in the future, we must understand these above distinctions, build on Role 1, understand the risk in Role 2 and assist wherever possible.Above all,  a respectful partnership and realistic expectations must evolve between the veteran and the company for success in transitioning  former military personnel into the civilian work force. This must be achieved through education, training, communication and assessment of both the veteran and the company personnel. 


Ken Larson 







About the Author:

Ken Larson is a 2 Tour US Army Vietnam Veteran, retired after 36 Years in the Defense Industrial Complex, having worked on 25 major weapons systems, many of which are in use today in the Middle East. He concluded his career with his own consulting firm. As a MicroMentor Volunteer Counselor Ken receives many inquiries from small companies wishing to enter or enhance their position in federal government contracting. 








Sunday, November 10, 2019

SAM Contract Opportunities Replaces FEDBIZOPPS





             To  





IMPORTANT NOTICE:  

As of Nov. 12, 2019 Federal Business Opportunities, the website for publishing all public government procurements, will be officially decommissioned. After Veterans Day, the authoritative source for federal solicitations will be under a page on beta.SAM.gov

Please see the following article for details:

FedBizOpps Will Be Retired After Veterans Day Weekend

_______________________________________________

INTRODUCTION

This posting will provide strategic guidance on SAM Contract Opportunities and factors for using it in small business marketing to government agencies and prime contractors.

A PUBLIC DOMAIN ACQUISITIONS BULLETIN BOARD

Established as the public announcement vehicle for federal procurement, SAM Contract Opportunities is a web-based, "Public Announcement Bulletin Board" to satisfy fairness in government contracting laws mandated by US law. It is a terrific market research tool and an absolute necessity once a solicitation has gone formal to stay abreast of modifications, changes in proposal due dates, questions and answers and other necessary information that contracting officers are required to make public.

WHAT ANNOUNCEMENTS MEAN

SAM Contract Opportunities is the mandated posting point for contracting officers in all federal agencies. It is also the required notification point for GSA schedule solicitations, contract award announcements of all types and other information that is required by law for communication to the public in a fair and open manner regarding federal government procurement of supplies and services. The site contains "Sources Sought" and bidders conference notices, government requests for industry comment on draft RFP's and formally published solicitations with proposal due dates. 

A solicitation posted at SAM Contract Opportunities  generally means that a procurement has received funding and the contracting officer has been authorized to start the source selection process.

Often misunderstood, is that much has occurred in the way of marketing activities by companies in advance of notices formally published by the government on SAM Contract Opportunities. By the time the formal, solicitation is published it is too late to market for setting a procurement aside for a small business designation if it has not already been established as such. In addition, formal solicitation publication closes the window on self-marketing by HUB Zone and 8(a) firms for set asides to them individually without competition. In short, businesses have been marketing for the requirement long before it became formally announced at SAM Contract Opportunities.

Finding a solicitation that is ideal for your company for the first time on SAM Contract Opportunities is excellent market research insight into what the agency publishing the requirement is buying. However, a careful bid/no bid analysis should be conducted as to whether it is prudent to go through the expense of a proposal if the opportunity has not been a new business target for your firm earlier in the game. Please see the following article on completing a bid/no bid analysis:

Small Business Federal Government Contracting Proposal Preparation

NAVIGATING THE SITE

Start by registering at SAM. Many of the features available to users are not accessible without a registration. Begin some careful searches by key words into agency solicitations that could use your products and services. 

The data base is huge and it is best to move from specific key word selections to the more general with experience to avoid being inundated with meaningless solicitations. Some companies establish a separate email address for the SAM Contract Opportunities mailings to keep the results out of the mainstream of other business. The mailings are totally automated so there are no marketing factors to consider in setting up such an arrangement.

As you examine the solicitations, see who has indicated an interest in bidding them among your competitors and the primes you are pursuing and then target such projects for participation by your firm either as a prime yourself or as a subcontractor. Pay particular attention to "Sources Sought", Draft RFP "Request for Industry Comments" and similar announcements that indicate an early requirement taking shape.

For active solicitations that you wish to monitor, check receive updates and announcements by email. Once the solicitation reaches the formal RFP stage and a due data for a proposal has been established, if you have decided to bid the job the "Follow" feature is especially critical.

If there is a bidders conference and you intend to bid the job, make plans to attend. When questions are solicited you may ask them but remember that your question and its associated answer will be published by the government so be careful not to educate your competition to your win strategy in the process.

You do not have to indicate you are interested in bidding the job by registering as an "Interested Vendor" in order to bid a solicitation. Some companies prefer not to advertise their bid intentions, seeking to avoid competitors modeling their firm.

A MARKET RESEARCH SOURCE

If you are new to federal government contracting and wish to determine the best market for your supplies and services, observing what a given agency is buying on SAM Contract Opportunities is a key factor.

Keep in mind that the decision makers in government contracting are the technical managers and process people behind the scenes in an organization (either government agency or large company). They have the budget authority, program responsibility and accountability. These people pass their decisions on to buyers and contracting officers via signed requisitions. Buyers and contracting officers are really no more than gate keeping staff members, knowledgeable in legalities, terms and conditions and who sign on behalf of the agency or company AFTER an internal review by the executives who have technical and management responsibility.

Thus your real marketing targets are behind the gatekeepers and little is achieved by marketing to a contracting officer or buyer. This rule of thumb applies with prime contractor contracting specialists and administrators as well as government personnel. For further details on the roles of these personnel please see the following link:
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Federal Government Contracting Customer Relations

Once again, bidding an active solicitation after it has hit SAM Contract Opportunities may be too late. The idea is to use them for market research so you can target similar projects earlier in the process. Research the technologies and services in which your targeted agencies and primes are involved through trade magazines, Internet articles, web sites, employment hiring fairs and industry conferences.

Focus your marketing campaign on finding evolving projects you can use as vehicles to approach teaming partners and agencies directly with a marketing campaign geared to your capability statement. Develop a solution to the specific needs of the project and present it to gain their attention.

Your principal challenge as a small product and services provider is finding evolving programs and projects into which your capabilities fit. Once you have found such targets it is then a matter of marketing brusquely to get into the game with eye catching solutions and capabilities.

SUMMARY

When a procurement becomes public on SAM Contract Opportunities it stays public, but many invisible strings behind the scenes are likely already attached to it by aggressive and talented companies who may have sculpted the requirement with the agency, assisted in writing the statement of work or influenced the structure of the specifications to favor their products and services. All this is good, competitive marketing practice in the government contracting venue, just as it is in the commercial marketplace.

Use SAM Contract Opportunities as discussed here in consonance with the following teaming and marketing articles:

Small Business Teaming In Government Contracting

Multiple Front Marketing In Government Contracting

Marketing A Small Business In The Federal Government Contracting Environment

SAM Contract Opportunities is an absolute necessity once you make a bid decision. It is an extensive resource prior to such decisions and if utilized prudently it can enhance your small business government contract marketing plan dramatically.