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Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Managing Government Contract Limitation of Funds and Funding Exposure

Photo:  Getty Images
Many federal contracts are funded incrementally, usually based on the government fiscal year that runs from 1 October to 30 September. Although the government may negotiate dollar price ceilings for cost plus and time and materials contracts or firm, fixed total price arrangements, the contracts themselves may be incrementally funded, particularly if they extend over two or more government fiscal years. A contract may contain negotiated prices or a cost ceiling but also specify an incremental funding value.

The contractor is required to inform the government when actual costs incurred plus obligations to suppliers or payroll on a specific contract reach certain thresholds of the current incremental funding specified in the contract (usually 80%). The government is then obligated to further fund the contract. In the event the contract is not funded further, the contractor has the right to stop work before he exceeds the incremental funding. Some contractors choose to operate on "risk," continuing to perform on a contract while exceeding the incremental funding in booked cost and obligations. The government is under no obligation to reimburse the contractor for amounts exceeding incremental funding. Nearing the end of a government fiscal year, a contractor may find delays in funding reaching all the way to congress. This situation must be managed with the government contracting officer.

If a contract is not funded to continue and the contractor has performed to date in accordance with all required terms, the government retains the right to terminate the contract for the convenience of the government. This requires a special notification to the contractor from the government and usually occurs due to changes in government priorities. The contractor may then bill the government for all costs and obligations to date, plus any direct and indirect extraordinary costs associated with business disruption, termination administration, employee layoff cost and the like. Terminations for convenience are very expensive for the government. Nevertheless, limitation of funds and funding exposure must be carefully monitored by an astute small business.

To properly manage incremental funding, the business system must be capable of accounting monthly for all direct and indirect costs on each contract, plus commitments to suppliers and employees in the form of open purchase orders and unpaid or unposted payroll.

Your internal release document should specify the current incremental funding if your contract is not fully funded at award. Further revisions to your release documentation should convey receipt of contact amendments from the government that supply additional required funding to the contract as performance proceeds. Requests for increases in incremental funding are required when the actual booked cost plus commitments to suppliers reaches 80% of the current funding on the contact. In the event the contact is not adequately funded incrementally by the government, a revision to your internal release documentation should specify a stop work order after you have notified your customer that you plan to cease performance on the contract due to lack of sufficient funding. Notification should be provided to suppliers under your contract with a stop work to avoid their incurring additional costs for which you are not receiving funding from the government. Be specific with a stop work date to these suppliers.

In the event the contract is terminated for convenience, a new revision to your internal release document should set up a special project and identifying number for accumulating costs specifically associated with the termination. These costs will be billed separately to the government under a termination contract modification and should be carefully recorded. Both direct costs and indirect costs at all levels of the company may be charged direct to a contract termination for convenience. You can expect your suppliers to bill for cost to date and termination cost as well. You will pass on those costs to the government in your proposal for termination for convenience of the government. The government will assume ownership of all inventory and work in process on terminated cost type contracts. Termination proposals, audits, negotiations and contract closeout can be lengthy and complicated proceedings.

Saturday, December 1, 2018

Don't Overlook The Government Contract Data Requirements List (CDRL)

Image:  Defense Acquisition University 
The Contract Data Requirements List (CDRL) is usually contained in Part III, Section J of the government solicitation you are bidding and the executed contract upon award. 

The CDRL is a register of the deliverable data items. Each data item has a discrete numeric identifier, a data item description (DID) number and a delivery schedule to the customer. 

The CDRL is commonly conveyed on DD Form 1423 by the Department of Defense (DOD) specifying the delivery address, number of copies required and the reviewing and approving authority for the data item within the government agency.  It also specifies electronic addresses if electronic data delivery is necessary. Forms other than a DD Form 1423 may be used to convey data item requirements by agencies outside DOD. That form may be as simple as a listing of requirements. 

You should review the listing to insure adequate definition and understanding exist for you to commit to the data requirements when you sign your contract. Data Item Descriptions (DID's) are available at:

Data Item Description Library

Although it is unusual to negotiate separate pricing for contract data, your negotiated contract and resulting budget baseline must contain the resources to prepare and submit these items.

On contracts for new products, data item submissions represent major benchmarks on the contract schedule. Results of study, research, engineering design and development are submitted in the form of data items to the government for approval. 

Once approved, data items form the specifications for continuing effort on the contract. Key design reviews on development programs are focused on the contents of data item submissions.

Data item submissions contain reports of contract cost and schedule performance, results of status meetings and records of ongoing deliveries. Data item deliveries are key factors in demonstrating successful performance under the contract.

In some instances, the number of data items and the level of detail in each are negotiable with the government. Such negotiations have a direct impact on cost even though data items are not normally priced separately in the contract.

The cost for data item preparation and submission is usually included in the pricing in Section B of the contract within the prices for contract line item deliverable to which the data items apply.

SDRL or "Subcontract Data Requirements List" is a prime contractor flow-down of the CDRL requirements to a subcontractor. 

Generally the prime will structure the SDRL to insure that subcontractor data submissions support the prime contract CDRL technical content, schedule and other parameters. 

The prime may also take the liberty to incorporate additional requirement to support their own internal systems of quality,cost and schedule control. 

As with CDRL requirements, SDRL's should be carefully priced within the end item CLIN's to which they apply to insure cost coverage.

Monday, November 26, 2018

Assessing Department of Labor (DOL) Government Contract Wage/Rate Determinations



MANAGING COMPLIANCE WITH THE SERVICE CONTRACT AND DAVIS-BACON ACTS


INTRODUCTION:


When pricing government contracts, in particular service contracts, the small business will encounter government wage determinations under the Service Contract Act and Davis-Bacon Act. These determinations specify the minimum wages and related benefits that must be paid to all hourly employees charging time directly to a federal service contract as part of a total compensation plan.   

The Department of Labor Manages the Wage Determination program.

DOL Wage Determination Web Site


Contractor compliance with Wage Determinations  is subject to audit by the Department of Labor, Defense Contract Audit Agency, or other agency audit procedures. Failure to prove compliance may subject the contractor to debarment from all government contracts for up to three years.

Service Contract Act, as an example, requires minimum wages be paid per labor category as defined in the Directory of Occupations and listed as minimum wages per labor category on the Area Wage Determination incorporated into each contract. The wages are mandatory minimums paid employees for every hour worked on the contract as defined by The Act, both full-time and part-time. A typical Wage Determination is below: (Please Click Image to Enlarge)



MANAGEMENT CONSIDERATIONS:

When bidding a service contract with a requirement containing a Wage Determination, the labor category wages and fringe must conform, as a minimum,to the Wage Determination in the government Request for Proposal (RFP).  The personnel must be paid not less than the wages and fringe benefits specified in the determination when the contract is awarded.   


Due to competitive factors and labor market concerns the company may propose labor and fringe exceeding the Wage Determination, but the bid cannot go beneath the government specified rates.  Below is a typical conformance table for an engineering firm with the Wage Determination information of the right side and the company bid rate on the left side of the table.  (Please Click Image to Enlarge)

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The Fringe element of the Wage Determination conformance is usually discussed in the basis of estimate for the fringe rate in the price proposal. A major project in a given location may impact on the company wide-fringe rate if existing fringes in the company do not meet the minimum requirement for the wage determination in the area being bid. This can be a deciding factor in a bid/no bid decision on a prospective project.
 
When conforming a labor category to a government wage determination,  the title of the company job need not be identical to that to which the government wage determination refers, but the company job description must be made available to an auditor for compliance mapping purposed; i.e. the role of the individual and the scope of his or her job description must very closely match the government documents. It is best to use existing company labor categories and descriptions and work any exceptions during the conformance process, conveying the results in the form of a table similar to the above in your proposal.

If a particular wage determination selected by the contracting officer in the RFP appears to be vastly out of sync with the scope of work in the prospective contract, it is best to bring this to the government's attention in the form of a question or a suggestion for improvement during the Q&A or draft RFP comments phase of the bid process.  But remember, your question, its answer and any action taken by the CO will be made available to all competitors. 

In many instances competitive labor rates, and in some cases benefits as well, will be higher than those specified in the government wage determination. Wage determination updates by the government often lag rapidly changing technical labor markets and area economic trends.

Evaluate your initial GSA Schedule and renewals against area wage determinations, since the government may choose to buy off your schedule or you may choose to use your GSA Schedule rates to bid a procurement where a wage determination applies.

Demographics in your company may play a role.  Accumulation of labor cost history driving a pay rate in one geographic location of a company for a given labor category may not meet government wage determinations if that category is used in another geographic area with a different area wage determination in a substantially different labor market.  Many larger firms maintain standard rates across multiple geographic locations to deal with this factor.  

SUMMARY

Regularly review your company labor category rates and fringe benefits for ongoing compliance with DOL Area Wage Determinations. Sample the DOL Wage Determination web site regularly as a normal function of maintaining your labor rates and fringe benefits costs. 












 

Thursday, November 15, 2018

YOUR SMALL BUSINESS FEDERAL GOVERNMENT CONTRACTING BUSINESS PLAN



INTRODUCTION

When visiting the SBA website on business planning, there are major topics in the business planning process which, when addressed in a plan, will insure the success of an enterprise and assist  in determining and supporting the amount of funding needed. 
SBA Write a Business Plan

This discussion addresses the unique aspects of federal government contracting that will yield a successful plan and more importantly a successful execution of that plan in the federal contracting venue.  

Marketing, advertising, competitor analysis and financing must be addressed.  Free articles on strategic planning and developing a marketing plan are at the “References” Box Net Cube at the top right margin of this site. They address evolving an operations vision for an enterprise showing its potential to present to a banker or to an investor.

Here is a site with free business plan samples:


Business Plan Sample

It may assist in visualizing business growth to look at an example of how someone else addressed a given topic.

NICHE DEVELOPMENT

Product entrepreneurs all face the same challenges. Those who succeed recognize they need to visualize themselves in the product development business, structuring an enterprise, generating a business plan, protecting intellectual property and then seeking industry partners and investors to bring the product to market.

In the process, copyrights, patents and royalty issues may come into play and development and distribution agreements are formed. Pricing is finalized based on cost and expense projections and competitive factors unique to the company as negotiation results are achieved with industry teaming partners, developers, manufacturers and distributors.


Service contracting to the federal government is a natural venue for small business. It does not require a product with a niche market or capital intensive manufacturing facilities. Service contracting does require skilled management and labor resources capable of performing a scope of work for which the government has identified a need and for which outsourcing to an industry contractor has been selected as the means to fulfill that need. The venue demands strong human resources management, industry teaming and an enhanced business system to price, account and bill on a job cost basis under government service contracts.


REGISTRATION

Utilize the below link to register your company.  It provides excellent guidance and background, as well as access to the PDF file on NAICS Codes which are critical for you to choose before you begin the registration process.  Give these some careful thought when selecting them.  If there is a chance your firm may wish to be involved in a field, put the code in your registration.  No one will question your qualifications at this point.  That comes later during proposals. 
Note the requirement for a DUNS number up front.  You may already have one.  If you do - use it.  If you do not, follow the instructions on obtaining a DUNS free at the Dunn and Bradstreet web site.  
When you have completed your registration at the link below you will received a Government CAGE Code, uniquely identifying your firm and its location as a government contractor. 

MARKET RESEARCH

As a small business becomes known in the federal government contracting community, successful marketing of sole source or group-designated business becomes easier, but it is always a challenge due to the need for taking early action in windows of opportunity. 
Find those windows and communicate capabilities to the decision makers and industry team members who can help you.  
If you are eligible for set aside designations make small business set asides or sole source procurements key elements in your marketing plan. 


TEAMING

Be straight-forward and honest with  industry teaming partners.

Do not violate share arrangements, teaming agreements or non-disclosure agreements. Such violations are a death knell for your reputation in the business.

Do not become known as a resource raider by hiring away from other firms with whom you have teamed.

Give it a best shot as a prime or a sub but involve the government contracting officer to resolve industry teaming disputes that may damage a past performance record.

Exclusivity is the practical way to go on any given program. Team early and exclusively and be a winner. 
Reputation is key, ethics count and  customers as well as the industry are observing.


BUSINESS SYSTEMS DEVELOPMENT

Waiting for a contract award to achieve a government contracting business process is not advisable. A win may not happen at all without addressing the structure and process requirements in your proposal to convince the customer his business environment is understood.

If one is not prepared in advance and one is fortunate enough to win, then in a very short time frame one will have to evolve a business system to perform on the contract and submit a billing

This article will discuss a framework for a small enterprise to develop a business system in service contracting, which is the most frequent venue utilized to enter the government market.



PROPOSAL PREPARATION

Government contract proposal preparation is time consuming and can be costly. Meeting the agency Request for Proposal (RFP) requirements with a responsive proposal can be well worth the effort if a winning strategy can be formulated. When considering submitting a proposal to a given government solicitation, conduct a bid/no bid exercise.

By going through that process  a company  begins formulating your win strategy or it will discover that it should not bid this job for lack of such a strategy. The elements of the process are discussed below in the form of questions to ask  against topics for key consideration

This article offers guidance as a template to apply marketing operations for accommodating federal government contract proposal preparation. Proposals are special, sometimes exhausting projects, but a necessary part of doing business with government agencies. Like many other aspects of business, the more proposals that are prepared, the more that is learned and the more one can borrow from past practice for the next one.


PROJECT MANAGEMENT

Strategic thinking must be applied to structuring a government service contract project management capability in your company. It must involve long term planning and designing a business system as well as establishing rates and factors to bid new work and control it while interfacing with the customer.

When one plans in detail to define the product or the service one reduces performance risk. 

The project management challenge is not to launch significant and costly resources before the specification for the product is sufficiently defined, obviating the need for costly revisions or abandonment, yet knowing when the product definition and plan are suitable for release.

Good project management starts early.


SUMMARY

Consider the advice herein when developing and maintaining your business plan. Overlay approaches unique to the company against the guidance offered and place it in the standard format for business planning.  It will yield a road map for success and can be further evolved for growth.

For additional  details on these topics and other important information in developing and executing a government contacting plan, download the free books and supplements available in PDF format at the first, vertical “Box” in the left margin of this site.

Seizing the Moment