This article originally appeared in the June 2021 issue of Security Business magazine. When sharing, don’t forget to mention Security Business magazine on LinkedIn and @SecBusinessMag on Twitter.
On May 17, the General Services Administration (GSA) will issue Refresh #6 to its Multiple Award Schedule (MAS) Program solicitation, which will feature significant changes that will impact those firms who contract with the government. GSA, in fact, is aiming to modernize and simplify the procurement experience for customers, suppliers and buyers as part of Phase III of a historic reinventing of the GSA Schedules Program.
This will have obvious impact for security integrators and contractors serving the federal government as well as to vendors who supply integrators with equipment for government installations.
A significant change to the GSA Schedules Program implemented in 2021 will be GSA’s establishment of a Verified Products Portal (VPP) as an authoritative resource for industry and government. For the security industry, this resource implementation is great news, as it should resolve conflicts regarding the unauthorized selling of products to the government under the Federal Supply Schedule – an issue that is troubling for manufacturers, their integrator/reseller partners, as well as for government end-users who must comply with myriad regulations.
Traditionally, manufacturers had to provide a Letter of Supply (LoS) to their resellers in order to authorize selling products under the GSA MAS Program; however, the VPP will offer the online portal as an alternative. If a contractor offers Commercial Off-the-Shelf (COTS) products under the GSA Schedules Program, after May 17, they will no longer be required to provide a LoS if the manufacturer/supplier partner is using the GSA VPP for authorization. This will decrease the burden on integrators while enabling the GSA MAS Program to make modifications to add products. For integrators and contractors, there is no need to get a new LoS if your manufacturer’s product has already been awarded with a valid authorized LoS.
Additionally, it will decrease supply chain risks for buyers on receiving counterfeit or non-compliant products. Manufacturers will be able to post information on the VPP Participation Dashboard. The VPP is voluntary, but it will allow manufacturers to authorize and deauthorize products and resellers – giving them better control of who is selling their products. Manufacturers will also be able to post additional products descriptions, images, country of origin information, EnergyStar Labels and optional pricing information on the VPP.
This is important because unauthorized resellers often have out-of-date pricing, as well as discontinued and non-compliant products. Unauthorized resellers often unfairly impact procurement decisions, create pricing rejections or pose a supply chain risk.
The VPP will not replace GSA Advantage or the SIP program; however, it will supplement the information. A different platform for uploading the GSA contractor pricing information is in progress for future improvement and application (more information is available at VPP@gsa.gov).
Another policy consideration in the GSA Solicitation Refresh #6 is to create a temporary waiver to certain requirements of the GSA submission application for those offering products, services and/or solutions that directly support the government’s response to COVID-19. Specifically, it waives the requirement for two years of corporate experience, Relevant Project Experience for each SIN offered, and Annual Financial Statement for the two previous years.
In addition to the waivers on new offers for products or services to support the COVID-19 relief effort, GSA has been supportive in other ways to contractors impacted by the pandemic. Earlier in the year, GSA waived Trade Agreement Act compliance for limited PPE equipment. With very specific direction and language, contractors were able to temporarily add PPE products as part of their GSA offering from non-TAA countries.
GSA has also deferred MAS contract cancellation for some contractors who have not met the minimum sales requirements per I-FSS-639 Contract Sales Criteria. There have also been purchase exceptions in the AbilityOne Program, as well as Emergency Acquisition Flexibilities to increase the micro-purchase threshold and simplified acquisition threshold in certain procurements.
Streamlining the Process
The consolidation of the GSA Schedules Program is perhaps the greatest significant change to the GSA Schedules Program ever implemented, with the goal to streamline the program as part of a modernization effort. By consolidating the Schedules, they sought to eliminate duplication, standardize processes, and update terms and conditions.
A new all-inclusive GSA Schedule Contracts solicitation was issued October 1, 2019, with the original 900 Special Item Numbers (SINs) categorizing products and services combined and revised to 318 SINs with some adjustments after the initial issuance.
The 24 GSA Schedules became one, with 12 large categories and 83 subcategories. There is overlap of application across the large category areas for security companies; however, perhaps one of the most significant benefits is the ability to add any SIN that appears under the large or subcategories. Contractors are now able to add new SINs beyond their legacy SINs previously awarded, provided they meet the requirements.
It would be typical for a security contractor to offer SINs under the large categories of Miscellaneous, Facilities, Information Technology, Scientific Management and Security and Protection. Existing GSA contractors have already had their awarded SINs mapped to new SINs that resemble corresponding NAICS Codes.
Integrators and contractors should talk to their Contracting Officer to determine the next steps for SINs from a different large category, as there is no longer a need to get a second GSA Contract. In Phase III, GSA will work with contractors to combine multiple GSA contracts into a single GSA Schedule Contract award.
Some of the changes mapping to the new SINs may be a little confusing – for example, some of the prior services are mapped to products, and although they are determined to be a “solutions SIN,” it does not reflect that definition in the GSA eLibrary. Security integrators may want to consider further discussion with their Contracting Officer to add labor SINs if you only had SIN 246-1000 Ancillary products and services previously awarded, as it may appear as if you do not offer services.
Surveillance products and professional services are both mapped to the same new SIN 334512 under the Facilities large category, but the description in GSA eLibrary does not list this SIN for services. GSA Security & Protection management states it is a “Solutions SIN,” and it is for products and services.
One game changing SIN that was added across all the categories was Order Level Materials or OLM. Many contractors are unaware of this SIN or do not know how to use it as part of their solution.
OLMs are supplies and/or services acquired in direct support of an individual task or delivery order placed against a Schedule contract or BPA. OLM pricing is not established at the Schedule contract or BPA level, but at the order level. Since OLMs are identified and acquired at the order level, the ordering contracting officer (OCO) is responsible for making a fair and reasonable price determination for all OLMs.
OLMs are procured under a special ordering procedure. Using this new procedure, ancillary supplies and services not known at the time of the Schedule award may be included and priced at the order level. All Schedule terms and conditions apply to OLMs (e.g., TAA and mandatory environmental attributes clauses), which ensures agency purchases are compliant with FAR and other regulatory guidelines.
OLMs are only authorized for use in direct support of another awarded SIN. OLMs are not Open Market Items awarded under ancillary supplies/services or other direct cost (ODC) SINs (these items are defined, priced, and awarded at the FSS contract level). The value of OLMs in a task or delivery order, or the cumulative value of OLMs in orders against an FSS BPA awarded under an FSS contract cannot exceed 33.33%.
Upcoming Changes and Modifications for Contractors
Phase III of the MAS Consolidation requires current contractors with more than one contract to consolidate if they fall under the same unique identifier (D&B number). This is expected to be completed in 2021 but may take up to 5-10 years for full implementation. GSA contracting officers will work with the contractors in their effort to assure continuity of existing orders and BPAs.
An implementation checklist has been sent to contractors holding more than one GSA contract to assist them in the transition and help in determining the best GSA contract to survive.
The benefit is to streamline the GSA Schedule business strategy and reduce overhead. Since the contracts are combined there would be a single point of contact with GSA for the administration. The benefit to the government is to have access to the full suite of offerings on a single GSA contract, plus consolidation of the Schedules program should make it easier for the agencies to identify contractors and their missions.
There is some concern when the products or services from the different schedules are not comparable. In this case, the contractor may wish to choose the contract with a longer effective time period. There is also a concern from the contractor’s perspective when two different groups within a company separately manage and sell a different offering.
GSA issues Modification Guidance with each refresh describing how contractors should prepare for any modification action with any new required documents are available for download. Note there are new forms for submitting updates to a GSA contract, and it is important to carefully read all of the directions and follow them exactly, or you may be rejected.
It is important for contractors to keep passwords up to date, and make sure you are registered for the GSA FAS ID because Digital Certificates are no longer valid for access to GSA eBuy, GSA Sales Reporting or submitting a modification through GSA eMod.
Other GSA eTools, such as GSA eLibrary for the listing of all awarded GSA Contractors and descriptions of Special Items Numbers (SINs); GSA Advantage for the awarded pricing online GSA catalog by part number; and betaSAM.gov for opportunities and other research are all available to view without a password login.
In April 2022, GSA will issue a Unique Entity Identifier (UEI) to contractors. This will eliminate the usage of a D&B number as a contractor’s government identity, and a new 12-digit identifier will be created. No action is required of current companies registered in SAM.gov.
At this time, the requirements for Cybersecurity Maturity Model Certification (CMMC) are not included as part of the GSA clauses in the MAS solicitation. Agency-specific requirements for technical certification and procurement may be outlined in their request for quote. For example, an agency may require a contractor to have a certain level of security clearance, but it is not a requirement to receive an award for a GSA Contract. It may still be a requirement for qualifying for the agency procurement opportunity providing products and services from the GSA Schedules Program.
Lynn de Seve is president of GSA Schedules Inc., a government and GSA contract support service company that helps current and potential contractors prepare and negotiate GSA and State Multiple Award Schedule contracts. Learn more at www.gsa-schedules.com or email firstname.lastname@example.org.