Spending in the second half of the federal fiscal year (ending September 30) is magnified by the new needs for services and products related to COVID-19 leading to crisis contracting updates.
This situation is unique because most budgeted spending is still on course for typical products and services needs, with the COVID-19-related spending adding billions. In the Executive Office of the President Memo M-20-18 dated March 20, 2020, Margaret Weichert, Deputy Director for Management at the Office of Management and Budget, stated “…Clear and timely communication between agencies and their industry partners is critical to supporting the government’s response to COVID-19 and to meeting other mission needs during this highly dynamic situation…”
Navy Contract Spending
The Navy’s contract spending has increased by 30% in April to $96.9 billion compared to $74.7 billion in the same period in 2019 and close to doubling the April 2018 spending as stated in Jared Serbu’s article published by Federal News Network. Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Research, Development and Acquisition, James Guerts, comments on the last few years’ efforts by the Navy to fine-tune the acquisition process, eliminate redundancies, and focus on certain best-in-class contract vehicles and is quoted in the article stating “I’m seeing some remarkable efficiencies…I think a lot of that is getting rid of layers of bureaucracy that weren’t needed. Some of it is also creating better partnerships with industry so that we can leverage cost and pricing data we already have…. in hindsight, those strategies are what allowed us to pivot very quickly to operating in this kind of unplanned contingency…”
As a result, virtually every major agency has developed its own method and database to short list the contractors who can provide a legitimate, accelerated methods to achieve legal contracts with approved services and products. These shortlists are now housed on many individual agency websites and it is the responsibility of the contractor to locate said databases and sign up individually.
Joint Acquisition Task Force (JATF)
The Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition and Sustainment, Ms. Ellen Lord, established the COVID-19 Joint Acquisition Task Force (JATF) and has launched a “COVID-19 JATF Industry Portal” where interested vendors can fill out a short form to provide information regarding services and products to support the nation’s current response and continued resiliency. The Industry Portal is available through the link on the main COVID-19 JATF web-page or through a direct link https://www.afwerx.af.mil/coronavirus.html.
Department of Health and Human Services (HHS)
The largest civilian federal agency, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), maintains a small business resource through The Office of Small and Disadvantaged Business Utilization (OSDBU) which manages the development and implementation of appropriate outreach programs aimed at heightening the awareness of the small business community to the contracting opportunities available within HHS. A new website https://mysbcx.hhs.gov/ lists upcoming opportunities, sub-agency trends, as well as a tool to search for small businesses with specific capabilities.