COVID-19 Has Encouraged Procurement and Contracting Reform for VA and others

“The demands of responding to COVID-19 has encouraged reforms in federal procurement. This has been especially pronounced in the government’s expansion of remote network access to accommodate a dispersed workforce.

Speaking at the 2021 AFCEA Health IT Acquisition & Public Health forum, representatives from across the federal government outlined how their agencies have helped streamline the acquisitions process and opened the competitive space to smaller and mid-sized firms in order to facilitate IT development.

‘Suddenly there was a need for new hardware, software and network access security, so we advised our Small Business Administration, Department of Veteran Affairs and Social Security Administration on their procurement strategies,’ said Roya Konzman, acting division director for solutions development at General Services Administration’s Federal Acquisition Service (FAS). ‘GSA empowered its contracting officers to expand its rated orders authority. These orders are issued in accordance to the defense priorities and allocation system, and rated orders applied to IT capabilities included teleworking and health care solutions such as VPN accounts, virtual desktop infrastructure solutions, laptops and mobile devices, and also covered personal protective equipment, such as medical products hand sanitizers and disposable gloves.’…”

“However, the sheer quantity of rated orders issued to larger contractors meant that individual suppliers often struggled to meet these demands within the given timeframe, resulting in federal agencies looking to potentially expand their contracting base to more specialized smaller and mid-sized firms.

‘We are being told by industry that everybody has given us rated orders, so how do we prioritize those?’ said Chuck Ross, procurement director at VA’s Technology Acquisition Center. ‘There’s a trade off there to having multiple suppliers. That might be something that we’re really looking at instead of putting all your eggs in one basket and using one vendor all the time like during times of COVID and when other emergencies might emerge.’…”

“Another positive side effect of the government’s recent investment in video conferencing software and remote connectivity has been the ability of vendors to demonstrate their products to federal procurement offices. This has allowed agencies to more rapidly and smoothly evaluate a large range of potential contractors, including entrants who might otherwise have been dwarfed by larger businesses with preexisting relationships…” Read the full article here.

Source: COVID-19 Has Encouraged Procurement and Contracting Reform – By Adam Patterson, April 6, 2021. GovernmentCIO.

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