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FEDERAL CONTRACTS PERSPECTIVE

Federal Acquisition Developments, Guidance, and Opinions


November 2015
Vol. XVI, No. 11
[pdf version]

CONTENTS


OMB Establishes Standard Configurations for Laptop and Desktop Computers
DOD Maintains Slow and Steady Pace for DFARS Revisions
Three FAR Rules Proposed
OMB Proposes A-130 Revisions, Seeks Comments
NASA Amends Drug, Alcohol-Free Workplace Clause





OMB Establishes Standard Configurations
for Laptop and Desktop Computers

Chagrined that “in FY [Fiscal Year] 2014, agencies awarded more than 10,000 contracts and delivery orders for common laptops and desktops totaling about $1.1 billion, [which resulted] in reduced buying power, inefficient duplication of contracts, and very little transparency into prices paid,” the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) has mandated that federal agencies acquire one of five standard configurations (memory, processor speed, etc.) of basic laptop and desktop computers through one of three government-wide acquisition contracts (GWACs). “Standardizing laptop and desktop configurations means the government spends less time and money buying, managing, and maintaining a diverse hardware portfolio. Standardizing common requirements also ensures that we are moving the government from ‘nice to have’ to ‘need to have’ to drive down costs, we are improving our interoperability and security profile, and we can more easily compare pricing information.”

The memorandum promulgating these requirements was issued by Anne Rung, the Office of Federal Procurement Policy (OFPP) administrator, and Tony Scott, U.S. Chief Information Officer, both members of OMB. A study of laptop and desktop contracts conducted by an interagency Workstation Category Team (WCT) found that “laptop prices can range from about $450 to $1,300 for the same configuration, which is a price variance of almost 300%. But agencies lack visibility into prices paid and therefore can't use that information to negotiate the lowest price. In addition, agencies often ask vendors to provide them with hundreds of different configuration options, which further drives up costs...Even though agencies buy several hundred different types of laptops and desktops, nearly 80% of today’s basic laptop and desktop needs could be met through five standard configurations. This analysis further showed that agencies were paying a wide variety of prices for these standard offerings and using different terms and conditions...”

Based on these findings, OMB has concluded that agencies must take steps immediately to “(1) standardize laptop and desktop configurations for common requirements; (2) reduce the number of contracts for laptops and desktops by consolidating purchasing and using a fewer number of high-performing – or best-in-class – contracts; and (3) develop and modify demand management processes to optimize price and performance.”

The WCT has identified two laptop configurations (one standard and one upgrade) and three desktop configurations (one standard and two upgrades) that meet that “80% of today’s basic laptop and desktop needs.” These configurations will be posted on the “Acquisition Gateway” (https://hallways.cap.gsa.gov/) under the “IT [information technology] Hardware Hallway.”

“Therefore, effective immediately...all agencies are prohibited from issuing new solicitations for laptops and desktops, and civilian agencies shall leverage the following existing vehicles, which were determined...to offer the best value for the bulk of the government's laptop and desktop needs: (1) NASA Solutions for Enterprise-Wide Procurement (SEWP) [http://www.sewp.nasa.gov/contract_info.shtml]; (2) General Services Administration (GSA) IT Schedule 70 [Special Item Number 132-8 (Purchase of Hardware) and 132-12 (Maintenance and Repair Parts/Service for Hardware)]; and (3) National Institutes of Health (NIH) Information Technology Acquisition and Assessment Center (NITAAC) Chief Information Officer-Commodities and Solutions (CIO-CS) [https://nitaac.nih.gov/nitaac/contracts/cio-cs].”

There are exceptions: (1) “agencies may continue the use of mandatory agency-wide vehicles through the end of the current base or option period”; and (2) “DOD will continue to execute its Enterprise Service Initiative [http://www.esi.mil/], which mandates the use of limited and targeted DOD solutions, and will provide additional guidance to its components of approved vehicles and supporting policies.” DOD is to post this additional guidance to the “Acquisition Gateway” by February 17, 2016 (“within 120 days of the issuance of this policy”).

“Improving our IT commodity acquisition and management practices is a critical step in the implementation of the Federal Information Technology Acquisition Reform Act [FITARA] and in improving value to the taxpayers. The actions described above will reduce duplication, improve pricing, and better leverage the government’s vast buying power.” (EDITOR’S NOTE: For more on FITARA, see the May 2015 Federal Contracts Perspective article “OMB Seeks Comments on FITARA Implementation.”)



DOD Maintains Slow and Steady Pace for DFARS Revisions

The Department of Defense (DOD) continued its unhurried revision of the Defense Federal Acquisition Regulation Supplement (DFARS) during October, issuing only two final rules, finalizing one interim rule, and three class deviations.



Three FAR Rules Proposed

Three rules that would make minor amendments to the Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) were proposed in October: one would correct an omission, another would implement a statutory requirement, and the last would clarify several forms.



OMB Proposes A-130 Revisions, Seeks Comments

The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) is proposing to revise its Circular No. A-130, Managing Information as a Strategic Resource, to incorporate new statutory requirements and enhanced technological capabilities, as well as address current and evolving technical and personnel security threats. This would be the first time since 2000 that Circular No. A-130 has been revised – back in the heyday of dial-up Internet and CD-ROMs.

Circular No. A-130 establishes general policy for the acquisition and management of information technology personnel, equipment, funds, and other resources. It also includes a discussion of agency responsibilities for managing personally identifiable information, provides guidance to support the use of electronic transactions, and discusses policy on protecting federal information resources as appendices.

The proposed revisions to the Circular No. A-130 are the result of new statutory requirements and enhanced technological capabilities since 2000. “Modernizing this policy will enable OMB to provide timely and relevant guidance to agencies and will ensure that the federal IT ecosystem operates more securely and more efficiently while saving tax dollars and serving the needs of the American people,” according to OMB’s website https://a130.cio.gov/a130/. “The proposed circular reflects a rapidly evolving digital economy, where more than ever, individuals, groups, and organizations rely on information technology to carry out a wide range of missions and business functions. Information technology changes rapidly and the federal workforce managing IT [information technology] must have the flexibility to address known and emerging threats while implementing continuous improvements. This update acknowledges the pace of change and the need to increase capabilities provided by 21st century technology while recognizing the need for strong governance and safeguarding of taxpayer funded assets and information.”

Comments on the draft circular must be submitted by November 20, 2015, in one of three ways:

  1. "Content suggestions and discussions are welcome via GitHub “issues.” Each issue is a conversation initiated by a member of the public. We encourage you to browse and join in on discussions in existing issues [https://github.com/ombegov/a130/issues], or start a new conversation by opening a new issue [https://github.com/login?return_to=https%3A%2F%2Fgithub.com%2Fombegov%2Fa130%2Fissues%2Fnew].”

  2. "Direct changes and line edits to the content may be submitted through a "pull request" [https://help.github.com/articles/creating-a-pull-request/] by clicking "Edit this page". You do not need to install any software to suggest a change. You can use GitHub's in-browser editor to edit files and submit a pull request for your changes to be merged into the document. Open pull requests for the proposed guidance can be found here [https://github.com/ombegov/a130/pulls].”

  3. "Send your content suggestions or proposed revisions to the OMB Office of the Federal Chief Information Officer via email to a130@omb.eop.gov.”


NASA Amends Drug, Alcohol-Free Workplace Clause

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) is removing NFS 1852.246-70, Mission Critical Space System Personnel Reliability Program, because NASA discontinued the Mission Critical Space System Personnel Reliability Program effective April 8, 2014. In addition, NASA is revising NFS subpart 1823.5, Drug-Free Workplace, and the associated clause at NFS 1852.223-74, Drug- and Alcohol-Free Workforce, to reflect the discontinuance of the Mission Critical Space System Personnel Reliability Program and to clarify and update the guidance.

NASA conducted an analysis of its regulations and determined that Title 14 of the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) subpart 1214.5, Mission Critical Space System Personnel Reliability Program, was obsolete and had been superseded by other measures that ensure contractor employees assigned to mission-critical positions meet established screening requirements. Accordingly, NFS policy implementing the program is no longer needed, so NFS 1852.246-70 and its prescription in paragraph (a) of NFS 1846.370, NASA Contract Clauses, are removed.

However, the prescription for NFS 1852.223-74, Drug- and Alcohol-Free Workforce (in NFS 1823.570-2, Contract Clause), required the contracting officer to “insert the clause at 1852.223-74, Drug- and Alcohol-Free Workforce, in all solicitations and contracts containing the clause at 1852.246-70, Mission Critical Space Systems Personnel Reliability Program, and in other solicitations and contracts exceeding $5 million in which work is performed by an employee in a sensitive position.” Therefore, NFS 1823.570-2 is revised to remove the reference to NFS 1852.246-70.

While the NFS drug and alcohol testing requirements are partially tied to the now-defunct Mission Critical Space System Personnel Reliability Program, rescission of the program did not remove the need for such testing. In addition, 14 CFR subpart 1214.5 contained two key terms that will be helpful to contracting officers in determining which contracts should include the drug and alcohol testing requirements: “mission critical space system” and “mission critical positions/duties” (“positions or duties which, if performed in a faulty, negligent, or malicious manner, could jeopardize mission critical space systems and/or delay a mission”). Therefore, these terms are added to NFS 1823.570-1, Definitions [for drug- and alcohol-free workplaces], and NFS 1852.223-74. However, the definition of “mission critical space systems” is revised from “the Space Shuttle and other critical space systems, including Space Station Freedom, designated Expendable Launch Vehicles (ELV’s), designated payloads, Shuttle Carrier Aircraft and other designated resources that provide access to space” to “the collection of all space-based and ground-based systems used to conduct space missions or support activity in space, including, but not limited to, the crewed space system, space-based communication and navigation systems, launch systems, and mission/launch control.” The revised definition deletes obsolete references, such as the “Space Station Freedom” and “Shuttle Carrier Aircraft,” and characterizes the systems which are critical to NASA’s space mission.

In addition, NFS 1823.570-1 included the following: “As used in this subpart employee and controlled substance are as defined in FAR 23.503 [Definitions (for drug-free workplace)]. The use of a controlled substance in accordance with the terms of a valid prescription, or other uses authorized by law shall not be subject to the requirements of 1823.570 to 1823.570-3 and the clause at 1852.223-74.” This is removed from NFS 1823.570-1, and the statement addressing valid prescriptions is moved to NFS 1852.223-74(b)(4)(iii).

The list of drugs in NFS 1852.223-74(b)(4) that the contractor is required to test for is expanded from “marijuana and cocaine” to “marijuana, cocaine, amphetamines, opiates, and phencyclidine (PCP).”

Also, a new NFS 1852.223-74(b)(5) is added to require the contractor to “conduct post-accident testing when the contractor determines the employee’s actions are reasonably suspected of having caused or contributed to an accident resulting in death or personal injury requiring immediate hospitalization or damage to government or private property estimated to exceed $20,000. Upon request, the contractor shall provide the results of post-accident testing to the contracting officer.”

Finally, NFS 1852.223-74(b)(2) is revised to add a reference to NASA Procedural Requirements (NPR) 3792.1, NASA’s Plan for a Drug Free Workplace, “as a guide for the criteria and in designating ‘sensitive’ positions for contractor employees.”





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