How to Bust Through Bureaucracy and Win Government Security Contracts
Government contracting requires preparation, skill and perseverance. As a security integrator after government business, the latter two factors are up to you. For the rest, you’ve come to the right place.
Providing security for commercial companies and government agencies is a 24/7 responsibility. It’s highly competitive and provides a continuing opportunity for government contractors.
This time of year brings an uptick of interest from contractors and a flurry of activity for the federal government as the government year is closing soon and budgeted funds need to be spent before they expire Sept. 30.
Sales to the government have declined somewhat over the past several years, evident in the contractor sales reported to the General Service Administration (GSA) online system based on use of the GSA Multiple Award Schedule (MAS) Contract Program.
With the impact of sequestration and changing policies in government procurement in recent years, security contractors have been challenged to maintain growth in government sales.
There have been other roadblocks to growth in addition to budget cuts. The ability to market to government stakeholders was hampered with travel restrictions imposed on agencies.
The travel restrictions and budget constraints resulted in lack of attendance at industry trade shows. The cancellation of key marketing events such as the GSA Expo and other annual outreach events resulted in less opportunity to educate government agencies on new technology and to partner with government as before.
The need for security did not decline, but funds were not as plentiful to meet new government mandates, including upgrading agency security required per Homeland Security Presidential Directive 12 (HSPD-12). The good news is although there have been challenges and wrinkles in the process, the future seems brighter.
A renewed business outreach effort directly to the government customers by GSA, DHS and other agencies, and a return to the spirit of partnership between the government and industry have been evident in the past year. Let’s take a closer look.
Finding the Opportunities
Participating in the government marketplace can be challenging and complicated even for seasoned contractors. Government agencies tasked with meeting new technical requirements and maintaining their security systems are anxious to place their orders in the most expeditious manner with qualified providers.
Agencies seek to receive the best value while following the complex Federal Acquisition Regulations. Security contractors may find themselves shut out of the opportunities if they don’t have certain key tools such as being registered in the System for Award Management (SAM) at sam.gov.
This registration and the data provided to the government allows all agencies to access necessary facts from the entity’s information, including points of contact, type of products or services offered, size and type of business and other essential information for being able to do business with the government.
This information is also required to get paid. Having a GSA MAS Contract can be very helpful in promoting your company and is an important tool for success. The GSA Federal Acquisition Service (FAS) has a great contracting solution to benefit both vendors and government agencies in its streamlined procurement vehicle.
It is important to learn the basic rules of doing business with the government if your company plans to enter the government market. A GSA program can help to simplify some of the process for both the contractor and the government agency.
What is a GSA MAS Contract and how does it provide a solution for agencies and an opportunity for security contractors? Many mistakenly think this is just a listing they can apply to for enhancing their marketability. It is a great way to market your company to the federal government, but it is so much more than a “list.”
It is, in fact, a solicitation offering. It is submitted electronically online with a continuous open season for convenience to establish a procurement vehicle for products and services for selling to the government. An offeror through the GSA MAS submission process provides a technical and price proposal completed online and support by a requirement of additional documentation uploaded into the system..
The vendor is also vetted for past performance and financial stability. Next the offeror proceeds to negotiate the terms and pricing for the products and services they wish to provide. The initial award period is for five years with an additional three five-year terms should the parties agree to continue after each period.
Either partner may cancel the contract with 30 days’ notice. There are Federal Acquisition rules to follow for the successful GSA offeror; reporting sales quarterly and other compliance requirements are included.
Eligible federal agencies, including state and local government under Schedule 84 and 70 only, may use this streamlined procurement process as the best value for their buying needs and to more quickly satisfy their requirements as pricing and terms are already established.
Commercially available products and services are organized by category under various GSA programs which can be modified for adding new items, deleting items and price changes within the regulatory requirements. There is no requirement for synopsizing the requests for quotes, but there are GSA eTools that enhance the process for both vendors at the government agencies.
Using technology tools and in partnership with other agencies and industry, GSA‘s MAS Program for Security and Law Enforcement Schedule 84 GSA has enhanced efforts to educate agencies on the security offering and resumed its in-person industry days in Fort Worth, Texas.
The industry days meeting in May was held at the GSA Federal Building with educational sessions for existing GSA contractors. The event provided an opportunity to meet with GSA officials to discuss procurement policy innovations and concerns.
GSA offered sessions on learning how to navigate the GSA eTools, compliance tips, maintenance of the contract procedures and, most importantly, the chance to meet your GSA Contracting Officer. GSA held breakout roundtable discussions on topics of great interest to the vendor community.
The sessions included navigating the new requirements for PACS. Schedule 84’s solution allows CSEIP-certified integrators to install PACS as well as legacy and GSA PACS products approved and listed on GSA’s Approved Product List that were introduced as new Special Item Numbers (SIN) last year.
GSA’s offering of PACS solutions to government agencies on both Schedule 84 and Schedule 70 has been a hot topic at many government and industry events this year. Clarification and up-dating of the old regulation since the addition of the new PACS SINs to Schedule 84 program would be helpful to agencies.
GSA eTools are available to the general public for use in viewing items and pricing listed on the GSA Contract. The GSA eLibrary (gsaelibrary.gsa.gov) hosts all companies with a GSA award. GSA’s most popular tool is GSAAdvantage! (gsaad-vantage.gsa.gov), which is a catalog file/search tool for items awarded under the program, including the pricing.
GSA eBuy (ebuy.gsa.gov) posts a daily listing of GSA procurement opportunities from federal agencies. Agencies need only post their RFQs for 48 hours prior to award. It is not mandatory to post except for requests exceeding $150,000, and then agencies must post them either in GSA eBuy or in Federal Business Opportunities.
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