News and Events
May 12, 2013
Small companies chase big-dollar US federal contracts
Despite the high-profile financial woes of the US government, it remains one of the world's largest buyers of goods and services.
Although President Obama had to sign $85bn (£56bn) of spending cuts into effect at the start of March, the federal government still spends more than $500bn a year.
And despite the White House and Congress continuing to fail to agree on a long-term budget, the jobs are still there for contractors, many of whom are small companies, says business adviser Scott Orbach.
Mr Orbach is head of EZGSA, a consulting firm in Maryland that has helped 1,600 businesses secure US government contracts.
"Federal employees get furloughed [laid off], but the people who keep the buildings secure and the people who keep the computers running - they're still going to be there. They're needed," he says.
Army veteran Christopher Little is banking on federal authorities requiring his services. He owns a Virginia-based franchise of Duct Doctor USA, a company that specialises in cleaning air vents.
By Mr Little's reckoning, the federal government operates more than 42.5 million sq meters (140 million sq ft) of office space in the nation's capital alone, while his home state of Virginia has one of the largest concentrations of military bases in the world.
Almost all are heated and cooled through duct work, which needs regular cleaning.
Mr Little has worked for the government before, but he says securing a contract, known as a general services administration (GSA) schedule, will streamline his bidding process and give him access to more work more quickly.
The GSA is a contract that enables a business to work for any government agency for any amount of money. Approval takes between three and 12 months.
Despite the continuing financial row between the White House and Congress, federal buildings across the country still need maintenance
The contracts benefit the government because they remove the need to open every job to formal competitive bidding, so making the selection process faster.
But Mr Little says the paperwork is overwhelming, even with professional help and online tools offered by the government.
"I started actively processing and assembling information towards the GSA schedule two years ago," he says.
"The biggest challenge is time management. The demands of running a business and the demands of my family will not afford me the time to assemble and write the offer for a GSA."
'Bills are paid on time'
Mr Orbach, who is advising Mr Little, says that applying for a GSA is "something everybody's afraid of".
Christopher Little wants to win a federal contract to clean air vents
"It seems intimidatingly big. The government has its own language and rules.
"But it's pretty straightforward and, once a business gets a taste for it and a sense for it, it's just as easy - often more easy - as selling to a commercial customer."
Best of all, says Mr Orbach, the government pays its bills on time.
He also predicts that work will be secured more quickly by contract holders as the government races to fill gaps in services created by the continuing spending cuts.
"And for companies who help the government save money, there's a great opportunity. It's a really good time for consultants who offer efficiency," he says.
Companies offering security services enjoyed a decade of booming business during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Mr Orbach says those services are still in demand, but as the priorities of the administration move towards environmental issues, businesses offering green technologies and IT could step up. And he doesn't expect large cuts to training budgets.
Greater risk of litigation
Maslow Media has been producing training videos for government agencies for more than 15 years. Its chief executive Linda Maslow says her company produces 300 videos a year for the Department of Veterans Affairs.
Linda Maslow says it should be easier for companies to apply for government work
"Once you get into a government agency, it's like any other relationship... you're in," she says. But she admits that the economic climate is causing concern.
"It's been harder and harder to obtain contracts. My focus tends to be a little more on commercial right now. But I feel that training has been one of the highest priorities in the federal government, and as long as training is funded they need training videos."
Maslow Media also enjoys an advantage over other small businesses because it's owned and operated by women. The government favours such businesses, including those owned by ethnic minority people and military veterans, or those based in special economic regions.
But Ms Maslow says government work can expose contractors to a greater risk of litigation, because a company may have unwittingly failed to comply with government regulations. A supplier may not disclose changes to where or how it sources materials. Mistakes can be uncovered years after a contract has been fulfilled.
And, Ms Maslow warns, the procurement process can be painfully slow.
"The federal government is a slow-moving boat and the people that initiate the process for getting proposals out to vendors - well, put it this way - they could use a really good training video!"
March 1, 2013
Cassie Parker has been promoted to Contracts Manager
Cassie Parker, who has been an employee of On Target Group since 2010, was recently promoted to Contract Manager. As Contracts Manager Cassie is responsible for preparing new schedules, managing schedule modifications and GSA Advantage uploads for On Target’s wide variety of clients.
January 10, 2013
JUMP START PROGRAM
On Target Group launches its new Jump Start Service for both new and existing GSA contract holders. Obtaining a GSA schedule is a huge accomplishment, as well as a huge investment of both time and money. Your next great feat is to develop and implement your Government Marketing Plan to maximize your contracting success. The tasks and research involved in government marketing are extremely time consuming upfront, however once you have your Government Opportunity Database established and your method of strategic government prospecting, the long term rewards can be extreme.
The Jump Start service kicks your Government Marketing plan into action. For all GSA schedule holders this is an excellent opportunity to establish an effective government marketing approach and maximize your contracting success!
Nov. 26, 2012
New GSA Dashboard Streamlines Data and Promotes Efficiency for Small Businesses and Federal Agencies
WASHINGTON -- Today the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA) released its government wide Acquisition Contracts (GWAC) Dashboard -- a new easily accessible online tool designed to assist federal agencies with spending analysis, evaluation of past GWAC performance, and IT planning.
The interactive dashboard aggregates and consolidates all non-classified data on federal IT purchasing activity from 2004 to present through GSA’s Government wide Acquisition Contracts. The dashboard is updated daily with publicly available spending data displayed in easily understood lists, graphs, and charts. This allows GSA’s industry partners, specifically small businesses, to make informed strategic business decisions on their activity in the federal marketplace.
The GWAC Dashboard creates a single point of access for all data on GWAC task order obligations, dollars spent, number of awards, agency and bureau activity, and those industry partners issued task orders by each agency.
View the GSA GWAC Dashboard on GSA.gov.
GSA Launches Effort to Transition Federal Government to Cloud Computing
New security program provides streamlined path for agencies moving to the cloud, achieves cost-savings, efficiency and innovation
June 6, 2012
WASHINGTON – Today, the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA) announced an important benchmark that will pave the way for agencies across the federal government to accelerate adoption of cloud computing. Cloud computing saves the federal government money and provides flexible platforms that enable increased efficiency, agility, and innovation. The Federal Risk and Authorization Management Program, known as FedRAMP, will standardize security assessments of cloud products and services across the government to avoid duplication and to deliver significant savings. Today, the program will begin accepting security certification applications from private sector companies that provide cloud solutions.
GSA’s Accomplishments on the Cloud So Far:
1. First to Move Email to the Cloud:
Last year, GSA was the first federal agency to move to a cloud based email system, which has saved $2 million dollars in costs so far. In addition, email system operating costs are expected to see additional 50 percent in savings with an estimated $15 million in savings over five years.
2. Working to Standardize Security of Cloud Services:
FedRAMP is an initiative to standardize security assessments of cloud products and services. By addressing one of the key barriers to cloud adoption, this program will accelerate adoption by federal agencies. It will allow agencies to share authorizations, saving time and money otherwise spent on duplicative security reviews.
Starting today, FedRAMP will accept applications from cloud service providers, beginning the process to get a government-wide provisional security authorization. More information, including application forms, points of contact, and assessment organizations can be found at www.fedramp.gov. FedRAMP reflects extensive collaboration within government and with industry, including partners such as the National Institute of Standards and Technology, the Department of Homeland Security, the Department of Defense, and the Office of Management and Budget.
3. Working on Blanket Purchase Agreements for the Federal Government:
Everything agencies need to move to the cloud is available right now through GSA. The products currently available from GSA include data storage, virtual machines, and web hosting. GSA is working to provide more cloud services to federal agencies, including email services.
May 7, 2012
Abby Kennedy is appointed Director of Business Development
On Target Group is pleased to announce that Abby Kennedy has joined our Team as the Director of Business Development. Effective government marketing is key to our customer’s success. Abby Kennedy offers tremendous experience successfully contracting with the government. Abby developed the untapped government marketplace for a small IT organization, The Waldec Group, from scratch to over 11 million in annual sales for multiple years. Later, the company was purchased by IKON Office Solutions, a 6.4 billion dollar organization and Abby became one of the top three producers nationwide. Abby has a natural aptitude for Sales, specifically for penetrating the government marketplace. Abby looks forward to sharing and implementing her effective strategies to help guide our customers to the path of government contracting success!
November 8, 2011
Washington DC-GAO: Feds Spending Much More on IT Than Reported By John K. Higgins CRM Buyer Magazine
"A disturbing new GAO report makes it clear that the federal government has only a loose idea of the money it devotes to information technology. GAO also found that agencies categorize their IT investments in different ways, making it difficult to weed out duplication," said Sen. Joseph Lieberman, I-Conn. A market valued at nearly US$80 billion per year certainly gets the attention of vendors hoping to participate in it. For the information technology sector, the notion that the U.S. government spends about $79 billion per year for IT has gained credence as the figure often cited by the U.S. Office of Management and Budget (OMB), and in references from the federal chief information officer (CIO). However, the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) has faulted OMB for underreporting actual annual federal investments in IT. GAO failed to provide its own estimate of the shortfall in dollar terms, but indicated that the additional uncounted spending was significant."OMB often uses the $79 billion figure in referring to annual federal investments in IT. However, it is important to note that this figure does not reflect the spending of the entire federal government," GAO says in a report released in late September.
The OMB tally leaves out IT spending by the U.S. Congress for its own operations, the federal judiciary system, and intelligence spending, mostly at the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), the report notes.
"When you figure in the Congress, the court system and intelligence, the annual federal IT spend could be in the range of $120 billion," Deniece Peterson, senior manager of federal industry analysis at Deltek, told CRM Buyer.
"The work OMB does on analyzing IT investments can be very useful, but the final figure should not be cited as the total picture," she said.
The OMB figure "could be 40 to 50 percent higher if you count intelligence of around $10 billion, plus all the IT spending that is not broken out as an 'investment' but rather is just plumbing in other programs of record," Steve Charles, cofounder and executive vice president of immixGroup, told CRM Buyer.
OMB not only leaves out Congress and the judiciary, but also fails to include "the quasi agencies -- like the Postal Service," he said.
Flexible Definitions for IT
The OMB estimate is based on a survey of 26 federal departments and major agencies. However, even within those agencies IT spending can be undercounted. Reporting guidelines are not precise, GAO, notes.
"OMB officials acknowledge that agencies are able to interpret the definition of IT in different ways, but stated that they want to provide agencies some flexibility in deciding what they report on," GAO says.
That situation could frustrate one of OMB's main duties of properly monitoring federal agency spending and performance.
"Until OMB clarifies and enforces its requirement that agencies should be reporting on all IT investments, selected IT investments will not be subjected to the enhanced oversight, and OMB's estimates of federal IT investments will be significantly understated," the GAO report warns.
Flaws in reporting also make it difficult to find out whether agencies are spending funds on duplicate IT systems.
The oversight issue did not go unnoticed after GAO released its findings.
"A disturbing new GAO report makes it clear that the federal government has only a loose idea of the money it devotes to information technology. GAO also found that agencies categorize their IT investments in different ways, making it difficult to weed out duplication," said Sen. Joseph Lieberman, I-Conn.
"This type of loose accounting and wasteful spending is sloppy, lazy, and wrong at any time, but especially when we are trying to squeeze the most value out of every single scarce taxpayer dollar. I urge the Office of Management and Budget and federal agencies to improve their reporting on IT investments and eliminate unnecessary IT systems," he said.
Market Intelligence for Vendors
While critical of much of OMB's effort to assess IT investments, GAO notes that OMB has made good progress in simply setting up a system for tracking and gathering extensive data, called the IT Dashboard, and making its findings available on the Internet. As a result, the report provides some general market intelligence of use to vendors.
For example, GAO reported that nearly two-thirds of planned IT spending for 2011 by the 26 federal entities -- about $54 billion -- was allocated to operation and maintenance, while $24.7 billion was allocated to new IT developments. Of the combined new development and O&M spending, agencies programmed about half for "major" and half for "non-major" projects.
GAO also ranks spending by function, listing 18 expense categories plus an "all other" component. The top five IT spending functions:
- information and technology management, at $35.4-billion;
- defense and national security at $9.3 billion;
- all other at $7.2 billion;
- health at $5.0 billion; and
- supply chain management at $3.3 billion.
The agencies surveyed by OMB planned to conduct 7,248 IT investments in 2011, the report notes, breaking out the number of projects for each function. It also breaks down investments within a number of federal agencies.
The GAO report, "Information Technology: OMB Needs to Improve Its Guidance on IT Investments," is also valuable for what it reveals about the federal IT budgeting process as it affects IT procurement.
"The bigger issue out of the report is it shines a light on the fact that the GAO, agencies, and Congress are not on the same page. The issue is far bigger than an inaccurate report," said Charles.
Agencies begin budget planning about 18 months before the actual fiscal year, and the congressional appropriations cycle is not attuned to the planning cycle, he noted. Thus, information based on spending plans may be of limited use.
"Timelines are not in sync for budgeting and appropriations, and Congress has the ability to change a decision after an agency has already budgeted and the procurement is in process," Charles said. "A report like this one can expose other issues it wasn't even looking at."
In the last year and a half, the federal government has been encouraging -- if not requiring -- federal agencies to move to the cloud and implement data consolidation initiatives. The impact of such moves in the future might improve the tracking of federal IT procurements.
"Such initiatives could help the investment-monitoring process since similar investments could be consolidated in a cloud approach," David Powner, director of information technology management issues at GAO, told CRM Buyer.
However, it would again come down to how much detail the agencies would provide about their cloud and consolidation migrations, he said. "An important point here is the transparency of what business functions and associated dollars are moving to cloud approaches."
November 1, 2011 - On Target Group is pleased to announce that Randy J. Rogers has joined the consultancy as Director of Business Development. Randy comes to On Target after several years as Business Development for numerous South Florida Charities. Prior to his work with the Charities he was Vice President of the Roasters Restaurant Chain.
Orlando, Florida- October 1, 2011 - On Target Group is pleased to announce that it has been retained by Kraus Manning one of the leading providers of Construction Management Services in the Southeast to assist them in their government marketing efforts.
Surprise, Nevada- August 15, 2011 - On Target Group is pleased to announce that it has been retained by Stormwater Plans an 8a firm that does Environmental Engineering to assist them in developing and implementing their government market plans.
March 16, 2011,
Washington, DC-Lucrative sole source contracts to 8(a) firms now require justification by Robert Brodsky in Government Executive Magazine-Federal agencies that want to issue lucrative sole-source contracts to 8(a) small businesses now must justify the award to the public and to senior management.
In a highly anticipated interim rule change published on Wednesday in the Federal Register, the Federal Acquisition Regulation Councils determined that contracts in excess of $20 million issued to companies in the 8(a) small business development program now must include written justification and approval by a senior agency leader. The approval would then be made public.
The contracting officer's justification must include a description of the agency's needs, a determination that the contract is in the government's best interest, and verification that its costs will be fair and reasonable.
The regulatory change, which was required in the 2010 Defense Authorization bill, could have serious implications for Alaska native corporations, which, along with Indian tribes and Native Hawaiian organizations, are eligible to receive 8(a) contracts of any value. All other 8(a) participants are capped at receiving sole-source contracts of $3.5 million for services and $5.5 million for manufacturing.
Ostensibly, the rule is designed to prevent ANCs from passing most of the work on big-budget contracts through to large subcontractors. While the new provision technically refers to all 8(a) contractors, Obama administration officials concede the rule affects tribes, ANCs and NHOs most directly.
Echoing concerns raised by tribal groups in meetings with the FAR Councils last year, the rule change noted the regulation should not be viewed as a ceiling or a cap on the size of sole-source awards. But according to the council, other 8(a) firms are likely to benefit from the change.
"The rule may indirectly benefit the 9,165 currently certified section 8(a) firms by improving their likelihood of a contract award through increased competition," the notice stated.
Separately, the councils also issued new regulatory guidance on the proper use and management of cost-reimbursement, time-and-material, and labor-hour contracts.
Among the most significant changes, contracting officer representatives now must be designated to oversee all contracts and orders other than those that are firm fixed-price. The contracting officer also must determine the continuing adequacy of the vendor's accounting system during the entire period of contract performance. And, each contract file should include documentation indicating why the particular contract type was selected.
The FAR Councils on Wednesday published several other interim rules changes.
One officially establishes parity among each of the small business socioeconomic subcategories. The priority among each of the categories was thrown into turmoil in 2009 when the Government Accountability Office, and, later, the U.S. Court of Federal Claims, determined that a decades-old statute mandated that Historically Underutilized Business Zone contractors were at the top of the procurement pecking order.
The 2010 Small Business Jobs Act re-established parity among small businesses operating in a HUBZone, or owned by an 8(a), service-disabled veteran or women-owned small business contractors;
A second mandates enhanced competition for orders placed under multiple-award contracts, including the General Services Administration's Federal Supply Schedules.
For orders above the simplified acquisition threshold of $150,000, agencies must inform all other qualified vendors of their intentions to issue an award and provide them a fair opportunity to submit offers. When such notice is not provided, the agency must obtain offers by at least three vendors and submit in writing that no other qualified contractors were identified.
The councils are accepting public comments on each of the proposed rule changes through May 16. Comments can be submitted through Regulations.gov, or mailed to the General Services Administration, Regulatory Secretariat; attention Hada Flowers, 1275 First Street N.E., 7th Floor, Washington, D.C., 20417
March 10, 2011,
Coral Springs, FL-Greg Warrick the CEO of On Target Group in cojunction with the Broward County Government provided South Florida business owners with a two hour presentation on doing business with the federal government. The seminar showed business owners and executives how to develop a B2G marketing strategy, create a government marketing plan, register on the CCR, and how to conduct key word searches on government sites. The presentation also informed the participants on what products and services are on the GSA Schedule and helped them determine if a GSA Schedule is right for their business.
January 14, 2011,
Washington, DC-Hardware Distributor Agrees to $6.25 million false claims settlement by Robert Brodsky in Government Executive Magazine-A national hardware distributor has agreed to pay $6.25 million to settle claims that it overcharged the government on a General Services Administration Multiple Awards Schedule contract, the Justice Department announced on Thursday.
Fastenal Co. of Winona, Minn., was facing a federal false claims lawsuit for failing to provide the government with the best possible price on a hardware contract first signed with GSA in 2000. The company discontinued the contract in 2005.
GSA's inspector general had accused Fastenal of failing to provide agency contracting officials with current, accurate and complete information regarding its commercial sales practices, including discounts for nongovernmental customers. To be granted a Multiple Awards Schedule contract, companies must agree to disclose their commercial pricing policies and practices. 02/12
"Misrepresentations during contract negotiations undermine the integrity of the government procurement process," said Tony West, assistant attorney general for the Justice Department's civil division. "The Justice Department is acting to ensure that government purchasers of commercial products can be certain that they are getting the prices to which they are entitled."
The investigation was prompted by a 2005-2006 post-award audit by GSA's inspector general looking into allegations that Fastenal was providing better discounts to its other customers, in violation of the price reduction clause of its GSA contract. The clause requires companies to give the government at least as good of a price as its best commercial customer.
The settlement also resolves allegations that Fastenal improperly assessed delivery and sales tax charges, causing the government to overpay. In addition, prosecutors accused the company of violating the 1979 Trade Agreements Act, which prohibits businesses from selling products to the government that were manufactured in nations without a trade agreement with the United States; in this case, China.
Last July, Justice told Fastenal that it planned to file a federal false claims suit if Fastenal did not pay $9.5 million. The company countered with a $750,000 settlement offer, which the government rejected at the time, according to documents Fastenal filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission in 2010.
"This case is another demonstration of the value of OIG audits in helping to uncover fraud on government programs," GSA Inspector General Brian Miller said.
Fastenal, which sells a host of hardware, electrical and plumbing supplies, denies the allegations.
"We continue to believe that we complied with our obligation under the GSA contract in all material respects," the company said in a statement. "However, we felt a continuation of our dispute with the DOJ and GSA was not the best use of our resources."
The Justice Department secured $3 billion in false claims settlements and judgments from civil lawsuits in fiscal 2010, most often involving companies attempting to defraud the federal government, according to data the Obama administration released last November. The financial recoveries were the second highest in the nation's history and represented a 25 percent increase from fiscal 2009.