What's new in the world of FSS?
It was nearly a month ago that we were all gathered at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Rosemont eagerly listening to VA procurement officials and NAC employees, trying to glean some new kernels of insight into what the future holds for the VA purchasing process. No matter your reason for attending, this conference was a great opportunity to network with other FSS and National contractors and VA procurement personnel – from your CO to NAC management and Senior Executive members of the Veterans Health Administration and the Office of Acquisition and Logistics.
What’s new in FSS?
Of course, throughout the 2-days, the biggest topic of discussion was the Federal Supply Schedule (FSS) and how to make it better for everyone involved. In his presentation, Dan Shearer, the new FSS Service Director, spent quite a bit of time talking about the troubles faced by FSS and how they are actively trying to address them. So, how are they meeting their stated goal of “improving price, quality, speed, + choice of FSS”?
They have made a commitment to address personnel management and performance. One of the ways they are addressing these issues is through the creation of team leads. These folks are responsible for mentoring journeyman contract specialists, training new hires, developing a training plan, and brainstorming solutions across teams. Additionally, they increased their contracting bandwidth by expanding the warrant authority guidance for contracting officers.
They created a regular Improve Contracting Business Meeting (ICBM) with involvement from all Senior Contract Specialists, team leads, and Branch Chiefs. The ICBM fosters collaboration among the teams and promotes special emphasis projects.
They re-established quarterly meetings with the Acquisition Policy and Systems groups within GSA. Specifically, FSS and GSA are re-engaging in talks about systems sharing between the two agencies, promoting collaboration, and making Service Contract Act labor category CALCs available online by contract.
Finally, it is common knowledge that FSS COs have nearly 5-times the workload than other acquisition professionals throughout VA. To address this, FSS received authority to hire 6-journeymen COs with an additional 10-hires coming this spring and summer.
In 2019, FSS is focused on enhancing the program through individual excellence and a winning team spirit.
·Streamlining offers and extensions – there is rumor of significant changes coming to the long-term extension process. Hopefully any changes will make this process easier and less time consuming for contractors than it currently is.
Addressing aged work by elevating and completing aged work. This is a sticky wicket for FSS COs as the result of this is often requesting the contractor/offeror to re-submit data that has aged with no action. You may be asked to submit refreshed CSP data or agree to extend your proposed FSS pricing beyond the initial 180-days. Unfortunately, Mr. Shearer did not lay out specific steps for addressing the backlog or provide insight into how aged work will fit into the triage of priority offers, mods, and extensions that are submitted daily.
Increasing the value of the FSS program within VA. This was a main theme of the Industry Conference as a whole – how do we make FSS more valuable to VA as its contracting processes evolve? In the past, the FSS did not make strategic decisions regarding what it was adding to its contract base – if you offered it, they (most likely) awarded it. With VA’s new focus on category management and the MSPV 2.0 approach to “buckets” of products, FSS is now taking a more even approach to its evaluation of offers – does your offer improve the operations of the VA? Does it provide a benefit to the Veteran?
Improved responsiveness and information sharing with contractors. I’m sure you’ve all experienced and unanswered email, a voicemail never returned – sometimes it feels like your outreaches fall into a black hole, never to be heard from again. FSS is working with its employees to improve their responsiveness and overall information sharing. One of the biggest takeaways I had from the whole conference is to not be afraid to call your CO and engage with them about things other than contracting. The best relationships have a tinge of personal understanding. Additionally, FSS (and VA in general) made it clear that they want more industry engagement – they just aren’t sure how to go about facilitating that. Email your thoughts and ideas to email@example.com!
While the questions still outweigh the answers, FSS is trying to better itself – for contractors, for purchasers, and for the Veteran. There is still a long way to go, but there very well may be a light at the end of the tunnel for healthcare manufacturers and suppliers that participate in VA’s FSS program.
At Orlaithe, our primary goal is to help all FSS stakeholders find the light at the end of this tunnel by:
Helping our clients navigate the world of FSS by leveraging our long-standing relationships with VA FSS management and contracting personnel; and
Facilitating changes within FSS by bringing your program and policy concerns to management. Thus far, we have been successful in getting FSS to remove the requirement for Schedule 65IB contractors with SIN 42-2(a)(b) products to maintain GSA Advantage! price lists, and getting FSS to change its position on the requirement for the signatures on the Signatory Authority document to be dated within 10-days of proposal submission.
Contact us today for help with your FSS proposal, contract administration, GSA Advantage! SIP uploads, price list management, or even help making your documents 508 compliant. Whatever your federal healthcare contracting needs, Orlaithe is here to help with passion, diligence, and experience.
Hannah Zerphey, Managing Member
(708) 870-2332 | firstname.lastname@example.org
Greg Madden, Managing Member
(331) 250-0814 | email@example.com