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GovCon Updates of the Week

3/29/2021 - By Saltmarsh, Cleaveland & Gund

You Can’t Spell IT Acquisition Without FAR: We’ve written previously about updates to the Buy America Act and some of the impacts of the “Ensuring the Future Is Made in All of America by All of America’s Workers” Executive Order, which include the establishment of a “Made in America Office” within the Office of Management and Budget, an increase of Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR)-based domestic content requirements from 50 to 55%, and pricing preferences for domestic suppliers from 6 to 20% for larger businesses and from 12 to 30% for small businesses.  However, information technology (IT) has typically been spared from Buy America requirements, historically.

While the executive order called for a higher-level review from the FAR council on exceptions and constraints in applying Buy America to IT acquisition, the pandemic has further revealed the United States’ dependence on foreign sources for chips and semiconductors.  This reliance shouldn’t come as a surprise, as the United States’ share of this market has decreased by almost two-thirds in the last 30 years.

A global chip shortage impacted the availability of automobiles and consumer goods over the past year, resulting in billions in lost profits for some of the largest U.S. employers.  As a result, industry heads are encouraging the Biden administration to closely examine the IT exception to the Buy America Act, in hopes of establishing a more resilient domestic semiconductor and chip manufacturing base.

For more information, please click this link.

Potential HHS Regulatory Changes on the Horizon… But Not Until 2022: Do you contract with the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS)?  If so, we have good news for you. HHS has decided to delay until 2022 the effective date of its controversial new rule that calls for the U.S.’ preeminent health agency to review its more than 17,000 regulations. This delay is due to an ongoing lawsuit filed by several health groups aiming to eliminate the directive.

This controversial rule went into effect in early 2021 and calls for a sweeping review of all HHS regulations, which total in the thousands.  Under the rule, any regulation will automatically be set to expire 10 years after its release date unless HHS performs a review and determines that the regulation should be amended or rescinded.  Additionally, the new ruling would force HHS to review every current regulation that is more than 10 years old, within a five year period, a task deemed incredibly daunting for a federal agency embroiled in the ongoing COVID-19 response.  Any of the agency’s 17,000 regulations that aren’t reviewed during this five year period would expire.

This new rule has been met with fierce opposition from health groups, including The California Tribal Families Coalition, Santa Clara County, the Center for Science in the Public Interest and the National Association of Pediatric Nurse Practitioners, who argue this rule would require enormous time and resources to complete.  In addition, contractors in the healthcare space would need to navigate potentially hundreds, if not thousands, of revised regulations to avoid any compliance lapses.

For the time being, HHS has agreed to push back the new directive until 2022 as the ongoing lawsuit works through the courts.  It will be important to see how the court rules and what impact this could have on current and future contractors, if HHS goes through with the regulatory revamp.

For more information, please click this link.

Technology Modernization Fund Is Wasting No Time: Last week, we discussed the Biden administration’s emphasis on technology funding and the $1 billion appropriation to the Technology Modernization Fund (TMF).  The board that manages TMF has hit the ground running and announced one of its largest awards to date, with a $9.6 million upgrade to the Department of Labor (DOL) enterprise data infrastructure.

The project aims to modernize DOL’s enterprise data management and analytics capabilities, which currently face quality, consistency, and availability issues, limiting the department’s ability to effectively use its data.  “Without this funding, DOL could not accelerate development of an enterprise approach to improving data quality and expanding the number of data sets available internally and to the public,” read a statement from the TMF website.  “However, with the support of the TMF, the project can be advanced as an enterprise initiative over two years, building an essential foundation.”

President Biden and his cabinet have repeatedly expressed their commitment to modernizing the nation’s IT infrastructure, and this swift project approval reinforces those commitments to IT initiatives and improving services that are so critical to the American public.  “Technology is a key enabler for government in providing better services to the American public,” said David Shive, General Services Administration chief information officer and TMF Board member.  “The news of the Technology Modernization Fund getting a $1 billion boost from the American Rescue plan couldn’t have come at a better time, and the TMF Board looks forward to receiving more project proposals like this one from DOL to consider for investment.”

IT suppliers and service providers should continue to track the TMF and beta.SAM.gov sites for solicitations and opportunities to assist with the modernization effort.

For more information, please click this link.

Questions?

If you have specific questions, please reach out to our team. Visit our COVID-19 resource hub for ongoing updates and information.


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