How GSA is Helping Small Businesses Get Contracts Faster

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A newly launched pilot program lets the agency’s contracting experts help push deals over the finish line.

Officials at the General Services Administration on Monday said a new pilot program will speed up the government’s adoption of innovative technologies by helping companies in the Small Business Innovation Research program more quickly strike deals with federal agencies.

Last week GSA launched a pilot that would open up Assisted Acquisition Services to agencies and vendors in the third and final phase of the SBIR program.

Run by the Small Business Administration, SBIR is divided into three phases. The first and second phases focus primarily on research and development, and during the third, companies work to commercialize their products. Under the pilot, GSA would collaborate with both customer agencies and SBIR vendors to hammer out initial contracts. After the products become commercialized, GSA would work to make them more widely available across government.

Most of the 13 agencies involved in SBIR don’t have specialists dedicated to finalizing phase three contracts, and delegating that responsibility to GSA would enable speedier deals and make products more widely available, said Mark Lee, assistant commissioner of the Federal Acquisition Service Office of Policy and Compliance.

“Currently there isn’t a shared services offering that provides assisted acquisition for SBIR contracts,” Lee said in a conversation with reporters. “[The pilot] would be setting up that capability across government.”

While GSA will offer the additional services to all SBIR participants, Lee said he sees the program making a particular impact on the acquisition of cybersecurity and threat detection products, as well as emerging battlefield technologies.

The pilot will be led by the GSA Assisted Acquisition Services’ Great Lakes regional office and run through the end of fiscal 2019. Depending on the program’s success, GSA will determine whether it can offer the service more broadly, said Senior Procurement Executive Jeff Koses.

Koses told reporters the program originated after defense agencies approached GSA looking for ways to streamline the contracting process. The pilot comes as part of the administration’s larger push to simplify acquisition policy, he said, while still including “a set of guardrails to make sure that we’re innovative but with essential controls.”

Koses added he hopes accelerating the contracting process would help attract more small businesses to the federal marketplace, which agencies have historically struggled to do.

“I think this is a great example of us listening to our customer agencies, our industry partners and the Small Business Administration and [figuring out] where we can provide value in the federal marketplace,” said Lee. “We think this is an opportunity to inject innovation into the federal marketplace, help support commercialization of these unique solutions and ultimately help grow jobs.”