On April 8, 2016, U.S. Senator Tom Carper, the ranking Democratic member of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, sent a letter to Shaun Donovan, Director of the Office of Management and Budget (“OMB”) asking for specific information on how various federal agencies are addressing federal contracting challenges for emerging cybersecurity companies.
Senator Carper introduced his letter by noting that while the issue of cybersecurity is increasingly urgent, “flaws in the federal acquisition process can limit the tools agency network defenders can obtain.”
The letter was spurred by meetings Senator Carper held with several small businesses to discuss innovation in cybersecurity. The results of those meetings led Senator Carper to question if federal agencies could rapidly acquire new and innovative cybersecurity solutions.
In his letter, Senator Carper cites various problems that exist in several federal laws and programs that were put into place to actually streamline the federal contracting process: the Federal Acquisition Streamlining Act of 1994; the Competition in Contracting Act of 1984; the “Schedule 70” General Services Administration contracting program; the Continuous Diagnostics and Mitigation program at the Department of Homeland Security; and the “other transaction authority” granted by Congress to allow certain federal agencies to enter into agreements that are not subject to traditional contracting laws and regulations.
Senator Carper continues by asking several specific questions with respect to challenges small business and start-ups in the cybersecurity space face when contracting with the federal government:
What are agencies doing to acquire innovative cyber solutions developed by start-ups and other companies that have not traditionally done business with the government?
What action has OMB taken, or is planning to take, to guide agencies in the rapid procurement of new and emerging cybersecurity tools?
To what extent should venture capital firms be encouraged to pursue channels like Schedule 70 contracts from GSA to enable the firms to offer products and services of the companies they represent?
Two days after Senator Carper delivered his letter to OMB, the General Services Administration (“GSA”) rolled out its “Making It Easier” initiative to offer a shorter, more straightforward process for small businesses and companies that are new to the federal market and federal IT buyers. The GSA oversees approximately $66 billion of procurement for the federal government annually.
In particular, the “IT Schedule 70 Startup Springboard” program within the initiative permits companies to circumvent the two-year professional experience requirement with a more intense, upfront review of the technological capabilities and management of potential vendors. Senator Carper should be pleased with this component of the Springboard program, as the two-year experience requirement was specifically cited in his letter as an impediment to startups.
OMB has until May 6, 2016 to respond to the letter.
Senator Carper’s letter can be found here. The “Making It Easier” initiative can be found here.
Reporter, Stephen Abreu, San Francisco, +1 415 318 1219, firstname.lastname@example.org.