White House Updates Contracting, Technology Guidance For Federal Agencies
By Cyber Era Reporter
During the coronavirus outbreak, the Veterans Affairs Department got a greenlight to rehire experts and the Justice Department clarified its stance on working in states with shelter-in-place orders.
Over the weekend, the Trump administration published several memo of additional guidance for federal employees, contractors and agencies in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Days after directing agencies and departments to offer “maximum telework flexibilities” for federal employees, the Office of Management and Budget updated its agency guidance regarding millions of federal contractors.
The guidance, from OMB’s Deputy Director for Management Margaret Weichert, instructs agencies to do three main things:
- Agencies are urged to work with their contractors, if they haven’t already, to evaluate and maximize telework for contractor employees, wherever possible.
- Agencies should be flexible in providing extensions to performance dates if telework or other flexible work solutions, such as virtual work environments, are not possible, or if a contractor is unable to perform in a timely manner due to quarantining, social distancing, or other COVID-19 related interruptions. Agencies should take into consideration whether it is beneficial to keep skilled professionals or key personnel in a mobile-ready state for activities the agency deems critical to national security or other high priorities. Additionally, agencies should also consider whether contracts that possess capabilities for addressing impending requirements such as security, logistics, or other function, may be retooled for pandemic response consistent with the scope of the contract.
- Finally, agencies are encouraged to leverage the special emergency procurement authorities authorized in connection with the President’s emergency declaration under section 501(b) of the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 5121-5207 (the “Stafford Act”). These flexibilities include increases to the micro-purchase threshold, the simplified acquisition threshold, and the threshold for using simplified procedures for certain commercial items, all of which are designed to reduce friction for contractors, especially small businesses, and the government and enable more rapid response to the many pressing demands agencies face.
The contractor guidance follows calls from lawmakers and trade groups to address one of the largest components of the government’s workforce. The updated guidance also includes a frequently asked questions section addressing more nuanced questions for managers, including how to address contractor or employee exposure to COVID-19.