CONTRACTS

OMB expands use of easy-acquisition procedures in face of COVID-19

NOTE: This article first appeared on FCW.com.

The Office of Management and Budget's revised thresholds for federal purchases are a welcome tool for agencies and federal contractors, according to a top executive at a government technology and professional services industry group.

In a March 20 letter to agency heads, Margaret Weichert, OMB's deputy director for management, offered guidance on how contractors and federal agencies should operate in the COVID-19 response.

As part of that guidance, OMB looked to expand its easy-acquisition tools. It raised federal agency micro-purchase limits from $10,000 to $20,000 for domestic buys and bumped up limits of simplified acquisition procedures from $250,000 to $750,000 for contracts inside the U.S.

Agencies can also use simplified acquisition procedures for up to $13 million to buy certain commercial items, according to the memo.

Those changes are helping agencies and their suppliers streamline their contracting procedures to respond to the pandemic and keep their operations running, Alan Chvotkin, executive vice president and counsel of the Professional Services Council, told FCW on March 25.

"I'm hearing from members that telephonic orders" fueled by the higher micro-purchase limit "is helping to expedite critical orders to support telework, increase capabilities and get software tools," he said.

However, Chvotkin said agencies looking to significantly expand their networks and bandwidth shouldn't look to the increased micro-purchasing limit or simplified acquisition procedures, he said. The price tag for expediting those is typically much higher than the new limits, he said.

The majority of the agency and commercial technology work Chvotkin said he is hearing about has not yet pushed into the new simplified acquisition limits.

That work is typically not involved in the more pressing direct emergency response to the pandemic's march across the U.S., such as buying medical masks, gowns and other critical medical supplies, he said. "Normal" processes for most federal procurements his members are engaged in have held so far, he said.

That could change as the pandemic progresses and becomes more localized, he said, particularly in harder-hit areas such as New York.

About the Author

Mark Rockwell is a senior staff writer at FCW, whose beat focuses on acquisition, the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Energy.

Before joining FCW, Rockwell was Washington correspondent for Government Security News, where he covered all aspects of homeland security from IT to detection dogs and border security. Over the last 25 years in Washington as a reporter, editor and correspondent, he has covered an increasingly wide array of high-tech issues for publications like Communications Week, Internet Week, Fiber Optics News, tele.com magazine and Wireless Week.

Rockwell received a Jesse H. Neal Award for his work covering telecommunications issues, and is a graduate of James Madison University.

Click here for previous articles by Rockwell. Contact him at mrockwell@fcw.com or follow him on Twitter at @MRockwell4.


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