Digest: Will the New Administration Really Be a Boon to Contractors?

growth2-2Right after the the November election, many contractors got excited. Visions of a new administration with new business-friendly policies caused the stocks of defense contractors to rise. But, now that the Trump team is here, are contractors still as optimistic?

1) Contractor Trade Association Not Thrilled by the EPA Contract Freeze

The Professional Services Council (PSC), which represents some 400 companies that do business with the federal government, has taken exception to the Trump administration’s action to put the EPA on a contracting freeze.

Comedy TragedyThe administration ordered a temporary suspension of all new business activities at the department, including issuing task orders or work assignments to EPA contractors.

Federal Times writes, “The orders were expected to have a significant and immediate impact on EPA activities nationwide.”

In a letter to Acting EPA Administrator, Catherine McCabe, PSC President and CEO, David J. Berteau, wrote:

A blunt, across the board halt on contracting actions will disrupt core government operations, drive away hard-to-find workers and may cost more to restart than it saves by stopping,” wrote Berteau. “Absent problems with specific contracts, we strongly recommend that these actions be of the shortest duration possible.”

While Berteau’s argument has merit, complaining to McCabe is a little like complaining to the horse about running away rather than registering displeasure with the guy who left the barn door open.

Bertreau also noted:

Many companies depend on payments to stay in business. The EPA should be mindful of the adverse economic impact this will have on the business community – large, small and disadvantaged businesses alike. At a minimum, they need to plan for any disruption and its impact on their workers.”

Then, there are the elephants in the room: 1) What about other agencies? 2) Will this action be repeated at other civilian agencies? 3) How long will he freeze last

At a bare minimum, some of them may be scratching their heads and wondering how pro-business this administration is going to be.

New administrations always bring a certain amount of uncertainty. But, in the near future, the waters ahead may a little rockier than usual.

The letter can be viewed in its entirety on PSC’s website.

2) And, Then There’s the Wall

Whether the infamous wall along the border between the U.S. and Mexico ever gets built is a political question that we wouldn’t even pretend to answer. But,realistically, if it does get built, the wall’s construction will be of keen interest to contractors.

Brick in the WallSo, we felt as if we should cover some of the basic issues for prospective contractors.

  • How realistic is the wall? Rep. Michael McCaul (R-TX) told Bloomberg that the wall would probably cost between $10 and $20 billion. Whether Congress appropriates that much money to fund a highly controversial project like this is anyone’s guess. Budget hawks hoping to slash funding may have a hard time voting yes.
  • Exactly how big is the illegal immigrant problem? A rapidly falling one. According to The Atlas, illegal border crossings from Mexico have fallen from more than 1.5 million in 2000 to roughly 100,000 in 2016.
SOURCE: The Atlas

SOURCE: The Atlas

  • Will Mexico really pay for it? No. Not directly. The administration has floated trial balloons, such as a 20% tariff on all goods imported from Mexico or increasing visa fees for travelers from Central American countries.

Bloomberg reports that the top three fencing contractors for DHS are Purgatory Fence Co., Marriott Fence Construction Inc., and PCM & Sl Plota Co. Since 2013, DHS has spent about $5.6 million on fencing.

Of course, border security is about a lot more than a physical barrier. U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) states that they now capture 85 to 95 percent of undocumented people crossing the border. But, Antonio Trindad, CBP’s director of enforcement systems, points out that capturing and keeping out “bad people” is the real goal.

To accomplish that, CBP must gather, analyze and communicate biometric data in an efficient manner to enable officers to spot criminals and terrorists.

“We have some challenges collecting photos,” said Trindad. The number of cameras currently stationed on the border, including some that collect near-infrared imagery, number “in the hundreds,” he said. But age, pose, illumination and expression, what technologists in the field refer to as the A-PIE problem, constrains how well the computers can recognize faces, reports Defense One.

So, contracting opportunities will expand far beyond digging trenches and anchoring fence posts.

As more and more facts are presented, it’s anyone’s guess as to whether the wall will become reality.

Other Contracting News

 3) The Problems Social Media Can Cause Small Businesses

Social media and fake news were around long before the 2016 election. But, the bizarre twists and hacks of that election elevated both to new heights last year. Dealing with social media is a challenge for all businesses but can be a real nightmare for small companies.

Social MediaSmall firms usually don’t have full time communications staff and certainly don’t have public relations firms on retainer.

A case in point is the tale of Comet Ping Pong pizzeria in which the Chevy Chase restaurant’s biggest concern one minute was making sure its customers got their pies hot and fresh. And, the next it was dealing with an armed gunman, who got caught up in a wild internet conspiracy theory about child sex slavery.

Comet became the victim of a barrage of internet trolling from fake news purveyors and conspiracy nuts, which made life a little too interesting for awhile.

Richard Levick, CEO of public relations firm LEVICK, had some suggestions for small companies (or any company, for that matter) in dealing with social media:

  • Get active on Twitter and Facebook. “You want to be able to communicate the truth effectively,” Levick says.
  • Make sure you local media get your side of the story.
  • Identify your allies. “You always want to know your allies, and know them before you need them. They’re your customers, they’re former customers,” and many other community leaders, he said. “Having them now and having those relationships is extremely helpful.”

Levick also stressed getting lots of photos and videos on the web.

You want to be thinking about how is it I convey my messages, not with facts, but with emotion. And that’s why pictures are so helpful, that’s why third parties — the customers, the other members of the community — are so helpful,” he explained.

Social media has merged business with entertainment. The sooner companies get comfortable with that concept, the better positioned they will be to defend themselves if the need ever arises.

Other Cybersecurity News

 

And, finally …

It’s the weekend. Time to slip on your favorite jeans, call for a reservation at your favorite neighborhood haunt and head out to the movies.

But, how often have you found yourself sitting in a theater wondering why the trailer was a thousand times better than the actual film?

Maybe, what we all need are more “realistic” trailers, which is the inspiration Screen Junkies used to develop alternative trailers that get closer to the truth. Take this one for the animated feature, “Frozen:”

Have a great weekend …

Posted under: Acquisition, Army, Congress, Contract News, Cybersecurity, GAO, GSA, Management, Small Business Contracting

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