Members of the New York Army National Guard take calls at a Coronavirus Hotline call center, under the guidance of a site leader in Hawthorne, N.Y., March 16, 2020. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Senior Airman Sean Madden)

OMB Coronavirus Guidance: Flexibility for Contractors, Emergency Procurement for Agencies

The Office of Management and Budget issued guidance Friday to assist agencies in managing contract performance issues related to the coronavirus pandemic, encouraging flexibility and best judgment in a rapid-evolving crisis situation.

The guidance includes encouraging agencies and contractors to maximize telework and provide contract extensions whenever possible in situations where working remotely is not an option.

The OMB memo also encourages agencies to use emergency procurement flexibilities as needed to meet demands.

OMB stresses that “the health and safety of all Americans, including our Federal contractors, remains the top priority,” while “maintaining the resilience of our Federal contracting base – requires continued communication by agencies with their contractors, both small and large, and effective leveraging of flexibilities and authorities to help minimize work disruption.”

“As the impact of COVID-19 continues to evolve, many Federal government contractors that ordinarily work side-by-side with the Federal workforce may currently be unable to access their Federal work sites as a result of building closures, quarantines or implementation of social distancing practices. Agencies are urged to work with their contractors, if they haven’t already, to evaluate and maximize telework for contractor employees, wherever possible,” states the memo. “…Equally important, 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’).”

The flexibilities include “increases to the micro-purchase threshold, the simplified acquisition threshold, and the threshold for using simplified procedures for certain commercial items.”

Agencies are directed to “exercise sound fiscal prudence to maximize value for each taxpayer dollar spent,” and “the acquisition workforce should feel fully empowered to use the acquisition flexibilities, as needed, consistent with good business judgment in response to this national emergency.”

OMB said it will continue to provide updates and additional information as needed “to support the resiliency of the acquisition community.”

Read the full memo

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Bridget Johnson is the Managing Editor for Homeland Security Today. A veteran journalist whose news articles and analyses have run in dozens of news outlets across the globe, Bridget first came to Washington to be online editor and a foreign policy writer at The Hill. Previously she was an editorial board member at the Rocky Mountain News and syndicated nation/world news columnist at the Los Angeles Daily News. Bridget is a senior fellow specializing in terrorism analysis at the Haym Salomon Center. She is a Senior Risk Analyst for Gate 15, a private investigator and a security consultant. She is an NPR on-air contributor and has contributed to USA Today, The Wall Street Journal, New York Observer, National Review Online, Politico, New York Daily News, The Jerusalem Post, The Hill, Washington Times, RealClearWorld and more, and has myriad television and radio credits including Al-Jazeera and SiriusXM.

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