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Wide-Reaching FAR Rule Touches Every Government Contractor

Posted By Ann Sullivan, WIPP Chief Advocate, Tuesday, November 19, 2019

In the 2019 National Defense Authorization Act, Congress directed federal agencies to stop using products and services from six Chinese companies in Section 889 of the bill. Those companies include: Huawei, ZTE Corporation, Hytera Communications Corporation, Hangzhou Hikvision Digital Technology Company, and Dahua Technology Company. 


Moving quickly, the FAR Council issued an interim final rule, Prohibition on Certain Telecommunications and Video Surveillance Services or Equipment, which became effective on August 13, 2019, and broadly prohibits federal agencies from using telecommunications or surveillance equipment or services from these six companies.

AnnSullivan

Next year, step two, which prohibits any government contractor from using any components or services from these companies is expected to go into effect. Known as Section 889, this action has the potential of impacting all government contractors, large or small—even micropurchases.  


While no one doubts that these companies pose a threat to the nation’s cybersecurity, any government action that affects 139,730 small entities will have wide reaching effects. That was the theme of my participation on a panel at GSA on Section 889. I joined five other panelists to speak about how Section 889 will affect government contractors, especially small businesses.

 

 Think for a minute about complying with this new requirement. For example, do you know who manufacturers your desk phones? Do you know what brand the surveillance equipment in your building? If you travel internationally, do you know the telecom carrier you use in your office or hotel? Replacement of equipment will surely carry a cost, but figuring out usage of any components or services from these six companies will prove to be difficult.


The new FAR rules will not only impact your employees and your physical facility, it will also extend to your workforce comprised of 1099 contractors. A small business owner shared that this new Section 889 requirement could result in her contractors opting out of federal work because the new requirements will be too tough to comply with.


One of my fellow panelists joked that these new requirements will provide full employment to lawyers and compliance experts for years to come. Small businesses will likely need to hire a compliance specialist as well as a specialist to source equipment to stay in compliance with the new rule. One small business stated that it will cost them $10,000 to conduct an audit and provide governance structure, $10,000 for new equipment, and $10,000 to change all of her contracts and educate her 1099s. An audience participant estimated a cost of $150,000 just for new equipment alone.


My greatest concern is that small businesses will not understand the implications of this new requirement until it smacks them in the face—until they don’t qualify for federal work or a prime contractor demands a certification of compliance.  


So, what can the government do to increase awareness among industry about the potential impact of Section 889? First, the government can use small business offices (OSDBUs) and small business specialists to share information about Section 889. Second, GSA can do informational webinars about the impact of the new rule. Third, the government should involve the Small Business Administration (SBA) and Procurement Technical Assistance Centers (PTACs) network. And finally, the government should engage organizations, like WIPP to spread the word about the new Section 889 rule.


Staying on top of acquisition policies, like Section 889, directly affects your bottom line. That’s the beauty of WIPP – we are dedicated to keeping you informed and engaged.


Tags:  advocacy  FAR  federal contracting 

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