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Acquisition Guidance Webinar Series: Defense Information Systems Agency – April 24, 2020

As part of a series of webinars designed to help members understand agency guidance on COVID-19 relief and aid measures, the Fort Meade Alliance convened Vice Adm. Nancy A. Norton, Director of DISA and Commander of the Joint Force Headquarters; Doug Packard, Director of the Procurement Directorate and Chief of DITCO; and Carlen Capenos, Director or the Office of Small Business Programs on Friday morning to speak to DISA’s guidance regarding the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act.

Vice Adm. Norton kicked off the session by reassuring participants that their “support to DISA’s mission is a valued partnership and we are open for business. By working together, we are meeting the challenges, not just of COVID-19 responses, but making sure our war-fighters stay ready and stay healthy.”

Packard expounded on this message, sharing that DISA is “open for business as usual, with the caveat that the business as usual is now distant.” Most DISA contractors will find that due to its existing structure, the agency has been able to move to nearly 100% telework with no fundamental changes to the contracting process. DISA has not reduced staffing and thus have been able to process their usual workflow.

In an effort to provide transparent communication in this evolving and uncertain time, the Head of Contracting Activity has provided three open letters – two to contractors and one to DITCO’s mission partners – on the Vendors tab of the DITCO site. Additional resources, including the slides and recording of this and other webinars can be found on the FMA’s COVID-19 resource page.

Within the slides for this webinar, Capenos compiled a set of useful links for both large and small businesses navigating the current crisis. Among these resources, Capenos highlighted the OUSD A&S FAQ, which is frequently updated with guidance on the implementation of the CARES Act.

Though the Office of Small Business Programs has been busier than usual, Capenos assured participants that the office has not put any projects on hold. Meetings that previously took place either online or in person, such as vendor one-on-one meetings and DISA 101 sessions, are moving to be fully virtual for the duration of social distancing measures. With a staff that has nearly doubled in size, Capenos noted that there are more hands on deck for acquisition review, which will continue per the current forecast that will be updated in early June.

Capenos counseled businesses that have not worked with DISA or the federal government before to first “do their homework.” Businesses can begin their research on the website, which contains fact sheets for each different program, as well as a forecast for DISA’s short and long-term acquisitions. Capenos cautioned, “if you sell something we don’t buy, you can move to a different agency that does buy what you sell.”

Businesses that are offering services or products that meet DISA’s needs should contact Capenos’ office; a call to their direct line (301-225-6003) will be answered live by a staff member. To join a DISA 101 session or get questions answered, participants should email Capenos also offered that her office can help prime contractors determine what is going wrong when they have not been paid. “We do understand the cash flow situation in normal times and I’m sure it is even worse in this situation,” she said.

Packard and Capenos closed the webinar by echoing one of Norton’s opening statements: “Help us understand where you see or forecast potential problems in the future that are going to affect us down the road.” In particular, though they have heard of supply chain issues, DISA has not yet felt any of the effects of shortages or delays. As a result, Capenos noted, “bad news doesn’t get better with time. If you are seeing an issue or concern, bring it up early.”

DISA, like most federal agencies, is in the planning stages to determine how to reopen once federal, state and local health measures are loosened.

“I’m convinced we’ll return as a better department and better professionals,” Packard said.  “But I’m also convinced we will be returning to a new normal.”

The FMA will be managing two upcoming events for DISA — a matchmaking session on October 8 and a small business conference on December 15. Both events will take place at the BWI Marriott in Linthicum, Md. Information will be available closer to each event.