How to prepare for contracting during a shutdown

Tuesday - 3/1/2011, 9:31am EST

Rob Guerra, partner, Guerra Kiviat

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By Suzanne Kubota
Senior Internet Editor
FederalNewsRadio.com

It's not just federal employees that are concerned about the potential government shutdown. Contractors are also worried. The number of government contractors is significantly larger today than it was in 1995 during the last government shutdown. So, what questions should vendors be asking and what should they do to prepare?

"The biggest question I'd have is how relevant is what they do to mission criticality," Rob Guerra, partner at Guerra Kiviat, told Federal News Radio.

For example, said the federal sales consultant, if you provide satellite communications support for Defense for the warfighting effort, "they're not going to say shut down your satellite coms" but if you're providing receptionist support at a Department of Defense building, they may tell you they can't pay you during a shutdown.

Ask the contracting officer, the contracting officer's technical representatives, and the program manager about the work in terms of mission criticality.

Guerra said that while the determination of mission criticality would be between the contracting officer and the technical representative, he would "also be talking to the program manager, because the program manager should be the one who's closest to an understanding of the mission criticality of what you're doing."

And yes, said Guerra, it's critical to talk with all three. "I don't think any of the three government officials can make that decision independently. That's why I would be talking with all three of them and if you haven't started by now, you're behind the eight ball so you'd better get in front of them as soon as you can to understand whether or now you're going to have to furlough people. Are you going to get paid?"

While it's not too late, said Guerra, it's critical to get the process started immediately. "Well, I don't want to sound like a Monday morning quarterback, but I would have been doing this a couple of months ago as soon as it reared its ugly head to make sure that I got through the bureaucracy and the chain of command for the decision-making that had to be made."

Given that it may be two weeks before a shutdown, Guerra said in his "scheme of priorities as a vendor to the government, I'd be elevating this one to the top of the heap to make sure I understand exactly what the government's position is relative to my specific contract or contracts and then determine what actions I'm going to take based on what the government tells me."

Above all else, advised Guerra, do not think just because your program manager tells you not to worry that all is well. You need to hear that from the contracting officer and the contracting officer's technical representative as well.