ODNI Releases CARES Act Guidance for Intel Community

The newly released memo "strongly urges" intelligence agencies to fully use CARES Act flexibilities that allow agencies to modify contracts when contractor employees can't access authorized work sites or work remotely because of COVID-19 health and safety restrictions. Image: gorodenkoff/iStock

The newly released memo “strongly urges” intelligence agencies to fully use CARES Act flexibilities that allow agencies to modify contracts when contractor employees can’t access authorized work sites or work remotely because of COVID-19 health and safety restrictions. Image: gorodenkoff/iStock

The Office of the Director of National Intelligence on April 8 unveiled guidelines for the intelligence community that relate to acquisition and procurement issues during the COVID-19 pandemic and implementation of  Section 3610 of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act.

Signed by Deputy Director of National Intelligence for Enterprise Capacity Kevin Meiners on April 3, the memo “strongly urges” intelligence agencies to fully use CARES Act flexibilities.

Specifically, Section 3610 allows agencies to modify contracts when contractor employees can’t access authorized work sites or work remotely because of COVID-19 health and safety restrictions. This is especially helpful to companies performing essential national security missions, ensuring they remain financially viable, and that highly skilled and often cleared contractor employees are retained — securing the longterm health of the IC.

By leveraging Section 3610 and other contracting tools, agencies can allow the maximum number of contractors to stay at home in a “ready state” during the coronavirus crisis, supporting national efforts to stop the spread.

To manage the response of the pandemic, ODNI has slashed its acquisition and procurement staff, and encourages other agencies to do the same. In fact, ODNI said it will not be requesting normal acquisition and procurement activities during the crisis, and will support agency decisions to slip acquisition and development milestones as they relate to efforts to limit staffing during the pandemic.

In the meantime, and until the Office of Management and Budget issues further guidance, the memo encourages the IC to provide clear guidance to its industry partners and apply Section 3610 to all contracts.

For some members of those industry partners, ODNI’s recent guidance is welcome news.

“IC leadership is clearly communicating that they value their industry partnership, the long-term health of our combined government and contractor IC workforce,” said Darin Powers, president and chief operating officer of national security solutions provider NT Concepts, Inc.

While the guidance provides financial stability, Powers finds the most positive aspect is the tangible, “One Team” message it sends to frontline employees who work side-by-side in classified spaces with their government partners.

“Simply stated, it is about mission,” Powers said. “Mission is what drives our trusted workforce and this guidance appreciates and values that contribution.”

Randy Morgan, president and CEO of Preferred Systems Solutions, an IT service management company serving the federal government, said the ODNI guidance for implementing Section 3610 of the CARES Act was a necessity.

“Follow through on the part of the intelligence community, providing clear and consistent Section 3610 implementation guidance to the contractor community is now needed,” Morgan told WashingtonExec.

Morgan said he hopes intelligence agencies will make full use of the flexibility provided by the CARES Act to protect the contractor teams who remain at home in a “ready state” so they can focus on supporting the mission.

ODNI provides a full list of guiding principles the IC can follow to properly apply the CARES Act here, including contract minimum and maximum reimbursement details, application allowances and restrictions, invoice instructions and more.

Read the rest of our COVID-19 coverage here. 

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