At the December 2019 PSC Board of Directors meeting, the PSC staff presented our advocacy plan for 2020. It included a set of legislative and regulatory initiatives that built on the successes we had in 2019 and that responded to what we had heard from our members, from federal agencies, and from members and staff on Capitol Hill.
We could not have planned for the titanic shift in the way we work or in our agenda caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. But from the outset of the outbreak, we saw the disruptive force it was having across our membership, our markets, and our Nation. We also knew how to pivot our advocacy work to be sure we were engaged on the COVID-19 issues that mattered most to our members.
With the engagement of the PSC Executive Committee, and extensive outreach to our Board of Directors and membership, we focused on three main COVID-19 advocacy priorities: (1) keep federal agencies working; (2) keep contractors working; and (3) ensure that contractors were paid for the work they were doing. These PSC COVID-19 priorities were similar to PSC’s priorities adopted during the run up to, and during, the 2018-2019 partial federal shutdown.
With our deep and long-standing relationships on Capitol Hill, we were on the receiving end of dozens of urgent calls from members and staff to help them craft a set of responses to the growing COVID-19 health emergency. Over a thirty-day period, we sent numerous letters to the Hill outlining our recommendations and held dozens of teleconferences with congressional staff. The first legislative “solution” came in the form of supplemental appropriations to federal agencies. That was followed by legislation to provide for emergency medical and sick leave for Americans affected by the coronavirus, and we worked with congressional offices to address issues facing federal contractors and their employees who were being affected.
We continued working with numerous committees and offices in crafting several of the provisions in the third supplemental, including specifically what became Section 3610 of the “CARES” Act, while also helping congressional offices draft other provisions; some of those provisions were included in the CARES Act and some were not adopted – yet.
Our advocacy work continues apace as Congress and the Executive Branch are evaluating the size, scope, and shape of a Phase Four of the COVID-19 response, and maybe subsequent actions. Again, based on the experiences and recommendations of our members, we provided the Hill with a number of additional options for action covering contracting policies, work rules, requests for supplemental appropriations, and tools to provide for the prompt recovery for contractors.
In parallel, we engaged extensively with the Executive Branch on their action/reaction plans and on the treatment of contractors – while focusing on our four main priorities. We have been participating in thrice weekly calls sponsored by Ellen Lord, the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition and Sustainment. These are not mere information exchanges, although that is a valuable part of the discussions. More importantly, these are action-oriented calls designed to rapidly surface emerging issues and identify and work collaboratively to solve them rapidly. Solutions have come in the form of updated DoD-wide policies, contract class deviations, changes to operational methods, and more.
We also talk regularly with senior staff from the Office of Director of National Intelligence, the Department of Homeland Security, USAID, several other civilian agency components, and more. Each of these discussions is designed to highlight the importance to PSC of consistent and uniform government approaches for contractors from the government’s COVID-19 actions and plans.
We are still providing, and seeking, information from our members, Within the first days of the COVID-19 outbreak, we stood up a COVID-19 Resource Center on our website for our members, providing them with timely and up-to-date access to government policy directions and contracting information.
PSC Board member Paul Leslie noted that, “I (as well as the rest of our industry leaders) really appreciate everything the PSC team is doing during this difficult time. Your updates and overall communications, keeping us well informed regarding policy changes and government actions, have been just outstanding. The development of the PSC Coronavirus Resource Center has been an exceptional resource for us.”
We also continuously collect information from our members about their work situations and how PSC can be of assistance.
Finally, we are a sought-after source of information for the media. In March 2020 alone, PSC did 14 radio and TV interviews and were quoted in 38 news stories, including by the Washington Post, Washington Business Journal, Federal News Network and NextGov.
We are proud of how PSC members and staff have used our resources and expertise to respond to the tragedy of the COVID-19 response. For as long as the COVID-19 emergency impacts federal agencies and contractors, PSC’s advocacy on behalf of our members will remain our number one priority.