SBIR and the Government Shutdown

The federal government shutdown is having affects on various agencies. Rick Shindell has done a terrific job of outlining how this is affecting specific agencies. Rick has been a longtime member of the SBIR community and has helped to keep us “in the know” on timely issues for 20+ years. We have promoted Rick’s free topic search tools at zyn.com over this period. He has informed the community that the URL for this service is now at www.SBIR.tv and that the site is being updated for functionality. Thanks, Rick, for the continued updates and support to the program.

Copyright Rick Shindell – SBIR Insider Newsletter – January 2019

1. DHS – This is a bit of a conundrum. DHS is furloughed but proposals are due January 23, 2019 (12 Noon est). Their website (https://sbir2.st.dhs.gov/portal/SBIR) states:

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS)’s website and social media networks will not be actively managed during the lapse in funding. This website was last updated on December 21, 2018 and will not be updated until after funding is enacted. As such, information on this website may not be up to date. Transactions submitted via this website might not be processed and we will not be able to respond to inquiries until after appropriations are enacted. We will not be able to respond or update social media until after funding is enacted.

However, as of last week, DHS’s SBIR contractor (REI) who operates DHS’s SBIR submission web site and their SBIR help desk, told me submissions were operating normally and without interruption. So that would “indicate” the submission deadline is still in force. We won’t know until the furlough is over.

On the other hand, the shutdown which started December 22, 2018, has caused hardships and uncertainty about the solicitation, and it usurped the privilege of small businesses being able to ask questions of the DHS federal officials (which was supposed to be allowed until January 9, 2019). That would have enabled the small businesses to sharpen up, and better focus their proposals which are due January 23, 2019 (12 Noon est).

It should also be noted that the SBA’s SBIR.GOV website requires a new company to register prior to submitting an SBIR proposal (to any agency) and it is also quasi-furloughed with the statement: “This website will not be updated during a lapse in federal funding. Content on this website will not be current or maintained until funding issues have been resolved.” Will SBA acknowledge your company as registered for SBIR/STTR? This is a requirement.

Bottom line is to submit your proposal by January 23, 2019 (12 Noon est), and take screen shots and printouts to support the fact you complied, or tried to comply. We’ll see what DHS elects to do when they return. They are good people running a good program, but this situation was not of their doing.

2. NASA – NASA’s 2019 SBIR/STTR Phase I solicitation was supposed to open on or about January 7, 2019, but since NASA is one of the affected agencies, they too are on furlough. However, NASA wanted to be able to move fast once the budgets are passed, so they want you to be ready as well.

To help facilitate this, on January 14, 2019 NASA posted a draft of their “proposed” topics. Similar to the DHS model explained above, NASA’s contractor is still working while the actual federal professionals who run the program are furloughed.

You can go to NASA’s SBIR site at https://sbir.nasa.gov to find the link to download the topics. If you’re a slow website reader (as am I) and the picture with the link changes before you can click on it (I hate that kind of thing), you can go directly to https://sbir.gsfc.nasa.gov/sites/default/files/2019_Draft_Research_Topics_0358219.pdf to download the 197 page document. It’s also available near the bottom of the page.

(Note to early birds: Some who went to NASA’s site early, saw a posting of the their draft solicitation. This was done in error and has been removed from the website.)

3. NOAA – The NOAA solicitation was released in its final form on November 20, 2018 and closed January 8, 2019. Although the NOAA SBIR website closed down on December 22, 2018, their solicitation and submission vehicle was GRANTS.GOV, and that stayed current and operative through the closing date of January 8, 2019.

However, due to the furlough there was no NOAA assistance available for the last two weeks of the solicitation. Also, if you chose “late in the game” to partner with a federal entity such as the NIST Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP) entity, you may be out of luck as they were closed down also and couldn’t finalize an agreement after Friday December 21.

NOAA runs a fine program and I know they will get back to speed quickly when the government reopens. We hope to have favorable reporting for you at that time.

4. USDA Phase II – The USDA posted FY-19 Phase II solicitation on Dec 21, 2018, with a due date of March 14, 2019. Although much of the USDA including their SBIR is furloughed, their proposal mechanism is GRANTS.GOV and that’s wide open. Also, their SBIR website is quasi-open at https://nifa.usda.gov/phase-i-phase-ii-solicitations

With a closing date of mid-March, there shouldn’t be a problem with submissions.

5. Dept. of Education – It is now anticipated that the 2019 ED/IES SBIR Phase I program solicitation will be released on or around January 31, 2019, with a due date 45 days later. They are not affected by the shutdown. https://ies.ed.gov/sbir

6. Department of Transportation – The DOT posted their FY-19 SBIR Pre-Solicitation Announcement on January 9, 2019 with no hard opening or closing dates. They did offer the following topics they expect to be included:

  • Automated Detection of Broken Spike Fasteners in Wood Tie Railroad Track
  • Automated Driving Systems Test Data Interface
  • Automated, Drone-Based Grade Crossing Inspection
  • Cost Allocation Technology for Non-Emergency Medical Transportation
  • Improved Condition Monitoring of Traction Motors
  • Inline-Inspection Tool for Detecting Coating Defects/Disbondment of Coating
  • Innovative, Low-Cost Methods for Concrete Bridge Deck Assessment
  • In-Vehicle Highway Rail Grade Crossing Alert System
  • Portable Stiffness/Elastic Modulus Measurement System
  • Secure Motor Carrier Safety Data Information Exchange Using Blockchain
  • Vehicle Communication via Induction Paint
  • Wireless Pore Water Pressure Sensor

DOT is not affected by the shutdown. https://www.volpe.dot.gov/work-with-us/small-business-innovation-research

7. DoD & NIH – Open and business as usual, almost…

The uncertainty of the remaining budget deals are causing some uneasiness in agencies that currently have their budgets. There is some concern about possible “budget adjustments” that could affect how agency budgets are spent. This may be more of a longshot but we are in some “unique” times.

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