MARCH 27, 2020
Do you need to understand how to do business with the federal government during this Coronavirus disaster? As a business owner, where do you start? What are the rules of engagement? Where are the opportunities?

In an exclusive conversation with the Director of the Federal Procurement Center (FPC), we asked his perspective on how minority businesses can do business with the federal government during disasters such as the Coronavirus. 
About Tommy Marks
As the Director of the Federal Procurement Center, Tommy Marks is responsible for assisting minority businesses with identifying and competing for federal contracts. Prior to the FPC Tommy, served in the Senior Executive Service and as the Director of the U.S. Army’s Small Business Programs. An Army veteran, Tommy served as a Lieutenant Colonel (Ret) specializing in acquisition and aviation. 
Q: The Coronavirus is one of the most devastating disasters this country has faced. How does the federal government procure services in times of trouble?

A: There is a pecking order. When a disaster such as Coronavirus occurs, there are three (3) phases of disaster contracting that takes place:

Response (1-30 days)
  • The Response phase can include activities to meet basic human needs such as Joint Field Office setup, Search and Rescue support, Individual Assistance support and Public Assistance support.

Recovery (30+ days)
  • The Recovery phase includes efforts to return communities back to self-sufficiency such as Housing and Medical support.

Long-Term Recovery (beyond 90 days)
  • Long-Term Recovery is established when the needs of the community and individuals extend beyond the initial 30 to 90 days.
Q: I hear a lot about FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) and the USACE (United States Army Corps of Engineers). Can you explain the hierarchy?

A: FEMA is the Nation’s lead emergency manager. When the President declares a national emergency, it activates FEMA, in coordination with the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). Their role is to assist state, local, tribal, territorial governments and other eligible entities with the health and safety actions required on behalf of the American public. FEMA also works with key federal partners. One of those partners is the US Corps of Engineers, which has the mission to provide construction expertise on behalf of FEMA.

Other partners that provide resources are the:
  • American Red Cross – emergency supplies, food and shelter
  • Small Business Administration (SBA) – emergency loans, identification of businesses that can support relief
  • SBA Office of Disaster Assistance – loans to businesses of all sizes to support disaster relief
  • Defense Logistics Agency – (DLA) logistics support 
  • Faith Based Information Groups– (e.g. Salvation Army, National American Mission Board, etc.)
Q: Which government procurement vehicles are used during disasters?

A: FEMA and all other federal agencies adhere to the Federal Acquisition Regulations (FAR) Part 18 – Emergency Acquisitions, FAR Subpart 26.2 – Disaster or Emergency Assistance Activities and the Robert T. Stafford Act, Section 307.

In other words, vendors seeking to do business with FEMA or other federal agencies during disasters should familiarize themselves with the FAR Parts and the Robert T. Stafford Act section mentioned above.
Q: The government process and regulations seem so rigid. During emergencies, are there any known exceptions?

A: Specific techniques or procedures that may be used to streamline the standard acquisition process during disasters are called Acquisition flexibilities. This provides the contracting officer with leeway to modify the acquisition process in accordance with special guidelines in the regulations. 

Additional flexibilities or special rules to streamline the process may be authorized in an executive agency supplement to the FAR. 

Acquisition flexibilities include: 
  • Applying FAR Part 18
  • Utilizing local sources
  • Utilizing disaster support tools
  • Utilizing Government Wide Area Contracts(GWACS), GSA Schedules, Strategic Sourcing Contracts, Multi-Agency Blanket Purchase Agreements, Multi-Agency Indefinite Delivery Contracts, etc.
Q: As a business owner, what steps should I first take to get involved locally?

A: Vendors should contact their State’s Emergency Management Office where the disaster has been declared when seeking to do business with FEMA and other Federal agencies during a disaster.

The State’s Emergency Management Office will be actively engaged with first responders, FEMA Regional Offices located near the disaster, and other federal agencies that have been rallied to respond to the emergency. Often, the State’s Emergency Management Office will have valuable information on its website for vendors who want to provide goods or services to the areas affected by the disaster. 

FEMA Small Business Program
500 C Street, SW
Washington, DC 20472-3210
Phone: 202-288-4657
Q: What is the big deal about doing business with the USACE (United States Army Corps of Engineers)? Why is it an important step?

A: The big deal about doing business with USACE is because they are the lead for all construction related matters. They contract for all types of commodities and with all social economic status.

The first step in doing business with USACE is for your company to be registered in - System for Award Management (SAM) and specifically in the 
Q: What is the Disaster Response Registry?

A: The Disaster Response Registry can be found in SAM. You cannot do business or get paid to do business with the federal government unless you are registered in SAM. 

The US Army Corp of Engineers (USACE) is always looking for innovative and creative opportunities to help create a more efficient enterprise. If interested in doing business with the USACE, I invite you to visit their website where you can find more information about getting contracts with the USACE.
Q: Cut to the chase — where are the opportunities?

A: Contract opportunities can be found on Beta.SAM
For more information about doing business with the federal government, please contact our MBDA Centers:
MBDA Federal Procurement Center
Tommy Marks, Director
MBDA Business Center, Washington, DC
Dennis Smith, Director
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Seeking COVID-19 Support
Vendors with the ability to perform or supply items 1, 2 and 3 below
are requested to send capabilities statements to our dedicated COVID-19
Contracting mailbox at 

  1. "Build-out" or retrofit of existing space (arenas, convention centers, dormitories s, hotels, or other facilities) into alternate care facilities 
  2. Field Medical Units 
  3. Temporary Medical Enclosures

Vendor’s email should list the following on the subject line: 
  • Company name
  • Type of capabilities (i.e. Large Business-Construction, Small Business-Construction, Hospital Infrastructure, Hospital Beds, Disinfecting materials, Other, etc.)
FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency)
How to Help
If you or your organization is interested in helping the effort to combat the spread of COVID-19, FEMA has established a website ( with more information.

Examples for the private sector include:

  • To sell medical supplies or equipment to the federal government, please email specifics to
  • If you have medical supplies or equipment to donate, please provide us details on what you are offering at
  • If you are a private company that wants to produce a product related to the COVID response – email
  • If you are a hospital and other companies in need of medical supplies, contact your state Department of Public Health and/or Emergency Management.
  • For non-medical supplies, services or equipment, if you are interested in doing business with FEMA, visit our Industry Liaison Program at

For additional information please visit FEMA’s website:
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What products/services have you provided during this pandemic? OR, do you have products/services you’d like us to share? Email or call 301.593.5860.