SBIR Pulse-New Fraud Countermeasures Improve Air Force SBIR/STTR Program
By Phil Tourangeau and Joe Cogliano
Companies that scheme to use less qualified personnel on Air Force Small Business Innovation Research/Small Business Technology Transfer (SBIR/STTR) contracts are among those being targeted by a new anti-fraud initiative.
Recent operational changes to the program have created a strong deterrent by making it more difficult to commit fraud on Air Force SBIR/STTR contracts and providing better evidence when it does happen. The changes are expected to make a significant impact by putting the government in the strongest possible position to hold a fraudulent contractor accountable.
Proposers and their principal investigators, for example, are now required to review training slides of program rules and attach certificates of completion with every proposal submitted. The certificates, good for 90-days, make it easier to prove intent in fraud cases.
Also among the improvements is a new clause that requires companies to identify the principal investigator for each SBIR/STTR contract and secure written approval from the Air Force prior to making a change. This is designed to deter "bait and switch" schemes, in which contractors propose an experienced researcher as the principal investigator then use a lower-qualified, lower-cost employee to serve in that role.
Fighting fraud protects the integrity of the government’s procurement process, saves precious taxpayer dollars and mitigates significant threats to the safety of our warfighters.
"These changes provide better ammunition to go after unscrupulous contractors," said David Shahady, Air Force SBIR/STTR Program Manager. "Contractors that put the warfighter in danger and impede this program’s ability to provide the best return on investment for the taxpayer will not be tolerated."
The initiative was led by The Air Force Office of Special Investigations - Office of Procurement Fraud Investigations Directorate, which partnered with a team at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio. The team included Air Force Materiel Command’s Law Office Procurement Fraud Division, the Air Force Research Laboratory Contracting Office and the SBIR/STTR Program Office.
AFRL’s Contracting Office implemented the recommended changes for the first round of Air Force SBIR/STTR proposals in 2016 and the program office has since integrated these changes Air Force-wide into SBIR/STTR contracts.
Questions about the new fraud-fighting measures should be directed to Air Force SBIR/STTR Contracting Officer Gail Nyikon (firstname.lastname@example.org). Suspected fraud on a contract in this program should be reported to JAF Team Leads Susan Theodorelos (email@example.com), Lowell Tenpas (firstname.lastname@example.org) or through the AFOSI anonymous tip line, which can be found at https://www.tipsubmit.com/WebTips.aspx?AgencyID=1111.