Skip to main content
U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government

Transcript: AbilityOne

. . . 
John Andre (JA): Hello. Thank you for joining today's Acquisition Seminar hosted by the Federal Acquisition Institute. Today's seminar, entitled "AbilityOne: Another Tool in your Procurement Toolbox", presents a look at the AbilityOne program and its fabulous partners. Through a national network of more than 550 nonprofit agencies, the AbilityOne program delivers nearly $3 billion in products and services purchased by the Federal government at fair market prices. The procurement of these products and services enables the employment of more than 45,000 individuals who are blind or who have significant disabilities, including veterans and wounded warriors, reducing the astoundingly high percentage of Americans with disabilities who do not have jobs. By the way, that percentage stands at 70%. The AbilityOne program's mandatory source requirements, as specified by the Javits-Wagner-O'Day Act, which is found in title 41 of the United States Code Sections 8501-8506, is critical to providing long-term, stable employment for Americans who are blind or have other significant disabilities. For Federal customers, contracts under the AbilityOne program offer high-quality products available through a variety of distributors at reasonable prices and delivered just in time. AbilityOne service contracts offer a stable workforce dedicated to quality and customer satisfaction. The provisions of the program enable a long-term supplier relationship, eliminating the need to re-compete the contract. The American taxpayer, of course, also benefits from reduced disability payments made to people with significant disabilities and the increased tax revenues their employment generates. During this seminar, you will hear from representatives from all of the AbilityOne program partners, learn how to contract with AbilityOne, and the breadth of products and services available, and discover the many benefits of contracting with this program. To lay the foundation of our knowledge about the AbilityOne program, we are pleased to welcome Al Muñoz, Director of Strategic Sourcing for the Office of the Chief Information Officer at the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and AbilityOne champion. Before we begin, let me remind you that we will hold a live question-and-answer session at the end of today's presentation. If you have a question about anything you hear from our presenters, we encourage you to submit it at any time using the link to the right of the video screen. We will collect and review your questions during the presentation, take a short break, and then return to answer as many as we can. So let's begin with Al Muñoz from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, who will introduce us to AbilityOne. 
Al Muñoz (AM): Thank you, John. I'm Al Muñoz, the Director of Strategic Sourcing for the Office of the Chief Information Officer at the Department of Agriculture and I'm also an AbilityOne champion. What we will be talking about today is the AbilityOne program and the many benefits of contracting through the AbilityOne organization, the National Industries for the Blind, and SourceAmerica. The different speakers that you will hear today represent each one of these agencies and one of the nonprofit providers of services for the Federal government through contracting with the AbilityOne organization, and we will go over the program and some of the benefits of the program and we will talk in detail about these organizations and the great work that they do providing training and employment opportunities for people who are blind or have significant disabilities through opportunities provided by our government contracts. Our first speaker is today Nancy Myrick, representing the US AbilityOne Commission. 
Nancy Myrick (NM): Good morning. As Al mentioned during the introductions, my name is Nancy Myrick and I serve as the Director for Policy and Programs for the U.S. AbilityOne Commission. We are the Federal agency that administers the AbilityOne program. First of all, I would like to thank the Federal Acquisition Institute for hosting this event. A training opportunity of this nature is particularly helpful for a small Federal agency like the Commission, so again, my thanks. I would also like to thank the audience for taking the time to learn more about AbilityOne. Today I want to tell you a little bit about the Commission, our process for working with the acquisition community, and the benefits of the program to our customers as well as the people it employs, people who are blind or severely disabled.
All presenters in some form or another like to introduce you to their program or organization, and this chart provides you with a sense of who we are. We entitled it the program overview chart, but I like to think of it as the advocacy chart, because it informs and educates you about the staggering number of people with disabilities who do not have jobs, almost 70%. Yes, the AbilityOne program is the largest employer of people with disabilities. Program revenues from contracts is roughly $2.8 billion. We employ more than 45,000 individuals, many of whom are veterans, but there is still much work to do. We have a great Helen Keller quote in our office -- "Alone we can do so little; together, we can do so much." I hope that each of you will consider being an advocate and hopefully a customer of the AbilityOne program.
As I previously mentioned, the U.S. AbilityOne Commission is the Federal agency that administers the program. This is the operating name of the agency we began using in 2011. Our name and statute remains the committee of purchase for people who are blind or severely disabled. The overseeing body of the Commission is made up of 15 presidential appointees, 11 from Federal agencies, and four private citizens. Supporting them is a staff of 25 Federal employees. We have two central nonprofit agencies: National Industries for the Blind, and SourceAmerica. These organizations, along with more than 600 nonprofit agencies, perform the lion's share of the program, and by far represent the largest portion of the program's footprint. Both CNAs are represented on the platform today. And, of course, you, the Federal customer, complete the equation by contracting with the NPAs in order to fulfill your requirements. I mentioned earlier that as part of our program structure, our statute has the president appoint 15 individuals to oversee the program. Pictured first is our current Commission chairperson, Mr. Tony Poleo, who is also the DoD representative. Although not pictured, Ms. Tina Ballard is our Executive Director. This chart provides you the statutory and regulatory framework for contracting with AbilityOne. The primary FAR reference is FAR Supbart 8.7, Acquisition from Nonprofit Agencies Employing People Who Are Blind or Severely Disabled. We've also cited another key reference, FAR 8.002, Priorities for use of mandatory government supply sources. Both references inform the acquisition community of products and services available from AbilityOne, and how you can procure them via the procurement list. In addition, we have our agency policy, which guides our process and procedures, and of particular note I have listed the pricing policies, which is often the most requested policy. Many departments and agencies also have specific letters of support and/or guidance associated with the AbilityOne program and some of them are listed here. We have also developed a procurement guide, which will assist you in contracting with AbilityOne.It is listed on our website.
I have included these charts because these are the definitions that are provided both in statute and in regulation for the definition of blindness and severely disabled. These definitions are fundamental to the program and provide the basis for entry into the AbilityOne program for our employees. These regulations help ensure the integrity as well as ensure we are getting the right help to the right people. During my introductory remarks I mentioned that I was going to talk about the business process. The procurement list is the vehicle by which you as a customer can procure products and services using AbilityOne nonprofit agencies. The procurement list addition process is the mechanism by which we get your requirement on the list using administrative procedures or rulemaking. This provides the necessary transparency. There are seven basic steps to the addition process. First of all is, of course, identifying the requirement. That may mean we reach out to you or you can contact us. You can contact us using the telephone number that is provided. Next, we will provide you a proposal. If it's acceptable, we will negotiate terms and price. The CNA, NIB, or SourceAmerica will provide the information to the Commission staff. That is when we as a Federal agency go through the rulemaking process in accordance with law and regulation. If the requirement is suitable, it is added to the procurement list. A notice is then sent to the contracting officer and the contract may be awarded. This is also when the presidential appointees enter into the process. We must present a procurement list package to them and they must vote. In other words, this also adds good governance to the process, in addition to transparency provided through rulemaking. The procurement guide, which I mentioned earlier, will also help you through this process.
I used the term 'suitable', and I would like to elaborate on this term a little. In AbilityOne, when we talk about a requirement being suitable for addition to the procurement list, the Commission staff looks at several basic elements as part of our evaluation. We examine NPA qualifications, employment potential, NPA capability, and if there is a current contractor, we analyze the impact on the incumbent, and evaluate the recommended price. Earlier I mentioned that the presidential appointees are part of the procurement list addition process. One of the critical functions they perform in accordance with statute is setting the fair market price. I also mentioned that the NPA negotiates terms and price with the contracting activity and makes the recommendation to the Commission. This is the price that has been evaluated by your agency and deemed fair and reasonable. It then becomes the price that is recommended to the Commission for approval and is the basis for the fair market price. As a Federal agency, obviously, the Commission staff must perform its due diligence in terms of price analysis, but the same price is generally the recommended price that is approved by our 15 member commission and is the FMP, or fair market price set by law.
I told you we are going to talk about the Commission, our business process, and the benefits to the customer, as well as the employee. These are just some of the benefits. AbilityOne offers you a national network of suppliers and service providers. We believe that we offer good value to the Federal community and we strive to earn your business as well as your trust. Because of the national network, we can offer customized solutions to meet your needs. In addition, because of the regulatory framework, we can offer long-term partnerships with your organization and reduce leadtimes. We believe also that we offer good value along with great capacity for when you have a surge in your requirements. We are AbilityOne and we believe that we offer great value while employing people who are blind or significantly disabled. Finally, if you would like to contact us, I have provided our website as well as our information request e-mail account. Thank you for your time and attention, and I also thank you on behalf of more than 45,000 people who are employed because of you. 
AM: Thank you, Nancy. Our next speaker is Ms. Scottie Knott from the National Industries for the Blind. 
Scottie Knott (SK): Hello. My name is Scottie Knott and I am a representative for the National Industries for the Blind. Today I will take some time to familiarize you with the National Industries for the Blind, specifically our organizational composition, a little bit about our mission, why we are here, and then some information about the products and services that we provide to you, the Federal government. NIB is a not-for-profit. We were established in 1938. We have over 77 years of experience in providing products and services to the Federal government. What I would like to do is talk a little bit about the mission of NIB, and that is to enhance the economic and personal independence for people who are blind. We do this primarily through employment, but we also provide training and education opportunities for people who are blind. We are the largest single employer of people who are blind in the United States.
This schematic of the United States shows the 250 different locations that we have. We like to consider ourselves a network of agencies that have associated themselves with National Industries for the Blind for the purpose of developing business opportunities under the AbilityOne program. We have 94 different agencies who have chosen to associate with us and 152 different base supply centers located on military organization military bases, or in Federal government campuses. I do want to talk to you a little bit about the products we provide to the Federal government. As you can see there, we categorize them into four different areas. The first is office supplies, and I know you are very familiar with our trademark skillcraft brands. We provide everything you might need for an office, from pens to paper to notebooks, but also things like privacy filters. So anything you might need in your office is available with the "skillcraft" trademark through the AbilityOne program and National Industries for the Blind. We also provide janitorial and sanitation products. Over 40% of these products are eco-friendly, so we are also abiding by the environmental requirements associated with your Federal government regulations. We also provide a lot of maintenance, repair, and operation products. As you can see, some examples there are hoses, paints, solvents, anything that you might need in that maintenance, repair, and operation environment. We also do medical and safety kits, and just to bring out one area you may be familiar with -- I know a lot of you travel -- the TSA uses our gloves as you go through the security features of the TSA; you will notice the blue gloves. We provide those as part of our portfolio of products.
Those are just some examples of products that we provide. We also do niche and textile items. We have a lot of go-to-war items, primarily for the Department of Defense, but anywhere from the battle dress uniforms to the retention systems for the advanced combat helmet. We also do a lot of cargo parachutes, the landing equipment that is necessary for cargo to be dropped in a war zone. So we are one of the very primary go-to-war suppliers for the Department of Defense. We also do services, and I'm going to talk a little bit in-depth with you about services because they do fit into some differing categories. The first is contact center services. We do a lot of switchboard operations, order fulfillment, order processing, help desk support, that kind of work. We also do supply chain services, such as running depots. We actually run two of the DLA depots for them as well as army clothing and textile organizations. We also do kitting and package reclamation, anything in the supply chain services you might need. The other area that we concentrate on are administrative services. Again, these are any kind of transcription, document management, data-related services that we can provide on your behalf. And then last but not least is contract management services. We are very engaged in supporting both the pre-award and post-award side of contract management within the Department of Defense, and in fact do all the contract closeout for the Department of Defense for this particular product category. We do use strategic sourcing, and this is really an important part of what I wanted to convey to you. Because as you know, services are done at many different locations, but if you have a single strategic source, you can get the same standards at all of your different locations, you can have one contract and one set of reports to measure the performance of the contract. They can be at a multitude of locations, as I showed you that chart of all of our locations nationwide. We can support any military base or Federal location.
So one of the things that I always get asked when I go and talk to people about all the different products and services that we provide is how do people who are blind really do this kind of work? The answer that I provide is technology, technology, technology. That is the clear leveling process that we use in order to get folks who are blind to be able to see and be able to do the work. For example, I talked about sewing and cutting operations in our textile business. We actually re-engineer the process so that the garment can only be sewn in one way, so it's blocked to be able to be sewn in any other way. Same thing with contact centers. Our people use two-way ear phones so they can hear you in one ear and then they can hear the computer talking to them as they are looking up the information in the other ear, and thereby they are able to use technology to do this kind of work. Same way with contract closeout or some of our admin services. All the paper is scanned and it is electronic, but it allows the computer to actually read the information to the individual and then they do the research and provide whatever necessary information to the computer . Again, technology is what allows us to do this. And we provide technology services as we implement our services for you. We have experts at NIB who know how to make your platforms be able to talk to our people who are blind. The other thing that we do is provide workforce training to your folks because they might not be comfortable working with people who are blind. So we provide this as a service as well to help you overcome some of the barriers to working with people who are blind.
I wanted to just give you in a very short context some examples of past performance within the supply chain -- excuse me, these services. The first one is our supply chain services. I told you about the warehouses that we manage for many of the military services and also for commercial partners. We are Lean Six-Sigma and ISO-9000 certified and we have over 800,000 square feet of warehouse space that is currently being used and we process almost 800,000 orders annually for our customers. I told you some of our customers include DLA, the Army, the Coast Guard, Boeing, and the state of New York. We meet or exceed the routine and priority requisition requirements that are put on the Department of Defense, and as you know, they are very strictly adhered to.
I wanted to talk a little bit about contact center services. We do order processing, we do 1-800 information services, we do surveys, we do mystery shopping for some of our commercial clients. Some of our customers are Humana, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Air Force Mobility Command, the Department of Veteran Affairs, and GSA -- a wide variety of contact center and and help desk services that we provide. Again, our niche here is that people who are blind, when they get a job, they keep a job. Our turnover rate is 18%, in comparison to commercial turnover rates, which are sometimes 25 to 40%. We actually end up being cheaper than a commercial company because you don't have to spend as much time training and retraining. That is our competitive advantage in the contact center services. Next is contract closeout. We have closed out in the past eight years over 275,000 contracts for the Department of Defense and de-obligated 1.3 billion, that's with a b, billion dollars for the Department of Defense that they potentially could reuse. Our accuracy rate is over 99%. We have over 100 people working on this particular contract at over 30 different locations. That is just an example of our services.
Last but not least, products. Our agencies actually make an investment in manufacturing new products, and I will tell you about one of them, which is the optical business, which is the business we do for the Veterans Administration as well as the Exchange, the Navy Exchange System. We invested down in Winston-Salem on being able to manufacture glasses, grind the lenses to order and then place them in the glasses that have been ordered by the customer. And then we ship them within 24-48 hours for distribution by the different optometry stores that are running these programs. Again, a great opportunity for knowledge-based work for people who are blind, where technology is the leveling factor for us. So, my last chart is how to engage NIB. We have a wide variety of ways that you can get in touch with us. Products that are already on the procurement list, the ones I mentioned earlier in my presentation, you can actually view them on our e-commerce platform and it is there on the chart. There are available in our 152 base supply centers throughout the United States. They are available through GSA and DLA, if they are the managers of those particular products. And we have authorized distributors, hundreds of them throughout the country that are commercial sources, that are available to you to buy these particular products. For our services I have given you the contact number for our vice president of services, as well as our services e-mail that you can use to contact us. And for new products, you can contact our business development area. I've given you the phone number there. With that I want to thank you, as Nancy did, for your attention and interest in National Industries for the Blind and the AbilityOne program. 
AM: Thank you, Scottie. Our next speaker is Mr. Paul Koepfinger from SourceAmerica. 
Paul Koepfinger (PK): Thank you, Al, for that introduction, and thank you to the Federal Acquisition Institute for the opportunity to share this great story about the AbilityOne program. I am representing SourceAmerica and I've pretty much been in around the AbilityOne program for my entire career, working some of the contracts, as well as interfacing with the Federal customers to bring the contracts together. This is a passion of mine. Hopefully some of the experiences I've had, I can share stories with you that I think you will find helpful as you consider the program. So, a little bit about who we are. Much like our colleagues with NIB, we are a central nonprofit agency, here to facilitate the program. We play a critical role in evaluating and identifying and selecting the nonprofit agency that will perform the work for you under the AbilityOne contract and recommend them to the AbilityOne commission for the final agreement and decision. We provide some acquisition support and strategy to you, the government customer, when you are thinking about considering how best to utilize your program, how to make some justifications for the program. We have subject manner experts who can be there with you to help explain segments of the FAR, and we will talk about that later on. We also provide subject matter experts from the various lines of businesses that we are going to share with you, who are there with both you, the customer, and our nonprofit agencies to ensure that we are constantly engaged with the latest technology and best practices, along with quality control experts who can evaluate current quality control practices and measures and ensure that the work is done to the level and the standards that it needs to be performed to. We remain engaged with the contract after the engagement to support the ongoing operations and the startups to assist nonprofits in making sure that they have the resources, knowledge to get started efficiently and effectively.
SourceAmerica has been successful in directly helping 40,000 people with disabilities become employed through the program. $2.2 billion in annual sales, and 500-plus associated nonprofit agencies that support our network of nonprofits who have been in existence for 40-plus years. Much like our friends from NIB have talked about the products, and I appreciate Scottie sharing the glove situation with you all. I like, when I open my story with AbilityOne, to talk about if you have been that fortunate individual to get patted down, you have been touched by the program, literally. So yes, we are involved with those types products as well as food processing and packaging, clothing and textiles. Much of what our military forces used in the past decade were products produced by nonprofits, including the uniforms. One of the extra value propositions that we bring is what we can do in terms of M&D, manufacturing and developing support. Under contract, we can help the government assess and evaluate some possible uniform adjustments, equipment adjustments, and find the right fit before it actually goes into production. That is one of our contracts. It is more of a service model under our products line. It is more about the team who has a group of experts who are well-versed in development and manufacturing. On the services side, you see this listed on the slide, approximately 18 different services. I could spend hours talking about each and every one of these services, but I'll highlight just a few that we are extremely proud of. In our total facilities management, that program alone employs nearly 2,200 individuals and the annual value of $354 million worth of contracts, 58 tiered nonprofit providers. And when I say 'tiered', they are pre-selected with some level of qualification. So when we begin to look at a requirement, only individual organizations who have met certain level of skills, capability, and capacity can compete for and respond to an opportunity to support that requirement. And we are at 47 locations currently providing facility management support. Basically, a base operating system service where the entire operation, like at fort Knox, for example, where we run the entire base operation services. We have document destruction, multiple IRS contracts around the country, mail room services, with 160+ mail rooms around the country. Contact center services -- if you have ever had a call about your passport, the person on the other end of that phone is a person with a disability answering your questions. Supply-chain management, another area we are extremely proud of. Our supply chain management boasts a 98% employee retention rate, one of the highest in the industry of supply-chain management services. I think that is significant, as you heard Scottie Knott talk about their retention rates. That saves a lot of money in terms of turnover, retraining. It saves a lot of time and it is very efficient in terms of ongoing continuity and knowledge of processes and execution of services. And that is one of the great facets of the population and the workforce we have throughout all of our lines of businesses. Again, there are 18 different services here, and we could speak at length to many of these but we don't have the time do so. However, the last item on supply-chain management -- there are over 600 trained supply-chain specialists in the network, extremely deep, well-knowledged, well-skilled network of employees.
I showed you the list of services. Here is a quick look in terms of the number of jobs. Nearly 2000 total contracts under the AbilityOne/SourceAmerica umbrella for those various lines of businesses. Kind of a different look as we put it into chart format for you. You can see that our traditional areas have been custodial, food services, and grounds maintenance. But you can see now that we have really grown and shown our ability to work with the customer and employ people on an array of services. And I think an important part to talk about the workforce -- we don't try to change the job to fit the worker. The worker has to have the skills, capabilities, and competency, and knowledge and resources to do the job. A standard is a standard; the requirement is the requirement. That doesn't change. The individual has to be capable of meeting the government requirements and needs. We have been able to grow from those original three lines to the multiple lines you see here in the growth model. For some they have only been around a little over a decade.
We talked earlier about how we can be a support as subject matter expert to you in terms of where you can find the right language in the FAR; FAR 8.0, FAR 8.7, and how our subject matter experts, our sales and accounts personnel can work with you to understand how to utilize that language and how to effectively engage with the program to take some of the burden off you as the contracting personnel, and make your jobs easier as well in the process. We've provided you here with a link to the procurement list, a place to start to look for what is already out there and whether or not your requirement may already be there. And if not, then certainly we have the team to work with you to help you understand the process of working with the commission and how we go through and support the development, understanding, and selection of the right nonprofit provider in creating that right match. Again, it is an offering we bring to the table in terms of our personnel. We have it depicted here for you -- a simplified version of the procurement process as we understand it from you side, but most importantly, where in the FAR we can be engaged to help with that process and to simplify that process and to streamline it and to take some of that burden off of contracting personnel in that source selection and that identification and selection of the provider. Some of those activities are parts that we are taking off your table. We are also involved in supporting the evaluation, negotiation, and the acquisition process. You see a timeline here, roughly 90-120 days. Sometimes that is a little intimidating because that is not the standard for government acquisitions. Some of these are statutory requirements, and we know that. That is why we reach our early. When they reach out to you, eight, 12, 14 months in advance, that is because we understand the process, and we want to help get ahead of the process, so there is no rush and no restraints going through this effort to get through the statutory requirements to move the project to procurement-only. Again, the benefit and value of our experts who can help you with that process.
We provide you with both a phone number and a link to the website where you can contact us, an 800 number, as well as going to, in the "About Us" section, and there is a contact form you can fill out submit. Either way, we try to make it simple for you to reach us. We have some links here to some videos and I think they tell the real story. I can give you some statistics, and I can certainly share some more in terms of the 100,000 people who are touched by the nonprofits within our umbrella, who are working every day as a result of this program. The fact that 6% of the entire SourceAmerica workforce are veterans; those are great stories and you will see that in one of the links to an honor roll for veterans with disabilities. I encourage you to click on these links and see these stories first-hand, and really hear and appreciate the impact. I was just down at GSA headquarters before coming in today and it reminded me of the story where one of the workers was wheeling their cart through one of the executive office buildings, and lo and behold, the President was down the hall giving a speech, and one of the Secret Service men said, "you can't come down here," and the gentleman said, "I've got to go down there, I've got my job to do," and he said, "no, you can't go down there," and you have the Secret Service guy pushing the cart one way, and him pushing it the other way in a tug-of-war match, and he finally said "Sir, the president is down there giving a speech," and without missing a step, the individual said, "the president has got his job to do and I've got mine, please let me carry on." The determination of our workforce is amazing and they are committed to their job. The work is the extremely valuable component of the lives of the people we support, and I don't think you'll ever find anybody who is happier or more committed to their job. Thank you for your time today. I appreciate sharing the story of SourceAmerica and AbilityOne today. Thank you.
AM: Thank you, Paul. Now we will hear from Rick Sebastian from Didlake, one of our nonprofit providers. 
Rick Sebastian (RS): Hello, everyone. I am Rick Sebastian, president of Didlake. Didlake is a 501c3 not-for-profit headquartered in Manassas, Virginia, and we do business in Virginia, Maryland, the District, Pennsylvania, and soon outside of that particular region. We are one of the top 10 AbilityOne authorized providers operating under the CNA SourceAmerica. My colleagues have already talked to you about the great program that is the AbilityOne program and I'm here to talk you today about the workforce that will actually be delivering upon your requirement and your contract. When we talk about people who are blind or people who have significant disabilities in the United States, we can instantly see every one of us having some relationship with a person who is blind or has a disability. Nearly 100% of the population comes into contact with the people we support on a daily basis. You as Federal acquisition officers come into contact with us when we are fulfilling upon your requirement and we fulfill upon the requirement because we have capability and because we meet all the statutory requirements that you have, and we exceed from a service and quality perspective. More than 45,000 people who are blind or have significant disabilities are working in the AbilityOne program, and come from a variety of walks of life. They come from a variety of backgrounds. Many of our folks have transportation issues. Those transportation issues are then compounded by the geographic location in which they work but they are not impediments to work. We'll often find that when various businesses close because of weather conditions, our people who are blind or have significant disabilities are the first on the job. And so, when we look at this untapped resource, you've already heard from my colleagues Scottie and Paul about our people showing up on our retention rate and our tenure. Our folks actually contribute to the bottom line for you and the bottom line for the small businesses and big businesses with whom we partner because we show up to work every day and we perform high-quality. When we look at the multiple public and private partnerships that exist, one of the first places that we can look to as a country is the Americans With Disabilities Act. When we look at providing access to people who are blind or have disabilities, access begins with how we provide the ability to become employed.
When we look at the AbilityOne program as a procurement program, we must also look at it as a job creation program. When we access employment via the policies and laws that are created, it only gets us in your door. You, then, as a Federal customer realize the level of service as do your customers, when you live and walk and work within your buildings. We work within the vocational rehabilitation departments in all of our states who are authorized by the Rehab Services Administration to provide those ongoing necessary supports for individuals to maintain their employment. 100% of us as employees in all of our jobs require at least some accommodation on our jobs. Our people with disabilities require accommodations and vocational rehabilitation provides some of that. Technical assistance is provided. People who are blind -- we heard from Scotty earlier about the question that is often asked, how can a person who is blind do that? We get that on the side with people with disabilities -- how can a person in a wheelchair work in a warehouse? How can a person who has an intellectual disability or cognitive disability respond in a customer contact center? How can any of those people, blind or disabled, sew on a sewing machine? How can people work in 19 million square foot office space providing custodial services? It is part of their determination and part of the access that they get from support systems -- and RSA and vocational rehabilitation helps to provide some of that. When we look at our policies that exist in government, we can go to the Office of Disability and Employment Policy, whereby businesses in our communities that are also working with you as part of your acquisition have the ability to work with the NIB agencies and the SourceAmerica agencies to increase the number of people that are employed commercially, in addition to the AbilityOne program. Each of those opportunities exist from policy. We have a tremendous public-private partnership and the AbilityOne program certainly becomes the showcase for that on the national, Federal level.
The latest public policy decision that is coming to us that will benefit you as a Federal acquisition officer is the recently passed Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act. It reinforces workforce for all of America and it places a greater emphasis on people who are blind or people who have disabilities and we will be seeing more of the outcomes of that in the coming months. Scottie talked about the concept of strategic sourcing. When you are looking at your requirement, you know your program, you know your employee needs, and you know the system in which all of that has to operate. When we begin talking to you about satisfying that requirement, we may be talking about a custodial solution, but we also bring to you a nationwide network that is a strategic solution. We will absolutely deliver on that custodial solution but while we are cleaning your building, you may also have a need for document management. You may also have a need for landscaping services. You may have a need for food services, for contract closeout. You may have need for contact centers. When we begin thinking about strategic sourcing with you as a partner, with us as a partner, you have one phone call to make. You have one outcome that you need to deliver to your end customer, and that outcome is high-quality service in the AbilityOne program, and our 45,000 employees can deliver upon that. When we look at helping you achieve the goals of all of your contracting by providing a strategic sourced opportunity through the AbilityOne program, we can help you manage your small business and your disadvantaged business goals. We can help you manage all of those opportunities that create goal set-asides on one contract. A typical nonprofit organization working with SourceAmerica that is doing strategic sourcing will be the single point of contact and manage your entire supply chain. That downstream and upstream supply chain includes all of the vendors. You no longer have to be worried or concerned about where supplies are coming from for a particular contract. All that is built into one AbilityOne contract that is administered by the NIB or SourceAmerica agency. In both sides of the AbilityOne program, on the products side for DoD in particular, we are helping to ensure that the Berry Amendment is complied with, and all 100% products made in the United States are coming your way. The Department of Homeland Security and the Kissel amendment is also being followed by the AbilityOne program and any other amendments and trade agreements that we will frequently see in contracting can be and are strategically delivered by AbilityOne providers. When we look at strategic sourcing in use today, feel free to reach out to your colleagues at GSA, DLA, USDA, U.S. Air Force, and the Department of State, and most recently the Product Manager Force Sustainment Systems of Natick, up in the Boston, Massachusetts area.
How do we do what we do has been a question that has been asked and addressed a couple of times. It really begins with technical capability. It begins with past performance. You heard Scottie talking about the NIB agencies being around for 77 years and Paul talking about SourceAmerica being around for 40 years. Didlake for example, my organization, has been around for 50 years and we have been working in the Federal arena for 38 of those 50 years. We come with a tremendous amount of technical expertise. Most of the organizations that you'll be coming into contact with on the small business and big business side of your requirement will have a variety of certifications. Those certifications are also mirrored in the AbilityOne program and in some cases exceeded. We are ISO certified, we are CIMS certified. CIMS is the cleaning industry standard that are used across the country by large building service companies and they are also being used by the not-for-profit community under the AbilityOne program. Many of us in hospitals that are doing aseptic cleaning are JCOH certified, so joint accreditation on health care is something we are committed to. When we look at meeting your specific requirement, it begins and ends with quality, and we can standardize our quality to an international standard that you know and can be comfortable with that is benchmarked and you are absolutely getting when you are paying for and you are getting what you expected in the statement of work. When we look at those statement of works or those scope of works or the performance work statements or statement of needs, all of the varieties of the SONs and the PWSs -- I can assure you, and you can be assured that AbilityOne program meets those to the letter and exceeds those. We negotiate all of the performance inside and outside of your operation; as we go along on a daily basis there may be modifications that may be required, and you from a contracting standpoint know that you have a source of support in the not-for-profits doing your work as well as in the CNAs.
In closing, when we look at what happens to people, we need to know the workforce that is showing up at your work site on a daily basis. I have provided a series of slides for you that talk about the disability types. We have already talked about people who are blind and people of disability but we also have slides that breakdown some of those disabilities. I won't go over all of those today but you are going to see a cross-section of our communities. All of your work as Federal customers is done in a variety of communities around the U.S. All of the people that live in those communities are represented in the AbilityOne program, and you will see that in a series of slides. You have also heard about our commitment to veterans. We have veterans with and veterans without disabilities. Those veterans with and without also serve as resources internally for all of our not-for-profit organizations, because when we look at commitment, we can see excellence from their service standpoint and that translates to excellence in our houses as well. You will see that most of the work that we do is done in your facilities because we have a tremendous number of facilities. The pride that you have as an employee walking into your complex on a daily basis is pride that begins with us. Thank you very much for the opportunity, and I hope that you engage with us and follow some of those links that Scottie and Paul provided to you earlier. Thank you. 
AM: So, hello again. Once again, I am Al Muñoz; I am the Director of Strategic Sourcing for the Office of the Chief Information Officer at the Department of Agriculture. I'm here today in my capacity as an AbilityOne champion and as a member of the Council of AbilityOne champions, Federal employees like yourself who have had experiences in bringing AbilityOne solutions into our agencies and serve as a resource to folks like yourself who are trying to bring these solutions into your agency or at least are considering the possibility of bringing an AbilityOne solution into your agency. I want to talk a little bit first about what you can expect as you start going down the road of bringing an AbilityOne solution into your agency. There are fewer steps, as my colleagues have outlined today, but it can be a longer process. Patience is something you are going to have to have as you start to go through the AbilityOne process. A lot of the steps that you may or may not be familiar with if -- if you have never done business with the AbilityOne program that my colleagues here have outlined are things you may not be completely comfortable with at first because they are things in the hands of others -- things that are going to the commission for a vote or for some additional business analysis. These are things that will be done by others. It is not going to be a heavy lift, but as I said before, it will take a little bit of patience on your part, and there is fewer steps for you individually. Most of the steps with which you are familiar with now in bringing contracts into your organization are the same types of things that you are going to be doing if you seek an AbilityOne solution. You will still write your requirement and still have the government estimate. There will be some negotiation at some point during the process. The other steps are in the hands of others. There are advertising or posting requirements for the Federal Register and things like that that have to get done by statute. The rest of it, at the end of the day, you will end up with a contract just like any other contract you have got. And you will administer it is like any other contract you will administer. In return for your patience, what you will get is to silence the question of source selection forever. You will never have to go back out and look for another source to fill this requirement. As long as the source provided by AbilityOne is able to provide the service you contracted with them for, you never have to go on for another source for this requirement. It will stay there forever. One of the things that I do want to tell you about, though, in addition to the systems my colleagues have offered with you today, going directly to AbilityOne or National Industries for the Blind or SourceAmerica, you can also reach out to the AbilityOne Council champions and ask for assistance for your colleagues in the Federal government like myself who have been through the process and are familiar with what is going to happen, familiar with the pitfalls you may encounter, some of the questions you may have. We can also tell you from our experience what these solutions look like a year, two years, five years, 10 years down the line when we are in the administration of the contract, and what that experience is going to be like for you and your agency. So we are here, and we will give you our contact information by the end of the presentation and feel free to reach out to us directly. You can reach out directly to me by phone or by e-mail and I'm happy to talk about my experiences with the AbilityOne organization and my experience with my contracts at any time.
One thing of note that I think you will experience as you go down the road of bringing AbilityOne solutions into your agency that I want to make special mention of because it is something that is, that has come up on absolutely every instance of bringing an AbilityOne solution into an agency I've had experience with is that there will be some resistance from your stakeholders. A lot of your stakeholders are not familiar with the AbilityOne organization. They may have questions about the ability of the program and there's always the need to get things done in a government contract. We need it today, we probably needed it yesterday. There is some urgency in getting your solutions out the door and, as I said, you will need some patience as you go through it, because it's a little longer process than what you are used to. But I can assure you and speak from my personal experience that once you have gone through this process, once you have brought an AbilityOne solution into your agency to satisfy one of your mission requirements, it will have been worth your patience. Like I said, you will never again have to look for another source to fulfill your requirement and I can assure you from personal experience, from years of having worked with the AbilityOne sources, that the quality of the goods and services that they provide is second to none. It is as good or better as any other commercial source you will find. Your customer will be very, very satisfied with the products and services you are able to contract for using the AbilityOne organization. To go looking for another source to fulfill your requirement, I can assure you from personal experience, from years of having worked with AbilityOne sources, the quality of the goods and services that they provide is second to none, as good or better than any other commercial source you can find. Your customer will be very, very satisfied with the products and services we will be able to contract for using the AbilityOne organization. So, some other reasons why you should consider contracting with the AbilityOne organization. AbilityOne, as my colleagues have talked about here today, depends on government contracts to create training and employment opportunities. They need us to reach out to them and their organization in order to fulfill their mission. They can't do it without us. Only through our efforts can AbilityOne accomplish its mission of providing training and employment opportunities to people who are blind or have significant disabilities. And as I said, it is a worthwhile endeavor. Providing jobs for those who may otherwise never find one. You are still going to fulfill your requirement, you are still going to be able to take your requirement and go out, find a source for it, and you're going to be able to provide what your mission requires you to provide. You are going to have satisfied customers. In addition to that, you're going to have a fair and reasonable price. In addition to that, you're going to have the conditions and terms that you're used to, and you're also going to be providing training and employment opportunities for people who are blind or significantly disabled. And I can tell you, having been both a Contracting Officer and a hiring manager for the Federal government, that I've had the experience of going through the process of trying to hire someone with a disability on my staff, and I wasn't able to do that. I was looking for a position that required many years of training and experience to fill, and I couldn't find by looking through the Schedule A stacks anybody with a disability that I could put into the position that needed that type of experience. There just wasn't anybody in there that I could take and immediately put them into a senior position. So I wasn't able to fulfill that, even though my agency has been trying very hard to hire more people into the Federal government that have disabilities. That same day, I worked on an AbilityOne contract, and with a swipe of my pen, I created jobs for 20 people with disabilities that have permanent on a Federal contract that my agency used to fulfill a requirement that it had. 
To close, and I'll say it again, contracting with AbilityOne results in more meaningful and purposeful solutions than just about any other type of contracting that you may or may not be familiar with. And I'll ask you to do just one thing as a member of the acquisition workforce, just one thing today. Go back to your desk once you're done with this webinar and find a requirement that may be suitable for fulfillment by the AbilityOne organization. Just one requirement. And just look into whether or not you can bring an AbilityOne solution to bear on that requirement for your agency. They depend on what we do on our side, they depend on us reaching out to them, to do what they do for their job, to fulfill their mission. So what I'm asking you to do is to take that one requirement, and many of you can probably think of what that one is right now sitting at your desk, that one requirement, and look into fulfilling it using the AbilityOne program. I think that, together, we can double the number of people that have employment as a result of our contracts, as a result of contracting with the AbilityOne organization. I think together, we can provide jobs for 100,000 people who are blind or who have significant disabilities, right now, starting today. And all I'm asking you to do is pick just one requirement, and look into whether or not it is suitable for the AbilityOne organization. Call me, I will help you with this, my colleagues will help you with this, we are going to give you our contact information and ways to reach out to us. We are happy to provide any information you need to go along this journey. We will come to you, speaking for the champions, we will come to you and tell you about our experiences in person, if that's what it takes, in order for you to be able to look into whether or not an AbilityOne solution is right for your agency. Thank you very much. We are going to take a brief break, stay with us, we'll be right back, and we are going to answer some of the questions you've been submitting as we have been going through the webinar today.
JA: Our thanks again to Al Munoz and all the speakers presenting on behalf of the AbilityOne program. We certainly hope you found today's seminar beneficial as I'm sure it gives us all a better understanding of the AbilityOne program and greater appreciation for what can be done to serve Americans. Stay tuned as we take a five-minute break. After, we will return with our guests to answer a few of your questions. 
Hello and thank you to returning for the question and answer portion of the AbilityOne Acquisition Seminar. The first question we got just came in and it is, "How much lead time does AbilityOne need to review requests and submit proposals? If there are no submissions or proposals submitted by AbilityOne on a request, are we allowed to post the request on Fed Biz Ops? 
NM: Thank you for that question, and I would kind of like to answer the second part of the question first. If a product or service is already on the procurement list, then you should come directly to AbilityOne and we can support your requirement. If, however, it is not already on the procurement list, we hope you would consider AbilityOne during your acquisition planning process to determine if it is suitable for the program. The second part of that question, how much lead time does AbilityOne need to review the request? On average, we require approximately 120 days for a new addition to the procurement list. Obviously, there are some variations in that, if there is a complex service that may take a little longer, but on average, we say about 120 days. That includes the administrative procedures process that is a hard line of 60 days for the first rule, publication, and then the final rule. 
JA: So, now, the second question we have. Is AbilityOne listed on the Blanket Purchase Agreement, or BPA, list of vendors? 
SK: Hi, this is Scottie Knott and I will try to answer this question generally because I'm not exactly certain what list of BPAs you are referring to. Both National Industries for the Blind and SourceAmerica have many GSA schedules that are available to all government users out there to utilize. Of course, an approved acquisition process is to be able to write your own BPA's against those authorized schedules. So the AbilityOne program does have these schedules that can be used to create BPA's. 
JA: The third question we have, "Is there ever an update done to the PL and what NPA may be assigned to a certain building? I would like to think that AbilityOne would allow competition between the NPA's and buildings provided with them for a specific term. Once on the PL an NPA should not be considered to have that specific building for an undetermined period. 
NM: There is a lot of information packed in there and I going to try to answer the best way I can. First of all, when a product or service is added to the procurement list, it is associated with a specific nonprofit agency affiliated with the program. Once that occurs, a contract is written and executed with your agency and that nonprofit agency so that NPA is your contractor, and as a normal contractual process, that NPA is your contractor and is so for the duration of that contract, and generally, for any other subsequent renewals. If there are challenges or there is a need to change, obviously, you would follow the terms and conditions of the contract. The U.S. AbilityOne commission and the CNAs would help you with the process. But generally, that is how it works. 
JA: Is AbilityOne a large business, nonprofit, quasi-governmental, or other? I'd like to know what the people working for AbilityOne are considered. For instance, are they considered Federal employees? So SourceAmerica is not part of AbilityOne? If that is the case, what is SourceAmerica to AbilityOne, a subcontractor or what? And what authority does SourceAmerica stand on? 
NM: This is Nancy Myrick again. The U.S. AbilityOne commission is a Federal agency. We are the agency that administers the AbilityOne program. The essential nonprofit agencies, National Industries for the Blind, or NIB, and SourceAmerica, are an important part of the AbilityOne program. Under the statute, they are designated to perform certain functions within the program. The employees of the nonprofit agencies are just that, not Federal employees, but employees of the NPAs themselves. 
JA: Does AbilityOne support small business? 
RS: Hi folks, this is Rick Sebastian from Didlake, one of the nonprofits operating under the auspices of SourceAmerica. Most recent survey among our 600 NPAs revealed that between 25 and 32% of all of our buys in the NPAs is being done with small business. For example, because we had a building question that was asked earlier, most of our supplies among those nonprofits that are performing custodial services are coming from small business community. When we outsource exterior window washing, for example, in certain buildings throughout the program, those exterior window companies may also be small businesses. So, yes, the AbilityOne program supports both our folks who are blind and people with disabilities, as well as the broader small business community. 
JA: When is it appropriate to award a contract under the AbilityOne program? 
NM: This is Nancy Myrick with the US AbilityOne Commission. I hear two things when I hear that question. First of all, is the requirement appropriate or suitable for the AbilityOne program? Of course, the commission or the CNAs or NPAs can help assist agencies that are in the acquisition planning phase and determine if a product or service is suitable for the program. More specifically, when is it appropriate to make the award, and that is once the product or service has been added to the procurement list and you have an effective date which is published in the Federal Register.
JA: Where can Federal customers find the procurement list and what are some examples of available products and services? 
NM: This is Nancy Myrick again. The procurement list is published on the website and it is one of the top navigation buttons. We will be updating that to have a quick link to it as well. Just about anything you can name in terms of products and services, the AbilityOne program offers. We have a network of over 600 nonprofit agencies throughout the country that can assist you with your requirement. We have given a telephone number in the presentation that allows you to reach out to us if you have a question, or you can view the procurement list itself on our website. 
JA: How do Federal customers order common use products, such as office supplies, under the AbilityOne program? 
SK: This is Scottie Knott again. This is a great question, I appreciate it. We have multiple channels that you can acquire these products from, both government channels and commercial channels. The government channels are through your central supply organizations like GSA or Defense Logistics Agency, if you are in the Department of Defense. Then we have commercial channels where the AbilityOne commission has authorized specific vendors to be AbilityOne authorized distributors available to you via GSA Advantage! or DoD e-mall, Fed-mall. There are a wide variety of commercial and government entities. One last channel is our base supply centers. They are available at your military bases, or a Federal government building. We have over 150 of these base supply centers where you can acquire these products. 
JA: Second to last question here. Are Federal government purchase card holders exempt from the mandatory source requirements of the AbilityOne program for products? What if the purchase is at or below the micro-purchase threshold? 
PK: The bottom line is, they are not exempt. That is an avenue for purchase, if deemed appropriate, maybe given the threshold. In terms of exemption, we encourage everyone, as Nancy said earlier, to stop and check with the program first, see what the capabilities are, what the resources are. It's an avenue to a long-term quality solution that can bring about a variety of resources. We do not tend to talk in terms of exempt. 
JA: Finally, can Federal employees recommend products and/or services for addition to the procurement list? 
NM: Absolutely. [LAUGHTER] 
RS: Please do so. 
JA: Don't forget, the Federal Acquisition Institute has recorded today's seminar and the video, along with the presentation material you saw today, will be posted in the Media Library on You should be able to access these items in about a week or so. On behalf of the Federal Acquisition Institute, thank you very much for joining us.


An official website of the General Services Administration

Looking for U.S. government information and services?