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U.S. AbilityOne Commission

J. Anthony Poleo, Chairperson
Tina Ballard, Executive Director

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AbilityOne Program

FAQs


1. What is the AbilityOne Program?
2. Is the AbilityOne Program a priority program?
3. Does AbilityOne have priority over all other sources?
4. What is the authority to contract under the AbilityOne Program?
5. When is it appropriate to award a contract under the AbilityOne Program?
6. What is the Procurement List?
7. Where can Federal customers find the Procurement List and what are some examples of available products and services?
8. How long does the Procurement List addition process take?
9. How do Federal customers order common-use products, such as office supplies, under the AbilityOne Program?
10. What are the benefits of contracting under the AbilityOne Program?
11. Does AbilityOne support Small Business?
12. Where do National Industries for the Blind and SourceAmerica® (formerly NISH) derive their responsibilities under the AbilityOne Program?
13. 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?
14. Is there a conflict between utilizing the Federal Strategic Sourcing Initiative (FSSI) Blanket Purchasing Agreements (BPAs) and purchasing from AbilityOne Base Supply Centers or AbilityOne Retail Stores?
15. When are prices for AbilityOne Program products and services changed?
16. How are protests, disputes and appeals handled under the Javits-Wagner-O’Day Act?
17. Can Federal employees recommend products and/or services for addition to the Procurement List?
18. Are AbilityOne Program participating nonprofit agencies registered in the Central Contractor Registration (CCR)?
19. How do Department of Defense prime contractors get credit for subcontracting with AbilityOne Program nonprofit agencies?
20. Can solicitations include clauses that encourage subcontracting with
AbilityOne?

 

1. What is the AbilityOne Program?

The AbilityOne® Program is the largest Federal source of employment for people who are blind or have significant disabilities. The Program is administered by the U.S. AbilityOne Commission, the operating name for the Committee for Purchase from People Who Are Blind or Severely Disabled. Through a national network of more than 600 nonprofit agencies, the program provides the Federal Government products and services at fair market prices. The procurement of these products and services results in employment of more than 50,000 individuals.


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2. Is the AbilityOne Program a priority program?

Yes, pursuant to the Javits-Wagner O’Day Act (41 U.S.C. 46-48c), the Competition in Contracting Act (41 U.S.C. 253) and implementing guidance in the Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR), the AbilityOne Program has a priority. FAR 8.002, Priorities for Use of Government Supply Sources, prescribes the descending order of priority for supplies and services to satisfy agency requirements.


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3. Does AbilityOne have priority over all other sources?

No. FAR 8.704 indicates that Federal Prison Industries (FPI) has priority over the AbilityOne Program for supplies (products) purchased. Contracting offices must obtain a formal waiver (FAR 8.604) from FPI before making any supply (product) purchases from AbilityOne participating nonprofit agencies.


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4. What is the authority to contract under the AbilityOne Program?

Under the Competition in Contracting Act (CICA): AbilityOne procurements are considered “other than competitive” procurements under the Competition in Contracting Act (CICA), which authorizes certain exceptions to full and open competition. The implementing guidance is in FAR 6.302-5, which states that full and open competition need not be provided for when a statute expressly authorizes or requires that the acquisition be made through another agency or from a specified source. Qualified nonprofit agencies employing people who are blind or severely disabled are explicitly listed as an authorized application of this exception in accordance with the JWOD Act and FAR Subpart 8.7. DoD contracting activities should use 10 U.S.C. 2304 (c)(5) as the exception on award documents.

Under FAR 8.7:
FAR Subpart 8.7 provides implementing guidance for the Javits-Wagner-O’Day Act (41 U.S.C. 46-48c). FAR 8.704, Purchase priorities, states that the Javits-Wagner-O’Day Act requires the Government to purchase supplies or services on the Procurement List, at prices established by the U.S. AbilityOne Commission, from AbilityOne participating nonprofit agencies if they are available within the period required.

Under the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR):
Chapter 51 of Title 41 of the CFR provides the regulations specific to the Federal agency that oversees the AbilityOne Program, operating as the U.S. AbilityOne Commission. 41 CFR 51-5.2 states that nonprofit agencies designated by the Commission are mandatory sources of supply for all entities of the Government for commodities and services included on the Procurement List.

Under the Defense Federal Acquisition Regulation System (DFARS) Procedures, Guidance, and Information (PGI):
The PGI at 207.105 states that written acquisition plans should include consideration of the AbilityOne Program.


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5. When is it appropriate to award a contract under the AbilityOne Program?

At what point in the process is a contract awarded for an AbilityOne project? A contract can be awarded (orders can be placed) at any point after the effective date of the Procurement List addition. This date is listed in the final Federal Register notice and is also on the notice of addition that is sent to the Contracting Activity.


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6. What is the Procurement List?

The U.S. AbilityOne Commission maintains a Procurement List of products and services which have been placed in the AbilityOne Program, as referenced in FAR 8.002 and Subpart 8.7. Federal agencies must purchase supplies or services on the Procurement List, at prices established by the U.S. AbilityOne Commission, from designated nonprofit agencies as long as those supplies and services are available within the period required.


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7. Where can Federal customers find the Procurement List and what are some examples of available products and services?

The complete Procurement List is available to view and download on the website of the U.S. AbilityOne Commission, which is www.abilityone.gov. Many AbilityOne common-use products included on the Procurement List are also clearly identified in the print and electronic catalogs of AbilityOne-authorized Federal and commercial distributors, such as GSA Advantage!™ (www.gsaadvantage.gov), GSA
Global Supply (www.gsaglobalsupply.gsa.gov), DODEMALL (https://dod-emall.dla.mil), and www.abilityone.com.

Current product lines include aircraft and vehicular equipment and supplies, clothing, textiles and individual equipment, food processing, packaging and distribution, hardware and equipment, office products (e.g. pens, binder clips, paper products, etc.), environmentally friendly and recycled products (e.g. biodegradable disposable cutlery), military-specific products (such as chemical protective over garments and cold weather infantry kits) and medical supplies (such as catheters and surgical masks). Services include contract 26 AbilityOne Procurement Guide for the Department of Defense Chapter 4: Frequently Asked Questions 27 management support (close-out), custodial, administrative services, contact centers, document management services, fleet management, food service, full facility management, grounds maintenance, healthcare environmental/hospital services, laundry services, secure mail/digital document services, and supply chain management. A list of AbilityOne Capabilities is provided in Chapter 3.


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8. How long does the Procurement List addition process take?

The time it takes to complete the Procurement List addition process can vary depending on several factors that may need to be considered before adding a product or service to the Procurement List. Once a product or service is identified for possible addition, the process can take between six and twelve months to finalize. This includes submission to the Commission, whose process takes 85–120 days, including analysis, decision and public notice and comment via Federal Register notices.


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9. How do Federal customers order common-use products, such as office supplies, under the AbilityOne Program?

The AbilityOne Program has partnered with the General Services Administration (GSA) to incorporate AbilityOne products into the Federal Supply Schedules requirements for commercial distributors of office supplies, cleaning products and many other commonly used items. Many AbilityOne products are available electronically through catalogs of AbilityOne-authorized Federal commercial distributors here, GSA
Advantage!™ at www.gsaadvantage.gov, GSA Global Supply at www.gsaglobalsupply.gsa.gov, DODEMALL at https://dod-emaill.dla.mil, and www.abilityone.com.


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10. What are the benefits of contracting under the AbilityOne Program?

Contracts under the AbilityOne Program offer Federal customers high quality products available through a variety of distributors at reasonable prices and delivered when needed. 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. Finally, contracting with the AbilityOne Program allows people who are blind or have other significant disabilities an opportunity to gain meaningful employment, lead more independent lives, reduce dependence on government social programs and become taxpayers.


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11. Does AbilityOne support Small Business?

Yes. AbilityOne nonprofit agencies subcontract and partner with small businesses. The program has initiatives underway to increase collaborative opportunities with small business. A recent survey of 83 of our 600 nonprofit agencies — representing 48% of the Program’s largest agencies — found that among that group, 25% of subcontract dollars or $217M was awarded to small businesses. Additionally, approximately 500 small businesses are part of the AbilityOne Program’s commercial distribution network.


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12. Where do National Industries for the Blind and SourceAmerica derive their responsibilities under the AbilityOne Program?

The Javits-Wagner-O’Day Act (41 U.S.C. 46-48c) authorizes the U.S. AbilityOne Commission to designate one or more “central nonprofit agencies” (CNAs) to assist community-based nonprofit agencies serving people who are blind or have other severe disabilities participating in the AbilityOne Program. The Commission has designated National Industries for the Blind (NIB) and SourceAmerica to fulfill CNA responsibilities as listed in 41 CFR Part 51-3. These responsibilities include evaluating nonprofit agency capabilities, providing nonprofit agencies with technical assistance and allocating government orders among them. NIB and SourceAmerica also provide their associated agencies with many other services, including: assistance in complying with the Javits-Wagner-O’Day Act and Federal contract provisions. The CNAs also provide training and regulatory assistance; communications and public relations materials; information technology support; engineering, financial and technical assistance.


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13. 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?

No. The statutory requirement to buy AbilityOne products is universal and applies to any dollar amount. Government purchase card holders are — like all other Federal employees — required to buy AbilityOne products provided by designated nonprofit agencies through one of the many distribution channels. Federal personnel should not use their purchase cards to buy items that are essentially the same as AbilityOne products at local commercial businesses unless the products required are not available through the AbilityOne Program. Purchase card holders can obtain AbilityOne products from Base Supply Centers and AbilityOne Retail Stores located on military installations and in Federal buildings, as well as through various Internet and catalog distribution channels. For more information, visit www.abilityone.gov.


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14. Is there a conflict between utilizing the Federal Strategic Sourcing Initiative (FSSI) Blanket Purchasing Agreements (BPAs) and purchasing from AbilityOne Base Supply Centers or AbilityOne Retail Stores?

No. All of these sources are required to provide office and general supplies in accordance with statute and the Procurement List. Thus, when you purchase office supplies from any of these channels, you are able to fulfill your requirements and to comply with the Javits-Wagner-O’Day Act. AbilityOne Base Supply Centers and Retail Stores are on installations or in Federal buildings to expediently provide products to Federal customers. Items are stocked and immediately available for pick-up or delivery. 28 AbilityOne Procurement Guide for the Department of Defense Chapter 4: Frequently Asked Questions 29


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15. When are prices for AbilityOne Program products and services changed?

Prices for AbilityOne products and services are usually changed in conjunction with the contract period. The preferred method for establishing base prices is by negotiation between the producing nonprofit agency and the contracting activity with the assistance of NIB or SourceAmerica. The method of determining future prices will be a part of those negotiations.


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16. How are protests, disputes and appeals handled under the Javits-Wagner-O’Day Act?

Issues related to daily contract performance should be resolved at the contracting activity and nonprofit working levels wherever possible. NIB and SourceAmerica are available and recommended as sources to facilitate the resolution. Any contractual protest before or after award, or any contractual dispute or appeal is the responsibility of the Contracting Officer as guided by the Contracts Disputes Act, unless the provisions are in conflict with the Javits-Wagner-O’Day Act or regulations. Any AbilityOne price or price related dispute must be resolved through the Commission’s Impasse Resolution Process, and should be brought to the attention of the Commission staff.


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17. Can Federal employees recommend products and/or services for addition to the Procurement List?

Yes. The Code of Federal Regulations (41 CFR Part 51- 5.1(a)) encourages acquisition and procurement professionals to recommend products and services for procurement by the government from nonprofit agencies under the AbilityOne Program. Recommendations should be sent to the U.S. AbilityOne Commission, NIB or SourceAmerica.


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18. Are AbilityOne Program participating nonprofit agencies registered in the Central Contractor Registration (CCR)?

Yes, all AbilityOne-participating nonprofit agencies are registered in the CCR, a central repository of all companies and agencies currently performing, or seeking to perform, business with the Federal Government.


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19. How do Department of Defense prime contractors get credit for subcontracting with AbilityOne Program nonprofit agencies?

Department of Defense (DoD) prime contractors are allowed to receive credit toward their small business subcontracting goals if they subcontract with qualified nonprofit agencies participating in the AbilityOne Program. This authority can be found at 10 US Code 2410d.


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20. Can solicitations include clauses that encourage subcontracting with
AbilityOne?

Yes. Organizations can develop their own unique clauses. Click here for examples (PDF).


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