For IT support contracts, can the PoP be listed/extended prior to the award?
This is probably a fairly common issue. How are others handling this?
Is there a FAR/DAFAR exception to allow the PoP start date to occur prior to award?
No, you cannot backdate support contracts to cover lapsed coverage. The Anti-deficiency Act precludes this back dating idea. However, you are right, this is a common scenario throughout the DoD. There is nothing in the FAR or DFARS that allows Contracting Officers to backdate the start date of orders or of individual line items. When a software maintenance agreement has lapsed and needs to be reinstated, the most common method is to request a quote from the OEM/reseller with individually priced reinstatement/penalty fee(s), which is usually calculated as the maintenance that would have been due if the maintenance agreement had not expired. Most comptrollers and contracting officers are more comfortable with this method than inflating the price of the maintenance renewal to "hide" this obligation or backdating orders to accomplish the same thing.
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FYI and use on future support contracts: The FAR does have provisions for planning ahead prior to initiating your new support contract. In FAR 37.111 – Extension of Services, you can create a contract "Option" that can be exercised if needed at the end of the contract period NTE six (6) months:
37.111 -- Extension of Services.
Award of contracts for recurring and continuing service requirements are often delayed due to circumstances beyond the control of contracting offices. Examples of circumstances causing such delays are bid protests and alleged mistakes in bid. In order to avoid negotiation of short extensions to existing contracts, the contracting officer may include an option clause (see 17.208(f)) in solicitations and contracts which will enable the Government to require continued performance of any services within the limits and at the rates specified in the contract. However, these rates may be adjusted only as a result of revisions to prevailing labor rates provided by the Secretary of Labor. The option provision may be exercised more than once, but the total extension of performance thereunder shall not exceed 6 months.
Another possibility to explore: IAW 31.109 - advanced agreements, may be negotiated either before or during a contract. However, they should be negotiated before incurrence of any costs involved.