Department of State Information Access Fund (Grants of $200,000-$500,000)

DEPARTMENT OF STATE – Notice of Funding Opportunity – Information Access Fund 

Program Office: Global Engagement Center (GEC)

Announcement Type: Notice of Funding Opportunity 

Opportunity Number: S-GECPD-18-002 

Deadline for Submissions:  April 11, 2018 

CFDA number: 19.040 

 

Executive Summary

The Global Engagement Center (GEC), an interagency entity within the U.S. Department of State, invites organizations that can implement programming to counter foreign state and non-state propaganda and disinformation efforts aimed at undermining United States national security interests to submit applications by April 11, 2018.  All submissions or applications will be reviewed against the evaluation criteria outlined below.  GEC expects to make multiple awards with a floor of $200,000 and a ceiling of $500,000 for each, constituting a planned total award volume of approximately $5,000,000.  GEC reserves the right to award more or less funding or no funding at all as it deems in the best interest of the government.  U.S.-based and foreign non-profit and non-governmental organizations (NGO), public international organizations (PIO), media outlets, for-profit entities, and institutions of higher education are eligible to apply by submitting an application as described in this announcement.

Note:  Any applicant listed on the Excluded Parties List System in the System for Award Management (SAM)(www.sam.gov) is not eligible to apply for an assistance award in accordance with the OMB guidelines at 2 CFR 180 that implement Executive Orders 12549 (3 CFR,1986 Comp., p. 189) and 12689 (3 CFR,1989 Comp., p. 235), “Debarment and Suspension.”  Additionally no entity listed on the Excluded Parties List System in SAM.gov can participate in any activities under an award.  All applicants are strongly encouraged to review the Excluded Parties List System in SAM.gov to ensure that no ineligible entity is included in their application.

Background Information

Section 1287 of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for fiscal year 2017 (PL 114-328) authorized the Global Engagement Center (GEC) to counter foreign state and non-state-sponsored propaganda and disinformation directed at the United States or its allies that is intended to undermine U.S. national security. Section 1287 established ten numbered functions for GEC and invested it with specific authorities to carry out those functions, including expanded authorities to award grants and cooperative agreements. Subsection 1287(f) directed GEC to establish and administer the Information Access Fund (IAF).  For details, please see https://www.congress.gov/114/plaws/publ328/PLAW-114publ328.pdf.

II. Program Objectives

 
1) Support local independent media who are best placed to refute disinformation and manipulation in their own communities. 

2) Analyze and report on tactics, techniques, and procedures of foreign information warfare with respect to disinformation and propaganda.

3)  Counter efforts by foreign entities to use disinformation and propaganda to influence the policies and social and political stability of the United States and United States allies and partner nations.

4)  Collect and store in print and online, including on social media platforms, examples of disinformation and propaganda directed at the United States and allies and partners. 

GEC requests organizations to submit applications that can introduce cutting edge, cost-effective approaches to one of the program objectives listed above.  Organizations may submit more than one application, but no application may address more than one program area.  Applicants should describe both the tools and techniques they intend to employ to achieve program objectives and describe the organizational experience, both regional and technical, that would support successful program implementation.  

 
III. Requirements for Applications
 
U.S.-based and foreign non-governmental organizations, public international organizations, and institutions of higher education, media outlets, and for-profit organizations are eligible to apply. For-profit organizations, including small and disadvantaged businesses, may apply, but such organizations may not generate a profit from funded activities and are subject to the cost principles prescribed in the Federal Acquisition Regulations – Chapter 30 and  48 Code of Federal Regulations 31.2.

The GEC will not reimburse application preparation costs. 
 
The following information must be included in the application:
 
All applications must be in English and MUST include the following components: 

  • SF-424, SF 424A and SF 424B,  completed online in SAMS Domestic;
  • Project narrative, not to exceed six pages; 
  • One-page CVs for up to seven key staff; 
  • Detailed Budget and;
  • Budget narrative (explanation of budget factors), not to exceed two pages. 

Do not submit additional documents and do not exceed page limits or fail to adhere to formatting instructions below. Submission of additional documents, failure to abide by page limitations, or failure to adhere to formatting requirements will result in disqualification. 

The application narrative may not exceed 6 (six) pages, formatted in 12-point Times New Roman on 8.5 x 11 inch (standard U.S. letter size) paper, with uniform one-inch margins and double-spacing between paragraphs.  Please do not submit in A4 format, as text may be cut off during downloading.  The narrative should describe in adequate detail the applicant’s areas of expertise and completed relevant projects. Information should clearly demonstrate the organization’s record and capacity to implement projects in support of one of the program objectives listed in this announcement.  Document sub-award management capacity and experience if your proposal includes sub-awards.  A general organizational history is neither required nor desired; neither is a statement of the problem or challenge presented by adversarial propaganda and disinformation that goes beyond what is required to provide essential context for the proposed activities. Demonstrable experience in a similar project is particularly valuable and should be presented in sufficient detail for a reviewer with subject matter expertise to grasp.

Applicants are encouraged to highlight selected past or present projects whose activities and outputs demonstrate agility, innovation, cost-effectiveness and programmatic accomplishment.  More generally, applications should describe how the organization's capacities meet the GEC’s objective, as described in this announcement. An exhaustive list of all the organization’s past and current projects, regardless of relevance to this funding opportunity, is neither required nor desired.  A clear narrative focused on the program objectives will be greatly appreciated.

The ideal application will be structured along these lines:  An executive summary of up to one page that includes an explicit statement of which program area the application addresses; a section of two to three pages explaining programmatic intentions and documenting capacity in the program area for which application is being made.  This section should include at least half a page that describes the organization’s intended monitoring and evaluation approach.  Organizations proposing sub-awards or to provide direct capacity-building support to local organizations should also submit a single page describing (1) the organization’s approach to working with partners and sub-awardees; (2) its track record in that aspect of programming, and (3) contact information for representatives of two organizations with which a partnership exists or existed or to which sub-awards were made.  The final page of this narrative should list and succinctly describe the most important relevant projects the organization has completed with donor funding, the project number, and current contact information for a representative from the donor organization(s). 

The application should also include one-page curriculum vitae (CV) for each proposed key staff member.  The CV should demonstrate the expertise necessary to carry out programmatic activities in support of the objective for which capacity is asserted.  No more than seven CVs may be submitted, and the CVs do not count against the ten page submission total.  GEC reserves the right to verify with them directly that identified key staffs have agreed to be included, so please ensure that CVs include a current, valid email address. 

The application should also include a detailed budget on the template provided and a not-to-exceed two-page budget justification that details, explains or otherwise justifies types of costs, quantities and pricing put forward by the applicant in the budget submission (SF 424A).

 

The Competitive Review Process:
 
All applications will be screened to determine whether they meet the technical requirements, including the formatting requirements, stated in this announcement. Applications that do not meet the requirements listed above will not be reviewed or further considered.  

Applications will be reviewed by a panel of individuals with knowledge and experience in implementing the program objectives described in this announcement.   The panel assessment will consider the organizations’ approach to achieving programmatic goals, previous experience, organizational capacity, and the GEC’s and programmatic needs per the evaluation criteria described below.
 
GEC reserves the right to contact proposed key staff and may request additional information. 
 
All organizations that submit an application in response to this announcement will receive a notification via email informing them of the status of their application by May 1, 2018.   
 
PLEASE NOTE – all organizations that submit an application in response to this announcement agree to abide by all of the conditions stated in this announcement as well as the terms and conditions for Department of State assistance awards found at https://www.state.gov/m/a/ope/index.htm and 2 CFR 200.  GEC reserves the right to award more or less than the amounts indicated in this announcement or make no awards as is deemed in the best interest of the Government.  GEC reserves the right to make cost amendments to any award made as a result of this announcement in furtherance of the above stated program objectives. 

Administrative and National Policy Requirements

The Uniform Administrative Requirements, Cost Principles and Audit Requirements for Federal Awards set forth in 2 CFR Chapter 200 (Sub-Chapters A through F) shall apply to all non-Federal entities, except for assistance awards to Individuals and Foreign Public Entities.  Sub-Chapters A through E shall apply to all foreign organizations, and Sub-Chapters A through D shall apply to all U.S. and foreign for-profit entities.
 
The applicant or recipient of any award under this announcement and any sub-recipient under the award must comply with all applicable terms and conditions, in addition to the assurance and certifications made part of the Notice of Award.  The Department’s Standard Terms and Conditions can be viewed at https://www.state.gov/m/a/ope/index.htm.
 
VI. Evaluation Criteria
 
The review panels will use the following criteria when rating applications and ranking them:
 
       a. Approach to Program Objectives:  GEC will review and consider the applicant’s proposed approach to the identified program objective in light of demonstrated knowledge of communications-related activities and technologies aimed at countering the influence of adversarial state and non-state propaganda and disinformation campaigns (20%) and technical expertise (20%).  40%

      b. Past Performance:  In addition to evaluating the effectiveness of the approach to the program objectives in the application narrative, GEC will consider the organization’s track record of implementing successful projects and programs including working well with partners, donors and sub-awardees.  20%
 
      c. Key Personnel:  The panel will review the expertise of the applicant’s key personnel as presented in the application in terms of experience in the sectors of interest.  20%

  1. Budget: The panel will review the budget for cost reasonableness and relevance to the activities proposed in the application. 20%
     

VII. Implications of Funding Uncertainty

As of the time of this Notice of Funding Opportunity, the Department of State is operating under a short-term Continuing Resolution, which limits the availability of funding and which creates uncertainty about full-year availability of funding.  While it is the current intention of GEC to make multiple awards of between $200,000 and $500,000 each up to a total award volume of $5,000,000, subsequent availability of fiscal resources could increase or decrease the funding available for awards.  As such, GEC reserves the right to make a greater or lesser number of awards, or no awards at all. 

VIII. Deadline and Submission Instructions
 
We encourage all applicants to begin all registration processes described below as soon as possible, as it can take up to 4 weeks to complete.  All applications must be submitted electronically via SAMS Domestic 11:30 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time (EST) on April 11, 2018.

GEC will not accept proposals submitted via email, fax, the postal system, delivery companies or couriers. You will receive an email confirmation when you application is successfully uploaded. 

We encourage all applicants to begin all registration processes described below as soon as possible, as it can take up to 4 weeks to complete.  Applications must be submitted via SAMS Domestic (registration required)  and must contain a completed SF-424, SF 424A and SF 424B completed on-line in SAMS Domestic, six (6)  page program narrative, one-page CVs for up to seven key staff, and two (2)  page budget justification.   Please note that you must also have an account with Grants.gov and register for update alerts to this announcement and alerts for future announcements. 

To register in SAMS Domestic: 

  • Navigate to the SAMS Domestic portal home page: http://mygrants.service-now.com/
  • Click on the “create an account” link to begin the account setup process. 
  • Complete the user registration request form and click “Submit” 
  • You will receive an email to activate your user account. Click on the activation link. 
  • Two additional emails will arrive with your login information. At this point, please alert your bureau contact that you have registered for a SAMS Domestic account. The bureau contact will associate your new user account to the appropriate recipient organization in SAMS Domestic, giving you access to all of your organization’s application and award data in the system.

 

Unique Entity Identifier (UEI) and System for Award Management (SAM)

All organizations, whether based in the United States or in another country, must have a Unique Entity Identifier (UEI), formerly referred to as DUNS, and an active registration with the SAM.gov before submitting an application.  GEC may not review applications from or make awards to applicants that have not completed all applicable UEI and SAM.gov requirements.  A UEI is one of the data elements mandated by Public Law 109-282, the Federal Funding Accountability and Transparency Act (FFATA), for all Federal awards. 

Note: The process of obtaining a SAM.gov registration may take anywhere from 4-8 weeks.  Please begin your registration as early as possible.

  • If you are based in the United States or pay employees within the United States, prior to registering in SAM.gov you will need an Employer Identification Number (EIN) from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and a Commercial and Government Entity (CAGE) code. 
  • If you are based outside of the United States and do not pay employees within the United States, you do not need an EIN from the IRS.  However, you will need a NATO CAGE (NCAGE) code before you can have an active registration in SAM.gov. 

All organizations must also continue to maintain active SAM.gov registration with current information at all times during which they have an active Federal award or application under consideration by a Federal award agency.  SAM.gov requires all entities to renew their registration once a year in order to maintain an active registration status in SAM.  It is the responsibility of the applicant to ensure it has an active registration in SAM.gov and to maintain that active registration. 

Grants.gov Helpdesk: 

For assistance with Grants.gov, please call the Contact Center at 1-800-518-4726 or email [email protected]  The Contact Center is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, except federal holidays.

See https://www.opm.gov/policy-data-oversight/snow-dismissal-procedures/federal-holidays/  for a list of federal holidays.

 

 

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