Student Debt Forgiveness for Disabled Veterans

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“STARS AND STRIPES”

“Working with the Department of Veterans Affairs, the U.S. Department of Education will begin identifying eligible veterans who will receive an application for loan forgiveness.

Disabled veterans must sign and return the application to complete the process.”

____________________________________________________________________________________________

“Anyone with a severe disability is eligible by law to have the government discharge their federal student loans, but the benefit has not been widely publicized.

In 2016, the Education Department partnered with the Social Security Administration to identify borrowers receiving disability payments with the specific designation of “Medical Improvement Not Expected,” an indication of discharge eligibility. The agencies found 387,000 matches in its first review, of whom 179,000 were in default on their loans and at risk of having with their Social Security benefits garnished.

That process, however, failed to capture permanently disabled veterans who receive benefits through Veterans Affairs, rather than the Social Security Administration. Although the VA signed an agreement in November 2016 that would have extended the match program to veterans, Education Department spokeswoman Liz Hill said the information was never exchanged. Monday’s action seeks to rectify the oversight, much to the delight of veterans groups.

“The Education Department and VA are to be commended for collaborating to make this happen. Interagency data-sharing can solve so many problems, but the agencies have generally been reluctant to break out of their silos,” said Carrie Wofford, president of Veterans Education Success, a nonprofit watchdog and advocacy group. “This is a terrific first step for disabled veterans.”

Wofford said she hopes the collaboration between the agencies will soon result in automatic loan discharges for severely disabled people, eliminating the need for borrowers to apply for a benefit they are due under the law.

Advocacy groups have long called on the federal government to automate disability discharges, but policymakers said they were hamstrung by tax law. For years, the federal government treated the amount of money forgiven through a disability discharge as taxable income.

But the tax overhaul signed into law this year put an end to the government counting as taxable income student debt that is forgiven because of death or disability.

“The excuse that the last administration gave for not automatically discharging the loans — the potential for tax liability — no longer exists. That tax liability was eliminated in tax reform,” said Persis Yu, the National Consumer Law Center’s student loan borrower assistance project director. “Therefore, the Department of Education has no excuse for withholding relief from borrowers it knows to be eligible.”

Education spokeswoman Hill said, “While recent tax changes have removed federal tax implications, there still may be state tax implications associated with discharges that a veteran may consider.”

https://www.stripes.com/news/us/administration-to-streamline-student-debt-forgiveness-for-disabled-veterans-1.522427

 

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Pentagon Acknowledges U.S. Contractor Presence In Syria For First Time

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Contractors in Iraq and Syria

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“AL MONITOR”

“The US military is using more than 5,500 contractors in the campaign to defeat the Islamic State (IS) in Syria and Iraq, the Pentagon revealed in a quarterly report this week that acknowledges the use of contractors in the Syrian war zone for the first time.

The latest figures from US Central Command indicate that 5,508 US and foreign contractors are working alongside US troops in the two combat zones.”

___________________________________________________________________________________________

“That’s an increase of 581, or 12%, over January’s numbers, which did not include Syria. About half of the contractors are US citizens, while the rest are local or third-country hires.

The disclosure comes as President Donald Trump has signaled his desire to pull US troops out of Syria “very soon” after the end of the counter-IS mission. The role of contractors in Syria is also under increasing scrutiny after hundreds of Russian contractors died in a battle with US troops and the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces in the oil-rich Deir ez-Zor province, as CIA Director and Secretary of State-designate Mike Pompeo publicly confirmed in his Senate confirmation hearing April 12.

Unlike the Russians, however, the US contractors are mostly focused on supporting the 2,000 US troops in Syria by delivering hot meals, gasoline and other supplies. More than 30% of them support logistics and maintenance, according to the quarterly Pentagon report, and another 27% help with support and construction of US military outposts in the region.

“It’s not the Russian contractor role in Syria, which is … deploying tactical military units of squad company size,” said Peter Singer, a senior fellow and strategist at the New America think tank in Washington. “It’s the old stuff that Halliburton used to do.”

More than 400 “security” contractors are also involved in the fight in both countries, but “you’re not seeing the 163rd private US military group invading a city in Syria,” Singer said. Russian military contractors are also helping to protect oil fields across the country, protecting an industry that represented a quarter of Syria’s government revenue in 2010.

Though previous Defense Department personnel reports in the region hadn’t mentioned a Pentagon contractor presence in Syria, the US Department of Labor acknowledged in a report last year that two contractors were killed and six injured in fiscal year 2017. The Pentagon numbers don’t represent contractors working for other US agencies, such as the State Department, which assists with demining.

The Pentagon’s admission comes after an awkward back-and-forth between Trump and his top military and diplomatic advisers at a National Security Council meeting last week. While the president wants to declare victory on IS and pull out, the Pentagon has asked the commander-in-chief to leave US forces in Syria to prevent insurgent cells from regrouping along Syria’s border with Iraq.

Gen. Joseph Votel, the head of US Central Command, said at a public event last week, “The hard part is in front of us” in the war-torn country. Less than a mile away at the White House, Trump appeared to contradict US pledges to stay in the Syria fight at an open Cabinet meeting after long expressing his frustration over US military spending in the Middle East. The White House also recently announced a $200 million cut in funds earmarked for stabilizing Syria.

Despite their nonkinetic role, some experts say contractors face many of the same dangers as the US troops and Syrian forces who battled Russian mercenaries in February. With IS on the run and multiple US antagonists ready to push out the United States and its allies, civilian personnel risk getting caught in the crossfire.

“I would give America a six-month honeymoon here,” said Joshua Landis, the director of the University of Oklahoma’s Center for Middle East Studies. “Turkey, Syria and Iran are just sitting there, waiting to stick shivs in us.”

https://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2018/04/pentagon-acknowledge-us-contractor-presence-syria-iraq.html

 

 

 

 

Armed Services Committee To Pentagon: “Plan For A Lean Future, With A Trillion-Dollar Deficit This Year”

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“DEFENSE NEWS”

“The two-year budget deal did not ease Budget Control Act caps for 2020 and 2021.

[Armed Services Committee Ranking Member] Rep. Adam Smith  pointedly asked [Defense Secretary]Mattis whether DoD was ready to absorb the equivalent of an $80 billion cut…”

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“The Pentagon’s two-year budget boost may be as good as it’s going to get for the military, the House Armed Services Committee’s top Democrat warned Defense Secretary Jim Mattis on Capitol Hill on Thursday.

The comments come amid new government estimates that the U.S. budget deficit will exceed $1 trillion in two years, as tax cuts and spending increases signed by President Donald Trump do little to boost long-term economic growth.

As Mattis testified on the administration’s 2019 budget request, HASC Ranking Member Adam Smith, D-Wash., pointed to the downward pressure that growing deficits and budget caps could create in 2020 and beyond.

“While 2018 and 2019 are great, I hope you are also planning for a lean future, because we are looking at a trillion-dollar deficit this year,” Smith said, adding that the US national debt is approaching $22 trillion.

CBO pegs the 2019 deficit at $981 billion and at more than $1 trillion each year thereafter, for a total of $12.4 trillion through 2028.

Without “big picture” budget action from Congress, the nation faces an “enormous problem” fueled by its $1 trillion per year deficit spending habits, Smith said.

“We’re going to be right back in the uncertainty a year from now if we don’t come up with some comprehensive way to address our budget challenge,” he said.

Smith’s remarks offer a sense of the direction the committee might take if he were leading. Paul Ryan’s planned retirement from Congress, with more than 40 other GOP departures from the House, fueled further speculation this week Republicans could lose the lower chamber to Democrats in the 2018 midterms.

Though Mattis touted the continuation of Obama-era nuclear modernization plans as a priority, Smith reiterated his longstanding skepticism about the price tag, given the future budget environment. Fewer nuclear weapons means a lower chance of a miscalculation, he said.

“I just want to put it on the record, I don’t think we need to spend $1.2 trillion modernizing our nuclear weapons,” he said. “China has 275 nuclear weapons. We have 15, 20 times as many.”

Smith acknowledged the military’s “readiness crisis,” and hailed the budget deal’s temporary stabilizing effect. One of his top priorities, he said, was to see the budget boost address the problem.

“There will be other needs, there will pressures. I hope we don’t give in to those, I hope we remember the troops come first,” he said.”

https://www.defensenews.com/congress/2018/04/12/smith-to-mattis-prepare-for-lean-years/

 

 

 

U.S. Defense and Justice Departments Signalling Massive Cloud and Services Single Award Contracts

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“FEDSCOOP”

“The DOD team leading the Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure cloud procurement released the second draft of its working request for proposals Monday.  the contract’s single award acquisition strategy remains.

The FBI is interested in pursuing an “all-encompassing” $5 billion contract to provide all IT services across the Department of Justice.”

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“In second draft, DOD stands firmly by single award for JEDI cloud contract”

“Despite numerous questions and comments pushing for the Department of Defense to reconsider its decision to award a single contract for its forthcoming landmark commercial cloud acquisition, it appears the department isn’t budging.

The decision to award a single contract has drawn ire from all around the government cloud industry and largely driven the conversation concerning JEDI since its inception. The questions and comments attached to the new release of the RFP largely reflect industry’s refusal to accept that a single award would be in the best interest of the DODas it could handcuff the department to a single cloud provider for up to 10 years, limiting innovation and a failsafe in the event of an outage.

In many cases, the team’s response was: “Your comment has been noted. The requirement remains as stated.”

And many respondents asked for the written justification for a single award contract, which is required by federal acquisition law, to be made public. But DOD won’t indulge them “at this time.”

However, another frequent answer about teaming and subcontracting leaves the door open for vendors to get creative despite there being one award up for grabs. Asked if cloud service providers can partner together under a single prime contractor or some similar arrangement, the department responded, “Offerors may propose any kind of teaming/partnering arrangement so long as the proposed solution meets the requirements of the solicitation.”

https://www.fedscoop.com/jedi-cloud-contract-second-draft-dod-pentagon/

FBI weighs $5B ‘all-encompassing’ IT contract for Justice Department

The FBI is interested in pursuing an “all-encompassing” $5 billion contract to provide all IT services across the Department of Justice.

The bureau issued a request for information for a centralized contract covering a range of IT services that would be awarded in March 2019.

The FBI’s Information Technology Acquisitions Unit has been pursuing a new IT contract to replace the current $30 billion Information Technology Supplies and Support Services (ITSSS) blanket purchase agreement, which is set to expire in October. It’s unclear why the proposed new contract’s ceiling would be so much less than its predecessor, but since it’s an RFI, that could change based on industry feedback.

The new RFI outlines a possible indefinite delivery, indefinite quantity contract with a one-year base period — followed by nine yearlong option periods — to start in March 2018. The new timeline envisions that a final solicitation would be issued in August and be due Oct. 5, but it makes no mention of a bridge contract for the expiring contract.

The new contract would be split into several sections, covering agile, development, operations and maintenance, engineering services, IT consulting, IT scientific services, cloud, Telecomm, IT services, cybersecurity, IT security services, and IT help desk support across the entire Justice Department.

Interested vendors have until April 20 to respond to the RFI.  FBI officials plan to hold a follow-up industry day April 30.

fBI officials also recently issued an RFI seeking information on a cloud computing solution.”

https://www.fedscoop.com/fbi-weighs-5b-enterprise-wide-contract/

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Federal Workers Earn 32% Less Than Private Sector Employees Doing The Same Jobs

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Federal employees see nearly 32 percent less on their paychecks than their private-sector counterparts, according to a recent report by the Federal Salary Council’s Locality Pay Working Group. (Getty Images)

“FEDERAL TIMES”

“Federal employees on average see a 31.86 percent difference between their paychecks and those doing the same work in the private sector according to an April 10, 2018, report submitted to the Federal Salary Council by its Locality Pay Working Group.”

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“The working group calculates the pay gap between federal employees and their private-sector counterparts by taking sample data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ National Compensation Survey in areas of the country in which federal employees receive locality pay and averaging those pay rates into a format that is comparable with federal general schedule rates.

Federal employees can receive locality pay on top of what the general schedule rates allow for their position if the government has determined that the cost of living in that locality is higher than the rest of the U.S.

These 46 established and four pending locality pay areas can span wide swaths of the U.S., such as the entire states of Hawaii and Alaska, to make up for cost-of-living expenses.

The Washington-Baltimore-Arlington locality, for example, would have seen a nearly 88 percent pay disparity from 2015 to 2017 without the addition of locality pay, according to the report.

The target disparity for the whole of the federal workforce is five percent, according to the report, giving the government a long way to go to bring employee pay in line with targets.

In 2017 and 2018 reports, the Council recommended that Burlington, Vermont; Virginia Beach, Virginia; Birmingham, Alabama; and San Antonio, Texas, be established as new locality pay areas, and the President’s Pay Agent approved that recommendation, though the regulatory process to make that change has yet to be undertaken.

For 2019 pay, the working group also recommended that Corpus Christi, Texas, and Omaha, Nebraska, be established as locality pay areas, as pay disparities in those areas have exceeded the rest of the U.S. by more than 10 percent in the past three years.

Federal employee base pay has seen fairly steady increases since 2014, hovering at or just above one percent. U.S. code calls for increases in basic pay equal to the percentage increase in the Employment Cost Index minus half a percent. As the ECI increased to 2.6 percent in September 2017, the GS basic pay increase for 2019 should be 2.1 percent.

The working group’s report was submitted during an April 10, 2018, meeting of the entire Federal Salary Council, whose full report to the Pay Agent will be made available in the coming weeks.”

https://www.federaltimes.com/management/pay-benefits/2018/04/12/federal-employees-face-nearly-32-percent-pay-disparity-with-private-sector/

Risks In Police Use of Body Camera Real Time Facial Recognition

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Real Time Facial Recognition

“THE PROJECT ON GOVERNMENT OVERSIGHT”

“Real-time facial recognition is especially concerning because it means that body cameras will continuously scan the face of everyone passing police officers on the street, and immediately log and relay data.

The Wall Street Journal reported that body camera vendors are preparing body cameras with real-time facial recognition capabilities, and law enforcement agencies could potentially deploy them as soon as this fall.”

____________________________________________________________________________________________

“In recent years, we at The Constitution Project have warned that adding facial recognition scanning to police body cameras poses serious risks that could undermine basic privacy and due process rights. Unfortunately, the time to prepare for these risks is running out.

 Before adding real-time facial recognition to body cameras, it’s critical that departments and lawmakers implement necessary measures to avert the unprecedented mass collection of the identity and location of individuals in public:

Set Standards for Police Action that do not Depend upon Facial Recognition

A major issue law enforcement must confront before deploying facial recognition is its inaccuracy. It is well documented that despite its immense power, facial recognition technology is often wrong, especially when identifying racial minorities. Specifically, these systems are prone to generating false positives, in which the technology identifies a match (e.g., says a person on the street matches the face of a wanted criminal) when in reality the faces are of two entirely different people.

It’s not hard to see how this situation could spin out of control with real-time facial recognition on police body cameras. What if an officer’s camera misidentifies an innocent person as a dangerous fugitive at large, leading to a violent incident? Even a commonly accepted police use for facial recognition—searching for a missing child—could turn horribly wrong if a false positive leads an officer to confront a parent as an abductor. Body camera use has grown exponentially because many saw it as a means to improve community-police relations and reduce use-of-force incidents, but adding facial recognition could inflame these problems. Even if misidentifications do not result in use of force, a mere arrest has serious consequences for individuals. They can be detained, fingerprinted, and subject to strip searches—all merely because a computer program was wrong.

It’s critical that before police add real-time facial recognition to body cameras, they set proper limits on the degree to which officers can rely on the identifications provided by an imperfect system. At a minimum, facial recognition should not be allowed to serve as the sole basis for an arrest or any use of force. Officers should seek means of corroborating an identification, and in the event of conflict, base their decision on what action to take on the totality of circumstances rather than completely trusting the determinations of a facial recognition program. This principle is consistent with current practices; departments such as the NYPD already require human review to confirm results when facial recognition is applied to crime scene footage. These measures are necessary not just to prevent improper conflicts and arrests, but also to avoid a perverse incentive to build systems that generate more false positives, which would give police more pretexts to stop or arrest people, while limiting their liability for those actions because the identifications were based on the technology.

Limit Facial Recognition Scans and Identifications to Serious Crimes

Another serious risk that facial recognition poses is giving police “arrest-at-will authority,” and this potential is greatest when real-time facial recognition is incorporated into body cameras. Arrests may be a common police function, but they usually occur in response to specific assignments or situations, rather than in a random or opportunistic manner.

In some municipalities, a huge portion of the population has active bench warrants for minor violations, such as unpaid parking tickets (which people often don’t know can lead to an arrest warrant). For example a 2015 Department of Justice investigation revealed that 16,000 out of the 21,000 residents of Ferguson, Missouri, had outstanding warrants.

A patrol officer may be able to keep an eye out for the faces on a most-wanted listed, but they can’t memorize tens of thousands of people with outstanding warrants for petty offenses. Facial recognition changes that: This technology can take a face and scan it against millions of photos in a second. With this tool, every officer could be notified whenever they encounter an individual with any outstanding warrant, no matter how trivial the offense, and have free rein to arrest them.

This creates serious risk of abuse, as The Constitution Project’s comprehensive reporton police body cameras—whose signatories include both civil liberties advocates and former law enforcement officers—warned. This “arrest-at-will authority” could also be wielded to disrupt First Amendment-protected activities. Police could use real-time facial recognition to scan crowds at protests or political rallies, and then arrest anyone flagged for any potential offense–no matter how trivial. Fear of such abuse isn’t paranoid— we’ve already seen it attempted. In 2016, police scanned for and identified any individuals with outstanding warrants among those protesting police brutality in Baltimore, using a social media scraping software tool called Geofeedia. The platforms Geofeedia scraped its data from (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram) quickly cut off Geofeedia’s access to end the program, but with police using body cameras equipped with facial recognition, there is no such middleman to block misconduct. This will allow law enforcement to directly disrupt and chill participation in First Amendment protected activities.

The solution to these issues is simple: Facial recognition incorporated into body cameras should only be used in relation to an enumerated set of serious crimes. This would set an effective balance, preventing potential abuses stemming from overbroad use while still allowing a system to flag serious threats for officers. Limiting use of powerful technological tools to serious offenses has precedent. The Wiretap Act, which sets the foundation for law enforcement surveillance of phone calls and electronic communications, is only allowed to apply to a list of serious crimes. The government cannot wiretap everyone suspected of parking violations, and it shouldn’t be able to deploy mass surveillance across American cities for such minor offenses either.

Provide Oversight to Prevent Unfettered Location Tracking

A final risk is that real-time facial recognition in body cameras creates a new avenue for location tracking that is devoid of accountability or oversight. Currently, law enforcement location tracking is mostly conducted by tracking cellphones; the United States Supreme Court is currently reviewing whether this should require a warrant.  However, even if the Supreme Court does not impose a warrant standard, cellphone location tracking still requires some court approval. Facial recognition and body cameras, which currently do not require court approval to use, could cut out this independent oversight entirely, circumventing a basic due process protection.

Given the sheer scale of use of police body cameras in populated areas, facial recognition could allow law enforcement to rapidly scan and locate anyone they desire, and track their movements.  This would circumvent privacy rights and independent oversight. It could also chill sensitive activities: If someone sees an officer near a protest, house of worship, political rally, or medical facility, they might (and should) worry that their presence at that location (along with every other attendee) is being logged.

In order to prevent abuse and preserve due process, its vital that a court approve any use of body cameras with facial recognition for location tracking, just as court approval is currently a key component of oversight of other forms of electronic location tracking. The best specific rules and standards for this activity may become more clear in light of the Supreme Court’s ruling on cellphone tracking later this spring, but at a minimum police departments should begin preparing to incorporate independent oversight into any type of location tracking for body cameras with facial recognition. The technology is too powerful—and location information is too sensitive—for law enforcement to be unchecked in its use.


There are a variety of avenues towards setting effective policies for body cameras. Some police departments have directly stepped up and adopted effective internal guidelines. In other locations, cities have established rules to ensure body cameras provide accountability rather than overbroad surveillance. State legislatures have also set limits to stop body cameras from becoming too pervasive as a surveillance tool. Individuals should consider engaging at all of these different levels of government, but now is the time to act. If we do not, could soon be in a world where the government has an eye on every street corner, with little oversight or accountability about how it uses this immense power.”

http://www.pogo.org/blog/2018/04/three-key-reforms-for-facial-recognition-and-body-cameras.html

 

 

 

 

VA, Postal Inspection Service Spot 2 Scams Targeting Veterans

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“FEDERAL NEWS RADIO”

“The Veterans Affairs Department and U.S. Postal Inspection Service is warning veterans of two kinds of scams which are specifically targeting former service members.

Fake charities posing as organizations that benefit the veteran population and companies claiming to offer pension buyouts are becoming prevalent and dangerous to this community, VA wrote in a recent blog post.”


“The U.S. Postal Inspection Service and non-profit AARP say they are noticing more fake charities using names that sound real and authentic as a ploy to convince veterans to donate. These fraudulent organizations attempt to appeal to a veteran’s sense of duty and honor when soliciting donations.

Most of these “charities” are pocketing the donations for themselves, the agencies said. One scammer operated two fake charities and pocketed the veterans’ donations, then used the personal information written on the checks to steal donors’ identifies and take more cash, according to a VA blog post.”

https://federalnewsradio.com/your-money/2018/04/va-postal-inspection-service-warn-of-2-scams-targeting-veterans/

5 Federal Service Contracting Marketing Challenges To Overcome

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“WASHINGTON TECHNOLOGY”  By Elizabeth Harr

“No-growth firms are concerned about competition and commoditization of their service set.

High-growth firms anticipate a much broader set of challenges around a growing remote workforce, maintaining differentiated capabilities with new skills, and changes in the government buyer.”

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“The government contracting industry has experienced increasingly rapid growth over the past three years. Among firms in the Government Contracting segment of the 2018 High Growth Study, the median annual growth rate for government contracting firms in 2017 was 13.3 percent, an increase of more than 50 percent over 2016 (see Figure 1). In contrast, the growth rate for firms that do not sell any government services fell by two percentage points to 9.1 percent.

Figure 1. Median Annual Growth by Level of Government Contracts

Median annual growth

Our study identified a segment of government contractors with significantly higher growth rates than their peers — as much as 3 times as high. Almost four out of 10 government contractors (39.5 percent) are in an elite category that we refer to as “High-Growth” firms – firms that achieve at least 20 percent compound annual revenue growth over a three-year period.

The big challenges, and how High-Growth firms address them

We also found interesting differences in the way high-growth firms view the future threats to the industry, as depicted in the tables below. Where as no-growth firms are concerned about competition and commoditization of their service set, high-growth firms anticipate a much broader set of challenges around a growing remote workforce, maintaining differentiated capabilities with new skills, and changes in the government buyer.

future growth

Challenge 1. Changes in how buyers buy

Notably, high-growth government contractors perceive a top industry threat to be in the way government buyers are making purchase decisions. Not only from a regulatory perspective. They are also noting a shift that requires firms selling to the government to do far more than just meet RFP requirements. Firms with a high degree of visibility for what matters most across the professional services landscape – expertise – is what it takes to help them rise to the top. As such, the top-most strategy identified by high-growth firms, in green in Figure 2, was to make their expertise more visible in the marketplace, as shown in Figure 2. No-growth firms, in red, by comparison, focused more on improving their marketing in general.

Figure 2. Key Business Strategies of High-Growth vs. No-Growth Government Contractors

Growth strategies

Challenge 2. Competition from all sides

Another of the marketing challenges identified by high-growth government contractors is increased competition — not just from established firms, but also from new and emerging competitors. One of their chief strategies in addressing this challenge is to differentiate themselves, which many do by specializing how they go to market. Our study found that high-growth firms are dramatically more likely than no-growth firms to specialize in the technology they use – which makes intuitive sense if high-growth firms also view the advent of AI as a primary industry threat.

Challenge 3. Need for top talent

Government services, like many industry sectors, faces a never-ending challenge to attract new talent. Fortunately, the criteria that top talent find most important when selecting their next professional home are closely aligned with the leading criteria organizations use when vetting firms. In my firm’s separate research on employer branding, we found that being aligned with a growing firm was most important to job candidates in their search.

We also know from other research that expertise is the chief quality decision makers are looking for when selecting a firm. This means that building both your external and your employer brand around specialized expertise is a powerful strategy. Doing so signals to decision makers you have what it takes to get the job done, and it signals to future recruits that you are the firm best able to help them achieve their career goals.

Challenge 4. Competing primarily on price

While a win theme as lowest cost bidder certainly is applicable in certain circumstances, firms cannot maintain a sustainable competitive on price alone. A better alternative is to pursue a differentiation strategy — highlighting a meaningful difference between you and your competitors that is valued by your potential clients. Differentiation is not easy or simple, however.

Challenge 5. Marketplace unpredictability

Government contractors face a variety of market unknowns, whether driven by agencies’ budgets, regulatory pressures, or other factors. In our study, we found that high-growth firms tend to place a priority on cultivating a deep understanding of the government buyer and identifying competitive advantages. In fact, they are almost 2 times more likely to conduct frequent research into their target markets and respective decision makers than firms that are not growing.

Position your firm for faster growth

Recognizing your key marketing challenges is the first step in overcoming them. Another good strategy is to gain insights from the fastest-growing firms in the government contracting arena and incorporating relevant strategies and tactics in your own program. To learn more, I invite you to view our recent study for yourself.”

https://washingtontechnology.com/articles/2018/04/05/insights-harr-5-marketing-challenges.aspx

Elizabeth Harr

About the Author

Elizabeth Harr is a partner at Hinge, [http://www.hingemarketing.com/] a marketing and branding firm for professional services. Elizabeth is an accomplished entrepreneur and experienced executive with a background in strategic planning, brand building, and communications. She is the coauthor of Inside the Buyer’s Brain, How Buyers Buy: Technology Services Edition; and Online Marketing for Professional Services: Technology Services Edition. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How Does A Combat Vet Feel When Hearing A Civilian Say, “We Shouldn’t Be Over There, We Should Worry About Ourselves”?

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Rose Covered Glasses”  

“The civilian must accept his or her role in the issue. Elected representatives appropriate money and approve U.S. activities in other countries.

Solders go where they are ordered by their commander. If the civilian wishes change, then change can be at hand if the elected official is contacted and a strong input from the citizenry makes the demand heard.”

Quora Veterans Opinions on Today’s Warfare

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“FOREIGN POLICY”

“Asking warriors to do everything poses great dangers for our country — and the military. Our armed services have become the one-stop shop for America’s policymakers.

Here’s the vicious circle in which we’ve trapped ourselves: As we face novel security threats from novel quarters — emanating from nonstate terrorist networks, from cyberspace, and from the impact of poverty, genocide, or political repression, for instance — we’ve gotten into the habit of viewing every new threat through the lens of “war,” thus asking our military to take on an ever-expanding range of nontraditional tasks.

But viewing more and more threats as “war” brings more and more spheres of human activity into the ambit of the law of war, with its greater tolerance of secrecy, violence, and coercion — and its reduced protections for basic rights.”

Central Asia’s Economic Evolution From Russia To China

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“STRATFOR”

“Central Asia has restructured its economic links over the past decade, as China has outpaced Russia in the region on trade, investment and infrastructure development.

Russia maintains its influence in Central Asia, however, and China so far has been careful to make sure its economic initiatives in the region largely complement Moscow’s interests.”


“Central Asia has undergone a significant economic transformation in recent years as trade and investment in the region have shifted away from Russia and toward China. Russia remains a major economic force in Central Asia, and China’s rise in the region complements its interests in many ways — or at least doesn’t directly contradict them. But Central Asia’s growing economic dependence on China and Beijing’s increasing political and security influence in the region could foster increased tensions between the two powers.

The Traditional Player: Russia

Russia has been the dominant external player in Central Asia since the 19th century, when the Russian Empire conquered the region to protect itself from foreign rivals and establish a defensive anchor in the Tian Shan mountain range and Karakum desert. After the Russian Revolution in 1917, Central Asia became part of the Soviet Union, which dramatically reshaped the region. The Soviet government redrew Central Asia’s borders to create five republics, largely sealing the region off from the outside world. Central Asia’s republics incorporated top-down, centralized political systems and adopted the Russian language as a lingua franca.

At the same time, they underwent a process of industrialization and collectivization familiar to the rest of the Soviet Union. The process developed large-scale industry and agricultural production in the region and integrated the republics into the Soviet economy and military-industrial complex. Central Asia’s abundant resources — including oil, natural gas, minerals and cotton — went toward sustaining the Soviet economic machine, and road, railway and pipeline networks linked the region to Russia.

Even after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, Central Asia kept many of its connections to Russia. The country remained the largest trade partner for each of the Central Asian states for the first two decades following their independence, importing energy resources and other goods from the region while exporting goods such as refined fuels. Over the past decade, however, Russia’s trade and investment ties with Central Asia have diminished. China has been a big factor in the decline.

Central Asian Trade With China and Russia

The Influential Newcomer: China

Central Asian independence in the 1990s coincided with the beginning of China’s economic rise. Beijing’s growing appetite for commodities to fuel its burgeoning manufacturing sector spurred a major push into Central Asia, one that really took off in the 2000s as China began to invest in infrastructure projects to access the region’s resources, particularly oil and natural gas. Among these were the Kazakhstan-China oil pipeline, the first section of which opened in 2003, and the Central Asia-China natural gas pipeline, which began operating in 2009. Both pipelines have expanded significantly over the years. In 2017, the Kazakhstan-China oil pipeline transported 12.3 million tons of oil and 44 billion cubic meters (bcm) of natural gas in 2017, while the Central Asia-China natural gas pipeline sent 34 bcm of natural gas in 2016.

Just as China was ramping up its energy imports from Central Asia, Russia was decreasing its own. Russia, a major oil and natural gas producer, didn’t need Central Asian energy to fuel its economy. Instead, it would send the energy it imported from Central Asia to Europe to sell at a premium. An energy glut in Europe in the late 2000s removed the incentive driving Russia’s energy imports from Central Asia and created a substantial shift in the region’s energy ties — and by extension its economic ties.

Turkmenistan offers a case in point. Before 2009, the country sent around 90 percent of its natural gas supplies to Russia. But after a pipeline explosion in 2009 — caused by a rise in pressure resulting from Russia’s failure to tell Turkmenistan that it had decreased its imports — Turkmen exports to Russia declined precipitously, from more than 40 bcm in 2008 to zero by 2017. Turkmenistan subsequently began exporting much of its natural gas to China instead, sending nearly 30 bcm by 2017, up from about 4 bcm in 2010. A price dispute with Iran, in fact, has made China Turkmenistan’s only natural gas customer. And because natural gas accounts for 80 percent of the government’s revenue and 35 percent of the country’s gross domestic product, the Turkmen economy now depends overwhelmingly on Beijing.

The restructuring of Central Asia’s energy ties is apparent in the region’s broader trade levels, too. In the 1990s, total trade between China and Central Asia was less than $1 billion annually. By 2017, the figure had reached $30 billion, compared with $18.6 billion in total trade between Russia and Central Asia. China outpaces Russia in total trade with all Central Asian countries except for Kazakhstan, and in certain cases like Turkmenistan — where China accounts for 44 percent of the country’s total trade while Russia makes up only 7 percent — the discrepancy is large.

Key Connectivity Projects in Central Asia

China also has invested billions of dollars to develop transport infrastructure, as part of its Belt and Road Initiative, and manufacturing facilities. The infrastructure projects include a freight railway linking the Chinese port of Lianyungang with the Kazakh city of Almaty, and plans for two rail corridors between southern China and Central Asia. In terms of industry, meanwhile, China has built a metallurgical plant in Tajikistan that opened in November 2017, and Chinese telecommunications companies Huawei and ZTE Corp. have established assembly plants in Uzbekistan. Beijing also plans to develop the Kazakh city of Khorgos into a logistics and manufacturing hub.

Economic Overlap and Common Interests

In trade and investment in Central Asia, China has surpassed Russia in recent years. That doesn’t mean, however, that China is entirely superseding Russia in the region. Remittances, for example, are still a mainstay of Russian economic influence in Central Asia. Russia is the primary destination for Central Asian migrants working abroad, and remittances from the more than 3 million Central Asians who currently live and work in Russia make up a substantial part of the region’s economies. In smaller countries that don’t export energy, such as Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan, this source of revenue is especially important.

Kyrgyzstan received more than $2.2 billion in remittances from Russia in 2017, according to data from Russia’s central bank. The sum exceeds China’s trade with Kyrgyzstan and accounts for more than 30 percent of the Central Asian state’s GDP. Similarly, Tajikistan received over $2.5 billion in remittances from Russia last year — more than its total trade with China. Given that nearly every family in Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan has a member working in Russia, remittances give Moscow an important means of influencing these countries.

China’s rise as a trade and investment partner in Central Asia does not necessarily conflict with Russia’s interests and strategy in the region. Since the end of the Soviet Union, Russia hasn’t been a major investor in infrastructure in Central Asia, nor does it have the kind of capital that Beijing has to develop such projects. In addition, Russia doesn’t need Central Asia’s raw materials the way China does, and China doesn’t need the region’s low-wage labor force the way Russia does. The two countries’ different economic structures and imperatives in Central Asia are in many ways compatible.

China’s rise as a trade and investment partner in Central Asia does not necessarily conflict with Russia’s interests and strategy in the region.

Furthermore, both countries have an overlapping interest in trying to stabilize Central Asia to protect their interests there and to keep militancy from reaching their borders. China’s growing economic presence in the region has alleviated some of the pressures the region has faced because of low global energy prices, decreased trade with Russia and rapidly growing populations. And Beijing has been careful to coordinate or consult with Moscow on the economic initiatives it pursues in Central Asia, including the Belt and Road Initiative. Consequently, Russia welcomes Chinese influence in the region, which not only has helped stabilize Central Asia, but has also benefited Moscow in its own relationship with Beijing. China, after all, has become a key trade partner and investor in Russia since sanctions from the European Union and United States have reduced its economic ties with the West.

Potential Friction Points

Even so, as China’s profile in Central Asia continues to rise, and as Russia faces increasing economic challenges, several factors in the region could cause strife between Moscow and Beijing. China’s stronger economic presence in Central Asia, for example, inevitably will lead to a stronger security presence so that Beijing can safeguard its interests. In fact, Beijing already is taking on a more prominent role in counterterrorism initiatives with Central Asian states, and reports suggest that its security presence is growing in countries such as Tajikistan. These measures so far have taken place in coordination with Russia. But if and when China starts to pursue measures unilaterally or to build military bases in the region, relations between Moscow and Beijing could take a turn.

Their institutional ties to Central Asia could also prove to be a sticking point for Russia and China. Most Central Asian states are members of the Moscow-led Eurasian Economic Union and the Collective Security Treaty Organization, blocs designed to entrench Russia’s influence in the member states at the expense of other foreign powers. If China’s Belt and Road Initiative were to become more formal and exclusive, it could conflict with Russia’s interests in the Eurasian Economic Union. China’s attempt to involve Central Asia in its international integration plans will further test Moscow’s role as the leading external power in the region.

The Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), likewise, could become a source of contention. China views the bloc, of which it and Russia are both members, as an important platform for regional integration on economic issues with Central Asia. Russia, on the other hand, has preferred to keep the bloc focused solely on security matters. This difference is likely a driving force behind Moscow’s efforts to include India and Pakistan in the SCO as counterweights to China. As the bloc continues to evolve and perhaps expand, it will serve as an indicator of how the relationship between Moscow and Beijing is changing.

These factors could test the balance of power that Russia and China have maintained up to this point. If signs of Moscow and Beijing working against each other in Central Asia begin to emerge, they could spell the start of a strategic shift in the region and in the Russia-China relationship.”

China and Russia