Category Archives: Global economy

Harvey, Irma, and Maria: Hurricane Recovery Contract Spending by the Numbers


Hurricane relief


“Thanks to the Federal Procurement Data System (FPDS), taxpayers can start keeping a closer watch over some of the billions of dollars the US government is paying contractors to address the aftermath of hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria.

According to the data, as of October 19, the federal government has awarded a total of $1.65 billion for supply and service contracts to aid and rebuild areas damaged by the storms: $794.8 million for Harvey, $368.7 million for Irma, and $492.7 million for Maria.”

“FPDS posts regularly updated spreadsheets containing a wealth of data about relief contracts awarded in response to the three hurricanes that made landfall in the United States and its territories this year: Hurricane Harvey, which pummeled Texas and Louisiana in late August and early September, Hurricane Irma, which cut a destructive swath through Florida in mid-September, and Hurricane Maria, which days later inflicted massive damage on Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands.

There are three caveats: First, the data only tracks contracts—not other types of spending, such as grants and assistance to individuals and local governments, or other forms of federal relief aid such as military transport. Second, according to FPDS, the data “represents a portion of the work that has been awarded to date,” due in part to the challenges some contracting offices—particularly those located in disaster recovery areas—are facing as they try to feed timely and accurate contracting data into the system. Third, for military operational security concerns, the availability of Defense Department data is subject to a 90-day delay.

More than three-quarters ($1.3 billion) of the total was awarded under full and open competition. About 94 percent of the total has been spent by the Department of Homeland Security, mainly through the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the US Coast Guard.

FPDS tracks the principal place of performance of the contract, which is defined as “the location of the principal plant or place of business where the items will be produced, supplied from stock, or where the service will be performed.” Hurricane Harvey primarily affected Texas and Louisiana, yet those two states are the principal place of performance for just 3 out of every 10 contract dollars. For Hurricane Irma, Florida is the principal place of performance for about 36 percent of the contract expenditures, while Puerto Rico is the locus of 56 percent of Hurricane Maria contract spending. The US Virgin Islands were battered by both Irma and Maria, but the territory— home to 100,000 US citizens—has been the place of performance for just 2 percent and .09 percent of Irma and Maria contract expenditures, respectively.

The most lucrative contracts so far have been awarded by FEMA to address the immediate needs of the victims of Hurricane Maria. One was a $122 million task order awarded to Disaster Solutions Alliance, a joint venture involving top 100 contractor URS Corporation, “to execute a feeding mission” in Puerto Rico. The other was a $118 million order placed with Florida-based engineering firm Team Systems International to deliver 80 million liters of bottled water to Puerto Rico. The current top hurricane relief contractor is medical transportation company American Medical Response, with $153.8 million in awards.

Contract expenditures for the three hurricanes grew at vastly different rates during the first two weeks, based on our analysis of the data posted at the time. For all three storms, spending increased very little for the first three to four days after landfall. After the fourth day, Harvey contract spending surged and continued to grow rapidly over the next eight days. Irma spending spiked on day six, but then grew very slowly over the following week. We were particularly intrigued by the spending trend for Hurricane Maria. Even though Maria was the last of the three storms—when, presumably, the government was most ready to initiate the recovery effort—the amount spent on relief contracts remained a relative pittance and barely grew at all during the first five days. After the fifth day, contract spending began to grow slowly and then grew sharply after day nine.

As the recovery efforts shift over the coming weeks from providing temporary relief to performing large-scale cleanup and infrastructure rebuilding, Harvey/Irma/Maria contract spending will grow exponentially. Eventually, it could even eclipse contract spending for both Hurricane Sandy (nearly $3 billion) and Hurricane Katrina (more than $20 billion), which means the risk of fraud and waste will also grow exponentially. In fact, Congress and the FBI are already hot on the trail of suspected mishandling of federal funds and resources flowing into Puerto Rico. Past experience has taught us that corruption related to natural and man-made disasters takes many forms and can take many years to investigate.”



Inside the ‘Foundational’ Future Technologies of the World’s Largest Defense Company




“Lockheed Martin is the world’s largest defense contractor, a company with more than $47 billion in revenue in 2016. 

Keoki Jackson, Lockheed’s chief technology officer, laid out to reporters the “foundational” technologies in which his firm will be investing over the next two to three decades.”

“The technologies fall into three broad categories, with the first being what Jackson called “strategic technology thread areas,” areas that “go across pretty much anything Lockheed Martin will do, all these domains whether from undersea to outer space.”

Included in that pot are autonomy, directed energy, signal processing and communications, sensor technology and exploitation, and advanced cybersecurity.

Usable directed energy weapons, long described in defense circles as just around the corner, are truly at a “tipping point”, according to Jackson, who said he is confident the company’s 60-kilowatt system, which has been used on a Stryker vehicle, can be scaled up to 150 kilowatts or more.

Although not initially part of his discussion, Jackson later acknowledged the company is working on hypersonic technology as well. “I do believe we’re on the verge of a revolution in hypersonics, and we are certainly committed to supporting our customers in their quest for high-speed strike capabilities,” he said.

The second pot involves enabling technologies ― areas where there is a “huge amount of investment” going on in universities and the commercial tech sector, Jackson explained.

These are areas where we look not just to develop specific capabilities in-house, but really to leverage these huge investments that are going on in the commercial world that are really advancing,” Jackson said, noting investments in these areas can be found anywhere from the financial sector to the agricultural world.

That pot includes data analytics and big data, advanced electronics, and advanced materials and manufacturing. This is where Lockheed Martin’s LM venture fund, a roughly $100 million pot of money for investing in outside tech companies, most comes into play.

Finally, there is the third pot, which is made up of emerging technologies that “are kind of longer range, they are iffier bets, they are higher risk.” Among those noted by Jackson in this pot were quantum computing, communications and cryptology, as well as synthetic biology.

“We’re in an age today where you can effectively design a living molecular machine, you can compile it using a set of tools that is very much like a program compiler in a programming language, and then you can auto-generate a set of DNA sequences,” Jackson said of the synthetic biology piece. “You can create molecular machines to build almost anything at that molecular level with molecular precision.”

But while predicting biological technology is going to “revolutionize” the aerospace world, Jackson admitted he‘s most excited about the potential from quantum technologies, particularly the potential impact on information sciences.

“I believe the next leap in information technology, computing and sensing is going to come out of the quantum world. It is going to enable us to solve computational problems that we just cannot address today. It’s going to enable us to design new materials that we don’t have any way to go after,” he said.

A 2015 study from the U.S. Air Force warned there is significantly more “hype” than reality around quantum tech, and Jackson was upfront that it may never pay off for Lockheed the way he hopes. But the potential of the technology is worth plunking down the research funding, including the procurement of an expensive D-Wave system.

“Some of this seems a little science fiction-y, but i will tell you we see it in labs in the U.S., in other countries, where you’re actually seeing multi-qubit kind of computation systems come together and some really interesting advances in communications and sensing,” he said.”

How to Manage Risk for Your Global Business

Global Business Risk


“STRATFOR” By Brett Boyd

“The global economy is a fascinating ecosystem to both study and participate in. 

There are entirely new challenges to be faced and business competencies required to compete and win in today’s economy, many of which have very little to do with the product or service that companies deliver to their customers.”

“The term ‘globalization,’ while important, has an academic connotation that tends to underplay the very real and tactical implications for what it means to operate a business in 2017.

Stratfor has enjoyed a unique vantage point for observing the internationalization of business interests over the past 20 years.  While there have always been international companies — Ford has been selling cars around the world since opening operations in Canada in 1904 and Europe shortly thereafter; ExxonMobil’s predecessor Standard Oil began international operations in China in the 1890s; and investment firms have traded globally for centuries — virtually all companies are now impacted by international events to some extent.  Even companies that only operate domestically in the United States, for example, are influenced by global dynamics to a far greater extent than they were 20 years ago.  Spikes or depressions in non-related commodities prices can cascade into shipping and transportation costs.  Political upheaval in far-away places can impact labor costs for essential subcomponents controlled by suppliers.  Default on large debt instruments by countries in “emerging” markets can impact domestic interest rates and investments.

However, more and more companies are taking the further step to actually operate in these international markets.  This can manifest as selling products in new markets, opening offices to develop international capacity in fields such as software development, or developing supplier, product or distribution relationships.  In some cases, companies’ international exposure is limited to individual travel; in other cases it requires management of buildings, physical infrastructure and supply chains around the world.  The risks associated with each type of operations are different, but all international operations incur some degree of risk. Even Europe, often considered a relatively risk-free region for new investments, has significant political, economic, and security risks that must be understood.

Not all risks associated with international operations are equal.  The degree of risk is determined both by location and activity. International expansion into Nigeria entails different risks than would a similar program in France.  Neither is inherently better or worse, but the political, economic and security risks are different and must be understood and mitigated accordingly. Thoughtful risk management entails a balance between the economic potential of an opportunity and the costs required to mitigate the risks associated with that opportunity.  Companies understand that they get paid for risk, to some extent, and that it is possible to conduct operations anywhere in the world. But there are places where the costs of risk management outweigh the economic potential of the opportunity.

Framework-Based Risk Assessment

Stratfor has helped investors and corporate executives evaluate and manage risks associated with international operations for decades.  We have developed a market-assessment framework to help our clients evaluate international opportunities – whether they are in moderate-risk locations such as Europe or in higher-risk locations around the world.  This framework includes four primary areas of evaluation: political, economic, infrastructure, and security.  In some cases, we will also look at demographics or other factors that impact the attractiveness of an international market for sales or hiring opportunities, but these four areas are at the center of the majority of our risk assessment efforts.

Political.  Political risks involve local political decisions that could affect the viability of an investment or business interest.  These risks can range from broad election-based shifts  in a country’s political direction, to more specific regulatory moves that could adversely affect an industry or type of company.  We have seen organizations who woke up one morning to find that the effective tax rate for their operations in a country doubled, changing the country business unit from an extremely profitable operation to one that was losing money and potentially needed to be divested.  The challenge with political risk is that it needs to be understood on a forward-looking basis, as these risks are better avoided than worked through.  If a company plans to buy a business in Eastern Europe it is helpful to understand the current political environment, but that is only the beginning of a responsible country assessment.  What that company really needs is to understand the most likely political trajectory for that country over the next 10 years. Though this is difficult, and never error-free, it is possible.

Economic.  Companies tend to excel at evaluating specific opportunity risks, but in our experience, are less proficient at evaluating the environmental or macroeconomic conditions that can also impact performance. A company looking to buy a company in Southeast Asia, for example, may completely understand the risks associated with that company – equipment replacement needs, product shortcomings and balance sheet issues, for example.  That same company may miss the fact that the regional food-based commodities economy is under extreme pressure from other actors in the South China Sea, which could lead to significant operational risk that will be outside of their ability to control.  In our experience, although investors are better at evaluating these types of risks, they remain challenging nonetheless.  Economic risks range from currency issues (which are often political), to workforce availability, to the overall economic trajectory of a country and the cascading impact that can have on all companies operating in that market.

Infrastructure.  First-world companies sometimes take for granted the availability of functional infrastructure, especially when considering opportunities in developing economies.  Ports, roads and airports constitute critical supply chain and transportation nodes required for the success of a multinational enterprise.  Healthcare and education systems can be considered important parts of national infrastructure, especially for companies that plan to operate, hire, and sell products in a region for decades. Telecommunications infrastructure is one of the most commonly under-appreciated infrastructure sectors, as gaps in telephone and internet connectivity are often not as obvious as shortcomings in ports and roads.

Security.  Security risks are one of the most obvious areas of concern that companies evaluate, especially when they put people in less-developed “emerging” or “frontier” markets.  Companies tend to inherently understand that there are security risks involved in sending employees to the Middle East, for example.  The complexity comes from the need to do something about it; aside from telling our people not to go, how do we manage risk when we need to send a team member to a high-risk country?  Stratfor evaluates security threats in terms of crime, terrorism, espionage, and business continuity, with the aim of helping our clients implement the right levels of protective measures to allow successful operations anywhere in the world.  Industrial espionage and information security risks are specific areas where we have found that most companies understand that there are risks, but few have appropriate mitigating strategies in place.  Travel to China, for example, is extremely important for many different types of businesses, and there are relatively simple measures companies can put in place to mitigate common information security risks.

Even small companies that send employees overseas only for limited travel to seemingly low-risk places need to understand the environments in which they operate.

While some of the use cases mentioned above may seem tied to large investments, these factors are important for all organizations to understand.  Even small companies that send employees overseas only for limited travel to seemingly low-risk places need to understand the environments in which they operate.  Information and physical security considerations are important for small companies with individual international travelers, just as they are for large companies with significant international business interests.  Financial reward is often correlated in part with risk, and company executives understand that there are times where they need to incur risk in order to realize success.  Risk must be managed in a balanced fashion. Excessive risk aversion can lead to missed opportunities while ignoring risks can lead to disaster.

Companies that can understand and manage risk in a thoughtful, cost-efficient fashion tend to have an advantage over their competitors.  The most successful companies are those that go beyond understanding the present risk environment, and instead assess what it will look like in the next three to five years. This type of thinking facilitates the first-mover advantage, developing business infrastructure and relationships in a country before it becomes obvious that the risk environment there has improved.  Companies that lead in this fashion can be extremely successful, benefiting from the rush of competitors and capital that follow once the market understands that the risk environment has changed.”


Bret Boyd leads Stratfor’s enterprise business, which includes products and advisory services to support executives and fund managers operating in international markets. Prior to Stratfor, Mr. Boyd served in leadership roles at several high-growth companies and as an officer in the U.S. Special Operations Command. Mr. Boyd is a graduate of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, where he studied international relations and systems engineering.

Techniques for Small Business Product/Services Development in Government Contracting





This article will suggest approaches in developing a product or service to the point where it can be marketed in the small business federal government contracting venue. Individuals usually succeed at such an endeavor by forming a company, separating it from their personal assets and then developing the company and its product(s)/service(s); even if it is only a one-person operation at the start.

There are techniques for small business to gain government participation in growing an idea into a company. Small Business Innovative Research and Technology Transfer (SBIR/STTR) programs in major federal agencies seek concepts that can be funded and developed into products the government needs. Here are some examples:

DOD SBIR/STTR Small Business Portal

National Institute of Health SBIR/STTR

Service contracting is another form of gaining entrance into the market, creating opportunities for introducing products by selling skilled labor under a government agency service contract or prime contractor teaming arrangement.

A GSA schedule affords a platform for products and services, but sales must have been achieved historically in the commercial or government markets before applying because GSA relies heavily the most recent 2-year pricing data in negotiating a schedule.

The government contracting product and services venue is competitive and requirements by federal agencies are often bundled into larger systems procurements. Therefore, it is necessary first to position a small enterprise and its product offerings before tapping the federal market for development support.


Product entrepreneurs all face the same challenges. Those who succeed recognize they need to visualize themselves in the product development business, structuring an enterprise, generating a business plan, protecting intellectual property and then seeking industry partners and investors to bring the product to market.

In the process, copyrights, patents and royalty issues may come into play and development and distribution agreements are formed. Pricing is finalized based on cost and expense projections and competitive factors unique to the company as negotiation results are achieved with industry teaming partners, developers, manufacturers and distributors.

Financing is always a factor and can be achieved through loans or investors with a good business plan. The remainder of this article will address the basic elements of a framework within which to succeed with your product development for federal government contracting.


For the majority of individuals who are starting single person or no more than 2 or 3 person operations, a Limited Liability Company (LLC) registered with the state and with the federal government is recommended.

It will separate personal assets from company assets and protect them. When product or services sales begin generating revenue an LLC has many tax advantages. It can be registered as Sub Chapter ‘S’ for tax purposes and revenue and the expenses can be passed through to personal tax returns, paying no taxes as a company. The double taxation issue prevalent with many of the other types of incorporation is avoided with a Sub chapter “S” LLC. An LLC assists in limits your personal liability for debt and court judgments that may not fall in your favor.

Representing the business as a company allows pursuing financing as an enterprise. You can think of a creative name for your LLC and you can complete the articles of incorporation necessary to bring your enterprise into existence. The term, “LLC” must conclude the name of your company if you decide to form such an organization.

Instructions for registering in your state and federally with the IRS are available at your state web site and at the IRS site. You will receive tax and employer identification numbers by registering your business.


Patents and copyrights for your idea may ultimately protect you to a degree but the government agencies granting them have no enforcement arm so you must discover a violation yourself, retain a lawyer, bring a court proceeding against a violator and then hope to recover your costs and a reasonable settlement if you win.

The U.S. Patent System

Therefore, most of my clients use non-disclosure agreements (NDA’s) in dealing with other companies. Teaming is a practical fact of life in pursuing the larger federal government contracts.

You can download an NDA from the “References” Box Net Cube at the right margin of this site. Fill in the blanks as appropriate for a given exchange with outside individuals and companies. Before you meet to disclose details with a potential teaming company or investor, for instance, ask them to sign the document with you up front, put a serial number on it and reference the serial number and the agreement and date on any written materials you give to them.

After the meeting draft a short letter, documenting the minutes of the meeting, what was discussed and stating that the verbal disclosures and materials in the meeting are subject to the agreement and reference the agreement by number and date. Put an acknowledgment line on the letter and ask them to return a signed copy to you. This confirms their receipt of your proprietary information and their agreement to protect it in accordance with the NDA.

There are certain exceptions with regard to individuals or companies you may be dealing with on investing where you may not choose to use an NDA. Some Angel and Capital Investors are sensitive about being asked to sign them. You will have to trade their objections off against the value they represent to your company and conduct your risk analysis on a case-by-case basis.

For detail information asserting rights in technical data and software to government agencies and protecting intellectual property with other companies please see the following article:

Protecting Intellecutal Property


Visit the SBA website on business planning. There are major topics in the business planning process which, when addressed in a plan, will insure the success of your enterprise and assist you in determining and supporting the amount of funding you need. Such topics as marketing, advertising, competitor analysis and financing are covered there. You will find a presentation and examples that you can follow in improving your plan or in generating a plan if you do not have one. The link to the site is below:

Writing a Business Plan

Articles on strategic planning and developing your marketing plan are also at the “References” Box Net Cube at this site. They address evolving an operations vision for your enterprise showing its potential to present to a banker or to an investor.

Here is a site with free business plan samples:

Business Plan Samples

It may assist you in visualizing your own business growth to look at an example of how someone else addressed a given topic. I have learned from having worked with many new business owners that it is best to have you examine the material and continue your plan, contacting me with issues and questions as they occur.


Locate teaming companies to further the objective that they would market your product as part of their offerings with your company licensing and sharing in the proceeds.

A business plan and the guidance above for its generation is the road map for developing ideas, laying out how to expand the sales of your product and researching your market to do so. It will also assist in developing pricing to considering the direct costs of product development, service implementation and distribution as well as the indirect costs of the enterprise itself (operating expenses).must be considered and financed.

A negotiation position for a given product will be driven by certain strategic factors:

1. Does a developer or teaming partner have a strong but realistic incentive to actively make the product a part of the marketplace?

2. Does market research indicate the idea will have strong sales volume once it is developed and distributed?

3. How much will a prospective teaming partner or investor have to invest in the product to get it to market? Does the product require testing?

4. Which is the better deal? Is it better to receive a 7% royalty on $5,000 worth of sales or a 1% royalty on $500,000 of sales? Even though 1% does not sound too impressive, of course it’s the better choice in this example.

A negotiation position should be based on support by for the argument that a concept will experience a certain level of sales and the royalty should be based on a % of estimated end user volume sales, discounted for the investment that the developer and distributor must make to get it to market.

The royalty should be outside of the distributor cost breakdown and the end user cost breakdown. It is simply a deductive factor the manufacturer will have to introduce into their profit equation after the costs have been tabulated. They should not view royalties as a cost factor; they should view them as a share of the profit on the total estimated sales.

Chances of succeeding with a negotiation with a developer and/or distributor are increased by showing understand the prospective market for the product and drawing some comparisons between the product and other similar successful products.

Naturally there will be some give and take with the other side about estimated costs to get the product to market. Be forthright in acknowledging their investment but also support a position with some research and comparative data on the product potential.

Lastly, settle on a % of the end user sales volume based on an estimate to which is agreed with the other party and insures that the purchase agreement for royalties entitles the agreed upon % on all future sales.


The SBA assists prospective business owners in completing sound business plans, which can then be presented to a banker in applying for financial assistance.

In the event that 2 banking institutions deny a loan application, a candidate can apply to the SBA for a loan guarantee that may assist in achieving a loan, since it would back up the application to a bank.

Loan officers are interested in a business plan to get a view of the business future and place a value on products and services based on the market, the competition, the sales projections, costs, expenses and profit expectations. The link to the SBA loan guarantee program is below:

SBA Loans and Grants

Veterans have access to small business loans via the Patriot express program:

Patriot Express Program


Angel and private investors have two prominent characteristics:

(A) They want a high return on investment (ROI)

(B) They typically want a great deal of control of the operation.

According to the Colorado Capital Alliance, surveys of angel investors show that:

1. Angels are seeking companies with high growth potential, proven management and sufficient information about the company, its management team, and its market to be able to assess a company’s value.

2. On average, Angels expect 10 to 15 percent above of the S&P 500 return on equity.

3. Typically, Angels invest in companies seeking between $50,000 and $1,000,000.

4. Angels generally prefer to finance manufacturing or product-oriented ventures, especially in the high-tech fields.

5. On average, Angels are 47 years old, have a postgraduate degree, and management experience in an entrepreneurial venture.

An angel investor may ask for at least ten to twenty times return in just five years. For many angel investors, it’s not just about the money; they want to actively participate in developing your business. They want to act as a mentor and sometimes even to take an active role in managing the company. This often translates into the angel investor having a seat on the company Board of Directors.

Angels are also highly interested in an exit strategy from for a full return on their investment in your business. The closest thing to it is an astute business plan that calls out the specifics of potential ROI, based on sound planning and analysis and addresses the following as possible exit strategies. Remember, investors are very aware that an exit strategy cannot be guaranteed. But they can be offered more than the wishful thinking that an IPO will occur in three years.

It is always good to have a lawyer involved in complex documents or in the development of documents. This will further protect a concept. A lawyer does not necessarily have to be present during the exchanges with prospective companies, but a lawyer review and comment on documents before they are signed.


This article has conveyed preliminary steps for the small business in product development for the federal marketplace.

It should be noted that much of the process discussed in this article is the same for the commercial product development and a certain amount of commercial success is usually achieved before selling products in the government contracting venue. The exception to that rule is in highly technical product pursuits where the government is funding advanced development.

To consider non-profit grants and direct government contract funding potential please see the following article:

Grants Vs, Direct Government Contracts

Once a company is formed, a product platform established and a position to market a useful product to the federal government is achieved, please see the following articles at this site in developing a marketing plan

Registering Your Business For Government Grants and Contracts

Multiple Front Marketing

Should You Consider Small Business Governement Contracting?

Small Business Teaming

With careful structuring, planning and marketing, a product with potential can find its place in federal government contracting.”

Smalltofeds – Techniques for Product Development


Ken Portrait

Ken Larson has over 40 years in the Military Industrial Complex. He is a veteran of 2 tours in the US Army Vietnam. Subsequently Ken spent over 30 years in federal government program and contract management and 10 years in small business consulting. As a Micro Mentor Volunteer Counselor, he assists many small businesses with their planning and operations processes. 

DHS Science & Technology Directorate Leading the Way on Cyber Innovation


Homland Security Cyber Innovation

“FIFTH DOMAIN” By Chris Cummiskey

“One of the greatest impediments to taking innovative ideas and putting them into action is the federal acquisition process.

The Cybersecurity Division (CSD) R&D Execution Model has been utilized since 2004 to successfully transition over 40 cyber products with the help of private sector companies.”

“It isn’t often that the words innovation and government find their way into the same sentence. When they do, it is often to decry the lack of innovation in government practices. Silicon Valley and other corporate leaders have long lamented that the federal government just doesn’t seem to understand what it takes to bring innovation to government programs.

One office in the federal government is having an outsized, positive impact on bringing private sector innovation to government cybersecurity problem solving. The Cybersecurity Division (CSD) of the Science & Technology Directorate at the Department of Homeland Security has figured out how to crack the code in swiftly delivering cutting edge cyber technologies to the operators in the field. Some of these programs include: cybersecurity for law enforcement, identity management, mobile security and network system security.

The mission of CSD is to develop and deliver new technologies and to defend and secure existing and future systems and networks. With the ongoing assault on federal networks from nation-states and criminal syndicates, the mission of CSD is more important than ever.

CSD has figured out how to build a successful, actionable strategy that produces real results for DHS components. Their paradigm for delivering innovative cyber solutions includes key areas such as a streamlined process for R&D execution and technology transition, international engagement and the Silicon Valley Innovation Program (SVIP).

R&D Execution and Technology Transition

 As a former chief acquisition officer at DHS, I certainly understand why there needs to be federal acquisition regulations. The challenge is these regulations can be used to stifle the government’s ability to drive innovation. I am encouraged by the efforts to overcome these obstacles by federal acquisition executives like DHS Chief Procurement Officer Soraya Correa – who is leading the fight to overcome these hurdles.

Under the leadership of Dr. Doug Maughan, CSD has created a process with the help of procurement executives that swiftly establishes cyber capabilities and requirements with input from the actual users. They have designed a program that accelerates the acquisition process to seed companies to work on discreet cyber problems.  The model sets up a continuous process that starts with workshops and a pre-solicitation dialogue and ends with concrete technologies and products that can be utilized by the operators in the various DHS components. To date the program has generated cyber technologies in forensics, mobile device security, malware analysis and hardware enabled zero-day protections and many others.

International Engagement

Maughan often states that cybersecurity is a global sport. As such, many of the challenges that face the United States are often encountered first by other countries. Maughan and his team have worked diligently to leverage international funding for R&D and investment. CSD is regularly featured at global cyber gatherings and conferences on subjects ranging from international cyber standard setting to sharing R&D requirements for the global entrepreneur and innovation communities.

Silicon Valley Innovation Project (SVIP)

It seems like the federal government has been trying to get a foothold in Silicon Valley for decades. Every president and many of their cabinet secretaries in recent memory have professed a desire to harness the power of innovation that emanates from this West Coast enclave. One of the knocks on the federal government is that it just doesn’t move fast enough to keep pace with the innovation community. Maughan and the folks at CSD recognize these historic impediments and have moved deftly to build a Silicon Valley Innovation Project (SVIP) that is delivering real results. To help solve the hardest cyber problems facing DHS components like the Coast Guard, Customs and Border Protection, the United States Secret Service and the Transportation Safety Administration, SVIP is working with Silicon Valley leaders to educate, fund and test in key cyber areas. The program is currently focusing on K9 wearables, big data, financial cybersecurity technology, drones and identity. The SVIP has developed an agile funding model that awards up to $800,000 for a span of up to 24 months. While traditional procurement processes can take months, the SVIP engages in a rolling application process where companies are invited to pitch their cyber solutions with award decisions usually made the same day. The benefits of this approach include: speed to market, extensive partnering and mentoring opportunities for the companies and market validation.


Moving innovative cyber solutions from the private sector to the federal government will always be a challenge. The speed of innovation and technological advancement confounds federal budget and acquisition processes. What Maughan and CSD have proven is that with the right approach these systems can complement one another. This is a huge service to the men and women in homeland and cybersecurity that wake up every day to protect our country from an ever-increasing stream of threats.”


Chris Cummiskey is a former acting under secretary/deputy under secretary for management and chief acquisition officer at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

How the Vietnam War Broke the American Presidency

Vietnam Broke the Presidency

WG600; Photos: Associated Press; Bettman Archive; Corbis; Fred W. McDarrah; Getty; Horst Faas; Kevin Schafer; Michael Ochs; PhotoQuest


The war undermined the country’s faith in its most respected institutions, particularly the military and the presidency. The military eventually recovered. The presidency never has.

[It] opened the credibility gap. What we’ve learned since has only widened it.”

“On April 30, 1975, when the last helicopter lifted off the roof of the U.S. Embassy in Saigon, the Vietnam War, the most consequential event in American history since World War II, ended in failure. More than 58,000 Americans and as many as 3 million Vietnamese had died in the conflict. America’s illusions of invincibility had been shattered, its moral confidence shaken.

It did not happen all at once, this radical diminution of trust. Over more than a decade, the accumulated weight of critical reporting about the war, the publication of the Pentagon Papers in 1971, and the declassification of military and intelligence reports tarnished the office. Nor did the process stop when that last chopper took off. New evidence of hypocrisy has continued to appear, an acidic drip, drip, drip on the image of the presidency. The three men who are most responsible for the war, John F. Kennedy, Lyndon B. Johnson, and Richard Nixon, each made the fateful decision to record their deliberations about it. The tapes they left behind—some of them still newly public, others long obscured by the sheer volume of the material—are extraordinary. They expose the presidents’ secret motives and fears, at once humanizing the men and deepening the disillusionment with the office they held.

For most of American history, that office conveyed authority, dignity, and some measure of majesty upon its occupant. The great presidents—Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln, the Roosevelts—came to be viewed not merely as capable executives but as figures of myth: They were heroic, selfless, noble, godlike. Time has a way of burnishing reputations. But as late as the middle of the last century, Americans were inclined to view even incumbent presidents with reverence. Faith in the presidency may have reached its apogee soon after the Second World War. The public generally trusted Harry Truman and Dwight Eisenhower to be honest and well intentioned and to put the interests of the nation above their own.

It is no coincidence that the last president to inspire such trust was also the last president elected before the Vietnam War began in earnest. Kennedy’s charisma, and his military bona fides, encouraged Americans to believe in their young president as he confronted a complicated and dangerous world. His promise, in his inaugural address, that the United States would “pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe, to assure the survival and the success of liberty” reinforced Americans’ vision of their country as a muscular force for good around the globe.

As president, Kennedy immediately faced the challenge of how to use that power. He refused to send American troops to secure a pro-Western government in Laos. But after the Bay of Pigs fiasco, and having been bullied by Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev at a summit in Vienna, he made a different calculation when it came to the continuing crisis in Vietnam, one influenced by domestic political concerns. Kennedy confided to an aide: “There are just so many concessions that one can make to the Communists in one year and survive politically.” With the Vietcong gathering strength in South Vietnam, he felt he had to act.
If not for his untimely death, Kennedy’s legacy might have been sullied while he was in office. Instead, not until the Pentagon Papers were published did Americans discover that he and his administration had harbored misgivings about the political and military progress in Vietnam but never shared their reservations with the public, even as they steadily increased America’s commitment of special forces and military “advisers.”In August 1963, disturbed by the authoritarian South Vietnamese President Ngô Đình Diêm’s failure to win over the populace or thwart the Communist insurgency, Kennedy approved a plan to encourage a cabal of dissident generals to overthrow Diêm’s regime. In November, rebel troops seized key installations in Saigon and promised Diêm and his ruthless brother Ngô Đình Nhu safe passage out of the country. As soon as the brothers surrendered, they were murdered by rebel leaders. South Vietnam plunged into chaos, and a bad situation got worse.On November 4, 1963, shortly after the coup, Kennedy recorded his thoughts about what he had allowed to happen. The Kennedy who speaks on this rarely heard tape is not the bold young man of the inaugural address, but a president consumed by doubt, even remorse. He rues having made such a crucial decision without adequate consideration.

Over the weekend the coup in Saigon took place. It culminated three months of conversation … which divided the government here and in Saigon … I feel that we must bear a good deal of responsibility for it, beginning with our cable of … August in which we suggested the coup … I should not have given my consent to it without a roundtable conference … I was shocked by the death of Diêm and Nhu … The question now is whether the generals can stay together and build a stable government or whether … public opinion in Saigon … will turn on this government as repressive and undemocratic in the not-too-distant future.

Kennedy did not live to learn the answer to his question. He was murdered in Dallas 18 days later.

Lyndon Johnson inherited both the presidency and the rapidly deteriorating situation in Vietnam. As vice president, he had opposed the Diêm coup, and he now dreaded being drawn more deeply into the conflict. He hoped the South Vietnamese would “get off their butts and get out in those jungles and whip hell out of some Communists,” he told an aide. “And then I want ’em to leave me alone, because I’ve got some bigger things to do right here at home.” Yet, like Kennedy, he allowed political calculations to affect his approach to the war.

It was not until the 1990s that most of the Johnson recordings began to be processed, digitized, and made accessible to the public—they are still not fully transcribed, and some remain classified. But the 700 mesmerizing hours of tape that are available cast new light on the inner workings of his presidency. In public, Johnson confidently reassured the country that the war in Vietnam was going well. Privately, his frustrations and misgivings were on excruciating display. In May 1964, less than six months before the presidential election, Johnson confessed to National-Security Adviser McGeorge Bundy that he did not know what to do.

johnson: I just stayed awake last night thinking about this thing—the more I think of it, I don’t know what in the hell … It looks like to me we’re getting into another Korea. It just worries the hell out of me. I don’t see what we can ever hope to get out of there with once we’re committed … I don’t think it’s worth fighting for and I don’t think we can get out. And it’s just the biggest damn mess I ever saw.

bundy: It is, it’s an awful mess …

johnson: I just thought about ordering those kids in there, and what in the hell am I ordering [them] out there for?

bundy: One thing that has occurred to me—

johnson: What the hell is Vietnam worth to me? … What is it worth to this country? …

bundy: Yup. Yup.

johnson: Now, of course, if you start running the Communists, they may just chase you right into your own kitchen.

bundy: Yup. That’s the trouble. And that is what the rest of that half of the world is going to think if this thing comes apart on us …

johnson: It’s damned easy to get in a war, but it’s going to be awfully hard to ever extricate yourself if you get in.

Johnson’s doubts about whether the war was winnable or worth fighting persisted throughout his presidency. But he could not countenance being seen as the first commander in chief to lose a war. In 1965, Defense Secretary Robert McNamara told the president that even if he committed more men, the chances of victory were no better than one in three. Johnson still decided to escalate.

As American casualties mounted and news filtered back home that the war was not going nearly as well as the White House had been claiming, the public’s faith in Johnson began to wane. Politicians and journalists described a “credibility gap”—the space between the president’s assertions and the facts on the ground. Skepticism eventually gave way to disillusionment with the presidency itself.Richard Nixon’s presidency carried that process of disillusionment much further. Nixon’s fondness for audio recordings is notorious. We rightly remember that it was transcripts revealing the president’s crude, cutthroat willingness to conceal his crimes that shocked the nation and forced him from office. But we often forget that the war and the Watergate scandal were inextricably intertwined. Before the White House Plumbers botched the break-in at the headquarters of the Democratic National Committee, they attempted to discredit Daniel Ellsberg, who had leaked the Pentagon Papers, by stealing files from his psychiatrist’s office.

When audio of the Nixon tapes eventually became public in 1980—2,658 of the 3,400 hours are now accessible—Americans could hear for themselves just how cynically the president had approached the war. On tape, he is frequently ruthless, amoral, and self-interested. Nixon had promised peace with honor, but as he weighed the consequences of American withdrawal, chief among his concerns was the potential effect on his reelection in 1972 if Saigon fell to the North Vietnamese. Nixon and his national-security adviser, Henry Kissinger, returned to this worry again and again, including on May 29, 1971, in a conversation not released to the public until 1999:

kissinger: The only problem is to prevent the collapse in ’72 … If it’s got to go to the Communists, it’d be better to have it happen in the first six months of the new term than have it go on and on and on.

nixon: Sure.

kissinger: I’m being very cold-blooded about it.

nixon: I know exactly what we’re up to …

kissinger: But on the other hand, if Cambodia, Laos, and Vietnam go down the drain in September ’72, then they’ll say you went into these … You spoiled so many lives, just to wind up where you could’ve been in the first year.

nixon: Yeah.

The revelations of the Nixon tapes destroyed his presidency and further eroded American faith in the office itself. The presidents of the post-Vietnam era have never managed to fully restore that faith, and lately, it seems, confidence in the chief executive is at a new low, even if tape recorders are no longer running in the Oval Office.

But we needn’t succumb to the cynicism often on display in the Vietnam recordings. The war may have robbed America of its innocence, but it also reminded us that the duty of citizens in a democracy is to be skeptical—not to worship our leaders, who have always been fallible, but to question their decisions, challenge their policies, and hold them accountable for their failures.”

Slave Labor Widespread at Immigration and Customs Enforcement Detention Centers


ICE Slave Labor

As Huge Corporations Benefit


“As POGO previously reported, the majority of America’s detention centers are run by a handful of companies that are largely secretive about what goes on in these taxpayer-funded facilities. What’s no secret is how much money these companies earn.

CoreCivic and GEO Group are two of the largest private detention contractors in the country. In 2016, CoreCivic reported over $1.8 billion in revenue, while GEO Group reported over $2.1 billion, according to the companies’ official filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission.”

“There are nearly 200 federal detention centers across the country. Here, people suspected of violating U.S. immigration laws wait for court hearings to find out if they’ll stay in the United States or be deported. While they wait, many detainees work as part of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) “voluntary work program.” They clean, they cook, they do laundry, and they garden—some advocates say they keep the facilities running.

For their labor, the detainees are supposed to be paid at least $1 per day, or just under $0.13 per hour for an 8-hour work day. This arrangement has the blessings of both ICE and Congress, the latter of which set the rate over a half a century ago and hasn’t changed it since.

However, a growing body of legal experts says paying detainees $1 per day not only violates state minimum wage laws, but also violates the 13th Amendment of the Constitution, which abolished slavery and involuntary servitude in all instances except as punishment for people convicted of crimes. Experts argue that, because the majority of detainees have not been convicted of crimes, they should be fairly compensated for their labor.

From California to Colorado to Massachusetts, detainees have recently taken legal action against the for-profit companies and local governments that operate the majority of ICE detention centers. The detainees argue they should be paid minimum wage—some allege that they weren’t even paid the minimum $1 per day. They also allege that the voluntary work program is sometimes not voluntary at all, and that they face violent retaliation from guards if they refuse to work.

Many of these lawsuits will play out as the Administration ramps up its enforcement of immigration laws, including the possible end of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program—which protects 800,000 undocumented immigrants from deportation—indicating that the number of people held in detention centers will likely increase in the coming years.

Meanwhile, the companies in question have crafted a lucrative business model in which the U.S. government pays them billions of dollars to operate federal detention centers. While the companies promise to bring jobs and other economic benefits to the communities where they set up shop, many experts say these promises are overblown because the companies rely on low-paid detainee labor instead.

Blurring the Line Between Detention Centers and Prisons

The detainee voluntary work program was created decades before ICE itself was created in 2003. In 1950, Congress passed a law to make money available for the U.S. government to pay non-citizens for work they performed while in detention. While the law did not specify the wage, Congress appropriated funds to pay detainees $1 per day, which had the same buying power that about $10 per day has today.

While Immigration and Naturalization Service, a now defunct federal agency that was a precursor to ICE, requested that Congress increase the rate to $4 per day in 1982—again, equivalent to about $10 today—Congress did not do so, and the rate has remained “at least $1 per day.” As recently as December 2016, ICE listed the rate in its voluntary work program manual.

Anita Sinha, director of the International Human Rights Law Clinic at the American University Washington College of Law, told the Project On Government Oversight (POGO) that participation in the voluntary work program is often not a voluntary matter for detainees, which, coupled with the low pay, raises questions as to the program’s constitutionality.

“Involuntarily labor is only permissible if it’s due to a punishment of a crime,” she said, referring to the 13th Amendment, which abolished slavery in most instances, but includes a carve-out for anyone convicted of a crime. “Immigration detention is not meant to be punishment for a crime. It’s a civil issue.”

However, all of the experts POGO spoke to said that the ICE detention centers look a lot like prisons, and detainees are often treated like prisoners. While a 2016 report by the Homeland Security Advisory Council notes that “ICE has been clearly on record as favoring a civil detention model, rather than a model designed for the criminal-justice process, because ICE detention is not based on a criminal charge or on punishment,” the report also states that “The full potential of the civil model has not been realized.”

Sinha explained that one reason for this is the companies that run the majority of ICE detention centers are also major players in the prison contracting world. A significant percentage of detainees are actually housed in local jails rather than detention centers. And, in some cases, former prisons are converted into detention centers.

“You have the same exact brick and mortar,” she said of the facilities.

Maru Mora Villalpando, co-founder of NWDC Resistance, an advocacy group for detainees at a detention center in Tacoma, Washington, told POGO, “The detention system is just an extension of the prison system.”

The major difference? The prison system, which is largely government-run as opposed to company-run, is far more transparent. And, as POGO previously reported, the federal Bureau of Prisons proactively provides much more information to the public about its facilities and the people it houses than either ICE or its detention center operators do.

According to Villalpando, who described the conditions at detention centers as “inhumane,” the companies who operate detention centers are only interested in making money.

“If there was real oversight, all of these places would be shut down already,” she said.

“You Want to Go to the Hole?”

In the first class-action lawsuit of its kind, nine former detainees from the Aurora Detention Facility outside of Denver are suing detention center operator GEO Group (formerly Wackenhut Securities) on behalf of over 60,000 detainees who have gone through the doors of the detention center.

The lawsuit alleges that GEO Group coerced Aurora detainees into participating in the ICE voluntary work program under threat of being thrown into solitary confinement.

”GEO pays detainees $1 per day, or no wages at all, for their labor,” according to the complaint, which calls this practice a violation of Colorado minimum wage law.

In signed legal declarations, Aurora detainees described how they or other detainees were forced to work—under threat of solitary confinement—cooking, cleaning, and performing other tasks necessary to keep the contractor facility running.

“None of us got paid anything for the work we did on the cleaning crews,” Carlos Eliezer Ortiz Muñoz, who was detained in 2014 and 2015, wrote. “People who refused to clean were put in solitary.…Some of the guards would threaten us by saying: ‘¿Quieres ir al oyo?’ – ‘You want to go to the hole?’”

Another former Aurora detainee, Lourdes Argueta, wrote that she was assigned to clean the detention center’s medical unit. She wrote that her work involved “cleaning up blood, feces and urine” of other detainees.

Several of the detainees wrote that, when they asked GEO Group guards if they could be paid more, they were told the company was not allowed to increase their wage.

A spokesman for GEO Group said the company denies the lawsuit’s allegations and that the standards and pay for the voluntary work program are set by the federal government, not GEO Group.

“Our facilities, including the Aurora, Colo. Facility, are highly rated and provide high-quality services in safe, secure, and humane residential environments pursuant to the Federal Government’s national standards,” he said in a written statement to POGO.

This response echoes arguments the company made in 2014, when it filed a motion to dismiss the Aurora lawsuit. GEO Group noted then that the $1 per day rate was set by Congress decades ago, and that ICE includes it in the contracts it makes with companies like GEO Group.

ICE did not respond to POGO’s requests for comment on either the Aurora lawsuit or the agency’s detention center system in general.

A Systemic Issue

The Aurora lawsuit, while unprecedented in its scale, is only one of a growing number of lawsuits recently filed by detainees.

In 2006, a detainee in Tacoma, Washington, filed a lawsuit alleging that GEO Group failed to pay him all of the wages for work he did as part of the voluntary work program. The detainee alleged that the failure of payment was tantamount to slavery. A judge dismissed the case, saying that the detainee had submitted his complaint of non-payment too late, and that the detainee “was not compelled to work but participated in a voluntary work program.”

In 2015, a detainee in Boston filed a class action lawsuit against the local county sheriff’s department saying that he and other detainees should be paid Massachusetts minimum wage for participating in the voluntary work program. The detainee is one of thousands of ICE detainees who are held in local jails rather than in federal facilities.

And in June, detainees in San Diego filed a class action lawsuit against private detention center operator CoreCivic (formerly Corrections Corporation of America) alleging that they and thousands of other detainees were threatened with punishment—including solitary confinement and physical restraint—if they refused to participate in the voluntary work program. In addition to providing services for fellow detainees, the San Diego detainees say they also performed clerical work for CoreCivic, cleaned the medical staff’s offices, and helped cater meals for law enforcement events hosted by CoreCivic.

Detainees at other facilities have similar complaints about the voluntary work program, although they haven’t taken legal action.

In 2011, detainees at a CoreCivic-operated detention center in Georgia told the ACLU of Georgia that they were threatened with solitary confinement for not participating in the voluntary work program—an assertion that CoreCivic confirmed.

“Three weeks ago, some detainees who worked at the kitchen wanted to stop working. The guards told them that if they stopped working, they would be charged by the disciplinary board. The guards then tried to get them to sign a document,” Josue Cervantes told the ACLU. “The detainees refused to sign the document and shortly thereafter they were transferred from the blue to the orange unit for a couple days as punishment.”

The “orange unit” is another name for a segregation unit—essentially solitary confinement—where the sanitation was so bad some detainees referred to these units as “portable toilets.” CoreCivic told the ACLU that it investigated the incident and confirmed that it occurred. The company said it took action, such as counseling its guards.

And earlier this year, detainees in the Northwest Detention Center in Tacoma, Washington, made news when as many as 750 detainees staged a hunger strike in protest of their $1 per day wages and poor living conditions, The Seattle Times reported in April.

Villalpando of NWDC Resistance told POGO that, despite detainees’ widespread frustration with their wages, detainees often chose to participate in the voluntary work program—in fact, she said there is a waiting list for the program at the 1,575-person Tacoma facility. The reason? Detainees have few activities to fill their days while they wait for their immigration hearings.

According to ICE’s Performance-Based National Detention Standards manual, which was last updated in December 2016, this is one of the reasons the voluntary work program exists.

“The negative impact of confinement shall be reduced through decreased idleness, improved morale and fewer disciplinary incidents,” the manual says of the work program.

Villalpando told POGO that, in the Tacoma facility, detainees are allowed only one hour per day to work on their legal cases in the detention center library. Some detainees passed the time playing dominos—that is, until the detention center outlawed the game, according to Villalpando. And other detainees use discarded food wrappers to create art to decorate their “pods,” or living areas—until detention center guards almost inevitably pull down the artwork to throw it away, she added.

“All of this means people try to find something to do,” she said of the work program. “They [GEO Group] make you feel like you are the one requesting the job.”

The Business of Detention

As POGO previously reported, the majority of America’s detention centers are run by a handful of companies that are largely secretive about what goes on in these taxpayer-funded facilities. What’s no secret is how much money these companies earn.

CoreCivic and GEO Group are two of the largest private detention contractors in the country. In 2016, CoreCivic reported over $1.8 billion in revenue, while GEO Group reported over $2.1 billion, according to the companies’ official filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

A significant portion of the companies’ profits come from government contracts. CoreCivic was awarded nearly $1 billion in government contracts in 2015, while GEO Group was awarded $1.3 billion the same year.

And profits for these companies are up from 2015, which financial analysts attribute to President Trump’s campaign promise to be tough on people who violate immigration laws. 2017 may be an even better year for detention center companies, given that ICE agency awarded GEO Group a $110 million contract for a new detention facility outside of Houston in April.

Both GEO Group and CoreCivic told investors in early August that, despite the fact Customs and Border Protection apprehended fewer people than usual illegally crossing the U.S.-Mexico border at the beginning of 2017, the Administration’s proposed immigration policies will be good for business.

According to GEO Group CEO George C. Zoley, the company expects to win a contract by the end of the year to manage a 700-bed ICE facility in Florence, Arizona.

And CoreCivic CEO Damon Hininger told investors on a call that the Administration’s plan to increase immigration enforcement in the interior of the country means more opportunities for the company.

“…it is clear to us based on kind of mostly some of the numbers we are seeing, but also the feedback we are getting from our Federal partners that they are making us big investors,” Hininger said.

However, despite the sizeable government contracts these companies win, sources who spoke to POGO said GEO Group and CoreCivic wouldn’t be nearly as profitable—if at all—if it weren’t for the $1 per day detainee work program. The Aurora lawsuit alleges that detainees perform “vital functions” for the GEO Group facility. In fact, the facility employs only one full-time janitor who is not a detainee, the Associated Press reported.

ICE does not proactively disclose how many detainees participate in its voluntary work program, but The New York Times reported in 2014 that at least 60,000 detainees were part of the program the previous year.

While detention center companies looking to construct new facilities try to woo locals with the promise of jobs, the companies’ reliance on detainee labor means that many of the centers actually provide few jobs for locals, according to the Detention Watch Network.

Villalpando told POGO that the Tacoma facility only employs a few overworked, undertrained guards—many of whom live out of town.

And Jacqueline Stevens, a professor of political science and legal studies at Northwestern University and director of the school’s Deportation Research Clinic, told POGO, “Facilities hire a small number of guards through private security firms; they often complain about their own poor treatment.”

“The vast bulk of the labor running the facilities, including dining services, repairs, cleaning, painting, and even hair cutting is by those locked up for slaving wages of $1 to $3 [per] day or on threat of solitary confinement, not workers hired from the community,” she said.

Stevens has extensively studied ICE’s voluntary work program and has successfully obtained documents that shed insights into it. Based on these documents, Stevens has calculated that, by paying detainees at the Aurora detention center in Colorado $1 per day—well below both the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour and Colorado’s recently increased minimum wage of $9.30 per hour—GEO Group saves itself over $4 million each year.

So what would happen if detention companies started paying detainees minimum wage? According to Sinha of the International Human Rights Law Clinic, detention companies would make significantly less money—but it might not be enough to shut them down. As long as the federal government continues to award these companies billions of dollars in contracts, the companies will continue to operate detention centers and build new ones.

“Their contracts are sizeable,” she said of detention companies. “They’ll still profit, but they’ll think twice.”


Now more than ever, Congress must conduct more oversight of ICE and its detention center system. Based on this investigation, the Project On Government Oversight recommends the following actions for Congress:

  1. Appropriate funds to ICE to increase the minimum wage for detainees who participate in the voluntary work program while in detention.
  2. Implement greater oversight of contractor-run ICE detention centers to ensure that detainee participation in voluntary work programs is not coerced and that detainees have better channels to file complaints.
  3. Investigate detention center company claims that new detention centers benefit local communities’ economies and job growth.”



Big Data At Its Best – POGO Federal Contractor Misconduct Data Base




POGO Misconduct


“We encourage you to visit our Federal Contractor Misconduct Database, which currently contains 412 resolved and 121 pending instances of workplace-related misconduct by the federal government’s largest contractors.

The government’s top vendors have paid a collective total of $2.7 billion in fines, judgments, and settlements since 1996 for a wide variety of labor violations, including discrimination, health and safety hazards, unpaid wages, and whistleblower retaliation.

The vast majority of the labor misconduct instances in our database did not involve the federal government. About 54 percent were lawsuits filed by private parties, while another 7 percent were enforcement actions by local, state, and foreign governments. One instance we recently added is KBR’s $3.75 million settlement of a lawsuit brought by construction workers who alleged the company stiffed them on wages and meal breaks at a California mining facility.

The Trump administration’s efforts to roll back worker protections and oversight of contractors’ business practices could further shrink the percentage of labor instances involving Uncle Sam in our database. Nonetheless, at least for now, federal enforcers are still on the job. A few weeks ago, the National Nuclear Security Administration hit National Security Technologies, the managing contractor of the Nevada Test Site, with a proposed $112,500 fine for violations of worker safety and health requirements. In May, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration fined Exxon Mobil $164,775 for violations related to a November 2016 Baton Rouge refinery explosion that injured four workers.

A list of all resolved and pending labor misconduct instances in our database can be found at this link.”



Private Companies Drive “New NASA Space Race”

New NASA Space Race

The Vehicle Assembly Building at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Fla.. NASA says it may soon have the capability to send astronauts to the International Space Station from U.S. soil for the first time since the retirement of the space shuttle in 2011. (Alex Sanz/AP)


“For the first time since the retirement of the space shuttle in 2011, NASA says it may soon have the capability to send astronauts to the International Space Station from U.S. soil.

Critical milestones are on the horizon for Boeing and SpaceX, the space agency’s commercial crew partners: Flight tests of their spacecraft, including crewed missions, are planned for 2018.

That’s launched something of a “new space race” at the Kennedy Space Center, officials said.

“We have invested a lot as a center, as a nation into Kennedy Space Center to ready us for that next 50 years of spaceflight and beyond,” said Tom Engler, the center’s director of planning and development. “You see the dividends of that now, these commercial companies buying into what we’re doing.”

The public-private partnership is transforming Kennedy Space Center into a multiuser spaceport. NASA is developing the Space Launch System and the Orion spacecraft for missions to deep space, including to Mars, leaving private companies to send people to low Earth orbit.

Boeing is building the CST-100 Starliner — a spacecraft that will send astronauts to the space station — in a hangar once used to prepare space shuttles for flight. Three Starliners are in production, including one that will fly astronauts next year.

“If Mars is the pinnacle of Mount Everest, low Earth orbit is base camp. The commercial companies are the sherpas that haul things there,” said Chris Ferguson, a former NASA astronaut and director of crew and mission operations at Boeing. “It opens up a whole new world of business.”

SpaceX, which flies cargo missions to the space station with its Dragon spacecraft, has modified an old shuttle launch pad for its Falcon 9 rockets, which the company has successfully reused. It plans to use Dragon 2, a new version of the spacecraft, to send astronauts to the space station.

Blue Origin, founded by founder Jeff Bezos, is building a rocket factory; it also plans to launch its rockets from Cape Canaveral.

Boeing and United Launch Alliance built a crew access tower so astronauts can board the Starliner. The Atlas V, one of the world’s most reliable rockets, will launch the spacecraft and its astronauts.

“This is really the Apollo era for the next generation,” said Shannon Coggin, a production integration specialist at United Launch Alliance. “This is inspiring this next generation to fall in love with space again, to really test their boundaries and us paving their way for the future of commercial space exploration.”

To meet NASA’s requirements, Boeing and SpaceX must demonstrate their systems are ready to begin regular flights to the space station. SpaceX’s first flight test is scheduled for February. Boeing’s is scheduled for June.”


Leading a Business Through Non-Business Challenges

Challenges- Business to Community dot com

Image:  “


“Even in smaller enterprises, when the business goes to the next level, the executives who are in charge need to build on their already proven business skills by adding new approaches, skills, behaviors, and mindsets.

To be effective at the next level they need to rely less on their business acumen or expertise and rely more on their ability to connect with people and inspire belief in their sheer ability to lead.”

Google’s CEO is an engineer, product chief and business leader by training and experience. Chances are that the skills he needs under the international spotlight are not the same ones that he exercised regularly in his rise to the top.

Pichai, like the now deposed former Uber CEO, is at that point many leaders of complex organizations reach – where their business smarts are less important than their general leadership wisdom in solving their company’s problems.

Leaders dealing with a more sophisticated set of business challenges need wisdom, not business smarts; good judgement, not cutting-edge analysis; character, not competencies.

While the issue at Google and many issues like this strike businesses left and right, they are not traditional “business” issues – and leaders cannot engineer, data process, re-organize, or innovate their way through them.

I’ve written earlier in this column about the journey of almost all leaders – where over time their job depends far less on technical and tactical skills and more on strategic and interpersonal skills. As leaders grow in responsibility, they of course must stay abreast of business skills and development, but they are now in a new business – not technology, not engineering, not accounting, not pharmaceuticals, etc. They are now in the leadership business.

Even though this phenomenon is well known, and mirrored in the career of the vast majority of leaders, the way to build strategic and interpersonal skills is still elusive for many executives. The bulk of corporate training is oriented around technical and tactical business skills. Executives are reluctant to let go of building “hard” skills to focus on the “soft” skills – that characterization itself (which I do not like to use) makes them feel less useful to a fast paced firm grinding out products or services in a go-go-go! environment.

There are no certifications or professional accreditations for the master strategist, the empathetic boss, the inspiring leader or the great communicator as there are for many other roles.

When my clients or students ask me for a way to “train” for this new requirement in their leadership life, I have many tools and guidelines for them to use, many of which are outlined in my forthcoming book with Mark Nevins. But the overall goal for them all is for the leader to be able to confront and overcome the challenges of a sophisticated business environment by developing a new source of authority, one based not on their business proficiency but on their wisdom and sagacity.

I’ve written in this column before about the importance for leaders to “grow” their emotional intelligence, as Daniel Goleman and others have reminded us. But just having emotional intelligence is not enough. The executives I work with want to know how to be the wise King Solomon of their organization, the Socrates who can tease out the major issues confronting the team that are not obvious to everyone, the mountain-top guru on who is recognized in the industry as not just for being a competent corporate leader but is an industry sage as well. The fair community leader who can help solve issues like the one Google is facing.

I use phrases in my work with leaders like Chief Philosophy Officer or Chief Ethics Officer so it is natural for them to ask me, “Well, how do we become that?” “How do we have the authority in the minds of our followers to be the one who answers the ‘Why?’ questions of the enterprise and not just the ‘How?’ questions?”

Sheer business competence can win the day for a manager in overcoming the challenges of business complexity– and gain them loyal followers. But leaders confronting the challenges of business sophistication find that their followers care much more about who they are as a leader in the enterprise, not simply what they can do. As one moves towards the top, it’s not about one’s skills anymore, it’s about one’s character and judgement.

Having wisdom rather than just smarts, having good judgement rather than just good business understanding, being able to listen rather than just command, being empathetic and responsive rather than just being determined and directive, being able to inspire rather than just give orders – these are often the character traits that leaders need to develop in order to backstop their formal sources of authority.

In building the case for leaders to acquire a gravitas that is not necessarily rooted in their being the smartest person in the room, I will sometimes use the historical analogy of the biblical figure Solomon, a name heavily affiliated with wisdom and judgement. When granted a wish for what he needed to “rule” his people, Solomon did not ask for power to rule, he asked for wisdom to tell “good from bad,” and “right from wrong.” He asked for an understanding and discerning heart – not a big brain or huge muscles. For him, that was the key to being effective…and authoritative. He was not seeking merely to be a wise judge, but to be a successful leader.

In order to have those skills, which helps in dealing with issues like Google is now, it is important for executives to have range and perspective beyond their business expertise. They need to broaden their leadership mind so that they are authorities not just in their industry dynamics, customer needs, technological sphere, or their balance sheet – but that they are students of human nature, and authoritative on the human enterprise.

I often suggest to executives that to build this skill they invest in themselves and their leaders with serious executive education experiences that are a bit outside of their industry or even business in general. Taking a week off to go to a top business school with other executives is a very enrichening experience – often useful for the strategic networking value alone. But if the curriculum is oriented around your industry (i.e., Managing Health Care Delivery) or an operational area (i.e., Mergers & Acquisitions), or around management techniques or trends (The Science of Lean Operations,) – all current executive education summer offerings at top-10 business schools – then the leader is likely deepening their existing source of authority and knowledge base…not broadening it.

I prefer the developing leader go a bit “further afield” and really do some mental heavy-lifting to broaden their perspective and understanding of human beings and organizations. One such program in which I am involved as a moderator is the Aspen Institute’s executive seminar. A week-long seminar intended to probe the question of “What is the nature of a good society and the role of leaders in it?” The Aspen seminar has its participants read very serious texts from some of the best thinkers of the past three thousand years and discusses them together. Reed Hastings, the founder of Netflix, recently called the seminar “the best whetstone to sharpen the saw” – Stephen Covey’s term for growing as a person and a leader.

The readings are difficult, sometimes dense. The discussions are passionate and heart-felt and the full message of the authors from the texts only becomes evident in the course of the moderated discussion. And as most of the participants are business or non-profit executives, they are often very frustrated by the relevance of Aristotle or Virginia Woolf to their development as an effective organizational leader.

But the fundamental question of the seminar – what is the nature of a good society and the role of leaders in it? – becomes clearly relevant when the participants think about their firm as a mini-society that they are leading and trying to make a good society for those involved in it or touched by it. To be effective, as Pichai hopes to be, leaders need a deepened and heightened understanding of the sources of different assumptions and motivations by their stakeholders. Armed with that, leaders learn to transcend differences in values and create their own version of a good society in their company or organization.

It is a demanding program, but one that organizational leaders almost universally say gave them a deeper understanding of human nature and enterprises – the terrain through which all leaders must navigate. Doing the seminar in a group (the founder of the seminar once said that reading alone is like drinking alone) allows executives to practice critical skills in listening, understanding, and reasoning their way to difficult choices not about business strategy, but about leading groups of diverse people working together to accomplish something unique.

This is the core competency of a leader who has reached the top. Not making the call on debt/equity ratios or product development timelines – but leading a group of people together to a definitive place despite their differences.

Most business leaders got to where they are by a superior command of the “X’s and O’s” of their business, and considerable accomplishment in those areas. Bravo! I did too. But they soon find out that to overcome the different challenges confronting a sophisticated business requires a different mindset, new behaviors, a broader range of knowledge and perspective, and a renewed and broadened source of authority.”

(This is adapted from John Hillen & Mark Nevins’ New Leader Next Year: Recreate Yourself Before Your Business Outruns You, forthcoming from Select Books in Spring 2018.)

About the Author


John Hillen is the former CEO of Sotera Defense Solutions and is the executive-in-residence and professor of practice at George Mason University’s School of Business.