Category Archives: Small Business

Are You Prepared for a Contract Cancellation?

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nbmcwdot com 31949-Termination-of-Contract

Image:  nbmcwd.com

 

“WASHINGTON TECHNOLOGY”  By Darrell Hineman, Brian Courtney

“The possibility of a contract termination should be incorporated into every government contractor’s business continuity plan.

Implementing safeguards and procedures designed to mitigate the risk of a termination will limit the impact it has on your organization’s operations.

Preparing for the possibility of a contract termination is a defensive strategy that contractors should undertake now. Here are three key steps you should consider immediately:

  1. Plan ahead. Never consider your contract as “termination-proof.”
  2. Fully understand the contract termination process
  3. Learn how to calculate and submit your Request for Equitable Adjustment or settlement proposal.

The possibility of a contract termination should be incorporated into every government contractor’s business continuity plan. Implementing safeguards and procedures designed to mitigate the risk of a termination will limit the impact it has on your organization’s operations. Ask yourself, “Does my organization have procedures in place to deal with cure notices, customer complaints, and quality issues? What about monitoring subcontractors?”

If you are still reading this article, you probably are not as well prepared for a contract termination as you should be. Most contract terminations have a root cause and are not solely due to the government no longer requiring the items or services.

Here are some common contract termination causes and how to prevent them:

Failure to immediately address government concerns

Whether a complaint or “suggestion” is received verbally or in writing from the government, there should be a process in place to respond immediately. Often, we hear from clients that their program personnel were in the process of addressing a government issue (but apparently not in real-time). Now, they are dealing with a cure notice for many items to be corrected in two weeks.

Incorporate the handling and response to government communications and complaints/concerns into your program management policy and procedures. All complaints/concerns should be documented and tracked from the initial problem to the eventual solutions.

Regular communication with the government is also critical in staying ahead of potential contract issues and preventing a termination. The contractor program manager should routinely relay project status to the government in writing – even if not required under the contract terms. We recommend weekly communications but, depending on the project, monthly communications may suffice.

Failure to evaluate change orders for potential effect on cost or schedule

Sometimes, trying to fully please the client can actually lead to a termination. A contractor has only 30 days from the date of receipt of a written order to assert its right to an adjustment. Often, accepting changes without evaluating the impact on scope, cost, and/or schedule can lead to project delays and cost overruns. These may ultimately result in missed delivery/performance dates.

As a preventative measure, create a standard procedure to evaluate the impact of any change request on the scope, cost, and/or schedule of a project. Share this required procedure with the customer: “Yes, we can make changes, but we first need to evaluate the scope, cost, and schedule to identify any project impacts.”

Subcontractor performance issues

Many contractors focus on complying with the requirement to issue subcontracts and neglect their associated responsibility for managing subcontractors under FAR 42.202(e)(2), Assignment of Contract Administration. Prime contractors often assume, without oversight or verification, that their subcontractors will meet prescribed performance and deliverable requirements.

When a subcontractor fails to deliver, the prime contractor is ultimately responsible for addressing the issue, or may face termination. Therefore, you should ensure that you flow down the proper terms and conditions to your subcontractors, including the prime contract termination clauses and deliverable dates.

Another step we recommend is to create a post-award subcontract administration procedure to address the risk. Ensure that adequate and comprehensive subcontractor oversight is built in to your procurement and project management processes. Any issue that can affect contract performance/delivery must be escalated quickly for resolution.

Bidding on unprofitable work

Today, when lowest price, technically acceptable typically beats out best value (though recent legislation directs more limited use of LPTA procurements), contractors often estimate their cost to fit the price they want to bid and what they think the government is willing to pay. Instead, you should be focusing on the actual cost required to address the government’s mission-stated requirements.

Even though you may know that the “price to win” is too low to perform the work adequately, the proposal development organization might not want to deviate from that winning number.

To avoid bidding on unprofitable work, you should develop a comprehensive estimating manual and system so that your estimated costs are based on real costs/prices currently in the marketplace. As part of this, build and encourage a corporate culture that incentivizes employees for more profitable work as opposed to contract wins exclusively.

As no contract is termination proof, the key is to always be prepared and have a defense strategy in place at all times.”

About the Authors

Darrell Hineman is the director of the government compliance group at the accounting, tax and advisory firm CohnReznick LLP. https://www.cohnreznick.com/industries/government-contracting

Brian Courtney is a senior manager at the accounting, tax and advisory firm CohnReznick LLP. https://www.cohnreznick.com/industries/government-contracting

https://washingtontechnology.com/articles/2017/06/09/insights-contractor-termination.aspx

 

For more information on the types of contract terminations, preparing for them and managing them, please see the article linked below:

http://www.smalltofeds.com/2011/08/federal-government-contract.html

GAO: “Late Means Late for Contract Proposals”

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Image: National Defense Magazine

“NATIONAL DEFENSE MAGAZINE” By By Julia Lippman and Jason Workmaster

“GAO’s opinion should serve as a warning to contractors that a late proposal will not be considered.

Especially with the use of electronic submission processes, a matter of seconds can be the difference between a timely and late proposal.

The Government Accountability Office on Feb. 27 reiterated its long standing rule that, when it comes to proposal submissions, “late” means “late.”

GAO addressed a protest filed by Tele-Consultants Inc. in connection with a request for proposals issued by Naval Sea Systems Command. TCI’s protest argued that its proposal was improperly rejected by the agency for being submitted after the deadline.

Under the request for proposals, the Navy sought support services for the Naval Undersea Warfare Center through the issuance of a task order to a small business holder of the SeaPort-e multiple award indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity contract. The solicitation was issued Sept. 28, 2016 and proposals were to be submitted electronically through the SeaPort-e portal by Nov. 8 at 2:00 p.m. eastern time. The solicitation required compliance with the proposal submission instructions outlined in the SeaPort-e multiple award contract and the SeaPort Vendor Portal User Guide.

In using the portal, contractors were required to designate an “authorized user” who could confirm the intent to engage in a legally binding action, such as submitting a proposal. When a contractor was ready to submit its proposal, its authorized user was required to use the “submit signed proposal” button. The portal would then generate a confirmation prompt that would require the user to confirm his or her intent to electronically sign and submit the proposal.

The portal was set up so that contractors could store their proposals on the contractor side of the portal prior to submitting their proposal.

The agency received three proposals by the deadline. TCI’s proposal was not among them. Rather, TCI’s proposal remained in its draft form on the contractor side of the portal because it had not engaged the submit button.

Based on a review of the server logs, the agency determined that TCI’s representatives had unsuccessfully tried to engage the button 23 and 34 seconds after the proposal deadline. TCI reached out to the contracting officer by phone and email stating that the proposal button had not allowed it to submit its proposal but that “TCI’s proposal was timely submitted and it was intended to be binding on TCI.”

TCI received an email that evening from the SeaPort-e portal that noted that, “[a]n event for which you created a draft proposal has closed without you completing the final submission process. As a result, the draft will not be considered.” There was no indication that the portal had experienced any technical malfunction that would have prevented TCI from timely submitting its proposal.

TCI argued that its proposal should not have been rejected because, even though it did not receive notice that its proposal was timely submitted, its proposal was, in fact, submitted on time. Additionally, TCI argued that, even if its proposal was late, it was in the government’s control and was, thus, subject to the exception set forth in FAR 15.208. Under FAR 15.208, proposals that are submitted after the deadline are late unless, among other exceptions, there is evidence that the proposal “was received at the government installation designated for receipt of proposals and was under the government’s control prior to the time set for receipt of proposals[.]”

TCI argued that the archival lock on proposal files was acceptable evidence to establish that its proposal was received at the government installation designated for receipt of proposals and was under the government’s control prior to the time set for receipt of proposals.

The agency responded that TCI’s failure to engage the button meant that TCI had failed to submit its proposal either on time or after the deadline. The agency explained that proposals were not added to the government side of the portal until the submit button was selected. Thus, TCI’s proposal was never received by the government or under the government’s control. The agency also proffered that it could not know if TCI meant to be legally bound by its proposal in light of its failure to engage the button.

Although noting that it was not clear that FAR 15.208 even applied to this FAR Part 16 procurement, GAO nevertheless agreed with the agency and found that TCI failed to submit its proposal. GAO reiterated the well-established rule that an offeror is responsible for delivering its proposal to the designated place by the designated time and that an agency is not required to consider a proposal when there is no evidence that it was “actually received” by the agency.

GAO found that there was no evidence that TCI had actually submitted its proposal to the agency as the electronic submission of a legally binding offer was not completed. TCI did not dispute that it tried to use the submit button after the 2:00 p.m. EST deadline. And TCI never engaged the button even though it tried to do so. TCI’s failure to engage the button meant that it had never submitted a legally binding proposal. GAO concluded that it had “no basis to challenge the agency’s decision that it had not received, and could not consider, TCI’s draft proposal.”

Contractors should take extra care when submitting a proposal electronically to ensure that all proper submittal steps for the submission of a legally binding proposal have been completed well before a proposal deadline.

Additionally, a proposal stored on a government portal may not be sufficient to establish it was in the government’s control.”

Jason N. Workmaster is of counsel and Julia Lippman is an associate in the government contracts practice at Covington & Burling LLP.

http://www.nationaldefensemagazine.org/articles/2017/6/15/late-means-late-for-contract-proposals

 

 

National Geospatial Intelligence Agency (NGA) To Offer Data to Industry for Partnerships

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NGA Federal News Radio

NGA Headquarters – Image:  “Federal News Radio”

“BREAKING DEFENSE”

“The idea: offer companies chunks of the “wonderland” of unclassified NGA data so they can use them to build new products or to test algorithms key to their products.

It’s a bold and rare move by a large and largely secretive government agency.

The top two leaders of the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency, Robert Cardillo and Susan Gordon, met with Anthony Vinci, now NGA’s director of plans and programs, to discuss ways to get more value from the agency’s incredibly valuable pools of data.

Using The Economist‘s description of data as the oil of today — the most valuable commodity in our economy — Vinci argued the agency must deploy it and help pay the American people back for the investment they have made in building the agency. If data is the new oil, Vinci said companies should “turn it into plastic,” adding value.

Cardillo told reporters would NGA would create a B corporation — in effect a non-profit government company — and hire an outsider to run it.

This, I think it’s fair to say, is not a slam dunk. Culturally, it will be challenging, Vinci admitted. “It’s straightforward, but it sort of breaks every rule we have in the IC (Intelligence Community).” The IC doesn’t share data and it doesn’t partner with outsiders, except for allied and friendly governments when needed.

This process may sidestep the whole process of generating a requirement for an intelligence system. “I don’t think that’s how problems can be solved any more,” Vinci said. The current system, which can be circumvented if an urgent need exists, is generally slow and restrictive, one that the Pentagon and the IC are increasingly trying to amend.

I spoke with three senior industry officials who listened to Vinci’s presentation and they were hopeful but cautious. All three said they thought the new effort could yield unexpected and useful returns on taxpayer’s investments in the data.

The biggest obstacle may be Congress. Although NGA would not be making money from the data sharing and it would not be releasing any data that could help our enemies, they would be sharing a government resource which voting taxpayers paid for and over which lawmakers have oversight. Whether the products resulting from the data would be licensed back to NGA, or allowed to generate profits for companies is all still to be determined.

“That’s part of what were trying to figure out Vinci told me,: “taxpayers paid for this data and how can we get that value back to them.”

http://breakingdefense.com/2017/06/nga-to-offer-data-to-industry-for-partnerships/

 

Female Veteran Business Leaders Share Tips for Success

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Female Veteran Business Leaders

Photo Credit: Master Sgt. Jenifer Calhoun/Air Force

“MILITARY TIMES” By Leo Shane III

“Highlights of last month’s Women Veterans Leadership Summit organized by The Mission Continues was a panel from prominent business leaders on how to navigate the transition from military life to civilian careers.

Below are excerpts from that event, designed to focus on ways women leaving the service can use their experience to succeed in workplaces very different than their military posts:

** Know your mission

Amy Gravitt, executive vice president at HBO Programming, is a Navy veteran who served on board the USS Constellation in Persian Gulf:

“It was quite a change going from the Navy to the entertainment industry. I took an unpaid internship with a production company. So I went from being a lieutenant and having a ton of responsibility and having people who worked for me to being the low man on the totem pole, by far.

“What got me my start in the industry and got me to where I am now is that I was the best intern. I went into this industry that was a mess and had no systems in place, and I started organizing it like my division on the ship …

“The company I worked for was George Clooney and Steven Soderberg’s company, and there were a lot of eager film students there who wanted to talk to them about films and ideas. And I knew they did not want to hear my ideas. They weren’t interested in me pitching them movies.

“So, I did the job that made their lives easier, and I was recognized for that.”

** Appreciate your service

Paula Boggs, founder of Boggs Media, served as an Army attorney and later when on to roles in the U.S. Attorney’s office and various technology firms.

“By the time I got to Dell, there were very few people who had military experience. I was like a unicorn. But because of that, there was heightened awareness of who the military was and what they were doing. And this was pre-9/11.

“A lot of tech companies are heavily male. So I was a unicorn in the sense of being a veteran, and a unicorn in the sense of being a woman. All the greater in figuring out how to capitalize on those two things in a setting like that…

“As a team building exercise, we were doing war games, playing Army … There was a moment when Michael Dell, founder of the company, just stopped and said, ‘Guys, Paula really did this!’ And you’d see this awe, this transformative moment. ‘She did something we can only play at.’

“Never underestimate how special being a veteran is, particularly in this post 9/11 environment … There’s this moment now in the country where veterans are not understood, but there is an elevated awareness of who you are and the specialness of the service you have given.”

** Embrace the civilian workplace

Nana Adae, executive director at JP Morgan Private Bank, spent seven years in the Navy specializing in communications and signals, including assignments in Japan, Greece and Spain.

“One of the things that I stress is that people just need to know you, because if it’s all about whether or not people like you, that’s a very superficial way of thinking about how you’re going to be judged.

“And unfortunately as women, I think a lot of times we put our head down. We just want to work. We don’t want to have any of the noise about who we really are or what’s going on with us because that might complicate things.

“But truthfully, in the work environment, the more successful people are the people who are known.”

** Don’t exaggerate your skills or limitations

Gravitt: “You’ll make a million mistakes along the way … so don’t be too eager to move up quickly. Make sure you’re ready to ride without the training wheels before you take them off.”

“When you make a mistake, apologize once and move on. Nobody else is going to obsess about your mistake, so you shouldn’t. Just figure out what you can learn from it.

“It doesn’t mean you have terrible instincts. It doesn’t mean that you’re bad at your job. It just means that you made a mistake. People do it all the time.”

** Keep looking for mentors

Boggs: “One of the most powerful mentors for me was my last assignment. I worked in the White House on the Iran-Contra investigation. My boss was a civilian, middle-aged white guy. I was a 20-something black female.

“On the surface, not like me at all. But saw something in me that reminded him of himself, and became my champion for the first 15 years of my career.”

“Years later, someone wrote an article where I called him the most significant mentor of my career. He called me and said, ‘Paula, I never considered myself your mentor. You were just my friend.’ But he was that to me.”

“Mentors can be everywhere … keep an active peripheral vision, because you just never know.”

http://www.militarytimes.com/articles/mission-continues-business-advice-women-veterans

Leo Shane III covers Congress, Veterans Affairs and the White House for Military Times. He can be reached at lshane@militarytimes.com.

What to Expect from Government Small Business Contracting Pre-Award Surveys and Fact Finding

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fact finding and site survey

INTRODUCTION

When a government contracting specific market target has been identified and a proposal has been submitted, pre-award surveys and fact finding by the buying agency or the prime contractor often follow. These processes take two forms:

1. A survey visit to the small company facility

2. Inquiries with respect to supplementary details for enhancing the customer perspective on a proposal submittal.

Undertaking the above processes with a government agency differs from that of undergoing them with a prime contractor. You are not required to disclose proprietary data to a prime contractor. Please see the following articles for further information in this vital area:

http://www.smalltofeds.com/2008/09/protecting-intellectual-property-and.html

This article will discuss each of the above processes and suggest measures to prepare for, conduct and succeed at pre-award surveys and finding.

PRE-AWARD SURVEY

A pre-award survey is a government or prime contractor visit to a supplier’s facility. The Procurement Contracting Officer (PCO) or the Administrative Contracting Officer (ACO) and the Contracting Officer’s Technical Representative (COTR) as well as members of their respective staffs may attend.

In some instances the local Defense Contract Management Area Office (DCMAO) is involved. As you become a regular supplier to an agency, site survey visits will normally cease or occur only rarely.

For further explanation of the above government officials and their roles, please see the following article:

http://www.smalltofeds.com/2007/06/federal-government-contracting-customer.html

The site survey team is interested in establishing the physical presence of a new supplier, the technical capability and the human resources to perform the prospective work and the quality of the environment in which the effort will be performed. A “Pre-award Survey of Prospective Contractor” Forms are completed and become part of the contract

Pre-award Survey Forms
Pre-Award Survey of Prospective Contractor SF-1403 8/1997

Pre-Award Survey of Prospective Contractor (Accounting System) SF-1408 8/1997

Pre-Award Survey of Prospective Contractor (Financial Capability) SF-1407 8/1997

Pre-Award Survey of Prospective Contractor (Production) SF-1405 8/1997

Pre-Award Survey of Prospective Contractor (Quality Assurance) SF-1406 8/1997

Pre-Award Survey of Prospective Contractor (Technical) SF-1404 8/1997

Select the person who will lead the meeting with the government survey team. This person should be empowered to speak for the company and should be completely familiar with details of the solicitation and your company’s offer.

If relevant, make available one or more technicians to answer questions. Identify any disparities that may exist between the solicitation and your company’s offer that should be resolved during the initial meeting with the survey team. Think about how you can demonstrate actual technical capability or the development of technical capability on the proposed contract. Make sure your facilities and equipment are available and operable. If they are not, be prepared to demonstrate that they can be developed or acquired in time to meet proposed contract requirements.

Make sure that your labor resources have the proper skills or that personnel with the needed skills can be hired expeditiously. Gather and make available to the survey team documentation, such as previous government contracts or subcontracts or commercial orders, to demonstrate a past satisfactory performance record with regard to delivery, quality and finances. Gather financial documentation for the team financial analyst, including the company’s current profit and loss summary, balance sheet, cash flow chart and other pertinent financial information. Make sure the plans are in place for vendor supplies and materials or subcontracts to assure that the final delivery schedule can be met. Make sure that these plans are verifiable.

Review any technical data and publications that may be required under the proposed contract and make sure you understand them. If the contract is a type other than a firm-fixed price or if you have requested progress payments, prepare adequate accounting documentation for review. Review your quality control program and make sure that it is workable and consistent with the quality requirements stated in the contract.

PROPOSAL FACT FINDING

Fact-finding usually involves the government requesting additional information to supplement that which was submitted by you in your proposal. These areas of interest are early indications of where the negotiator is looking for weaknesses in your cost justifications or disconnects between your technical approach and the cost you are estimating to do the job. If you have subcontractors or major material suppliers, the government may ask for copies of your vendor proposal evaluations. The government may wish to examine cost history for the last time you performed similar efforts.

Keep in mind that most government agencies put together an independent cost estimate of what they feel the item or service should cost. These are commonly called “Should Cost Estimates”. The additional requests for information during fact finding are feeding the should cost estimate. The Procurement Contracting Officer (PCO ) typically has an end user for the product or service internal to his organization who will become the Contracting Officer’s Technical Representative (COTR) when the contract is awarded.

The COTR has a strong influence on the negotiations and will usually be present when negotiations commence. On many occasions, the COTR is the real internal customer at the agency. He has fiscal, technical and schedule responsibilities to his management for the program you are servicing. He simply cannot sign for the government.

The PCO has the agency warrant to commit the government and knows the most about public law and the Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) as it is applied to contracts the agency undertakes. It is the COTR who is likely feeding the PCO requests for fact-finding data. Keep in mind that the COTR and the PCO are formulating their assessment of the cost and the risk associated with the program during the fact-finding process. Cost is the first item of negotiation and risk has a direct influence on the government’s position on profit.

The contacting officer may order a Defense Contract Audit Agency (DCAA) audit. The Request for Proposal (RFP) to which you responded may in fact have ordered a copy of your proposal be submitted to the DCAA Office nearest your location. If you are a new supplier to the government, DCAA may ask for a copy of your long-range plan containing your direct and indirect rate structure. They will verify the rates utilized in your proposal against your LRP, evaluate escalation factors utilized for long term projects and check the math. For guidance on these matters, please see the following article:

http://www.smalltofeds.com/2008/02/dcaa-audits-and-small-business-job-cost.html

The auditor will ask for copies of major material and travel quotations and insure that government per diem rates are utilized for lodging and meals in the cost proposal. DCAA may also visit your facility to check compliance with Cost Accounting Standards insuring that the company sets up each new government contract on job cost accounting in the identical manner in which it was proposed; in effect identifying direct labor, direct material and other direct costs to each contract monthly and allocating overhead and G&A utilizing the same numerator and denominator relationships upon which the contract was originally estimated.

DCAA is paid by the PCO to perform the audit. The audit does not extend to negotiations and at the audit conclusion the auditor files a report with the PCO. The report will contain information on any errors uncovered and findings on the adequacy of the accounting and long range planning systems. DCAA will not express an opinion on the cost content of the proposal in terms of a value judgment regarding prices for prospective supplies and services. If the auditor does not offer an exit interview, ask for one. Better yet, ask for a copy of the audit report to the PCO. Many DCAA offices will provide a copy to audited contractors. DCAA does not have the authority to direct a proposal revision based on audit findings. An astute contractor will immediately correct any errors found by the auditor in the proposal and examine other audit findings in preparation for negotiations.

SUMMARY

With adequate preparation and an understanding of what the processes involve, the small enterprise can succeed in passing government agency or prime contractor site surveys and fact finding.

Remember that these encounters are extensions of your image as presented in your proposal. They are building block in nature and serve to establish, reinforce or change a customer’s view of your company and your proposal.

Tools for Building a Professional Services Personal Brand

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bulid brand atlfulfilment dot com dot uk

Image:  altfulfillment.com.uk

“WASHINGTON TECHNOLOGY” By Elizabeth Harr

“Whether a solo entrepreneur or part of a large organization, professional services executives would do well to be mindful of their personal brand.

In particular, a personal brand that is rooted in a reputation for niche expertise can propel not only the expert behind that brand – but also the firm that expert is associated with – to higher levels of growth.

One of the most important things we learned from our research on how to become highly visible as an expert was which marketing tools have the greatest impact on an individual’s personal brand. Without this data, we’d have to select our tools based on unreliable anecdotal evidence, trial and error, and intuition. But this gives you a better option: hard data from scores of real-world professionals.

Here are the top tools from our study, rated on a 1 (least impactful) to 10 (most impactful) scale:

Total Impact of Personal Branding Tools

Personal brand chart

The ten tools shown in the table above can be grouped into seven critical tools you will need to include in your personal branding strategy:

  1. A book. Whether you do it yourself or enlist a ghostwriter, you will need to produce a book that addresses your area of expertise. A book is a critical credibility builder. Your book can be traditionally published or self-published. Traditionally published books can deliver instant credibility, but self-published books (for which you can set the price or give away for free) offer more flexibility. Either way, you will also need to promote it, since even name-brand publishers rely on their authors to do most of the marketing. A book can be a heavy lift, so don’t feel like you have to tackle it right away.
  2. Speaking engagements. Public speaking is an important platform for building your reputation and personal brand. In fact our referral research shows that the No. 1 reason behind expertise-based referrals is that someone saw the person they referred speak.
  3. A website. If you are part of a firm, you’ll want to focus at first on your bio page. It should present sufficient credentials to convince people that you really know your stuff. Here are a few of the things it might include:
  • Detailed personal bio
  • Links to social media profile (LinkedIn being the most impactful)
  • Academic degrees
  • Certifications
  • Awards
  • Publications
  • Presentations
  • Important projects
  • Associations
  • Affiliations
  • Speaking videos

Once you’ve begin cultivating a regional or national reputation, you may want to consider developing a personal website, too. You can use this site as a platform to promote your books and public speaking.

  1. A blog platform. To be sure, the professional services ecosystem is filled with a lot of junk that purports to be informative content, and for some execs, admitting they read blogs is akin to admitting to watching trash TV. Make no mistake about though: Every expert should be blogging. It’s the most accessible way to demonstrate your expertise. Done properly, it’s also one of the easiest ways to start building a loyal following. And when you apply search engine optimization (SEO) principles to your posts, you open up a whole new world of prospective clients who, for the first time, will find you through online search. A blog is an essential tool if you want to spread your wisdom quickly and widely – wisdom being the operative word here.
  2. Email marketing service. Part of the benefit of a blog is getting in front of people who don’t know you. Email marketing is how you turn many of those people into loyal followers — even raving fans. Using offers to download valuable educational content such as guides and whitepapers, you can entice a certain percentage of your blog readers to opt into your mailing list. You can then feed these followers a steady diet of free educational goodies, as well as additional offers that deepen their engagement.
  3. Search engine optimization (SEO). If you think SEO plays no role in your line of work, you are almost certainly wrong. Every year, more and more organizations use online search to find and vet their service providers. But even more relevant to your journey up Mount Expert, business people today instinctively fire up Google whenever they encounter a thorny business problem. In many cases, they research the problem and possible solutions themselves — before they seek out professional help. In other situations, professionals use search to find thought leaders in their field. SEO is the tool that connects you to the people who are intensely interested in the problems you solve. And you would never meet 99 percent of them without it.

There’s one additional tool that you will need, one that will save you a lot of time and headaches:

  1. A media kit. Experts get requests for bios, credentials and photos all the time. So it makes sense to have those things ready to go at a moment’s notice. Even better, put them up on your website bio page where interested parties can find them without asking. Every time a last-minute request comes in, you’ll be glad you have it at your fingertips.

This list, of course, just scratches the surface. There are dozens of tools that you can use to engage your audience. Think webinars (which are just a different take on public speaking), advertising, public relations, SlideShare, video and web analytics, to name just a few. As your personal branding strategy begins to reap dividends, you may want to introduce and test a handful of new tools and techniques.”

https://washingtontechnology.com/articles/2017/05/26/insights-harr-personal-brand.aspx

About the Author

Elizabeth Harr

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.

 

Special Operators Seek Lighter, More Flexible Technologies

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Into the brush with Operation Raven Claw

Image:  Air Force

“NATIONAL DEFENSE MAGAZINE”

“Special Operations Command is looking for equipment that weighs less, is more flexible and comes at an affordable price.

Realms of interest include: command, control, communications and computers, or C4, technology; weapons; body armor; biomedical and human performance; optical electronics; and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) products.

From optics to biomedical projects, from weapons and munition to ballistic armor protection, SOCOM S&T representatives May 18 shared key areas of interest for fiscal year 2018 at the National Defense Industrial Association’s Special Operations Forces Industry Conference in Tampa, Florida.

For C4 technologies, special operators are seeking new products with improved line-of-sight or beyond-line-of-sight capabilities, higher bandwidth and the computing power to do data analytics and visualization, she said.

Major development goals include size, weight and power reduction, as well as the ability to triage large data sets, she said. The command is particularly looking for a scalable, mobile and over-the-horizon communications networks that should be interoperable with other joint or combined forces and headquarters.

The technology should be interoperable with enterprise computing, which is currently a mixed configuration of Windows platforms supporting Windows and Linux operating systems, she noted. The command is looking for products that are between technology readiness levels 3 to 6.

In terms of weapons and munition, the command is looking for lighter weight, lower cost of ownership and increased lethality, officials said in a video presentation.

The goal is to achieve firefight dominance for small SOF units by reducing the weight of weapons and ammunition by 20 percent and by applying computer-assisted design tools that could aid with increased reliability and performance.

SOCOM is also seeking new human performance technologies that could help with sleep restoration and rapid acclimatization to acute environmental extremes, as well as ways to assist with injury prevention and recovery from injury.

The command is also looking for enhanced sensors, lasers and radar for target engagement and ISR that could be developed in three to five years. Software that can process and disseminate imagery in real time is particularly needed.

Weight remains a major issue for body armor, said Conrad Lovell, protection technical development working group lead for SOCOM.

“The load burden on the operators is a problem [for] the big services and SOF, and that’s not just body armor, it’s all the rest of the kit that they wear,” he said.

SOCOM is seeking new protection technologies built with ceramics, optimized fibers such as spider silk and even 3D printed armor, he said. The material properties “aren’t quite there yet” to print ballistic armor, but the command is interested to see what industry can come up with, he said.

“3D printing is kind of the new wave of technology everyone’s looking at,” he said, noting that developers could potentially print more complex curvature pieces of armor than are currently available.

“You would be able to maybe even be able to make new armor in theater if you had a 3D printer out there,” he noted.”

http://www.nationaldefensemagazine.org/articles/2017/5/16/socom-seeks-lighter-more-flexible-technologies-for-small-unit-dominance

 

 

Pentagon Contractor Performance Monitoring Lacks Timeliness and Content

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“THE PROJECT ON GOVERNMENT OVERSIGHT (POGO)”

“Last week, the Department of Defense (DoD) Inspector General (IG) released a summary of a series of reports assessing how effectively the Pentagon tracks the performance of its contractors.

The DoD measures contractors’ past performance with performance assessment reports, or PARs, evaluations that provide a record—both positive and negative—of performance on a contract during a specific period of time.

The DoD IG audited 18 DoD divisions, including the main service branches—Navy, Air Force, and Army (POGO blogged about the IG’s report on the Army last year)—and the Defense Logistics Agency. The audit reviewed a total of 238 PARs on contracts worth a total of $18 billion.

PARs are compiled in a database called the Contractor Performance Assessment Reporting System (CPARS) and are shared government-wide via the Past Performance Information Retrieval System (PPIRS) database.

PARs are incredibly important because without access to timely, accurate, and complete past performance information, the government risks awarding taxpayer money to non-responsible contractors, which is a violation of the law, or allowing performance deficiencies to fester. The former happened several years ago with the botched rollout of the HealthCare.gov website, a fiasco that might have been avoided had the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services more thoroughly researched the performance history of the contractor it put in charge of designing and testing the site. An example of the latter was recently discovered on a US Marshals Service contract to manage the Leavenworth Detention Center in Kansas. The Department of Justice IG found the Marshals Service was not entering past performance evaluations of the contractor into CPARS. As a result, safety and security problems at the maximum-security prison caused by understaffing persisted for almost a year.

The IG found the information reported in CPARS and PPIRS “was not consistently useful” because contracting officials did not always comply with requirements for evaluating contractor performance. Although the IG found DoD agencies are preparing more PARs in a timely manner than ever before (74 percent in fiscal year 2016, almost 20 percentage points higher than the previous year), more than a third of the 238 PARs were still late by an average of 73 days. The agencies seem to have a bigger problem with completeness: 84 percent of the PARs contained performance ratings, written narratives, or contract descriptions that fell short of past performance reporting requirements. For example, officials gave contractors an “exceptional” or “very good” rating for required evaluation factors without adequately explaining why the rating was justified, or sometimes even failed to provide a rating at all.

Finally, we would be remiss if we didn’t use this opportunity to reiterate our call for publicly releasing contractor past performance evaluations. Bits of past performance information occasionally turn up in judicial opinions and bid protest decisions, but the government has long resistedpublicly releasing this data on a regular basis in a centralized location. Public availability of contractor past performance records would incentivize responsible business conduct, which would protect the government’s and taxpayers’ interests in the long run.”

http://www.pogo.org/blog/2017/05/watchdog-finds-dod-must-improve-contractor-performance-monitoring.html

 

 

 

Special Operations Command Opens Doors for Small Firms

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Photo:  USSOCOM

“NATIONAL DEFENSE MAGAZINE”

“Unique technology needs mean more opportunities for small businesses and startups to get their foot in the door with SOCOM, program managers have said.

The command has become known as an organization that has come up with some inventive ways to speed up traditional military acquisition regimes.

I would rather play a lot of blackjack than play roulette,” James “Hondo” Geurts, the chief of Special Operations Command’s acquisition, technology and logistics organization said recently.

The analogy spells out his philosophy when it comes to procuring new technologies special operators need to carry out their unique missions. Small, carefully placed bets on niche technologies have a better payoff, in the long run, than spending a lot of funding on any one big program, he said at this year’s National Defense Industrial Association’s Special Operations/Low Intensity Conflict conference.

He wants to fund the technologies “that will transition quickly, then keep moving on,” he said.

“Things are changing so fast we don’t have three years to figure out what we want to do to support an operation. I’m happy if I have three months to figure out some of these things,” he said.

“We want new voices and new ideas,” Geurts said.

One practice SOCOM uses to acquire and discover new technologies is “technical experimentation” venues.

It invites technology developers to bring their works in progress to a hosted event three to four times per year. Each event has a specific theme. Special operators with experience in the field are on hand to assess the technology and provide feedback, which helps them to improve their products, said Kelly Stratton-Feix, director of acquisition agility at special operations forces’ acquisition, technology and logistics office. 

A request for information is posted through FedBizOpps, and advertised on LinkedIn and Facebook pages. Technology providers reply with a white paper, which is then reviewed by users such as components, theater commands and program offices. The users identify the experiments that they are interested in seeing, and the technology provider then receives an invitation to participate, she said. 

Technical experimentations “provide a win-win environment because technology providers can get insight into what’s important to the user early in the development cycle and we get to see technology early on, and often identify additional use-cases that haven’t been considered by the developer,” said Stratton-Feix. 

For those who cannot make it to one of these events, the command launched a web-based technology repository/scouting platform called “Vulcan.”  

This tool, which is searchable and accessible to any government employee, enables technology providers to quickly describe technologies they are offering and to upload supporting documentation to a secure, shared, searchable central database, Stratton-Feix said.

A registered Vulcan user who sees an interesting technology can issue a one-time use “token” to the technology provider who can then upload a scout card containing further information about the product.

“Vulcan is a work in progress,” she said. There are currently more than 1,500 scout cards loaded, with more than 700 registered government users, she added.

There are two other means to initiate contact with SOCOM.

One is the director of small business who provides guidance and information to industry and commercial partners on how to get their foot in the door with the command.

“This office should be one of a small business’ first contacts when initiating communication with USSOCOM,” Stratton-Feix recommended.

The technology and industry liaison office is another conduit to present information on capabilities to the various PEOs, directorates and others responsible for the research and development, acquisition, production and sustainment of materiel and technology platforms. It has a web portal where ideas can be submitted.  

Another high-profile effort to reach out to the larger technology community is SOFWERX, an unclassified, open collaboration facility designed to bring non-traditional partners from industry, academia and the government together to work on the command’s most challenging problems.    

The building located in Tampa’s historic Ybor City district was intentionally chosen so those wanting to collaborate with SOCOM didn’t need to go through onerous security checkpoints at nearby MacDill Air Force Base, Florida, where SOCOM headquarters is found.  

The facility, and a nearby workshop known as DirtyWerx, conduct design thinking sessions, technology sprints, rapid prototyping and other events with government, academia and innovators in the commercial marketplace. It is also the central node in the command’s efforts to push advanced manufacturing and 3D printing technology to operational units, Stratton-Feix said.

Geurts warned that SOFWERX is not intended to be a “bypass” facility to get around traditional ways for the command to acquire technology. It is intended to be “way left” of that process, he said.

Along with these facilities, events and web portals, SOCOM employs some contract vehicles to speed up the traditional acquisition process, which is normally subject to the time-consuming Federal Acquisition Regulation regime.  

“Velocity is our competitive advantage,” Geurts said. “That is what we bring to the fight,” he added, speaking of the command’s acquisition enterprise.

He returned to the roulette analogy. The four services spend a lot of time writing requirements then they “throw the ball on the wheel and let it ride.”

Cooperative research and development agreements (CRADA) have been used by the military to provide some seed money to potential vendors and kick start technology development.

The command established ways to make that process even more streamlined by creating an “Overarching CRADA,” which has already been signed by Geurts. If firms find the CRADA acceptable they simply add their corporate information and sign the document.

“This process now allows for [Overarching CRADAs] to be established in weeks to months compared to the year-long traditional process,” Stratton-Feix said. 

In addition, CRADA partners can now enter in individual work plans with any of the command’s program executive offices or directorates. There are currently 156 CRADAs and 10 active individual work plans with several more in the works, the command said.

SOCOM must comply with the same statutory and regulatory measures required of the military departments. However, the SOF AT&L team “aggressively utilizes the inherent freedom and flexibility of the DoD 5000 series of directives and instructions by streamlining processes and tailoring documentation in developing and managing SOF-peculiar programs,” said Stratton-Feix.

That directive includes such vehicles as “urgent operational needs” and “immediate war fighter needs,” which allows for more rapid technology acquisition, as long as solutions are not developmental and can be acquired off the shelf with few changes.

Other transaction authorities, or OTAs, allow in certain circumstances for program managers to go outside traditional contracts to rapidly acquire prototypes and forgo FAR requirements as long as the agreement is with a “nontraditional defense contractor” and there is some cost-sharing, as the regulations stated.   

“Non-FAR contracts are a great device but not a panacea,” Geurts said.

Geurts wants small businesses and startups to use these various portals to kick off the process of putting their ideas and products in front of SOCOM. 

He meets regularly with vendors, but “don’t come selling me a widget,” he warned. He wants to hear from potential suppliers when they are having a hard time with the process, or if they have ideas on how the command can be a better customer.

“What keeps me up at night is somebody has an idea that can’t get to me,” he said.”

http://www.nationaldefensemagazine.org/articles/2017/4/20/special-operations-command-opens-doors-for-small-firms

 

General Services Administration Readies $300 to $5,000 “Bug Bounty” Program

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Photo Credit: Nguyen Hung Vu via Flickr

“FIFTH DOMAIN CYBER”

“The GSA’s bug bounty platform would represent the first use of an ethical hacking program by a civilian agency in the federal government.

Bug bounty programs have been gaining steam in the federal government after the Department of Defense’s successful “Hack the Pentagon” and “Hack the Army” exercises in 2016.

The General Services Administration’s innovation arm, 18F, said the agency was edging closer to standing up its own bug bounty program after tapping a new provider for its reporting platform.

18F officials said in a May 11 blog post that GSA’s Technology Transformation Service had tapped HackerOne to provide its Software-as-a-Service bug-reporting platform.

The San Francisco-based company offers vulnerability coordination and platform services to reward ethical hackers to locate and report network security vulnerabilities.

GSA issued a solicitation for a bug bounty platform in January, calling for a SaaS to “allow TTS to manage and track issues across multiple public web applications, triage services for those reported vulnerabilities, disburse rewards for effective vulnerabilities and explain the reasons behind rejections,” and provide vulnerability, impact and monthly report services.

18F officials said that HackerOne would help set up bounties on “several TTS public-facing web applications” through its platform and will assess validity of the bug submissions.

The SaaS provider will then forward on the reports to active TTS components to correct the issues and the bug hunters will receive payouts running between $300 to $5,000.

TTS once the platform is in place, officials said they would look to extend it to most of its component websites and applications.”

http://fifthdomain.com/2017/05/12/gsa-readies-the-first-civilian-bug-bounty-program-with-new-platform/