Category Archives: Small Business

Silicon Valley Will Never Love The Pentagon

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Silcon Valley will Never Love DOD

“C4ISRNET.COM”

“In early April the New York Times reported 3,100 Google employees signed a letter asking the company to pull out of a DoD program called Project Maven.

In short, that program would use Google’s artificial intelligence to help identify objects in drone video. Eventually, those objects could become targets. Google employees objected to this collaboration and that their talents were used as a weapon of war.”

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[RELATED:  She Kills People From 7,850 Miles Away  ]

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“C4ISRNET”

“For years, senior Department of Defense leaders have preached a message of speed. Buy faster. Test faster. Fail faster. Succeed faster. Get new capabilities out to the troops faster.

Faster, faster, faster.

Representatives from industry nod and say yes, faster is a start but, honestly, even faster would be better.

And so, the question naturally becomes, if everyone wants to go faster — the leaders want to go faster, and the folks on the front line want to go faster and the defense industry wants to go faster — what’s the holdup?

Inevitably, the answer is middle management. DoD bureaucracy is mired in the habit of moving slow. How it was is how it will forever be.

The problem, almost everyone says, is culture.

For several years now, the Pentagon has been reaching out to Silicon Valley as a way to, you guessed it, move faster. It has opened offices and assembled boards and advisors with Silicon Valley luminaries serving as liaisons to the Pentagon. Senior leaders have made approximately a billion jokes about having to wear a hoodie to work. The head of Google’s parent company, Alphabet Inc., is on the board of the Pentagon’s advisory committee.

Pentagon leaders have not made a convincing case as to why their dollars and their vision to change the world are any more altruistic than the next guy with billion-dollar pockets. Again, but this time with a West Coast flavor, the problem is DoD’s culture.

Disruption does not come clean or easy. It requires making people in long-held institutions unhappy.

If DoD wants to move faster, it has a choice: It can disrupt institutions in Washington or disrupt institutions on the West Coast. But if it wants wholesale change, as leaders often claim, it will have to choose workers on one coast to make unhappy.”

https://www.c4isrnet.com/opinion/2018/05/15/silicon-valley-will-never-love-dod/

 

 

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GSA Weighing ‘Multiple Initiatives’ For Government 2019 Centers of Excellence (COE) Projects

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“FEDSCOOP”

“The USDA was selected to be the “lighthouse” agency for the rollout of all five CoE teams, but future projects could focus on agencies using individual teams.

Those teams are paired with contractors, as well as personnel at target agencies, to carry out IT modernization projects based on their skill sets.”

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“As the General Services Administration moves forward leading the White House’s Centers of Excellence program to modernize IT operations at the Department of Agriculture, agency officials at the agency’s Technology Transformation Service are already looking toward the next round of projects.

Joanne Collins-Smee, deputy commissioner of the Federal Acquisition Service and TTS director, said Friday that the agency was already looking for what projects it could deploy the CoE teams to in fiscal 2019.

“That’s the vision, that we would have several agencies that the CoEs are in at one time,” she said at ACT-IAC’s Igniting Innovation event. “So, for the first substantiation, we all agreed it’s USDA and USDA alone. But as we look into 2019, we are looking at are there other agencies that we would bring on?”

The CoE program, announced in December, is built on five teams of IT talent specializing in cloud adoption, IT infrastructure optimization, customer experience, contact center services and service delivery analytics.

“So as we are evolving this model, the view is that it doesn’t have to be all five. We are going to be building up the teams also,” she said. “So our vision is that we are going to have similar tiger teams. Obviously, they have a very specific skill, but they would go into the next agency. So it’s not like the same team would do USDA and [another] agency.”

The ongoing USDA modernization project is currently in its assessment phase of what is projected to be a three-year overall project, with each team on a separate timeline.

USDA CIO Gary Washington said he expects the implementation phase to begin this fall after the agency assessment and game-planning by the CoE teams are complete.

“We have set ambitious, but realistic timeframes to accomplish this,” he said.

Collins-Smee added that GSA and USDA would be revealing some of that assessment information, as well as the timeline for the implementation phase, in an industry day next month.”

https://www.fedscoop.com/gsa-weighing-multiple-initiatives-next-coe-projects-2019/

 

6 Predictions On How A New Strategy Could Change What The Pentagon Buys

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National Defense Strategy 2

“C4ISRNET”

“During a speech at Johns Hopkins University in January 2018, Jim Mattis, the secretary of defense, unveiled an updated version of a Pentagon document called the National Defense Strategy.

C4ISRNET asked industry leaders to explain how this shift could play out. Individually, their answers are compelling, but together they create a rich portrait of modern warfare.”

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“After nearly 17 years of war in Iraq and Afghanistan, the new document fundamentally changed the direction of the Department of Defense. Now, the Pentagon is turning its attention to what it describes as a near-peer competition — in other words: China and Russia — and away from the counterterrorism mission.

But with the new focus comes a shift in battlefield technology. The strategy calls for updated nuclear command and control, investments in space, and greater integration of cyber.

CYBER

WHAT WILL CHANGE: More sophisticated cyberattacks

WHAT THE PENTAGON WILL WANT: More automation with cyber and more visibility of who’s on the network

NAME: David Mihelcic, federal chief technology and strategy officer, Juniper Networks

Near-peer adversaries are willing to expend significant resources — both in terms of people and money — to penetrate or disrupt federal networks critical to the security and economic health of the United States. Likewise, near-peer adversaries’ tools and techniques are far superior to those used by more typical criminal hackers. As such, we’re going to see threats against federal networks increase exponentially. In response, federal agencies must defend all their network assets and those of the nation, whether they exist in legacy or cloud environments.

Agencies must proactively hunt near-peer adversaries that are attempting to or have already established a foothold within federal networks. These same techniques must also be adopted by operators of enterprise and service provider networks. U.S. Cyber Command and the Department of Homeland Security will need to be prepared to respond in kind if adversaries act against our defense and civilian networks, as well as our national critical infrastructure. Remember that DHS is tasked with protecting the entire country, not just the federal government. To do that, the department must be prepared to respond to cyberthreats to commercial networks.

Security automation will be critical. Automation can also greatly reduce the risk of human error, such as the accidental exposure of highly sensitive data to potential bad actors.

Agencies will also need increased visibility into all aspects of their network environments. Near-peer adversaries’ attack methods are growing increasingly sophisticated. They may target applications, devices or other means, and are motivated to find vulnerabilities that CIOs may not even realize exist. Federal IT professionals must have tools in place that allow them to identify and remediate those vulnerabilities and quickly react to potential threats.

UNMANNED

WHAT WILL CHANGE: More resilient multidomain weapons systems

WHAT THE PENTAGON WILL WANT: More underwater drones to provide intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance

NAME: Bill Toti, president, L3 Maritime Sensor Systems

Imagine the USS TEXAS approaches the coast of a foreign harbor. The ship slows to near-hover, and from one of its torpedo tubes emerges a swarm of 30 Iver-PW unmanned underwater vehicles. They swim out, then spread into a pattern equidistant in lateral distance and depth, autonomously station-keeping. They scan the ocean volume for bottom, moored and floating sea mines, reporting mine detection in real-time. After completing the deep survey, they continue on to perform hydrographic survey of the beach to prepare for an upcoming Marine amphibious landing. The entire operation is done within six short hours. Before this technology was available, the process would have taken 100 divers over three weeks to perform comparable surveys.

Not far away, an extra-large underwater drone plants an active sonar projector on the sea floor, which immediately goes active. A series of six medium-diameter Iver-5 unmanned underwater vehicles orbit up to 30 miles away carrying passive receivers, bi-statically tracking four adversary submarines in the area.

Further out to sea, one of 50 deployed Bloodhound unmanned surface vehicles is guided to a target datum by shore-based antisubmarine warfare command-and-control forces. A HELRAS dipping sonar is automatically lowered through a moon bay on the Bloodhound, immediately detecting the target, a cruise-missile firing submarine. The USV then reels in the dipping sonar, autonomously repositioning, then dips its sonar again and starts pinging, regaining track. This Bloodhound USV is able to track the submarine for weeks, until hostilities begin and a P-8 Poseidon aircraft outfitted with an MX-20HD electro-optical sensor system is dispatched to launch a torpedo and destroy the submarine from standoff range.

More resilient multidomain drone systems could benefit ISR needs.
More resilient multidomain drone systems could benefit ISR needs.
SPACE

WHAT WILL CHANGE: Adversaries may have counterspace technologies

WHAT THE PENTAGON WILL WANT: Greater space capabilities and resilient satellite communications

NAME: Rebecca Cowen-Hirsch, senior vice president of government strategy and policy, Inmarsat Government

The DoD’s new national defense strategy places even greater emphasis on the urgency for enhanced threat awareness in space, along with the protection of critical assets, both military and commercial on orbit. In contrast to insurgents in the Middle East, a near-peer adversary is more organized, strategic and state funded, and thus positioned to engage aggressively across multiple domains.

Indeed, a future conflict of this nature would likely involve troops and unmanned assets on the ground, in the air and at sea; satellite jamming incidents; on-orbit threats; and state-sponsored cyber intrusions targeting electric power grids, nuclear plants and other critical infrastructure across the globe.

The National Defense Strategy asserts that an attack on critical components of the U.S. space architecture “will be met with a deliberate response at a time, place, manner and domain of our choosing.” In support, the space industry’s focus must be on the broadest areas of support for C4ISR, for both military and commercially supplied satellite communications platforms. This means continued investment into wideband and additional, protected communications, network diversification, backhaul performance, Overhead Persistent Infrared technologies and enhanced augmentation for GPS. This new strategy shifts focus of some mission sets to support advancements in maritime and aeronautical ISR and other highly mobile tech demanding of resilient SATCOM.

The adversaries here are not “new,” but their tactics and capabilities have and will continue to evolve and expand. To respond, commercial, defense and intelligence assets must prepare to deter, detect and defend against these threats — whether on land, in the air, at sea, space and cyberspace.

ELECTRONIC WARFARE

WHAT WILL CHANGE: Near-peers will have significant jamming capabilities

WHAT THE PENTAGON WILL WANT: More software-defined hardware

NAME: Christopher Rappa, product line director for RF, electronic warfare and advanced electronics, BAE Systems FAST Labs

Past counterterrorism operations revealed the difficulties of fighting an asymmetric battle with a determined, cunning and agile adversary. Insurgents leveraged commercial technology, including cellphones and social media, for battlefield coordination and off-the-shelf components in improvised explosive devices. This use of easily accessible technology stressed the defense acquisition pipeline. Solutions required disproportionate investment and continued to be countered at great cost.

In concert with explosive demand in consumer products, radio frequency microelectronics and processing components are continuing to evolve and grow with no sign of slowing down. Additionally, the hardware is becoming more and more defined by software, enabling flexibility with minimal cost impact. The defense technology acquisition pipeline wasn’t designed to keep up and that is not necessarily the case for near-peer competitors. The DoD and industry needs to and can move faster.

Due to long acquisition cycles and a lower historical priority, the technology disparity is extremely evident in electronic warfare. Advancements in off-the-shelf software-defined systems enable waveform flexibility and agility where parameters can be changed between transmissions. Agility means uncertainty, driving us toward the development of cognitive, adaptive and coordinated EW systems that can adjust to counter new and emerging threats. Key innovations in those systems are required to not just keep pace with the commercial capabilities, but also to provide an edge over the near-peers who will be leveraging that technology and have been investing heavily to disrupt our command of the electromagnetic spectrum while the U.S. focused on the counterterrorism mission.

With a renewed focus on near-peer adversaries, the Department of Defense has reprioritized EW technology development. The next generation of electronic warfare technology will not be dulled by a peer’s ability to leverage commercial technology, a lesson learned from IEDs many years ago.

Satellite imagery could play a critical role in understanding China and Russia.
Satellite imagery could play a critical role in understanding China and Russia.
GEOINT

WHAT WILL CHANGE: The U.S. will have interest in an enormous geographic area

WHAT THE PENTAGON WILL WANT: Machine learning to process giant imagery libraries.

NAME: Walter Scott, executive vice president & chief technology officer, Maxar Technologies

One area that’s become increasingly important is the ability to derive intelligence and insight from volumes of data that are far larger than what human analysts can process naturally. Machine learning in the last few years has reached the point where it’s become an effective massive force multiplier, allowing talented and highly trained analysts to focus their efforts on the places and things that are most likely to have mission significance.

This is important because the relevant geographies are now larger than ever, and the adversaries are more capable. In the 1990s, you had to know where to look. In today’s world, it’s not the stuff you know about that’s going to hurt you — it’s the stuff you don’t know. So, you basically must look everywhere. We’ve greatly expanded our ability to collect imagery to the point where DigitalGlobe is now producing on the order of 80 terabytes of imagery product every day. It would take a single human analyst 85 years to extract just one single feature from that volume of imagery.

Fortunately, the tools to exploit this deluge of data have also been advancing very rapidly, enabling analytic results that might otherwise have gone undiscovered because there just aren’t enough eyeballs in the world to look at every pixel that’s being collected.

IT & Networks

WHAT WILL CHANGE: DoD will rely more heavily on the cloud

WHAT THE PENTAGON WILL WANT: More cloud services

NAMES: Lawrence Hollister, executive director, Cubic Mission Solutions

Unconventional warfare is becoming the new normal. As technology evolves and data to decision speeds are increased, the need for a distributed edge cloud architecture or tactical cloud is a must. The tactical cloud is an operating environment where information, data management, connectivity and command and control are core mission priorities.

To best meet the challenges of future peer and near-peer actors, we must exploit all aspects of fused ISR from multiple assets and leverage technology in secure communications.

Quickly capitalizing on the capabilities of the ever-changing information age will allow our forces to seamlessly share situational understanding across C4ISR systems in every domain.

Near-peer actors have highly effective communication denying capabilities, putting our reach back at risk, thus dislocating the edge teams. This is why a hybrid cloud concept with local tactical cloud applications that can run disconnected from reach back cloud infrastructures is so vital. Even though the multidomain tactical/edge cloud has external connections, the cyber threat is reduced or mitigated through the connections to the edge and theater-level secure gateways.

The tactical/edge cloud model is where every platform is leveraged as a sensor. This vision will enable more rapid, effective decisions and will provide a significant operating advantage. A distributed, self-healing, multidomain tactical/edge cloud that is difficult to penetrate significantly complicates an enemy’s pursuits and will force the enemy to focus more resources toward its own defense and offense. In its desired deployment, the tactical/edge cloud will strategically sever the enemy and will lead to and enable multidomain superiority.”

https://www.c4isrnet.com/industry/2018/05/09/6-predictions-on-how-a-new-strategy-could-change-what-the-pentagon-buys/

 

SBA Rejects Major Changes in Size Standard Methodology

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SBA Size Standards“SMALLGOVCON.COM”

“The SBA’s commentary accompanied the publication of the SBA’s revised Size Standards Methodology White Paper, which is now available on the SBA’s website

The White Paper explains how the SBA establishes, reviews, and modifies its small business size standards.”

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“In commentary published in the Federal Register last week, the SBA rejected (among other things) recommendations that it use average employee count to evaluate the sizes of construction firms and that other firms’ sizes be measured by profits or net worth instead of average annual receipts.

Way back in October 2009, the SBA solicited commentary on the White Paper in effect at the time.  The SBA also sought comments on various policy questions the SBA must consider when developing size standards, such  as “how high a small business size standard should be, should there be a single measure of business size for all industries (i.e., employee or annual receipts)” and so on.  The SBA accepted comments until the end of the 2015 fiscal year.

Now, some 8 1/2 years after the SBA first sought public comments, the SBA has published its responses to those comments.  If you’re something of a size policy nerd (I’ll admit to it!), the SBA’s Federal Register commentary is worth reading in its entirety.  But for those who may not put themselves in that category, here are some of the highlights:

  • Profit measure rejected.  The SBA rejected a suggestion to establish size standards based on gross profits rather than average annual receipts or employee count.  “If a size standard were established in terms of gross profits,” the SBA wrote, “a company with hundreds of millions in revenues and thousands of employees can qualify as small under a profits-based size standard.”  In fact, the SBA said, “[i]t is not unusual for very larger companies to have little or negative profit over the course of business cycles.”  Plus, “a firm’s profits can be manipulated and thus would be an inconsistent and misleading measure of [a] firm’s size for size standards purposes.”  Probably once a month or so, I hear from a business owner who asks whether size standards are already based on profits.  It’s a rather common misconception.  But not only are profits not the measure of small business size, the SBA has no plans to head in that direction.
  • Employee count for construction rejected.  The SBA also rejected a suggestion to use average employee count, rather than average annual receipts, to measure the sizes of construction companies.  “Under SBA’s prime contractor performance requirements . . . a general construction company needs to perform as little as 15 percent of the value of the work and a specialty trade contractor can perform as little as 25 percent of the work with their own resources,” the SBA wrote.  “SBA is concerned that employee based size standards could encourage construction companies near the size standard to subcontract more work to others to bypass the limitations on subcontracting and remain technically a small business.”  The SBA concluded: “[r]eceipts, as a representative of the overall value of a company’s entire portfolio of work in a given period of time, are a better measure of the size of a construction company to determine its eligibility for Federal assistance.”
  • Net worth limits rejected.  The SBA similarly rejected a proposal to base size standards on net worth, saying that such a measure “is not practicable.”  The SBA explained that “[a] company’s net worth can be affected by a number of things, such as debt, repurchased corporate stock, etc.”  Furthermore, “data on net worth is not available by industry,” which would make it impossible for SBA to fairly establish size standards based on that measure.
  • No mid-tier or “micro” size standards.  The SBA also rejected calls to establish new size standards for “mid-sized” businesses (certain companies that have outgrown the small business size standard) and “micro” businesses (such as those with less than $100,000 in sales or fewer than 20 employees).  In rejecting these proposals, the SBA cited “significant complexity,” a “much more burdensome system and reporting requirements” and the fact that “Congress would need to establish new small business procurement goals for each tier to ensure that small businesses at different tiers have a fair access to Federal contracts.”

The SBA’s commentary is chock-full of interesting information, and not everything is the SBA saying “no.”  The SBA does make some proposed improvements and refinements to its size standards methodology.  The SBA also seeks public commentary on a variety of important size questions, such as whether there would be a uniform maximum size standard, and whether the SBA should consider lowering any size standards.  Public comments are due by June 26, 2018.”

http://smallgovcon.com/statutes-and-regulations/sba-rejects-major-changes-in-size-standard-methodology/

 

New 10th Edition GAO Guide for Preparing, Submitting And Adjudicating Bid Protests

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Bid Protest New Reg

“PNWC’s GOVERNMENT CONTRACTING UPDATE”

“GAO (Government Accountability Office) recently published its 10th Edition of its guide for preparing, submitting, and resolving bid protests. See Bid Protests at GAO: A Descriptive Guide.

When filing bid protests with the GAO, this is a great resource, whether you fly solo or retain professional help.”

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“The laws and regulations that apply to Federal Government contracting are designed to ensure that procurement is conducted fairly. On occasion, bidders or other interested in Government procurement may have reason to believe that a contract has been, or is about to be, awarded improperly or illegally, or that they have been unfairly denied a contract or an opportunity to compete for a contract.

One avenue of relief for those concerned about the propriety of a contract award has been the GAO. The GAO provides an objective, independent, and impartial forum for the resolution of disputes concerning the awards of Government contracts.

The new edition of GAO’s bid protest Guide incorporates administrative changes required by recent legislation – namely the requirement to establish an electronic filing system and charge protest filers a fee to cover the cost of that system. Clickhere for more information on the Electronic Protest Docketing System (EPDS).”

https://pacificnwc.blogspot.com/2018/05/gao-guide-for-preparing-and-submitting.html

 

Aiming To Speed Procurements, DoD Wants To Reduce Data Demands On Contractors

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Speed Up Acquisitoon

“FEDERAL NEWS RADIO”

“Defense acquisition officials have set a goal of reducing the acquisition process for major systems to a year, down from the current average of 2 1/2. First though, DoD says it needs Congress to provide some relief from the Truth in Negotiations Act.

Under that law, most acquisitions worth more than $2 million require contractors to submit certified data about their underlying costs and prices to help the government assess whether it’s getting a good deal.”

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“As part of a broader effort to speed up its acquisition of major weapons systems, the Pentagon says it wants vendors to take no more than two months to develop their final proposals. But to do that, officials say they need to reduce the volume of detailed, written pricing justifications they demand from those same firms.

It’s a paperwork-intensive process, and it takes time. Too much time, said Shay Assad, DoD’s director of procurement and acquisition policy.

“Presently, we have one major weapon system that’s taken 21 months to get to a proposal,” he said at a recent contracting conference hosted by the Association of the U.S. Army. “I don’t know how you can do anything quickly if it takes 21 months to get a proposal. So what we’ve asked Congress to allow us to do is to tailor the TINA requirement. What we want to be able to do is sit down with a company and say, ‘OK, let’s talk about whatever it is we’re buying. Tell me about the actual information or data that you have, the estimates that you have related to this particular product, and let’s agree on that data set as being the cost and pricing data that you’re going to have to certify.”

Assad said the government wants contractors to submit their entire proposals — complete with the agreed-upon cost and pricing data — within 30 to 60 days.

“It’s going to be a huge change in culture for these companies, because they’re going to have to take some risk, and they’re not used to taking risk,” he said. “They have to be risk-averse to a certain degree, because they’ve got to report their earnings to the penny on a quarterly basis. But we’re going to have to work together, because we want to radically change the way we’re doing business.”

Congress has already made some changes to the Truth in Negotiations Act in recent years.  In last year’s National Defense Authorization Act, lawmakers increased the threshold for procurements that require certified cost and pricing data from $750,000 to $2 million, and also gave DoD the discretion to waive the data requirements altogether on foreign military sales contracts if it believes it already has enough information to conclude that prices are fair and reasonable.

Another provision attempts to prod the Defense Contract Audit Agency into using more commercial standards and more private auditors in an effort to eliminate DCAA’s backlog of incurred cost audits by 2020.

DCAA is the same organization that audits vendors’ cost and pricing data, and Assad said accelerating that process is key to meeting DoD’s goal of faster contract awards.

“We’re going to commit to them: ‘You submit your proposal in 60 days, we’re going to get it audited in 60 days, and we’re going to get to the table quickly,’” he said. “We can’t be asking them to do things in 30 to 60 days and then take a year on our side.”

Also on the government side, Assad said the Pentagon is urging its acquisition workforce to add more options to their contracts that would allow the military services to extend them over multiple years, potentially eliminating the need to enter into new negotiations each time the military needs to buy more of the same equipment.

“We’re telling our contracting officers that we want them to negotiate the instant year’s buy, but then, if they think they have a pretty good deal, we want them to go negotiate options right then for the follow-on years, and oh by the way, to also put unspecified [foreign military sales] options in those contracts,” he said. “The Army has just done that on two different programs, and the same organization negotiated a multi-year in three days. It’s so it can be done, the tools are there to do it. But it takes program executive officers and program managers to have confidence in their teams.”

As one  demonstration of that confidence, Assad said PEOs and PMs need to be willing to dismiss vendors’ requests that they personally intervene in ongoing negotiations between their firms and contracting officers, when, for example, the contracting officer is taking  a negotiating position with which the company is unhappy.

“What I’m asking our senior procurement executives to do — when that phone rings from a senior industry person — is to simply say, ‘No, we’ve got a contracting officer. I don’t negotiate contracts, you can call him or her. They’re authorized to negotiate, and whatever they think is fair will be fine with us,’” he said. “And then there needs to be an alignment with the PEO and the program manager and that contracting officer, because ultimately it’s the PEO and program manager’s program. They need to be in on the business deal in terms of defining success or failure.”

https://federalnewsradio.com/defense-main/2018/05/aiming-to-speed-procurements-dod-wants-to-reduce-data-demands-on-contractors/

 

With 2018 Budget, Christmas Comes Early For Federal Contractors

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Early Christmas

“WASHINGTON TECHNOLOGY” By Mark Abel

“With a total increase in the fiscal 2018 budget of $143 Billion, $80 billion for defense and $63 billion for civilian, the challenge now for most agencies will be spending the massive influx of funds by the end of the current fiscal year, Sept. 30.

Prepare now for a fourth-quarter spending spree unlike any other.”

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“The federal government is flush with money, thanks to a $1.3 trillion fiscal 2018 funding package. Contractors that take proactive steps now can benefit from this bonanza.

After five continuous resolutions and a government shutdown, it’s Christmas in April and the gifts are flowing. The biggest winners in the omnibus spending bill include the departments of Commerce, Defense, Energy, Health and Human Services, Homeland Security and Transportation, all of which saw increases of more than 10 percent over last year.

Even the EPA, the beleaguered agency that the White House wants to slash – remained flat. The State Department was the only major agency that had a cut, only 5.9 percent, less than the 8 percent requested in the President’s budget.

Army Secretary Mark Esper has said, “The increase is spectacular. But I probably won’t see those dollars until April, which only give us a few short months to spend them.”

In addition, there is talk by the White House about attempts to rescind funds, further delaying their release. Despite this possible scenario, the current funding situation still creates a unique opportunity for federal contractors. After many years of dealing with flat or declining budgets, federal agencies will see significant increases resulting in more contracting dollars dispersed into the marketplace.

Spending throughout the remainder of this fiscal year will be greater than normal. Federal spending historically rises in the fourth quarter, often called the year-end buying season or fourth quarter surge.

But this year, the surge in the fourth quarter will be much larger than any time in the recent past. Federal agencies will be working hard to allocate these funds as quickly as possible. And for contractors that proactively work to position to take advantage of this market force, it could be the best year in a decade or more.

But contractors beware, don’t just chase agencies with the biggest funding increases, but rather focus outreach efforts on agencies and capabilities where your company currently has an established foothold, or in places that are a logical extension of your core business.

With that in mind, as a contractor, do not delay and begin immediately to promote your solutions to customers. Start with existing customers, they already know and like your company. Also, with current customers there is already a contract in place to buy products or services from your company. It is easier for the contracting officers to allocate additional funds to existing contracts than to issue new ones.

Look for ways to offer expansion of the current scope – or additional tasks that are related to those services. For example, if you are providing network management, perhaps a new dashboard or software application could improve the efficiency of the network. Or if you are performing software development, perhaps you can propose an increase in staffing to work off the backlog of applications awaiting modifications or development.

Whatever you propose, think about offering your solution as a “ready to go” project. This is similar to the “shovel ready projects” the Obama administration was seeking in 2009 to expediently approve funds under the $787 billion economic stimulus package.

A “ready to go” project means a complete package ready for approval – including a proposal with a scope of work, a timeline, deliverables, and pricing. Be sure to promote any existing IDIQ contract vehicles that you have as well. These contract vehicles make it easier for federal buyers can get to your company without having to issue a formal solicitation. With these things in hand, a contracting officer can issue a task order quickly and move on to the next. Make it as easy as possible for the CO to procure services from your company.

Once you have approached your current customers, it will be time to pursue potential new customers. Carefully researching the market will lead you to the most receptive and likely buyers for the services you sell. To begin, look at the spending patterns of the various buying offices of agencies and departments where your company has current or prior related experience. Next, evaluate the spending profile of these buying offices, based on NAICS Codes. At Castlemar, for example, we’ve been analyzing the buying offices slated for the biggest funding increases and using a data-driven approach to categorize them by the types of capabilities they’re likely to procure in the next six months. This allows us to quickly identify pockets of growth that are most aligned with a company’s offerings and relevant experience.

The next step is developing or tailoring the “ready to go” project that you can propose to the target organizations. Finally, identify the program staff and buyers in the target agencies and approach them with your offer.

Get started today. Buying organizations have internal deadlines that are coming up before July 1 to receive and process tasks and funds for the current fiscal year.

Remember these key points: (1) focus on your core capabilities; (2) Prioritize expansion of current clients; (3) Analyze market data to boost efficiency; and (4) get as many “read to go” proposals into potential customers’ hands as possible in the next 90 days.

Following these simple steps and focusing your outreach will improve the results of your efforts and pay dividends in the form of new task orders and new customers this year.”

https://washingtontechnology.com/articles/2018/04/18/insights-abel-fiscal-2018-buying.aspx

About the Author

Image result for Mark Abel is the founder and CEO of Castlemar Consulting,

Mark Abel is the founder and CEO of Castlemar Consluting, a marketing strategy firm that helps federal agencies with customer research and business development services. 

 

 

Understanding The Government Contracting Customer and Fueling Innovation

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Government Contractor Innovation

“WASHINGTON TECHNOLOGY” By John Marinaro

“The federal government reached its small business federal contracting goal for the fourth consecutive year, awarding 24 percent in federal contract dollars to small businesses totaling $99.96 billion, an increase of over $9 billion from the previous year.

Small and medium sized businesses should feel empowered by this trend and work to understand what the government needs.”

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“How do we truly begin the process of innovating the government? It’s an age-old question that seems to have no definitive answer.

For a small to mid-size government contractor, when you’re dealing with an entity as large as the federal government that’s been doing what they do for decades on end, it can feel almost impossible that you could effectively break through with innovation.

With an agency’s inability to sit down with each individual contract team to hold a tailored discussion around their specific challenges or pressures, it becomes exponentially more important for any contractor to independently take the steps necessary to become a better partner to the government.

After my time at NASA and now having transitioned to private industry, I’ve figured out a couple of focuses that can help with easing the government-contractor relationship.

EMPHASIZE INNOVATION

Government agencies are often torn by the fact that they want to modernize, but the logistics of doing so often prove difficult.

Contractors need to understand that the government is constantly torn between the evil they know– older contracting partners they’ve worked with for years– and the evil they don’t know– new and innovative solutions that would be procured through a brand new contract.

What can a contractor take away from this fact? An emphasis on innovation.

Whether it’s during a discussion in a quarterly meeting or inside RFP development, the government needs to come away understanding why a company’s solution and body of work is truly new and different. It can’t just marginally move the needle, it needs to generate massive returns that will make an agency feel like the results will be worth the cost of time and finances it will take to transition to something brand new.

It’s easier for the government to take the path of least resistance if the alternative doesn’t make more than a small splash.

PROVE YOUR AGILITY AND FLEXIBILITY

Another dilemma that the government faces in their pursuit of innovation is the fact that once they’ve made the decision to incorporate a new team, there’s a delay or stoppage in short term progress.

With a flattened budget, a contract team doesn’t have the time or financial allowance to do research as part of the contract, as this will often draw resources away from other work.

Contractors need to ensure that they can get up to speed quickly without hindering their agency partner. A partner that’s self-motivated to do external reading, research, or learning about a particular challenge provides much more value to a government-contractor relationship than simply waiting for someone to hopefully provide you with that information.

ALIGN YOUR MISSIONS

According to a recent Government Business Council survey, many agencies lack a mission-focused strategy. The survey shares that 1 in 3 respondents feel that their agency’s IT contractors lack an understanding of organization mission objectives. This is also likely results in the government’s difficulties in identifying new solutions to mission challenges.

As a contractor, it is your job to make sure that missions are aligned so that you and your government partner are working towards a long-term goal that positively affects both parties. Without a shared mission, it’s highly possible that miscommunication will occur and innovation will be prevented.

As a small business contractor, working with the government can seem daunting. However, following these suggestions will increase your chances for success.”

https://washingtontechnology.com/articles/2018/04/19/insights-marinaro-flexibility-innovation.aspx

About the Author

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John Marinaro is the vice president of the federal civilian division of KeyLogic Systems.

 

Is Federal Government System Engineering and Technical Assistance (SETA) Contracting for You?

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“SMALL TO FEDS”  By Ken Larson 

System Engineering and Technical Assistance (SETA) contracting may provide an avenue for the small business in gaining the momentum necessary for building a government contracting past performance record.   It does not require an off-the-shelf product or capital intensive facilities.”
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“The commercial, start up or growing entrepreneur may have specialized skills, products and services that could be marketable to the government but a window of opportunity or an entrance niche is sometimes difficult to locate in the very large and competitive federal contracting venue.

SETA contracting is often utilized by the government to enhance agency statistics requiring firms that hold small business designations and who can offer quality services in support of the internal agency facilities or operations.

Set Aside Designations

DEFINITIONS

FAR Sub-part 37.2 defines advisory and assistance services and provides that the use of such services is a legitimate way to improve the prospects for program or systems success:

Advisory and Assistance Services

FAR 16.505(c) provides that the ordering period of an advisory and assistance services task order contract, including all options or modifications, may not exceed five years unless a longer period is specifically authorized in a law that is applicable to such a contract:

DFARS Part 237.2 provides very important information applicable to advisory and assistance contracts:

The contracting officer and requiring activity must also be aware of FAR Subpart 9.5 when considering the potential for organizational and consultant conflicts of interest:

THE NATURE OF THE WORK 
 
Typical SETA efforts may involve long term contracts to perform acquisition assistance, project management, price or program analysis, independent estimates, administrative support, computer and data base operations, technical and security services, facilities maintenance functions or similar tasks. The typical SETA contractor rarely interacts with other government contractors and if interaction occurs it is only with other SETA contractors and subcontractors performing in similar roles at the same agency or in the presence of a government contracting officer/authorized representative. They are generally behind the scenes and cannot directly represent the US Government.
SETA contracting requires skilled management and labor resources capable of performing a scope of work for which the government has identified a need and for which outsourcing to an industry contractor has been selected as the means to fulfill that need. The venue demands strong human resources management and an enhanced business system to price, account and bill on a job cost basis under government service contracts.
  

INCUMBENT WORK FORCES

SETA contractors often target incumbent work forces where an agency plans to offer a small business the opportunity to assume an existing services program formerly run by a larger firm or a small business that has grown beyond the size limit designated for the procurement.

In these instances the winner will have solid plans for recruiting and retaining the existing work force executing a transition plan and insuring that the government does not encounter an interruption in services.Contingent hire agreements and sophisticated human resources processes are necessary to position the company during the proposal effort and as the contract proceeds. Contingent personnel are well aware of their market value among the SETA contractors competing for the work.

MARKETING APPROACH

As budgets become tighter, the government agencies will be looking for solid performance at the lowest possible price, stability in performance and contractors adept at learning government processes and systems as well as working with the agency to improve them.
Find opportunities well in advance of their being formally solicited on FEDBIZOPPS. Look for existing services and support contracts in their last year or self-market a services contract to an agency whose mission requires your expertise. 
 
Propose and price to win using the following guidance:

Proposal Preparation
UNDERSTAND ORGANIZATION CONFLICT OF INTEREST (OCI) RESTRICTION
 If you are considering becoming a SETA contractor, determine what portion of the market in your industry will be unavailable to you in that role with the agency to whom you contract. As a SETA contractor you will not be allowed to compete for the programs being procured by the agency other than the SETA support contacts. You knowledge of the inside workings of the government agency would be a conflict of interest in bidding other projects. 
You should target for SETA exploration only those agencies to which you do not intend to market other services. 
  
SUMMARY

 
Consider SETA contracting if your marketing plan contains elements of support and assistance that an agency may be willing to outsource. If you hold small business designations, seek marketing opportunities to foster government set aside procurements for the designations you hold and understand that SETA contract will be the only programs you will hold with that agency due to OCI restrictions. “

Forthcoming Changes to Federal Government Contract Bid Protest Regulations

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“NATIONAL DEFENSE MAGAZINE”

“The National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal year 2018 includes some significant changes affecting contractors with regard to challenges to requests for proposals and contract awards, otherwise known as “bid protests.”

The introduction of a new pilot program under which large defense contractors will be required to pay the Defense Department’s costs where a protest is denied; and the enhancement of post-award debriefing rights.”

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“While Congress passed the former with the intent of reducing frivolous protests, it is likely the latter — which will give contractors greater insight into the rationale behind procurement decisions — that will have a greater impact on the number of protests filed.

Section 827 of the act requires that the department establish and implement a three-year pilot program under which “large” defense contractors will be required to reimburse the department for “costs incurred in processing covered protests” for protests “denied in an opinion” by the Government Accountability Office.

A large contractor is defined as one with revenues in excess of $250 million, and the pilot program will apply to protests filed at the GAO between Oct. 1, 2019, and Sept. 30, 2022.

By limiting the scope of this loser-pays provision to those protests that are “denied in an opinion” by the GAO, this reimbursement provision will potentially only apply to a small number of protests. A recent study by the RAND Corp. examined defense protests at the GAO from fiscal years 2008 through 2016. This study found that less than 0.3 percent of such procurements are protested at the GAO, and that small business protests make up more than half of those.

While a protest sustain rate of 2.6 percent for fiscal years 2008 through 2016, or approximately 300 out of 11,459 protests, appears to suggest there is a great number of frivolous protests, deeper analysis of GAO’s statistics shows that is simply not the case. Approximately 21 percent of the bid protests filed were resolved by a decision on the merits. Of those 2,429 defense protests that reached the merits, nearly 300 were sustained. In other words, only 2,133, or approximately 20 percent of all the protests filed over eight years, were denied in an opinion.

With regard to the 79 percent of protests resolved without an opinion, a significant number — approximately 40 percent — were dismissed as a result of the government voluntarily correcting procurement errors noted in a bid protest. In addition, a number of protests were voluntarily withdrawn after protestor’s counsel had the opportunity to review the confidential record underlying the agency’s procurement decision.

In other words, this legislation will impact a relatively small number of protests. The 2,133 Defense Department bid protests denied in an opinion over an eight-year period equates to approximately 267 per year. Of those protests, the reimbursement provision will only affect protests filed by large contractors. If the percentage of protests filed by small businesses — over half — holds, even if adjusted to account for the lower effective rate of protests filed by small businesses reported by RAND, that number is likely under 200.

While this provision will impact a relatively small number of protests, the financial impact for those few may be significant. Congress did not define or elaborate on what costs are considered “incurred in processing covered protests” or how those costs will be quantified. Considering the amount of time legal and contract administration staff spend working on bid protests, these costs could easily exceed six figures.

But until the department issues guidance on how this provision will be implemented, it will be difficult for large defense contractors subject to this provision to evaluate the risks involved in filing a bid protest at GAO.

Finally, it is unclear how contractors will be determined to meet the large contractor threshold outlined in the new NDAA. The statutory definition: a contractor with revenues in excess of $250 million “during the previous year,” does not clarify whether this means the contractor’s fiscal year, government’s fiscal year or calendar year.

This also raises the question of whether contractors are expected to opt-in to be considered as a contractor to which this provision applies. Contractors will have to await department guidance as to whether they will be required to implement additional accounting measures to determine applicability or whether it will consider existing financial information, such as the revenues reported in the System for Award Management. Thankfully, the pilot program does not apply to protests filed before Oct. 1, 2019, so the department has time to issue regulations filling in these gaps.

Once the Defense Department has issued guidance on what costs will be included, large contractors may consider filing bid protests at the Court of Federal Claims instead of GAO, as this loser-pays provision does not apply to protests filed there. Once GAO implements its online filing system, a $350 filing fee will be required for bid protests. The court’s filing fee is currently $400; thus, the cost of filing is unlikely to influence a contractor’s decision where to file, particularly those large contractors affected by the provision. Although a bid protest filed at the court does not result in an automatic stay of performance of the protested contract pursuant to the Competition in Contracting Act, it does have the authority to issue an injunction, and the government often voluntarily stays performance pending the resolution of the protest.

One of Congress’ goals in implementing the loser-pays provision is to discourage the filing of frivolous GAO protests. However, most government contractors, particularly the large contractors affected by this provision, understand the protest process and engage experienced protest counsel. As a result, these government contractors are cognizant of the potential harm to their reputation by filing a frivolous protest and are reluctant to do so.

Further, GAO’s bid protest regulations provide for mechanisms to dismiss frivolous protests. Those that are deemed untimely or meritless are often resolved early in the protest process, prior to an agency incurring significant costs in processing these protests. It is likely that measures for the deterrence of frivolous protests will have a greater impact if implemented at this stage of the protest process, rather than this fee-shifting provision for protests denied in an opinion.

In addition, GAO already has authority to discipline contractors that file frivolous protests, recently holding that a contractor that “routinely and repeatedly” filed protests “that are not legally sound” had abused the GAO process, wasted tax-payer dollars and, as a result, would be suspended from filing protests at the GAO for two years. See Latvian Connection LLC – Reconsideration, B-415043.3, Nov. 29, 2017, where GAO also dismissed all pending protests filed by the contractor.

While Congress’ goal is admirable, the loser-pays provision is unlikely to have the desired effect. As noted above, this provision applies to the small percentage of bid protests that survive the GAO’s preliminary dismissal measures for frivolous protests or other resolution procedures. Even without the introduction of this loser-pays provision, approximately 21 percent of GAO bid protests of DoD procurements reach the merits.

When it is effective, protestors subject to the provision may well decide to voluntarily dismiss a higher percentage of protests after review of the record, further decreasing the percentage of GAO protests that are resolved by decision.

Finally, it should be noted that a bid protest that reaches the merits and is then denied by the GAO does not equate to a frivolous protest. Some issues are simply close calls. And for those cases, after the effective date of the pilot program contractors will have the ability to avoid the loser-pays provision by filing protests at the Court of Federal Claims.

Meanwhile, for the past five years, the Air Force has provided unsuccessful offerors an opportunity to request an “extended debriefing,” which permits the unsuccessful offeror’s outside counsel to review the agency’s redacted source selection documents and ask questions. This information is typically only provided to the protestor’s counsel under a protective order following the filing of a bid protest at the GAO. By allowing the protestor’s counsel to obtain as part of the debriefing more complete information about whether the Air Force made the correct procurement decision, the hope was to avoid protests filed in part to obtain the more complete record.

Wisely, in the new NDAA Congress chose to expand the Air Force’s innovative program. Section 818 enhances that existing pilot program for “extended debriefings” by requiring a revision of the Defense Federal Acquisition Regulation Supplement to apply certain debriefing requirements across the department.

First, contractors are entitled to a debriefing for all contracts and task orders valued at $10 million or higher. Second, the agency is required to disclose its redacted source selection determination for contracts in excess of $100 million. Third, contractors are provided an opportunity to ask follow-up questions after a debriefing.

The deputy director of defense procurement and acquisition policy tasked the DFARS Contract Administration Committee to draft the proposed rule implementing Section 818. The report is due in March. Congress has provided a deadline of six months from the date of enactment to implement these changes.

Under the new rules, a debriefing — oral or written — is required for all awards in excess of $10 million, regardless of whether it was a negotiated procurement conducted under FAR Part 15. Not only does this affect contractors’ rights with respect to debriefing, but it also affects the deadline for filing a timely bid protest where debriefings were not previously required. Even if the information was known prior to the debriefing, a bid protest may only be filed after the debriefing, and no later than 10 days after the debriefing if filed at the GAO. But note that a protest must be filed within five days of the debriefing to trigger the Competition in Contracting Act’s automatic stay of performance.

The most significant change is the requirement to disclose a redacted source selection determination for awards in excess of $100 million.

In addition, small business contractors and nontraditional contractors are provided an option to request the same redacted disclosure for awards in excess of $10 million. The successful awardee is also entitled to the same debriefing and disclosure rights as the unsuccessful offerors.

Unsuccessful offerors are provided an opportunity to submit follow-up questions related to the debriefing within two business days following a post-award debriefing. The agency is then required to answer in writing within five business days after receipt of the follow-up questions. The debriefing is then considered complete when the agency responds to the unsuccessful offeror’s questions.

While these deadlines may appear short, it is in line with the deadline for filing a timely bid protest at GAO, which is 10 days after a required debriefing. Offerors will still have an opportunity to file a timely bid protest even after the post-debriefing Q&A process.

The ultimate impact of these changes will depend on the regulations issued to implement the NDAA provisions, so contractors should carefully monitor developments over the coming year.”

http://www.nationaldefensemagazine.org/articles/2018/3/6/contractors-face-changes-to-bid-protest-strategies