Category Archives: Technology

The Next $10 Billion Chapter In The Veterans Administration Health Care Systems Development Saga

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VA New System

Editors’ Note:  The story herein on “FEDSCOOP” announces the latest trip on a decades- long road of efforts by the Veteran’s Administration to connect the  health care systems of the military with those of the VA and establish state of the art records keeping for veterans.  

This sole source, non-competitive, contract award to CERNER,  a commercial firm in lieu of in-house systems development  is a major change in approach from past efforts that have cost billions and led to shut downs and start overs. 

Having seen these types of government systems management challenges from the inside for over 4 decades I find myself sincerely doubting that both the scope and the price tag are final.   For historical perspective, please see: 

A VETERAN CONNECTS THE DOTS IN THE MILITARY AND VETERANS HEALTH CARE SYSTEMS MAZE   

Ken Larson

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“FEDSCOOP”

“The Department of Veterans Affairs announced Thursday that it has officially signed a contract with Cerner for a new electronic health record (EHR) system.

The inked contract is worth up to $10 billion over 10 years.

“With a contract of that size, you can understand why former Secretary [David] Shulkin and I took some extra time to do our due diligence and make sure the contract does what the President wanted,” acting Secretary Robert Wilkie said in a statement. “President Trump has made very clear to me that he wants this contract to do right by both Veterans and taxpayers, and I can say now without a doubt that it does.”

The new EHR will be “similar” to that used by the Department of Defense, which will allow patient data will be “seamlessly” shared between the two. This has been a major pain point with the Department’s current EHR, the Veterans Information Systems and Technology Architecture, or VistA.

Wilkie reiterated Shulkin’s comments, from March, that the VA will learn from some of the DOD’s challenges in deploying its new EHR, known as MHS Genesis, and will not fall prey to the same pitfalls, which have plagued early pilots of the system and led to a report calling it “neither operationally effective nor operationally suitable.”

“VA and DoD are collaborating closely to ensure lessons learned at DoD sites will be implemented in future deployments at DoD as well as VA,” Wilkie said. “We appreciate the DoD’s willingness to share its experiences implementing its electronic health record.”

“Signing this contract today is an enormous win for our nation’s Veterans,” Wilkie said. “It puts in place a modern IT system that will support the best possible health care for decades to come. That’s exactly what our nation’s heroes deserve.”

However big an announcement this may be, actual rollout of the new EHR will take time. At an event in January, former VA CIO Scott Blackburn told the crowd to expect another 10 years of VistA.”

https://www.fedscoop.com/va-ehr-cerner-10-billion-robert-wilkie/

 

 

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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/

 

 

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/

 

$2 Billion VA Technology Transfer Process Requires Clarification Says GAO

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VA IP

“FEDSCOOP.COM”

The agency operates a $1.9 billion research program, which has been behind inventions like the pacemaker, early prototypes for the CAT scan and more.

However, this process doesn’t always run as smoothly as it could — GAO found that while the VA’s 3,000 researchers are technically required to disclose their inventions to the agency, they may fail to “consistently” do so.”

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“The Department of Veterans Affairs needs to clear some things up in order to improve its technology transfer pipeline, a new Government Accountability Office report found.

The agency also has a tech transfer office, created in 2000, which works to shift internal health care innovations to the private sector for eventual commercialization, from which the VA can then collect royalties.

Some researchers are unaware of their responsibility to report. First-time inventors, for example, may not know what protocol is.

“VA established an online training program in 2017 covering the invention disclosure process, but the training is not mandatory,” the GAO report reads. “VA provided us with a report from October 2017 indicating that out of over 3,000 eligible researchers, 130 had taken the training.” That’s just four percent.

Second, many of the VA’s researchers also hold positions at universities, and this muddies the reporting process. These researchers may disclose their invention to the university assuming that the university will, in turn, disclose to the VA. But this doesn’t always happen.

Collectively, these two issues contribute to “lost technology transfer opportunities and royalties for VA,” the GAO report states. The watchdog recommends that VA implement a couple of fixes to make sure it is getting the full return on its research investment.

First, the report advises, “make training about invention disclosure mandatory.” And as to the university partnerships, GAO suggests that the VA create a standard method of reporting for all. The VA concurred with both of these recommendations.

The Trump administration recently identified tech transfer as one of its cross agency priority goals (referred to as CAP goals) — benchmarks instituted as a way to operationalize the President’s Management Agenda. CAP goal number 14 seeks to “improve the transfer of technology from federally funded research and development to the private sector to promote U.S. economic growth and national security.”

The administration is keenly interested in maximizing the federal return on research investment.

“Future promises are not enough,” Michael Kratsios, deputy CTO at the Office of Science and Technology Policy, said of federal R&D spending at a recent National Institute of Standards and Technology event. “The taxpayer correctly demands that we justify why our spending is important and why it’s important today. We must focus on maximizing our return on federal investment.”

https://www.fedscoop.com/va-tech-transfer-gao-report/

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.

 

US Remains Top Military Spender

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Military_Spending_Indy_0 Portside dot org

“DEFENSE NEWS”

“Worldwide military spending is estimated to have reached $  1.7 trillion in 2017, according to a new report from the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute. This is the highest level of military expenditure since the end of the Cold War.

Although U.S. spending has decreased from 2008 levels by 14 percent, it still spends 2.7 times more than the next highest spender, China.”

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“The top five biggest spenders were the United States, China, Saudi Arabia, Russia and India, which accounted for 60 percent of global military spending.

China, Russia and India saw dramatic increases in spending since 2008. According to the report Chinese military spending in 2017, approximately $228 billion, has increased 110 percent since 2008, with Russian and Indian spending growing by 36 and 45 percent to $69.4 billion and $66.3 billion, respectively.

Between 2016 and 2017, China increased military spending by 5.6 percent, Saudi Arabia by 9.2 percent and India by 5.5 percent. Despite announcing a new host of nuclear weapons and completing the country’s largest military exercises in history, Russia’s spending fell by 20 percent in the same time frame.

“The increases in world military expenditure in recent years have been largely due to the substantial growth in spending by countries in Asia and Oceania and the Middle East, such as China, India and Saudi Arabia,” said Dr Nan Tian, researcher with the SIPRI Arms and Military Expenditure program. “At the global level, the weight of military spending is clearly shifting away from the Euro–Atlantic region.”

Out of the top 15 military spenders, only the U.S., United Kingdom and Italy had a decrease in spending over the last decade.”

https://www.defensenews.com/industry/2018/05/02/us-remains-top-military-spender-sipri-reports/

 

The New American Way of War

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New American Way of War

A Syrian-bound Tomahawk missile is launched from the destroyer USS Laboon in the Red Sea on April 14. (Photo: U.S. Navy / Kallysta Castillo)

“THE PROJECT ON GOVERNMENT OVERSIGHT (POGO)”

“The elastic authorizations for the use of military force that Congress passed in the wake of 9/11 have been stretched by the last three administrations from continent to continent to justify military strikes in at least eight nations.

An apathetic American public and a spineless Congress have joined in a de facto alliance that increasingly allows U.S. presidents to go to war when and where they want.”

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“Threats of sustained further operations against Syria are just seen by most Americans as part of this permanent background noise of conflict,” says David Barno, a retired Army lieutenant general who commanded all U.S. forces in Afghanistan from 2003 to 2005. “These signals of greater action have provoked almost no interest from the citizenry, and frankly not much more from Congress.”

But it is part of the same package: the U.S. is now a nation waging war on auto-pilot, which—given the tenor of the times—means the U.S. will be engaged in conflict indefinitely, spending hundreds of billions of dollars it doesn’t have, without reflection or deliberation.

To highlight their preferred hands-off approach, senators proposed a retooled perpetual authorization for the use of military force their first day back at work following the Syrian attack. “A bipartisan bill introduced in the Senate [April 16] would give the president sweeping authority to wage endless war anywhere in the world with limited congressional intervention,” The American Conservative reported. “In short, it’s a rubber stamp for the global war on terror.”

“Terror,” of course, has become the cudgel to beat the U.S. public into a cowering pile of protoplasm. Americans seem unable to put the terror threat in perspective, and then act accordingly. “If the past 17 years have taught us anything, it’s that far from being an existential menace, in most cases terrorism is a manageable threat,” argue Gene Healy and John Glaser of the Cato Institute in the New York Times. “Since Sept. 11, an American’s chance of being killed in the United States by a terrorist is about one in 40 million.”

Beyond the odds is history, which hints that the Syrian strike was illegal. The Supreme Court declared in 1862 that a president “has no power to initiate or declare a war.” But that notion has slowly eroded since World War II, and all but collapsed since 9/11. “By anyone’s definition, a nation that launches war on the word of one man is not, in any real sense, a republic any more,” Garrett Epps, a constitutional legal scholar at the University of Baltimore, wrote for The Atlantic. “In the long run, allowing the president to become an autocrat with sole control of war and peace is likely to prove fatal to the republic.”

http://www.pogo.org/straus/issues/military-industrial-circus/2018/the-new-american-way-of-war.html