Category Archives: Uncategorized

Thoughts For Today And Our Times


The Specialist

I see sights you’ll never know
Cruising waters from the sky
Lofty height – down I go
Deftly tooled for fishing low

Humans weird as creatures go
Spindly legs and gaping stare
Planted on the earth below
What’s your game over there?

I’ll ignore you for the moment
Freedom calls – winds arrive
All my tools and instincts poised
The specialist starts his dive

How ‘Distance Work’ Is Transforming The Workplace



***These changes already happened years ago in some pockets of the government. ***A New Era of ‘Distance Work?’ ***What Is Reality on the Ground Today? ***This Is All Part of a Longer-Term Shift. ***What’s Next?


“The response across the economy and in government to COVID-19 has massively accelerated the future of work. The lofty talk about the future of work – digital transformation, a remote workforce, distributed teams, telework – is suddenly a reality in both the public and private sectors. Long-standing resistance and silos have been knocked down by a crisis that threatens the very continuity of organizations.

And what does real distance work look like? At NASA, a team of engineers is orchestrating maneuvers of the Curiosity rover on Mars from their computers in their living rooms and bedrooms.

Not long ago, futurists were predicting that changing employee expectations, shifting labor dynamics, and new technology would reshape work and the workplace. But the reshaping was driven instead by the coronavirus. Still, the insights of futurists, such as Josh Bersin, are relevant to understand what organizational leaders will face in the weeks and months ahead. In a 2016 Forbes article, he identifies three transformational changes that we face:

  • Personal — such as how our careers progress, how we stay current in our skills;
  • Organizational — such as the roles of people vs. machines and how organizations are set up; and
  • Societal — such as how we educate and prepare people for work and how we help them transition as jobs change.

These changes already happened years ago in some pockets of the government. For example, in a recent op-ed for the New York Times, former general Stanley McChrystal and Chris Fussell wrote: “Fifteen years ago, in the throes of our fight against Al Qaeda, the Joint Special Operations Command, where both of us served, needed to do this exact thing. We pivoted from being a centrally located, thousands-strong enterprise to a network of small teams spread around the world. . . . “Digital leadership” was not in the job description for our generation, but it became a critical skill for all of us to learn in the fast-moving and constantly changing fight.”

Similarly, the Patent and Trademark Office began its transition to telework more than two decades ago, as one of the pioneers in the intensive use of telework in the government. Subsequently, it has touted the benefits of this approach as: increased employee satisfaction, work-life balance, and cost savings from reduced needs for office space. However, more importantly during the current pandemic, its webpage says that operations are expected to “continue as normal.” In fact, they are helping their clients – patent attorneys and inventors – by easing some of the requirements they face in teleworking, as well.

A NewEra of “Distance Work?”

Not long ago, the trends were towards open office, gig workers, and the increased use of automation in the workplace. In fact, telework was declining in many public and private organizations, especially in the federal government. But the response to the COVID pandemic is ripping up the playbook on how work gets done. Every organization faces new ways of working, and even though there are plans to return to office-based work, the new approaches involve distributed locations and collaboration that likely won’t be temporary.

decade-old law requires federal agencies to incorporate telework into their continuity of operations plans. However, less than half of federal employees are authorized to work remotely. Shawn Skelly, a commissioner on the National Commission on Military, National, and Public Service, recently wrote: “The challenges the nation is [sic] experiencing now should be a wake-up call for policymakers and federal agency executives alike.”

Separately, a telework advocate, Kate Lister, writes that expanding federal telework would save taxpayers an estimated $14 billion a year as a result of reduced real estate, absenteeism, and turnover, and increase productivity and continuity of operations.

Many private sector companies have moved to almost all online operations. This includes Automattic (the company behind WordPress, which powers 35 percent of all websites on the internet and has no offices) and IBM, which has moved virtually all of its global operations to a digital presence. It shifted from about 30 percent of its 350,000-person workforce being distance workers earlier this year to well over 90 percent in a three-week period.

What Is Reality on the Ground Today?

As federal agencies started shutting their doors and directing employees to work from home, they began grappling with concrete issues such as the resiliency and security of their IT systems, the availability of laptops, and connectivity. 

Many were concerned short-term about their continuity of business operations, and in the longer term, the culture shifts required to motivate and manage a distributed workforce. These issues, much like those workplace futurist Bersin raised, include:

  • Coping with the immediate response (e.g., increased challenge of balancing personal and work responsibilities with kids at home);
  • Planning for recovery and rebuilding (e.g., increased costs for network demand, emotional costs); and
  • Optimizing for the future (i.e., creating a new normal. What worked that we should continue? What must be redesigned? How better to prepare for future unforeseen events?)

The approach the IRS has taken in addressing these issues probably is not atypical. Federal News Networkchronicled its expanded use of telework during the COVID-19 crisis response effort. Commissioner Chuck Rettig told employees that they had the option of avoiding face-to-face contact with taxpayers. Empowering employees to choose gave them an unaccustomed freedom, and that freedom unnerved front-line supervisors.

According toFederal News Network: “Chad Hooper, president of the Professional Managers Association, which represents supervisors at the agency. “[We’ve] never in our careers been in a situation where employees have been empowered to that extent,” he said in an interview.” In addition to this sudden culture shift in the middle of the 2020 tax filing season, employees found that working from home was sometime impossible because much of IRS’s work is run on Windows 7 desktop computers, which tie people to their desks.

The reality of working from home affects federal agencies differently. Law enforcement, regulatory, and national security agencies obviously are concerned about security and systems access issues. Benefits, healthcare, and statistical agencies are concerned about privacy issues as processes to make decisions about benefits, services, and information move massively online as well. One model for addressing these challenges comes from the U.S. intelligence community, which has managed to create ways for some of its employees to work from unclassified facilities (e.g., from home) by addressing technical and policy options.

This Is All Part of a Longer-Term Shift.

Corporate telework advocate Lister recently told CNBC News: ““The coronavirus is going to be a tipping point. We plodded along at about 10 percent growth a year for the last 10 years, but I foresee that this is going to really accelerate the trend.”

In a similar vein, transformation consultant Khyati Nayak writes in Federal Computer Week: “The forced social experiment brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic is compelling the federal government to adapt culturally and technologically at a rapid pace. Federal workers have turned to government-approved technology such as Skype, WebEx, and Slack to meet, collaborate, and in many cases, just to commiserate . . . ” and she concludes that this crisis creates an opportunity to transform the federal workforce.

What’s Next?

Given this premise that distant work and distributed teams will be enduring– even with a “return to normal” strategy being discussed — the response to this pandemic may spark a permanent change in how government will work from now on. This change likely will occur along a spectrum of possibilities, which I’ll explore in additional posts in coming weeks:

  • How is the private sector pivoting to work from home?
  • What’s been the federal government’s historical approach to telework over the past decade?
  • What’s happening in federal agencies today?
  • What’s happening in state and local governments today?
  • Tips and tricks on how you and your team can work remotely effectively”


John Kamensky

John M. Kamensky is a senior fellow at the IBM Center for the Business of Government and a fellow at the National Academy of Public Administration. He can be reached at

COVID-19′s Fiscal Impact Might Ironically Strengthen National Defense


DEFENSE NEWS ” By Lt. Col. Daniel L. Davis (ret.)

Ending unnecessary forever wars, we could save more than $100 billion a year without cutting anything else in the defense budget.

We could redirect much more focus and resources on training and professional education, which would enable the armed forces to better deter — and if necessary defeat — major opponents. “


“With an already massive national debt of $24 trillion, the combination of government spending and the loss of tax revenue is going to place serious pressure on future budgets for years to come.

As Congress and the White House cope with the economic fallout of the coronavirus pandemic by passing multitrillion-dollar stimulus packages, many are already grappling with the thorny problem of how we’ll eventually pay for the spike in spending. While no one ever wants to be a bill-payer, the defense industry is predictably first out of the blocks seeking immunity from any future cuts by trotting out its favorite weapon: fear.

Don’t be fooled by this tried-and-true tactic: The claim that any cuts to the defense budget will imperil defense is gravely mistaken. Without changes in the foreign policy we enact — and a rational reform of how we spend our defense dollars — our national security will continue to decay.

First, the cold, hard economic reality: The damage done to our economy by the necessary measures federal and state governments have enacted to safeguard American lives has been breathtaking in its scope and severity. Some estimates suggest gross domestic product will contract this year by as much as 40 percent, and unemployment could balloon to 30 percent. To help stem the tide, Congress has already passed a $2 trillion stimulus package, with more yet to come.

Bills will eventually have to be paid, and no area of the budget will be free from scrutiny — including defense.

Though the Department of Defense should be funded to whatever level is required to ensure the ability of our armed forces to deter and, if necessary defeat any adversary that may seek to deprive our citizens of life or liberty, not all aspects of the status quo are helping keep us safe.

Retired Army Lt. Gen. Thomas Spoehr recently co-wrote an article arguing that regardless of the financial strain imposed by the coronavirus stimulus bills, defense spending should be exempted. The reason, he says, is that the military today remains in a yearslong “free-fall” which “can’t be fixed in a year or even four.”

The last thing America’s leaders should do when responding to the financial constraints imposed by the coronavirus, he concludes, is to “weaken the military.” His implications that military readiness has been in free fall because of inadequate spending and that any reduction in defense spending weakens the military are beliefs held by many — and are inaccurate for several key reasons. Clinging to forever wars might be the biggest.

The DoD has to spend hundreds of billions annually to fight, maintain and prepare for subsequent deployments fighting the forever wars we’ve been waging for the better part of two decades.

Congress has allocated more than $2 trillion in direct outlays since 9/11 to fight so-called emergency requirements of overseas contingency operations, or OCO, and we have incurred an additional $4 trillion in associated and long-term costs. For fiscal 2020 alone, we will spend upward of an additional $137 billion on these OCO wars.

What is critical to understand, however, is that the perpetual continuation of these wars not only fails to improve our security — these fights negatively impact our ability to focus on and prepare for fighting adversaries that could one day pose an existential threat to us. The implications of this reality are considerable — and potential remedies can be of great help to our country.

“With prudent and necessary reforms in how we manage research and development, procurement, and acquisition, and in shedding unnecessary or outdated expenditures, tens of billions of additional savings could be realized.”

Perhaps more importantly we could redirect much more focus and resources on training and professional education, which would enable the armed forces to better deter — and if necessary defeat — major opponents. Those two major changes alone would end the weakening of our military and materially contribute to strengthening its key capabilities — while lessening pressure on the federal budget.

The financial pressures this coronavirus is already placing on our nation’s finances is real, and its effects will be felt for years. We will have to make hard decisions in the days ahead on where we spend our limited resources. If we are wise, we can reduce how much we spend on defense while simultaneously increasing our military power.”


Midlevel officers weigh risk, reward of criticizing Army ...
Lt. Col. Danel L. Davis (Ret)

Retired U.S. Army Lt. Col. Daniel L. Davis is a senior fellow for Defense Priorities. He retired from the Army in 2015 after 21 years in service that included four combat deployments.

Federal Government Contracting Small Business Set-Aside Designations

Image: SBDC


A small business set-aside designation can be a valuable tool if adequately documented, registered, certified and prudently used for bidding work that your enterprise is capable of performing successfully.


“The following are the small business set-aside designations in federal government contracting:

1. Small Business – Established by North American Industry Classification (NAICS) Code for all categories of government business (Please download the “SBA Small Business Size Standards” at the “Box Net” Cubicle on the right margin of this web site for further information). Federal contract solicitations  have a NAICS Code assigned to them when they are registered at the below web site:

System for Award Managment (SAM)

2. Minority Business Enterprise (MBE) – A  good interim designation while an 8(a) application is in process for minority-owned companies:

National Minority Supplier Development Council MBE Information

3. Woman-Owned Business – Applicable to Women-Owned Businesses only:

SBA Woman-Owned Business Information and Application Site

4. Veteran-Owned Business – Applicable to Veteran-Owned Businesses only

SBA Veteran-Owned Business Program Information

5. Service Disabled Veteran-Owned Business – Applicable to Service Disabled Veteran-Owned Businesses only

SBA Service Disabled Veteran-Owned Business Information

6. Small/Disadvantaged Business SBA 8(a) Program – Requires 2 years in business and a lengthy application process with the SBA at the following web site:

SBA 8(a) Information and Application Site

7. Historically Under-Utilized Business (HUB) Zone Located – Pertains to small businesses located in geographic areas with a historical record of low government contracting. This designation requires application at the following HUB Zone Site Web Site:

Hub Zone Information and Application Site


To qualify as a small business for a given solicitation an enterprise must have registered at the System for Award Management Web Site under the applicable NAICS code for the procurement and meet the SBA eligibility size standards for that code.

A small business certifying under the above must have individuals qualifying for the designations with at least 51% ownership interest and an operating role in the company. 60% is recommended to avoid the appearance of a front. Silent partners and investors without qualifying status or an operating role in the firm do not count toward the designation. It is suggested that ownership interest be specified by name on the articles of incorporation with the state and by % of ownership in an operating agreement or similar document.

To qualify as a HUB Zone Enterprise the business must be located in a HUB Zone and a qualifying percentage of the members (owners or employees) of the business must also live in the applicable HUB Zone.


Carefully select your small business designations when preparing your business and marketing plans for federal government contracting. Keep in mind that self-certifications are verified through records checks and site visits by contracting officers, DCMAO and Source Selection Boards for federal procurements before contract awards are made.

A small business set-aside designation can be a valuable tool if adequately documented, registered, certified and prudently used for bidding work that your enterprise is capable of performing successfully.”

Your Small Business Federal Government Contracting Business Plan

Your SBFGC Business Plan

“SMALLTOFEDS”  By Ken Larson

“This discussion addresses meeting the unique aspects of federal government contracting, yielding a successful plan and more importantly a successful execution of that plan in the federal contracting venue.  

When visiting the SBA website on business planning, there are major topics in the business planning process which, when addressed in a plan, will insure the success of an enterprise and assist  in determining and supporting the amount of funding needed. SBA Write a Business Plan

“Marketing, advertising, competitor analysis and financing must be addressed.  Free articles on strategic planning and developing a marketing plan are at the “References” Box Net Cube at the top right margin of this site: They address evolving an operations vision for an enterprise showing its potential to present to a banker or to an investor.

Here is a site with free business plan samples:

Business Plan Sample

It may assist in visualizing business growth to look at an example of how someone else addressed a given topic.


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

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

Product Development Insights

Service contracting to the federal government is a natural venue for small business. It does not require a product with a niche market or capital intensive manufacturing facilities. Service contracting does require 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, industry teaming and an enhanced business system to price, account and bill on a job cost basis under government service contracts.

Service Contracting Insights for Success


Utilize the below link to register your company.  It provides excellent guidance and background, as well as access to the PDF file on NAICS Codes which are critical for you to choose before you begin the registration process.  Give these some careful thought when selecting them.  If there is a chance your firm may wish to be involved in a field, put the code in your registration.  No one will question your qualifications at this point.  That comes later during proposals.

When you have completed your registration at the link below you will received a Government CAGE Code, uniquely identifying your firm and its location as a government contractor.

Registering for Government Contracting


As a small business becomes known in the federal government contracting community, successful marketing of sole source or group-designated business becomes easier, but it is always a challenge due to the need for taking early action in windows of opportunity.

Find those windows and communicate capabilities to the decision makers and industry team members who can help you.

If you are eligible for set aside designations make small business set asides or sole source procurements key elements in your marketing plan.

Marketing to Achieve a Federal Contract


Be straight-forward and honest with  industry teaming partners.

Do not violate share arrangements, teaming agreements or non-disclosure agreements. Such violations are a death knell for your reputation in the business.

Do not become known as a resource raider by hiring away from other firms with whom you have teamed.

Give it a best shot as a prime or a sub but involve the government contracting officer to resolve industry teaming disputes that may damage a past performance record.

Exclusivity is the practical way to go on any given program. Team early and exclusively and be a winner.
Reputation is key, ethics count and  customers as well as the industry are observing.

Managing Industry Teaming Relationships


Waiting for a contract award to achieve a government contracting business process is not advisable. A win may not happen at all without addressing the structure and process requirements in your proposal to convince the customer his business environment is understood.

If one is not prepared in advance and one is fortunate enough to win, then in a very short time frame one will have to evolve a business system to perform on the contract and submit a billing

This article will discuss a framework for a small enterprise to develop a business system in service contracting, which is the most frequent venue utilized to enter the government market.

Government Contracting Business Systems Development


Government contract proposal preparation is time consuming and can be costly. Meeting the agency Request for Proposal (RFP) requirements with a responsive proposal can be well worth the effort if a winning strategy can be formulated. When considering submitting a proposal to a given government solicitation, conduct a bid/no bid exercise.

By going through that process  a company  begins formulating your win strategy or it will discover that it should not bid this job for lack of such a strategy. The elements of the process are discussed below in the form of questions to ask  against topics for key consideration

This article offers guidance as a template to apply marketing operations for accommodating federal government contract proposal preparation. Proposals are special, sometimes exhausting projects, but a necessary part of doing business with government agencies. Like many other aspects of business, the more proposals that are prepared, the more that is learned and the more one can borrow from past practice for the next one.

Government Contracting Proposal Preparation


Strategic thinking must be applied to structuring a government service contract project management capability in your company. It must involve long term planning and designing a business system as well as establishing rates and factors to bid new work and control it while interfacing with the customer.

When one plans in detail to define the product or the service one reduces performance risk.

The project management challenge is not to launch significant and costly resources before the specification for the product is sufficiently defined, obviating the need for costly revisions or abandonment, yet knowing when the product definition and plan are suitable for release.

Good project management starts early.

Vital Tips for Project Management


Consider the advice herein when developing and maintaining your business plan. Overlay approaches unique to the company against the guidance offered and place it in the standard format for business planning.  It will yield a road map for success and can be further evolved for growth.

For additional  details on these topics and other important information in developing and executing a government contacting plan, download the free books and supplements available in PDF format at the “Box” in the top right margin of the below site.”

Seizing the Moment

The Danger of Fibbing Our Way Into War



Presidents seem to have an especially troublesome time with the truth when it comes to showing toughness……U.S. military response to an imaginary attack in the Gulf of Tonkin off Vietnam in 1964.

……. Saddam Hussein’s purported weapons of mass destruction to justify his 2003 invasion of Iraq. …the killing of Iranian General Qassem Soleimani shortly after the general landed at the Baghdad airport in neighboring Iraq on January 3.


“Many recall Winston Churchill’s statement on the need to sometimes fudge facts. “In wartime, truth is so precious that she should always be attended by a bodyguard of lies,” he told Josef Stalin on the British prime minister’s 69th birthday in 1943.

What folks may not know is where he uttered those words: Iran.

Presidential rhetoric matters. And love him or loathe him, President Donald Trump isn’t bosom buddies with the truth. In today’s political environment, a lot of what used to be viewed as disqualifying for a president to say has been upended by our 45th. But one bright shining line should remain: The words he speaks as commander-in-chief should be true.

Trump’s boasting has highlighted a novice’s emphasis on weapons—shiny hardware—rather than on “software”—the troops and the training that are arguably more important.

The lives of Americans in uniform are too precious, and the nation’s credibility too important, to be frittered away by a president playing loose with the truth in a pursuit of political advantage or simply out of ignorance. Yet that is what is happening, and nowhere is that more clear than in the recent fracas with Iran.

Presidents seem to have an especially troublesome time with the truth when it comes to showing toughness. President Lyndon B. Johnson played loose with it when he pushed for a U.S. military response to an imaginary attack in the Gulf of Tonkin off Vietnam in 1964. President George W. Bush exaggerated the threat posed by Saddam Hussein’s purported weapons of mass destruction to justify his 2003 invasion of Iraq.

Trump fired a fusillade of fibs in the wake of his decision to order the killing of Iranian General Qassem Soleimani shortly after the general landed at the Baghdad airport in neighboring Iraq on January 3. He seemed to exaggerate the imminence of the threat Soleimani posed (the U.S. had put him on a kill list last June), and declared the Iranian general had been ready to attack four unidentified U.S. embassies. There’s no doubt that Soleimani was a bad actor, with his Quds force responsible for sowing terror across the Middle East and for killing Americans. There’s no doubt that the region, and the world, is better off without him. But Trump’s faux facts surrounding the killing are dangerous because they could let Washington and Tehran stumble into a war. There’s a reason President Teddy Roosevelt said that it’s best to speak softly and carry a big stick.”

After nearly 20 years of winless wars following 9/11, and a Pentagon budget that is well above the Cold War average, U.S. national security spending has never been a more target-rich environment. That is why the Project On Government Oversight’s Center for Defense Information has launched The Bunker, a precision-guided e-newsletter targeting your inbox most every week.Sign Up

Churchillian lies only work when they are salted among truths. But Trump’s fabrications are more routine than rare. According to the Washington Post, Trump has made more than 16,000 false or misleading statements since taking office. That’s an average of about 15 a day, seven days a week.

Make no mistake about it, Soleimani’s death was a good thing. I well remember the pain felt by U.S. troops following their invasion of Iraq when insurgents’ crude roadside bombs were replaced with so-called “explosively formed penetrators” developed by Iran that pierced armor and killed the soldiers inside. But baiting a terrorist, or his sponsor, carries its own risk. Most critically, it means that if the terrorist—and Soleimani was a terrorist in Iranian government garb—calls Trump’s bluff, Trump will be forced to back up his bluster with young American blood.

In an apparent effort to discourage Iran from taking action after Soleimani’s death, Trump warned that the U.S. was primed to retaliate bigly if Iran retaliated. “The United States just spent Two Trillion Dollars on Military Equipment. We are the biggest and by far the BEST in the World!” Trump tweeted January 5, two days after a pair of Hellfire missiles took Soleimani out. “If Iran attacks an American Base, or any American, we will be sending some of that brand new beautiful equipment their way … and without hesitation!” But his spending estimate was a five-fold whopper. The Trump administration has spent “only” about $400 billion on new military hardware (the rest has paid for more boring items like troops, training, beans, and boots).

Even when he’s plainly wrong, the president dodges. After Iran responded to Soleimani’s death with a January 8 missile barrage aimed at U.S. bases in Iraq, the president declared that “no Americans were harmed.” It turns out, there were delayed diagnoses in at least 64 U.S. military personnel of traumatic brain injuries resulting from the missiles’ warheads that had detonated nearby. Instead of acknowledging those injuries, the president minimized TBIs—the signature, and invisible, wound suffered by U.S. troops in the post-9/11 wars—as “headaches.” His comments triggered ire from veterans and veterans’ organizations trying to help the nearly half-million U.S. troops diagnosed with brain injuries since 2000.

(Source: @realDonaldTrump on Twitter)

As U.S. skepticism surrounding the wisdom of the Soleimani hit mounted, Trump hyped the imminent threat the Iranian general posed to U.S. facilities and personnel. “I can reveal I believe it probably would’ve been four embassies,” he told Fox News January 10, in a double-weasel-worded bank shot. Unfortunately, reporting has shown no one else—not the U.S. diplomats in any embassies nor Secretary of Defense Mark Esper—was aware of the plot.

It contributed to a sense of chaos inside the U.S. government as everyone from cabinet officers to junior military officers struggled to retroactively jury-rig explanations for the verbal hand grenades the commander-in-chief was tossing their way. His enablers in government pivoted to praising the U.S. intelligence about Soleimani in general, and not the harder-edged claims about timing and targets.

(Source: @realDonaldTrump on Twitter)

The president’s claim quickly foundered on the facts. On January 13, three days after making it, Trump dismissed it all as a kerfuffle ginned up by “the Fake News Media and their Democrat Partners.” After all, “it doesn’t really matter because of his horrible past!” he tweeted in reference to Soleimani.

It was as if Emily Litella of 1970s-era Saturday Night Live fame were sitting behind the Resolute Desk in the Oval Office, looking straight into the camera. “Never mind,” Litella, played by Gilda Radner, would chirpily say after screwing up something markedly less important than war and peace.

No matter where you sit on the political spectrum, this kind of thing matters. U.S. relations with nations in the Middle East have suffered following its 2003 invasion of Iraq. And with scant credibility at home or abroad, Trump has no reservoir of truth to draw on to reassure the American public and nervous allies that he has anything more than a wing-it strategy.

Trump’s boasting has highlighted a novice’s emphasis on weapons—shiny hardware—rather than on “software”—the troops and the training that are arguably more important. “The quality of military personnel is what matters most in any military force,” the Army said in a 1991 report in the wake of the Persian Gulf War, the last time the U.S. military could claim a clear-cut victory. “Weapons are useless unless deployed in the hands of capable and well-trained people.”

On Christmas Eve, during the traditional presidential telephone calls to troops far from home, Trump told an Air Force officer that “you didn’t have brand new airplanes” until Trump occupied the White House. “You were not doing well,” he said, “And now you have all brand new.”

(Source: Congressional Budget Office, “The Cost of Replacing the Department of Defense’s Current Aviation Fleet,” page 2.)

Well, not quite. “The Army’s and the Department of the Navy’s aviation fleets are relatively new, but the Air Force operates many older aircraft,” the Congressional Budget Office noted in a January 15 report. “On average, the Army’s aircraft are 14 years old, and the Department of the Navy’s are 16 years old; the Air Force’s aircraft, on average, are 28 years old.”

The Air Force Times, an independent newspaper, reported last summer that the readiness of Air Force aircraft slipped to its lowest level in at least six years in 2018. In 2012—midway through Barack Obama’s tenure as president—77.9%of aircraft were ready to fly. By 2017—Trump’s first year in office—that figure had fallen to 71.3%. And in 2018 it had dipped to 69.97%. And fraying readiness has led to a spate of deadly military accidents.

What’s really depressing about Trump’s arms-length relationship with the truth is that he turbocharges the military-industrial complex’s self-licking ice-cream cone reflex. In the wake of Soleimani’s death, calls arose for boosting defense spending, which already tops the Cold War average. Hawkish cheerleaders for military action were echoing that line to their cable TV audiences, without revealing their lucrative alliances with defense contractors.

The illusion in all this chest-thumping and wallet-pumping is that money can buy victory. But the hubris wrought by fat military budgets has too often let the U.S. sleepwalk into war. The nation believes what the politicians and generals say, and what defense-contractor brochures declare (for example, per Trump: “We are the biggest and by far the BEST in the World!”).

That’s especially the case when Congress fails to meet its obligation to debate, and vote on, the wisdom of declaring war. Restoring that constitutional duty would do two things: we’d go to war far less and we’d prevail far more. Too often, war has become a White House reflex, with Congress and the public serving as not-so-innocent bystanders. Yet the nation tends to become numb to such conflicts after a month or two, in part because its advice was never sought. That lets the Pentagon wage war so long as U.S. casualties are minimal.

What’s amazing about Trump’s Iran over-reaching is that it wasn’t necessary, given Soleimani’s key role in killing hundreds of U.S. troops. But instead of sticking to facts, the president chose fiction.

It was just such slippery language that greased the skids to the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003, based on the false claim that Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction.

We need to take care that Trump’s all-too-real weapons of mass delusion don’t trigger another one.

Center for Defense Information

The Center for Defense Information at POGO aims to secure far more effective and ethical military forces at significantly lower cost.”

Seven Management Techniques To Assist In Achieving A Small Business Government Contract

Image:  “Startuptown”


Entering government contracting as a small businesses is indeed a challenging time, but there are many opportunities awaiting you. Capitalize on those opportunities and win your first federal government contract.


“One of the biggest challenges for a small business in government contracting is achieving that first major contract. A small business entering the field does not have a government contract past performance record to include in proposals to federal agencies. At the onset, the only qualifications that can be referenced are commercial successes and the individual expertise and qualifications of the owner (s), employees and management. 

Past Performance Challenge

Here are seven small business management techniques to assist in achieving that first government contract: 

1. Contingent Hire Agreements – Recruit prospective employees and associates who have previously worked in businesses that have contracted with the government. Such individuals bring expertise and qualifications with them and lend credibility to your enterprise. 

A contingent hire agreement is one way to approach an experienced employee with the prospect of joining your firm at a later time when the business base is there to permit professional advancement. Under such an agreement the prospective employee agrees to contribute time and effort on a proposal for a new contract and is assured on paper by your company of a position on the project when it is awarded to your firm. 

Such arrangements are generally recognized by the government as a credible way for new or start-up businesses to grow and agencies will accept resumes of experienced professionals in proposals from small business contractors with signed contingent hire agreements even though the personnel may not yet be on the company payroll. 

Prospective employees of this type are often available from the retired or downsized ranks of prime contractors. Be aware that government procurement integrity regulations apply. Individuals should not be considered who have a potential conflict of interest in the project you are bidding due to a former association with the buying agency in a source selection authority role as specified in FAR Section 3.104.

You can download a recommended draft shell for a contingent hire agreement from the BOX “References” file in the right margin of Smalltofeds and obtain further guidance at the following link:  Contingent Hire Agreement

2Seek government solicitations for taking over incumbent work forces. In some cases the government designates base operations contracts, system support contracts and other service contracts at military installations or federal agency locations as small business set-asides. In certain of these contracts the services may have been performed until now by a large corporation which is no longer eligible to compete due to the small business designation of the current procurement. The employees of this large company become available for recruitment since they will lose their jobs at the location if they do not join the winning company. These individuals have built-in technical expertise on the project and government contracting backgrounds.  Acquiring an Incumbent Work Force

3Build government contract business system infrastructure such as estimating, pricing, proposal preparation, long-range planning and job cost accounting processes. These processes are particularly important if you do not qualify to sell under FAR Part 12, “Commercial Contracting” and you are in the services business. Having these key elements in place enables your company to bid large scale jobs consistently and to forecast, estimate and account for new government business. They also permit the company to pass site surveys and audits by DCAA and DCMAO in connection with proposals and contract awards. Having key infrastructure in place creates a favorable impression to prime contractors and other prospective teaming partners. Framework for Government Contract Business System

4. Team with large business contractors who have experience in the government contracting field. As part of such teaming arrangements they may be willing to trade-off their expertise and assistance for your particular technical skills and your small business participation as a subcontractor on new contracts. Remember large government contracting businesses are required to submit and perform to annual plans or buying from small business to the government. Failure to do so can jeopardize their current government contracts or place in danger the award of a project where a small business plan is required. 

You have motivated large business prospective partners available to you in the government contracting community. Protect yourself with proprietary data agreements and insure that your company’s work scope for a given project is well defined in a thorough written teaming agreement. Large businesses will respect you for your professionalism when you demand a formal business approach.  Teaming in Government Contracting

5. Submit and negotiate a General Services Administration (GSA) Schedule. Pre-establishing pricing and terms and conditions with the GSA lends credibility to your enterprise. Schedule periods can last from 5-10 years and simplify buying for your prospective government customers They can have confidence that the GSA has reviewed and determined that your rates are reasonable and they can be assured that the terms and conditions of your schedule have met the approval of the GSA. All they need to do is place a funded delivery order request for the supplies or services with the GSA against your schedule, negotiate the technical statement of work and delivery requirements with you and the deal is done. You can read more about pursing a GSA schedule at: Achieving a GSA Schedule

6Pursue contracts which are set-aside for small business enterprises. If you are a woman-owned, minority-owned, veteran-owned or disabled veteran-owned business, seek government business solicitations which have been set aside with these designations. It is more likely that you will be competing against enterprises at that same developmental stage as your company by taking this approach.

If you are a small business with no other set-aside designations, seek teaming arrangements as a subcontractor with minority-owned, veteran-owned or women-owned businesses. 51% of a project (work scope, dollars and hours) must go to such designated businesses under such arrangements, but your part of the program is still significant and earns past performance credit. Your team members will not usually be your direct competitors but will be involved in lines of work that usually complement your business and enable the team to fulfill a scope that is larger than any single member could undertake alone.  Teaming arrangements can result in winning larger jobs that can span a number of years in duration and mean good, solid cash flow for all participants. 

7. Self-market to federal agencies with your capabilities statement and ideas for government programs. If you are a Minority-owned 8(a) or a Hub Zone-located small business, a government agency can sole source a procurement to you without competition under the Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR). Even if you are not an 8(a) or Hub Zone firm, self-marketing has tremendous potential. There are over 50 federal government agencies with facilities, bases, locations and offices housing contracting officers and buyers all over the United States. Find the nearest locations to you via the agency search filters at  SAM Contract Opportunities and send them a capabilities statement with a request for a meeting with their small business liaison officer. Your Capability Statemenr

Federal agencies are required by statute to meet with you. Once you are there find out the names and contact information of their technical management authorities who define requirements for acquisitions. Determine what the agency needs through research with the technical decision makers and on the web. Most agencies forecast their long range plans at sites available to the public. Define a creative project in terms of meeting your client’s needs and offer it to the agency points of contact as a prospective set-aside contract.

If the agency posts your self-marketed project for competition, you will still be in the driver’s seat during the proposal stage, having developed the concept and positioned yourself well ahead of your prospective competitors in terms of a solution with your customer. You may well have convinced the agency to set the program aside for a small business category in which you qualify  Small Business :Set-aside :Designations . That leg up cannot be achieved after a solicitation has been posted to SAM Contract Opportunities.  


Try combining a well written business plan with an aggressive marketing campaign and the seven approaches outlined above.  Your Government Contracting Business Plan .”

Government Seeking To Redefine Procurement “Lead Time”

Image: FCW


The Office of Federal Procurement Policy (OFPP) wants to nail down language on exactly when federal procurements begin and end to help eliminate delays.

OFPP proposed a rule change and is seeking comments on redefining the term “Procurement Administrative Lead Time” (PALT) and on a plan for measuring and publicly reporting governmentwide data on PALT for contracts and orders above the simplified acquisition threshold.


“The agency wants to adopt the definition from section 878 of the 2019 National Defense Authorization Act. That language defines PALT as “the time between the date on which an initial solicitation for a contract or order is issued by a federal department or agency and the date of the award of the contract or order.”

Establishing a common PALT definition, said OFPP, as well as a plan to measure and report it can help the government pin down delays in the procurement process. Equipped with a common definition, it said, agencies can then use common data to make improvements.

Alan Chvotkin, executive vice president and counsel of the Professional Services Council, said he was “pleased” with OFPP’s proposed use of the NDAA definition.

“Time is money” for both federal agencies and contractors involved in an acquisition, he told FCW, adding that a revised PALT definition would help measure both.

Others want to tweak it a bit.

“I propose that PALT be defined as the cycle time between the solicitation response and the date award,” said Dave Zvenyach, former executive director of GSA’s 18F and former deputy commissioner for the agency’s Technology Transformation Service.

“PALT is the sort of topic that drives procurement nerds to drink,” said Zvenyach in a blog post on the issue. Defining it has been traditionally hard to do, since pinning down the “initial moment of requirement identification is notoriously difficult.”

Comments on the PALT language are due in 30 days.”

Time For A National Service Requirement?

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The pace of global and domestic change along with the disruptive effects of technology will likely only accelerate the cultural tear underway among many of us Americans.

Maybe it’s time for a program that promotes the idea of advanced citizenship to match up to all the other ways in which this country is so advanced.


“Many of us who are concerned about the direction of our country seek ways to revitalize America’s civic culture and re-validate our nation’s motto, e pluribus unum (“out of many, one”).

As Americans, we sometimes assume that progress and development are a given. Travel the world (serve in the military) and look at history, and we know better. While in some ways we grow wealthier as a nation, we have become weaker in other ways — less self-reliant and sturdy, less accountable, and less connected — the “united” in our nation’s name is showing signs of wear. It’s also a law of social physics that there is no such thing as a free lunch, so the important question then becomes: “What should be required from any one of us to be a part of all of us?”

The United States of America could change the game with a national service requirement for all of us. We could elect to impose upon ourselves some period of service as a requirement of all able citizens. Perhaps even rights (voting) and privileges (health care) would depend on fulfilling such an obligation? National service could be a forcing function for collective self-discipline to build better citizens — it’s a way to save ourselves, from ourselves.

This significant sacrifice from each of us might take the form of local, regional or national service. That service could be in one or more of a number of fields required for a functioning civil society — education, health care, municipal services, and certainly defense (I am painfully aware of how field commanders would prefer volunteers to conscripts any day, but there is a larger point here, perhaps). While such a program could help us get things done as a country, it would also bring people together who would otherwise not meet or develop an appreciation for each other — and not just individuals, but entire classes, races and geographies who presently do not mix.

Much of what once ensured these values and our enfranchisement as citizens (other than taxes) does not exist today — like the draft — or has just become less prominent in public life: civic organizations, charity, various non-business associations, certain aspects of public education. And bureaucracies are often poor agents for change when individual human beings with individual problems are concerned, but our problem is a group phenomenon, which calls for a group answer.

Moreover, some social, political or economic challenges need solutions at scale — war, the New Deal, space travel, the internet. The vessel that has historically proven most ready for such responses is the government, which, unlike the private sector, is the one pre-approved investment that need not pay dividends in the next quarter — i.e., we allow and even expect government to make moonshot programs come to life.

There are no doubt many reasons why this is a challenging concept to take mainstream. Barriers range from a lack of historical precedent (in this country), to fierce individuality, to an all-time low respect for government leaders and institutions. It would be messy and complex — many things worth doing are — but the visibility and forced compression, and resolution, of many of our national or cultural issues through such a program would be in our hands in a much more collaborative sense.

Intentional and deliberate crucibles that form us as people and as citizens are today in short supply. Universal service could empower people as individuals to be an effective part of the whole without losing their identity, and could ultimately increase our individual sense of identity as Americans. Often it is some external threat that most easily unites people, but in this case we are the threat. Citizenship is like sport; it takes practice to get good at it. For the sake of the American experiment, present and future, we need some exercise. “


Kepler Knott is a researcher and writer who has lived and worked among his fellow citizens from different backgrounds, including serving in the U.S. Army National Guard as a citizen-soldier. Having visited, lived and/or worked and served in over 40 countries, he has gained a fundamental appreciation for just how valuable the American experiment is.