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


Bid Protest New Reg


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

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


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

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

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



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


Speed Up Acquisitoon


“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.”


“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.”


Not Fit to Fight? Rethinking Military Recruitment Standards


Not Fit to Fight

“STRATFOR” By Thomas M. Hunt , Board of Contributors
“More than 70 percent of Americans aged 17 to 24 are ineligible for military service, the Pentagon found in 2017.

In general, there is a baseline of good health that should be required whether you’re sitting behind a computer terminal or on a foot patrol. But beyond good health, many of the more technical mission sets probably don’t require two miles, 50 push-ups, and 50 sit-ups.”

“The state of physical fitness in the United States has long been a topic of concern among the nation’s leaders. Declining fitness measures on the part of military draftees played an important role in prompting President Dwight Eisenhower in 1956 to establish the President’s Council on Youth Fitness. In 1960, John Kennedy, then the president-elect, felt so strongly about the subject that he wrote a multipage article, “The Soft American,” for Sports Illustrated.

The problem, Kennedy scathingly asserted, constituted nothing less than a national security crisis:
“Throughout our history we have been challenged to armed conflict by nations which sought to destroy our independence or threatened our freedom. The young men of America have risen to those occasions, giving themselves freely to the rigors and hardships of warfare. But the stamina and strength which the defense of liberty requires are not the product of a few weeks’ basic training or a month’s conditioning. These only come from bodies which have been conditioned by a lifetime of participation in sports and interest in physical activity. Our struggles against aggressors throughout our history have been won on the playgrounds and corner lots and fields of America.

“Thus, in a very real and immediate sense, our growing softness, our increasing lack of physical fitness, is a menace to our security.”
Military leaders share the same concerns today. Indicators show overall fitness to be substantially below the levels measured during the Eisenhower and Kennedy eras. The interconnected issues of health and inadequate physical fitness constitute the two largest reasons for that. The deprioritization of school-based physical education programs have played a role in the current fitness crisis, which stands to have long-term effects on military preparedness.

In 2015, Frank Palkoska, who was then the head of the U.S. Army’s Physical Fitness Training School, commented: “You acquire most of your basic movement patterns by first grade, and our youth today just aren’t getting the physical education time they need. Lack of fitness is a societal problem. The injury rate (among recruits in basic training) is developing into a taxpayer concern in terms of medical care and lost training expenses. And the lack of qualified recruits is becoming a national security issue.”
The Pentagon has struggled to find a solution to the problem, including deciding what to do with those among active-duty ranks who fall below fitness standards. Earlier this year, Secretary of Defense James Mattis announced a policy whereby personnel who remained nondeployable for 12 months, whatever the reason, would be forced to leave the military. Substandard physical fitness was among the reasons that some 286,000 troops were so categorized. Given force requirements and the continuing rapid pace of operations overseas, the decision makes a good deal of sense. Even so, a realistic assessment of modern battlefield needs should be a component of recruitment and retention decisions.

I have written previously on the place ofvideo game technologies in military recruitment, training and procurementas well as on theemphasis on man-machine teamingthe Pentagon’s research and development efforts. Fighting the wars of the future will require crucial investments in cyberwarfare and electronic warfare capabilities. How to recruit personnel with critical digital technology skills and, more importantly, retain them in those roles, has long posed a challenge for the Pentagon.
With robust growth in private-sector tech industry projected to continue, and plentiful high-paying jobs available in the field, the military must find a way to compete. But the armed forces have lagged in the development of a clearly defined career path for cyberprofessionals. To take but one example, all 126 of the Air Force specialists who recently served a tour with the Pentagon’s Cyber Mission Force ended up filling roles in the service outside the cyberwarfare realm after their tour with the command concluded.
Outlining a clear career path for technological specialists will be an important step in retaining their services. But retaining talent in high-technology military missions will take much more than that. Physical fitness policies will play a role in determining success of those efforts. It is no accident that the Pentagon began a sweeping review of military fitness requirements at around the same time the decision on nondeployable forces was made.

Jacquelyn Schneider, a faculty member at the U.S. Naval War College and a former Air Force officer, has made a case for rethinking military regulations based on job specialty. “Fitness requirements should reflect the needs of the mission and therefore the future warrior’s health standards should better represent their combat and day-to-day duties,” she argued. “In general, there is a baseline of good health that should be required whether you’re sitting behind a computer terminal or on a foot patrol. But beyond good health, many of the more technical mission sets probably don’t require two miles, 50 push-ups, and 50 sit-ups.”

A precedent already exists for reducing physical training requirements for personnel in high-technology areas. As far back as 2010, concern over the need to attract sufficient numbers of technically proficient recruits induced the U.S. Navy to implement a direct commissioning program for cyberprofessionals. The U.S. Army has recently opened a similar initiative, which allows those experienced in the field to become officers without going through its Basic Combat Training course. Two enlisted Air Force personnel notably received officer appointments earlier this year because of their proficiency in cyberoperations. Even the tradition-bound Marine Corps contemplated whether an exception for tech-savvy recruits should be made to its core belief in the credo, “every Marine a rifleman.” The proposal, which was not adopted, would have allowed enlisted recruits and officer candidates possessing critical computer skills to skip boot camp or The Basic School.

A tailoring of physical fitness standards for military personnel in high-technology areas seems logical at this point. In a perfect world, of course, a way would be found to reverse the deteriorating state of U.S. fitness and concurrent rise in obesity levels in society at large. And to be sure, a great deal of thought has been devoted to the problem over the past decade. But for myriad reasons, an effective set of policy solutions has yet to be implemented, and none are likely forthcoming any time soon. The Pentagon would do well to reflect upon this reality in the context of the changing nature of modern warfare.”


Thomas M. Hunt is an associate professor in the Department of Kinesiology and Health Education at the University of Texas at Austin, where he also holds an appointment as Assistant Director for Academic Affairs at the H.J. Lutcher Stark Center for Physical Culture and Sports. As a faculty member in the Sport Management and Physical Culture and Sports programs at UT, he teaches classes in sport history, sport law, and sport and international relations. He is the author ofGames: The International Olympic Committee and the Politics of Doping, 1960-2008and co-editor ofGlobal History of Doping in Sport: Drugs, Policy, and Politics.


With 2018 Budget, Christmas Comes Early For Federal Contractors


Early Christmas


“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.”


“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.”

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


Government Contractor Innovation


“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.”


“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.


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.


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.


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.”

About the Author


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


US Remains Top Military Spender



Military_Spending_Indy_0 Portside dot org


“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.”


“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.”


The Case For A Deeply Embedded Ethical Culture In Government Contractors

Case for Imbedded Ethics

Image:  “”


“The government contracting world is a primary example of ethical issues being played out under the public’s and the government’s microscopic eye.  Various studies indicate 40 to 60 percent of a company’s market value is based on its reputation. 

Companies must go beyond making statements about doing business ethically and translate those words into action. Leaders must lead. Deeply embedding an ethical culture requires a commitment equal to that which is necessary to attain bottom line success.”


“In a highly regulated work environment, leadership rarely makes a distinction between compliance and ethics.

Compliance is typically defined as adhering to a specification, policy and required standards. Ethics identifies right and wrong behavior, and in the work environment reflects the culture, the degree of attention paid to it, and how it is strategized, prioritized and enforced.

Despite government contractors’ immeasurable contributions to the country’s safety and security, the sector is consistently targeted for scrutiny by government regulators and agencies around the world for violations related to fraud, waste, financial mismanagement, conflicts of interest and bribery.

Being in compliance and having proper internal controls are critically important, yet many companies who are in compliance do not devote the time, energy and intellectual rigor to a deeply embedded ethical culture. Codes of conduct, ethics policies, compliance measures and articulated values just become boxes to check and words on the wall without efforts to instill an ethical culture in the daily actions of the company.

The government cares. Data from the Interagency Suspension and Debarment Committee’s annual reports to Congress on the status of the federal suspension and debarment system reflects thousands of suspensions and debarments in recent years. The financial, reputational and human pain is enormous, even when people of no intentional ill-will make mistakes resulting in suspended contracts, diminished business, extraordinary legal expenses, layoffs and reputations soiled.

There is another distinct motivation, with significant financial implications, for having a deeply embedded ethical culture. According to Association of Certified Fraud Examiner surveys, fraud is as common in business as coffee cups. Forty-five percent of all companies experience fraud at any given time. The median fraud incident loss is $140,000. One-quarter of the incidents result in losses in excess of $1 million. And a typical company loses 5 percent of its revenue annually to fraud.

Employees in organizations with strong ethical cultures and formal programs are 36 percentage points less likely to observe misconduct than employees in organizations with a weak ethical culture. Leaders who don’t elevate culture to an essential priority risk long-term business and reputational problems, as ethical culture is the single biggest factor determining the amount of misconduct that will take place in a work environment.

Embedding ethical culture can be accomplished by taking concrete, measurable action steps in a number of key areas.

Organizational structure, culture and commitment reflect the company’s overall approach to ethics and compliance. For example, in a contest between upholding principles and seeking profit, how does the business evidence that principles come first? Are ethics and compliance stood up for even if deemed controversial? Are ethical awareness and actions incorporated into the selection of executives and management, and in their performance evaluations and promotion decisions?

Commitment to ethics must be manifested in the responsibilities of leadership in shaping and guiding its ethics and integrity initiatives. Are management pay, bonuses and promotions tied to ethical indicators? Is it clearly articulated that part of senior management’s responsibilities is to be seen as models of ethical conduct and provide leadership in this arena?

Legal and compliance policies must be robust and effectively communicated. Has the business articulated the ethical standards and principles expected of third parties? Is the company knowledgeable of and in compliance with the laws of all the jurisdictions in which it operates?

Discipline and rewards systems reflect how the company sets and enforces its standards for ethical conduct and behaving with integrity — all the way up to the C-suite and Board. Has the company taken disciplinary action against high-performing executives for ethical or compliance breaches? Have leaders and managers consistently taken disciplinary action when necessary with regard to unethical acts?

Ethics communications powerfully articulate and promote the company’s ethics and integrity initiatives, both internally and externally. There should be a clear commitment to ethics as demonstrated by speeches or other correspondence and communications from the CEO or other senior executives, and evidence of business ethics in action as demonstrated by the company’s response to a specific challenge.

Warren Buffett, chairman and CEO of Berkshire Hathaway, famously said, “It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to lose it.” He also less famously said, “Lose money for the firm and I will be understanding; lose a shred of reputation for the firm and I will be ruthless.”

This is especially germane for government contractors sitting under the glaring spotlight of scrutiny. ”


The New American Way of War

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 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.”


“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.”




Three Rules (‘R’s) For Government Contracting Success

3 Rules for Govcon success hopokenfitness dot com



Research, Resources, and Relationships. 

These three R’s still remain basic building blocks for newbies and pros. While there are other things that must be done, the three R’s should be at or near the top of your list.”


“As time permits, I occasionally go back and read my blog posts, LinkedIn posts and my Washington Technology articles. I do this for several reasons: to see if the “rules” are changing, to see if I was right or wrong about something, and to see the evolution of the market and of my thinking.

Back in July 2011, I wrote a column in WashTech on the “Three R’s of Government Contracting

Nearly every week I will get a call from someone with the latest, greatest tool, product or service, something without which the government might not survive.

My first question is always “do you know who the competition is, who the major players are in this category?”

The responses fall largely into two categories: We are so superior it doesn’t matter, or, this is a new category so there are no competitors.

Conversations with online training companies illustrate this well.

In one case the company said the “name” of the company would create the marketshare necessary. The name of the company includes the name of the founder, a player in B2B IT, but not in B2G. They wanted help “getting the word out” but assumed their newly minted GSA Schedule would sell itself once people knew they were here.

Needless to say, when I checked their GSA sales a year later, they were still at $0.

Another company simply told me their IT training was the absolute best, hands down, and that sales would occur. Like the other company, they just wanted help “getting the word out.”

I passed on both gigs because I don’t like to take money when the prospect of marketshare is slim to none. Why?

First, in both cases, they had not done the research, were not going to devote the resources, and neither had the relationships needed to get started — nor did they seem to think they would need them.

The research would have shown that there are entrenched players in the IT training arena (I have advised three of them over the years) and each had more than a GSA Schedule as a sales vehicle.

The research would also have shown that each of the main players had grown incrementally over the past 24 years (it was around 1994 when IT training started to become widespread: see footnote), and that none was an instant success.

Second, neither company was going to devote much in the way resources to this effort, assuming that either the company name or the (alleged) quality of the training would carry the day. No real dedicated sales or BD staff, no inclination to partner on other contractual vehicles, no real understanding of how to get traction.

Third, when I looked up the key people from each company on LinkedIn I could see that they were not connected to this community. While it may seem arbitrary, I rate someone’s connectedness in our market by how many connections we share. With these two companies, it was minimal at best.

Management Concepts is a major player in B2G training, and while I have not worked with them, I share 199 connections with the president, Steve Maier. I have 7 first degree connections at Management Concepts and share 1,331 connections with those 7 people. As a company they are well-connected with the government contracting community, feds and contractors alike.

Can a company successfully enter the IT training space today? Certainly, but there will be no immediate traction. They have to be prepared for the long haul.

The two companies seeking a quick, lucrative entry into this market faced a rude awakening.

I told them what they were facing, but neither believed.

Research, resources and relationships- don’t go to market without them.

(Footnote: In 1994, CompUSA had the first IT training offering on GSA. They had classroom training for things like WordPerfect, Lotus 1-2-3, basically shrink-wrapped products. Learning Tree International followed around 1995 offering higher level, certificate-based training. Global Knowledge soon followed. I am not sure when Management Concepts got their first contract but it was certainly there at that time.)”

Mark Amtower

About the Author

Mark Amtower advises government contractors on all facets of business-to-government (B2G) marketing and leveraging LinkedIn. Find Mark on LinkedIn at 

Defending Hospitals Against Life-Threatening Cyber Attacks

Defending Hospitals Against Cyber Attack



“Hospitals are unlike other companies in two important ways. They keep medical records, which are among the most sensitive data about people.

And many hospital electronics help keep patients alive, monitoring vital signs, administering medications, and even breathing and pumping blood for those in the most dire conditions.”


“A 2013 data breach at the University of Washington Medicine medical group compromised about 90,000 patients’ records and resulted in a US$750,000 fine from federal regulators. In 2015, the UCLA Health system, which includes a number of hospitals, revealed that attackers accessed a part of its network that handled information for 4.5 million patients. Cyberattacks can interrupt medical devices, close emergency rooms and cancel surgeries. The WannaCry attack, for instance, disrupted a third of the UK’s National Health Service organizations, resulting in canceled appointments and operations. These sorts of problems are a growing threat in the health care industry.

Protecting hospitals’ computer networks is crucial to preserving patient privacy – and even life itself. Yet recent research shows that the health care industry lags behind other industries in securing its data.

I’m a systems scientist at MIT Sloan School of Management, interested in understanding complex socio-technical systems such as cybersecurity in health care. A former student, Jessica Kaiser, and I interviewed hospital officials in charge of cybersecurity and industry experts, to identify how hospitals manage cybersecurity issues. We found that despite widespread concern about lack of funding for cybersecurity, two surprising factors more directly determine whether a hospital is well protected against a cyberattack: the number and varied range of electronic devices in use and how employees’ roles line up with cybersecurity efforts.

A wide range of devices

A major challenge in hospitals’ cybersecurity is the enormous number of devices with access to a facility’s network. As with many businesses, these include mobile phones, tablets, desktop computers and servers. But they also have large numbers of patients and visitors who come with their own devices, too – including networked medical devices to monitor their health and communicate with medical staff. Each of these items is a potential on-ramp for injecting malware into the hospital network.

Hospital officials could use software to ensure only authorized devices can connect. But even then, their systems would remain vulnerable to software updates and new devices. Another key weakness comes from medical equipment offered as free samples by device manufacturers who operate in a competitive market. They’re often not tested for proper security before being connected to the hospital network. One of our interviewees mentioned:

”In hospitals … there’s a whole underground procurement process whereby medical device vendors approach clinicians and give them lots of stuff for free that eventually makes its way on to our floors, and then a year later we get a bill for it.”

When new technologies bypass regular processes for purchase and risk assessment, they aren’t checked for vulnerabilities, so they introduce even more opportunities for attack. Of course, hospital administrators should balance these concerns against the improvements in patient care that new systems can bring. Our research suggests that hospitals need stronger processes and procedures for managing all these devices.

Staff buy-in

Getting hospital administrators to understand the importance of cybersecurity is fairly straightforward: They told us they’re worried about costs, institutional reputation and regulatory penalties. Getting medical staff on board can be much more difficult: They said they’re focused on patient care and don’t have time to worry about cybersecurity.

People typically treat cybersecurity protections as secondary to what they’re trying to get done. One person we interviewed described why some staff committed the cardinal cybersecurity sin of sharing a password:

“To use an ultrasound machine [you need a password, which] has to change every 90 days. [Staff] just want to use the ultrasound machine. It’s not holding a lot of patient data … so they create a shared login so that they can provide patient care.”

The needs can vary widely across a hospital, in ways that can be surprising – such as access to sites likely to carry malicious software. A chief information officer at a research hospital told us,

“I personally believe that hardcore pornography has no purpose on hospital supported devices. What did I do five years ago? I put up internet content filters that prevented people from navigating to pornography. Within five minutes, the director of psychiatry calls to tell me that we have a grant to study pornography in a medical context [so we had to modify our filters].”

These experiences are why we concluded that budget limitations are not as crucial to hospital cybersecurity as employee involvement. A hospital can buy as many pieces of hardware and software as it wants. If workers aren’t following organizational procedures, the technology won’t keep hospitals safe. Our research suggests that cybersecurity is as much about managing people as it is about technology.

Compliance is not security

The threat is nationwide, and keeps getting harder to defend against, as one chief information security officer told us:

“The nature of attacks is increasingly sophisticated. It used to be my biggest threat was … students. Today, it’s state-sponsored attacks, terrorism and organized crime. It’s more threats than ever before of a more serious nature.”

Unfortunately, many hospital administrators seem to believe that protecting data is as simple as meeting state and federal regulations. But those are minimum standards that don’t adequately address the threat. As one of our interviewees said,

“Compliance is a low bar. I guarantee that little health care organizations and hospitals would do nothing (without regulation). They would have a piece of paper on a shelf called their security policy. It’s needed as a backstop to get companies at least thinking about it. But being compliant does not solve the greater risk management problem.”

Our research shows that hospitals need to think beyond compliance. Also, with so few hospitals well defended against cyberattacks, all hospitals appear more attractive as potential targets. In our view, it’s not enough for hospitals to improve their own defenses – nor for regulators to raise standards. They should manage, and evaluate the security of, the devices on their networks and ensure medical staff understand how good cyber-hygiene can support good patient care. Further, policymakers, health care leaders and hospitals themselves should work together to make the industry as a whole less susceptible to attacks that threaten people’s privacy and their very lives.”