Continuing Resolutions – The Short Term Budget Fix That Is Bad For Government

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CR and the Can

Dark clouds pass over the Capitol in Washington.(AP Photo/Susan Walsh, File)

“FEDERAL TIMES” By Chris Cummiskey

“The latest continuing resolution was passed just before Christmas and is set to expire Jan. 19. What does it say about our country that the Congress can’t execute the most basic responsibility of providing funds for a full fiscal year?

Threatening a federal government shutdown is considered the nuclear option by both parties in Congress. However, the reality is that government by continuing resolution is bad for just about everyone.”


“Once again, the airwaves and media outlets are filled with the threat of another federal government shutdown in just 10 days.

Congress and the president have been at odds over the annual spending bill to fund the government for months, with agencies function under a series of short-term spending measures to keep the lights on. The latest continuing resolution was passed just before Christmas and is set to expire Jan. 19.

Unfortunately, this has been a common approach to government funding in recent years that I know all too well. In 2013, as the deputy under secretary for management at the Department of Homeland Security, I was tasked with overseeing DHS’s shutdown efforts.

Now, it is no secret there are legitimate policy issues to resolve this year including a host of immigration related items. The problem is that government by continuing resolution is bad for our citizens, bad for the government and bad for Federal workers that are trying to deliver much needed services.

Bad for citizens

Regardless of where you fall on the political spectrum, it is likely that you or someone close to you relies on some sort of government service. This can take many forms – ranging from receiving a monthly social security check to taking your family to a national park. What does it say about our country that the Congress can’t execute the most basic responsibility of providing funds for a full fiscal year? Confidence is already low in the federal government’s ability to perform. This doesn’t help. Say what you will about state governments, but as a state senator, we had no choice but to get the budget done at the start of each fiscal year. Most states have a balanced budget requirement that forces lawmakers to get in a room and not come out until a funding bill is sent to the governor. Congress should try that approach.

Bad for government operations

Under the rules of a CR period, the funding level is an apportioned amount based on prior year funding. Think of it as a mini fiscal year. Under a CR, no new starts of programs are permitted and changes to existing programs are severely limited. It essentially freezes all the current activity for departments and agencies so that most strategic planning is placed on hold. This means that even needed changes to improve service delivery and performance are shelved until a full year spending bill is approved by Congress.

Bad for federal workers

The constant threat of a shutdown is also bad for government workers who are left to do the best they can with a cloud of constant uncertainty. CRs also make it very difficult to fill mission essential positions. Federal managers and supervisors who are often shorthanded due to attrition, retirement and lack of retention incentives, struggle to meet critical staffing needs. When coupled with the slow rate of political appointments in many agencies, it makes it almost impossible to get the job done. These artificial mini fiscal years are particularly hard on the CFO and budget offices in agencies. At any given time, they are already working issues in several fiscal years. As an example, amid the current meltdown, CFOs and their staff must continue planning for the public release of the president’s fiscal 2019 budget set for next month. This kicks off congressional attention for the next round of budgeting even though they have not finished the 2018 spending bill.

As a recovering politician, I get it. You must play the cards you are dealt to leverage your best position in a budget negotiation. There are always a lot of moving parts and competing spending interests. Threatening a federal government shutdown is considered the nuclear option by both parties in Congress. However, the reality is that government by continuing resolution is bad for just about everyone.”

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Chris Cummiskey is a former acting under secretary/deputy under secretary for management and chief acquisition officer at the U.S. Department Homeland Security. He also serves as a senior fellow with the Center for Cyber and Homeland Security at George Washington University.

https://www.federaltimes.com/opinions/2018/01/09/short-term-budget-fixes-are-bad-government/

 

 

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Pentagon Leaders Skirting Major Defense Acquisition Program (MDAP) Controls Required by Law

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Dodging the Formal Acquisition Process

The Abrams M1A2 SEPv3 Battle Tank. (Photo: U.S. Army)

“THE PROJECT ON GOVERNMENT OVERSIGHT (POGO)”

“The 2018 National Defense Authorization Act provides $650 million to upgrade 29 M1A2s to the new configuration. That means we will be spending $22 million to upgrade a $6 million vehicle.

What makes this particularly curious is that at the same time the Army is dodging the MDAP process with the tank upgrade program, the Hercules tank recovery vehicle upgrade program is going through the MDAP process. That means the wrecker will receive greater scrutiny than the weapon it is meant to recover.”


“When Army leaders decided they needed an upgraded version of the Abrams tank, they wanted to get it without enduring what they consider to be a cumbersome formal acquisition process. Any program of this scale would ordinarily be classified as a Major Defense Acquisition Program (MDAP) and be subject to the oversight reviews and regulations that status entails. To avoid this, Army leaders claimed a major modernization effort to a weapon central to their very identity was a mere design tweak, and managed the project through the far less rigorous Engineering Change Proposal process. This is a problem. The MDAP process may be cumbersome, but its intended purpose is to ensure the Pentagon properly evaluates its needs and then enters into programs that will properly meet them. It is also meant to exert the kind of pressure necessary to keep costs under control. While the system is indisputably flawed (the F-35 is an MDAP), the services should not be permitted to simply ignore the laws. Doing so will almost certainly result in weapons of dubious combat value and more cost overruns.

In performing such a maneuver to avoid the toughest of the acquisitions process, the Army is hardly alone. All of the services are increasingly resorting to similar schemes for other high-profile programs. The danger to the taxpayers, to say nothing of the men and women who will have to take these systems into combat one day, is that these complex and expensive weapons systems aren’t subjected the kind of outside scrutiny necessary to ensure the services are purchasing suitable and effective equipment.

Acquisition Reform

Hardly a year goes by without some effort to modernize the Pentagon’s weapons buying process. Senator John McCain (R-AZ) succeeded in pushing into law a provision to split the Pentagon’s office of Acquisition, Technology & Logistics into at least two offices. The long-time chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee believes this will allow the separate undersecretaries to focus more on their particular offices. The new office of Research and Engineering will focus on innovation while the Acquisition and Sustainment office deals with basic business functions associated with buying and maintaining new weapons. House Armed Services Committee chairman, Representative Mac Thornberry (R-TX), has introduced legislation meant to streamline the process for the past three years. The latest version would allow the services to purchase more items through commercial marketplaces. Previous similar efforts, such as when the Pentagon attempted to change the definition of commercial items to avoid the competitive bidding process, proved problematic. Earlier efforts were geared towards improving program business models and reducing the process’s reports and paperwork. Congress also effectively outsourced acquisition reform to the defense industry when it created the “Section 809 Panel” as part of the FY 2016 National Defense Authorization Act to make recommendations to streamline the way the Pentagon buys weapons. This panel is comprised of several members with deep ties to the defense industry and is the subject of a concerted lobbying effort by the contracting community.

The effectiveness of such efforts is not yet clear, but that might not matter. The usual result of most such efforts is an even more sluggish process—it is a rare problem that can’t be made worse with the addition of more bureaucracy.

Why the Military-Industrial-Congressional Complex Wants to Avoid the MDAP Process

From the perspective of the Pentagon, the defense contractors, and their allies on Capitol Hill, there are advantages in procuring weapon systems through means other than the formal acquisition process. The acquisition process is so complicated and involved that the Department of Defense created the Defense Acquisition University in 1991 to educate personnel on navigating various aspects of the process. A full explanation of the process would fill volumes, but even the basics provide a glimpse into the complexity of the process.

A Major Defense Acquisition Program goes through three separate phases. At the end of each phase, a program goes through a review process to determine whether it has met the criteria to move onto the next phase. These transitions are called “milestones.”

A project begins when the services identify a new military need, or what is known as a capability. This is done through the Joint Capabilities Integration and Development System. This process figures out whether a new weapon system is actually needed to fill the perceived capability gap or if a change in tactics or some other non-material solution can get the job done. This work is reviewed by the Joint Requirements Oversight Council. If they determine a new weapon system is needed, then it goes through the Material Solution Analysis Phase.

A program has to achieve 40 milestone requirements just to pass Milestone A into the second major phase of a program, the Technology Maturation & Risk Reduction Phase. These 40 requirements includes conducting an Analysis of Alternatives, which is a comparison of other weapons that could potentially fill the same need; an Independent Cost Estimate, which helps decision-makers decide if the weapon is something they can afford to pursue (or what tradeoffs should be made if it’s not); and developing a Test and Evaluation Master Plan, which is essential to establish clear testing benchmarks to evaluate how the new weapon system performs in combat. While plenty of redundancy exists within the process, it is meant to protect the interests of both the warfighters and taxpayers. The Government Accountability Office has noted the importance of following through with these steps as part of a knowledge-based process. If the services don’t do so, they create situations where programs “carry technology, design, and production risks into subsequent phases of the acquisition process that could result in cost growth or schedule delays.”

Ideally, multiple contractors will build prototypes that will then be tested as part of a competition to see which design performs the intended mission better. The most successful programs begin this way, with the Lightweight Fighter Program (F-16) and the A-X Program (A-10) being the most notable examples.

The awarding of a contract for the winning design marks Milestone B, and the program passes into the Engineering & Manufacturing Development Phase. The prime and sub-contractors then finalize the development of the system and begin manufacturing enough production-representative goods to complete the Initial Operational Test & Evaluation process.

The successful completion of the realistic combat and live-fire testing phase marks Milestone C, and the program proceeds to full-scale production and deployment to the troops.

Throughout this process, there are numerous review and decision points. This includes a review by the Defense Acquisition Board, which is made up of the Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Secretaries of the Military Departments, four undersecretaries of defense, the Director of Operational Test & Evaluation, and others.

Case Study: The Army’s New Tank

The Army commissioned General Dynamics to design an upgraded version of the M1A2 Abrams tank in 2015. The first of what is expected to be 1,500 upgraded versions of the Army’s Abrams tanks rolled off the assembly line at the Lima, Ohio, factory on October 4, 2017. The choice of contractors for the project was hardly a surprise as the Abrams tank is a General Dynamics product. That is not to suggest that another contractor could not perform the work. Other contractors like BAE Systems also build armored vehicles and their component systems. By designating the project as an Engineering Change Proposal, however, the Army had little need to open it to a competitive bidding process as “most ECPs occur in a sole source environment.”

To the casual observer, the Army’s newest tank looks very much like the existing tanks. The M1A2 SEPv3 is still essentially an Abrams tank on the outside. However, the vehicle is quite different on the inside. It sports a new suite of communications gear called the Joint Tactical Radio System, which is supposed to fully integrate the vehicle into the Army’s command and control network. To provide the necessary electricity to power all of the new electronics and conserve fuel in situations where the crew does not need to run the gas-turbine engine, an improved generator has been added inside the hull.

The tank uses the same M256 smooth-bore cannon as the existing M1A1 tanks, but the breach in this variant has been modified to use the Ammunition DataLink to be compatible with the advanced multi-purpose round. This allows the tank’s gunner to send a signal to the round right before it is fired, setting its detonation mode to one of three different settings. It can detonate on impact, detonate on a delay for obstacle reduction, or airburst. This single round replaces four existing rounds, reducing the logistical burden of the armored forces, which is always a great concern.

In response to the threat posed by IEDs, the new tank includes a Counter Remote Controlled Improvised Explosive Device electronic warfare package. Should all of that fail, or when enemy fighters use simpler low-tech command-wired IEDs (which they will), the tank also boasts additional armor protection.

These are not insignificant changes. They add significantly to an already extremely heavy tank. As someone who spent ten years operating in tanks, I can tell you this is a significant problem. The Abrams tank is already too heavy for most of the world’s bridges. This restricts the number of avenues a unit can take to reach an objective, making it much easier for the enemy to predict the unit’s movements. It also increases the logistics burden because a heavier tank requires more fuel.

Sources within the Army say the new variant is too heavy for the Army’s fleet of Heavy Equipment Transport vehicles. The Army relies on these vehicles to transport the tanks across long distances to conserve fuel and to reduce wear and tear on the tanks.

They also do not come cheaply. The 2018 National Defense Authorization Act provides $650 million to upgrade 29 M1A2s to the new configuration. That means we will be spending $22 million to upgrade a $6 million vehicle.

What makes this particularly curious is that at the same time the Army is dodging the MDAP process with the tank upgrade program, the Hercules tank recovery vehicle upgrade program is going through the MDAP process. That means the wrecker will receive greater scrutiny than the weapon it is meant to recover.

Case Study: F-35 Follow On Modernization

F-35A's touch down at RAF Fairford

An Airman with the Air Combat Command F-35A Heritage Flight team marshals an F-35A Lightning II to its parking spot on the flightline at Royal Air Force Fairford, England, June 30, 2016. The team flew to England for the Royal International Air Tattoo. (Photo: U.S. Air Force / Tech. Sgt. Jarad A. Denton)

The F-35 program is being managed through the regular MDAP process, but officials are now working furiously behind the scenes to prevent the next phase of it from following the same path. No one is quite sure what the latest incarnation of the F-35 will be able to do when the program completes the development and testing process, but that isn’t stopping officials from seeking funds for upgrades to the aircraft. They are continuing to develop a list of needed capabilities for the newer version, called Block 4.

The Pentagon estimates the cost just for the initial phase of the modernization program—the research, development, test and evaluation (RDT&E) phase—to be more than $3.9 billion through 2022. The Government Accountability Office correctly points out that this “would exceed the statutory and regulatory thresholds for what constitutes a major defense acquisitions program (MDAP), and would make it more expensive than many of the other MDAPs already in DOD’s portfolio.”

The F-35 Joint Program Office has strenuously resisted efforts to create a separate MDAP for the Block 4 modernization citing time and money concerns. The Joint Program Office wants to run the modernization program as part of the original contract from 2001. By dodging the MDAP process for this effort, the program would avoid many of the processes meant to ensure proper Congressional oversight. The program would not, for example, have to go through a Milestone B review, which would establish an acquisition program cost baseline and require regular reports to Congress about the program’s cost and performance progress.

Such a move also means the program would not be subject to the provisions of the Nunn-McCurdy amendment which establishes unit cost growth thresholds. This would require the Pentagon to notify Congress if the program’s unit cost grows by 25 percent and calls for the program’s cancellation if the cost grows by more than 50 percent. This, unfortunately, does not happen very often because the law includes a waiver provision that allows the Secretary of Defense to certify that the program is critical to national security and should be continued. Only one program, the Armed Reconnaissance Helicopter, has been cancelled as a direct result of a Nunn-McCurdy breach.

Case Study: The B-21 Raider

B-21

(Photo: US Air Force)

The biggest ticket item currently attempting to dodge public scrutiny is the Air Force’s newest bomber, the B-21 Raider. This program is being managed by the Air Force’s Rapid Capabilities Office, a secretive group that is conveniently not subject to many of the regulations Congress imposes upon most acquisition programs.

According the Air Force’s Rapid Capabilities Office website, this outfit has a key advantage the regular acquisition office does not:

“waivers to and deviations from any encumbering practices, procedures, policies, directives or regulations may be granted in order to ensure the timely accomplishment of the mission within applicable statutory guidance.”

The Air Force has been extremely cagey about releasing cost information about the new bomber. During the bid process, service leaders announced a $550 million per aircraft target cost. So far, Air Force leaders have refused to publicly releasethe value of the B-21’s development contract with Northrop Grumman. The stated reason for the secrecy about cost is that a potential adversary could derive information about the size, weight, and range. Apparently no one will be able to determine any of that information from the artist’s rendering of the new bomber, or from the list of subcontractors Air Force officials publicly announced.

Conclusion

The MDAP process is complex and does often fail to produce weapons that do what they are expected to do or come anywhere close to meeting the original cost expectations. The process is long over-due for a comprehensive streamlining effort. But even though the process is deeply flawed, the protections it includes were put there to protect the interests of the troops and the taxpayers. Just because the services find the process inconvenient, doesn’t justify their efforts to dodge the oversight mechanisms provided by federal law.

Unless Congress arrests this disturbing trend, the services are likely to continue to use these schemes to bypass the rules and regulations put in place to protect both the troops and the taxpayers. The people’s interests are served only when everyone involved in the process of buying new weapons have the correct information at the beginning. As Tom Christie, former Director, Operational Test and Evaluation wrote:

“Upfront realistic cost estimates and technical risk assessments, developed by independent organizations outside the chain of command for major programs, should inform Defense Acquisition Executives.  The requirement for those assessments to be independent, not performed by organizations already controlled by the existing self-interests sections of the bureaucracy is essential.”

It is understandable that the services want to speed up the process of fielding new weapon systems. While there are many flaws in the current acquisition system, it is not the root of the problem. Service leaders and their partners (and far too often future colleagues) in the defense industry keep pursuing unrealistic programs and Congress keeps voting for them. Dodging the current acquisition regulations will not fix that problem, but it will make it easier for all involved to hide the bad results from the people paying for them, but presumably not from those who would suffer the consequences if a weapon were to fail in combat.”

http://www.pogo.org/straus/issues/weapons/2018/dodging-the-formal-acquisition-process.html

 

 

 

Former Navy Official Sean Stackley Joins L3 Technologies

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Navy to L3 Revolving Door

THE PENTAGON REVOLVING DOOR REVOLVES ONCE MORE

“DEFENSE  NEWS”

“Sean Stackley, who also served as the acting secretary of the Navy from Jan. 20 to Aug. 3, 2017, kicked off his tenure as corporate vice president at L3 Technologies on Jan. 8, leading the company’s strategic advanced capabilities and technologies.

It’s a whole new world,” Stackley said of his new role during an exclusive interview with Defense News on Jan. 3, the day after he officially wrapped up his tenure in government.”

L-3 Communications Contractor Misconduct


“As one would figure for a high-level official from the Defense Department, Stackley did have options — he said he was approached by a number of market leaders. (He wouldn’t name which specifically.) He wasn’t ready to engage and settle with a single defense company, nor was L3 even on his radar as a possibility until he got the call from the company’s new chief executive. Chris Kubasik, who stepped into the CEO role at the start of the year after serving as chief operating officer since 2015, has worked with Stackley on government projects on and off for about a decade.

“Our strategy and vision has gained traction and is appealing to a lot of leaders,” Kubasik told Defense News. “Sean and I are completely aligned as to how L3 can help our customers with their important missions, and he was one of the most respected leaders in the Pentagon. We are excited to have him on board.”

For Stackley, the fact that L3 is a company built upon acquisitions, thus far maintaining some of the speed and agility that can come more easily for smaller companies, is an advantage.

“The government and our closest defense firms tend to grow up together; organizationally and structurally, they tend to become mirror images,” Stackley said. “For all the goodness — and I have four decades of public service and nothing but love and respect for what we do — the government is not credited with being really quick. L3, unlike its larger defense companies, did not take on that mirror image of the government. It’s kept its roots that came from the smaller companies that formed it. That’s a strength.”

That said, among the priorities for both Stackley and Kubasik is to further unify a corporation that remains relatively segmented — “to integrate all these parts of the companies to make something bigger,” in the words of the former Navy official.

In terms of his Navy tenure, Stackley remained rather mum about the recent challenges faced by the service, voicing strong support for the current leadership’s ability to address challenges and saying only that the June 2017 collision involving the destroyer Fitzgerald while he was serving as acting secretary “shook us.”

He did, however, speak to his optimism about the current administration’s approach to defense.

“More so than some of the past administrations that I’ve worked closely in or with, there’s been a heavy focus on the industry side with this administration,” Stackley said. “That brings with it a greater understanding of some of the challenges that industry faces, coupled with an understanding of the opportunities that the government has in terms of dealing with industry — from acquisition strategies to contract negotiations.”

“We’re at year one of the administration,” he continued. “But the team in place has a good respect for and understanding of industry, which lends itself to smart policies that protect the health and welfare of industry, but at the same time puts the department in a strong position to be a demanding customer.”

https://www.defensenews.com/breaking-news/2018/01/08/former-navy-official-sean-stackley-joins-l3-technologies/

 

Why Artificial Intelligence (AI) Is Not Like Your Brain Yet

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AI Not LIke Your Brain Yet

Image: ZOHAR LAZAR

“WIRED”

“AI resembles the gray matter in your head about as much as a pull-string doll resembles a rocket scientist.

These systems have only a few million “neurons,” which are really just nodes with some input/output connections. That’s puny compared to the 100 billion genuine neurons in your cranium.”


“Here’s a fun drinking game: Every time someone compares AI to the human brain, take a shot. It’ll dull the pain of such mindless metaphorizing—and serve as a reminder that you, an at-least-semiconscious being, have an actual brain that can make real decisions like “Drink!” in the first place. Contra the hype of marketers (as regurgitated by credulous journalists—for shame!), AI resembles the gray matter in your head about as much as a pull-string doll resembles a rocket scientist. There’s a similarity in shape, ish: So-called neural networks are software programs inspired by neuroscience. But these systems have only a few million “neurons,” which are really just nodes with some input/output connections.

That’s puny compared to the 100 billion genuine neurons in your cranium. Read it and weep, Alexa! We’re talking 100 trillion synapses. Or 200 trillion. (Of course, cognition is still pretty incognita itself—which means we’re “modeling” AIs on something we barely even comprehend.) The truth is, tricks like beating people at Go or diagnosing melanomas owe more to brute-force computing power than to any higher sentience. It’s just basic pattern matching under the hood. Yes, a “deep learning” system running on 16,000 processors taught itself to identify cats—with 75 percent accuracy—after analyzing 10 million images. A toddler can nail that on a walk to the playground. So all this Muskian/Hawkingian/Singularitarian talk of “summoning the demon” and “existential threats” to our “survival”? Eh, let’s just worry about that tomorrow. For now, we’re human, and we’re here to drink.”

https://www.wired.com/story/why-artificial-intelligence-is-not-like-your-brainyet/

 

 

 

Booze Allen Contractor to Plead Guilty in 23-Year-Long Largest Ever Theft of Classified Data

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Booze Allen - Here we go again

“WASHINGTON TECHNOLOGY”

“The saga of a government contractor who allegedly stole more classified data than anyone else in history might be coming to a close.

Harold Martin III, who is accused of stealing terabytes of information, has told the U.S. District Court in Baltimore that he will plead guilty to a single charge of willful retention of national defense information on Jan. 22.”


“A plea agreement has not been filed yet, so it is not clear what punishment is being proposed or what will happen to the other 19 counts that were filed against him.

Court filings state that Martin will not be sentenced until all the other counts are resolved.

That single charge carries a maximum of 10 years in prison and three years of probation. He also could be fined up to $250,000.

Over a 23-year period, Martin worked for a series of contractors serving customers in the intelligence field. His security clearances gave him access to a broad range of information.

During that period, Martin took copies of documents and software programs home. This includes data from the National Security Agency, U.S. Cyber Command, the National Reconnaissance Office and the CIA.

When the FBI searched his home in August 2016, the bureau said they found the biggest stash of classified documents ever uncovered. Computers and storage devices were found in his home, his car and a shed in his yard. There were boxes and boxes of paper documents as well.

Still not clear is what Martin did with the data he allegedly stole. There is no allegation that he sold the information or distributed it.

At the time of his August arrest, Martin worked for Booz Allen Hamilton. But he worked for at least seven companies over the 23 years he had taken government secrets, according to the indictment.”

https://washingtontechnology.com/blogs/editors-notebook/2018/01/harold-martin-guilty-plea.aspx

 

 

 

Illinois Governor Takes Up Residence In Veterans Home

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Ill Gov at Vets Home

“POLITICO”

“Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner, a multimillionaire who owns nine homes — including a condo overlooking Central Park in New York — is taking up residence this week under decidedly less luxurious conditions.

The first-term Republican governor checked himself into a central Illinois, state-run veterans’ home where 13 veterans died over three years from a deadly Legionnaires’ outbreak.”


“The move, denounced as a “publicity stunt” by opponents, is a sign of the urgency of the moment as Rauner struggles to contain an onslaught of criticism about his administration’s handling of an outbreak that has persisted at the facility. Of the numerous controversies Rauner has faced since his 2014 election, veterans dying on his watch is arguably the most explosive.

Democratic Sen. Dick Durbin has called for the facility to be shuttered if the state can’t guarantee its safety for residents. And legislative hearings scheduled for next week are expected to create a fresh blast of publicity on the issue.

“[The governor] plans to spend several days there with the residents and staff,” said Rauner spokeswoman Rachel Bold. “He wants to gain a more thorough understanding of the clinical, water-treatment, and residential operations of the home.”

Last month, WBEZ, Chicago’s public radio affiliate, published an investigationraising questions about how Rauner handled a 2015 outbreak of the Legionella bacteria, which revealed the administration delayed publicizing what appeared to be the beginning of an epidemic. In all, 13 people died and at least 53 staff and residents were sickened by the bacteria found at the facility. Now, 11 families are suing the state for negligence.

The Legionella bacteria, found in some water supplies, can cause a severe form of pneumonia. In December, in an effort to assuage concerns, Rauner told reporters he would drink the water at the facility.

But the governor’s attempts to tamp down the controversy have failed so far. On Wednesday, Rauner was excoriated by opponents after telling a local newspaper that Legionella outbreaks are not uncommon — “it happens,” he said. Rauner has defended his administration’s actions, saying he brought in every expert available including the Center for Disease Control.

Even before veterans’ home revelations, Rauner was widely viewed as the most endangered governor in 2018. He has suffered through staffing turmoil — including having three chiefs of staff in a three-month period — and presided over a more than two-year budget impasse that ended with Republicans banding against him in a veto override.

After being designated the “Worst Republican Governor in America” by the conservative National Review, Rauner stumbled again when he told reporters “I’m not in charge.”

All of it has created a daunting reelection road for a governor who now faces a primary challenge on the right — from state Rep. Jeanne Ives, a veteran herself. On the Democratic side, billionaire J.B. Pritzker leads the field, raising the prospect of what could be the most expensive governor’s race in the nation’s history.

“This is a cynical and transparent publicity stunt,” said Ives. “The conditions in the Illinois Veterans Home, as well as the delayed response from the Rauner administration, are betrayals of our veterans and the benefits they earned protecting our freedoms. This is what happens when the governor isn’t in charge, as he said. The state fails to abide its responsibilities and people die.”

https://www.politico.com/story/2018/01/04/bruce-rauner-veterans-illinois-325397

 

 

Failures in Guarding Private Sector Information

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Cyber Security“THE CIPHER BRIEF” By Debora Lee James

“Here’s the bottom line: we need a holistic approach to cyber security going forward, including network and endpoint security. Focusing on one but not the other could result in crippling losses in today’s machine-to-machine marketplace.

The government and the private sector need to keep working to lock the front door, and start doing a better job of bolting the windows.”


“Not a day goes by that Americans don’t wake to the news of a new cyber intrusion affecting private sector or government networks, whether major cyber hacks at Target or Equifax, sloppy data breaches like those Verizon experienced, or nation-state-sponsored efforts like the WannaCry virus. Companies and institutions are pouring more time, attention and resources into computer network security, because the networks are so critical. But why lock the front door when you leave the windows wide open? Bad actors can launch attacks and gain access to critical information through other routes too.

As seen with the widely reported interference in democratic elections, attacks can be launched cheaply and relatively easily by criminals, nation-states, terrorists, disgruntled employees, or even good people with sloppy habits who accidentally expose critical data. As a former Secretary of the Air Force, I can tell you that Air Force networks are attacked—and these attacks are repelled—thousands of times per week.

This is why, in addition to network security, the Air Force is focusing more resources on operational security. The private sector should follow suit.

Operational security means protecting assets that depend on lines of code in software to conduct missions, whatever those missions might be. This could involve anything from protecting advanced fighter aircraft to the HVAC systems on a base where critical operations take place. It could include the MRI machine in a hospital entrusted with sensitive patient data. Our critical infrastructure—the electrical grid and transportation systems, for example—can be equally vulnerable from an operational perspective, if network security is the sole focus.

The solution is to broaden the national cybersecurity approach to include “endpoint security” for vital operational systems. Stated another way, we need to wrap firewalls around certain vital machines to ensure that an intrusion in one area will not allow for a more extensive penetration to the broader network.

Consider a fictional scenario in which a U.S. nuclear facility is breached. A terrorist group launches a “cyber-physical attack” by unleashing a virus that penetrates sensors that monitor cooling. The malware is introduced when an infected flash drive is inserted into a network laptop during maintenance to adjust, for example, process sequences. The laptop is presumed to be safe because it’s not connected to the internet—it is “air gapped.” The virus targets specific endpoints that manage fail-safe functions such as temperature maximums. The virus tells temperature sensors to stop working. At the same time, it tells other mini computers to escalate heat-generating functions. The result could be catastrophic overheating and, ultimately, a meltdown.

Such an attack, and many others we haven’t thought of yet, are preventable when control systems are more deeply protected. Each device and sensor comprising the network can and should be shielded from malware that gets through the figurative front door. ”

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Secretary James has over 30 years of senior level homeland and national security experience in the federal government and private sector. During her time as Secretary, her responsibilities included the affairs of the Department of the Air Force, including the organizing, training, equipping and providing for the welfare of its nearly 660,000 active-duty, Guard, Reserve and civilian Airmen and their families. Secretary James also oversaw the Air Force’s annual budget of more than $139 billion. Today, James serves on boards of directors and advisory Boards of companies and not for profits focused on security including Ultra 3 eti, Textron, Unisys, MKA Cyber and Noblis.

https://www.thecipherbrief.com/column/expert-view/locked-doors-open-windows-failures-guarding-private-sector-information

 

 

 

$3.4 Billion of $3.7 Billion in Federal Fraud Recoveries in FY 2017 Came From Whistle Blowers

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Federal Fraud Recovery 2017

“THE PROJECT ON GOVERNMENT OVERSIGHT”

“Since 1986, the government has awarded nearly $6.6 billion of its recoveries (12 percent of the total) to the whistleblowers who filed the lawsuits—often at great risk to their careers.

Because those who defraud the government often hide their misconduct from public view, whistleblowers are often essential to uncovering the truth.”


“On the Thursday before Christmas, the Department of Justice (DOJ) released its annual fraud recovery numbers. The DOJ announced it had recouped $3.7 billion through settlements and judgments in False Claims Act cases in fiscal year 2017.

This amount is nearly 23 percent lower than the previous fiscal year, but roughly in line with FY 2015’s total. This seems to be a trend: a historical analysis of DOJ’s fraud recoveries since 1986 (the year Congress substantially strengthened the False Claims Act) shows that, in recent years, a substantial drop-off occurs in non-election years.

According to the DOJ, of the $3.7 billion in fraud recoveries in FY 2017, $3.4 billion came from whistleblower lawsuits filed under the qui tam provisions of the False Claims Act. Since 1986, the government has awarded nearly $6.6 billion of its recoveries (12 percent of the total) to the whistleblowers who filed the lawsuits—often at great risk to their careers.

Overall, since 1986, the False Claims Act has helped taxpayers claw back more than $56 billion—an average of $1.8 billion per year.

As in past years, the largest share of the recoveries—about two-thirds—involved health care fraud. But a substantial sum also came from some of Uncle Sam’s largest contractors [See Inset].

Since 1986, the government has awarded nearly $6.6 billion of its recoveries (12 percent of the total) to the whistleblowers who filed the lawsuits—often at great risk to their careers.

“Because those who defraud the government often hide their misconduct from public view, whistleblowers are often essential to uncovering the truth,” Acting Assistant Attorney General Chad Readler proclaimed in the DOJ announcement.

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-IA), a longtime champion of the False Claims Act who helped strengthen the law over the years, trumpeted the DOJ’s latest numbers.

“To those who doubt the value of whistleblowers and the False Claims Act, I’d just say: $56 billion and counting,” Grassley stated in a press release.

We’ll see if the federal fraud recovery trend continues and next year’s total shows an election-year increase. The DOJ recently indicated it will more aggressively seek to dismiss qui tam lawsuits when it concludes the case lacks merit, instead of allowing the whistleblower to proceed. A government motion for dismissal doesn’t automatically doom the lawsuit, although judges are more likely to side with the government and throw out the case. Depending on how strict the DOJ is when assessing a case’s merit, this policy change could substantially lower how much the government recovers from companies accused of defrauding or endangering the health and safety of U.S. taxpayers.”

http://www.pogo.org/blog/2018/01/federal-fraud-recoveries-decline-fiscal-year-2017.html

 

Captain Maggie Seymour Ran 100 Days for Veterans, Special-Needs Athletes, And Gold Star Families

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Maggie Seymour

Maggie Seymour
Courtesy photo

“TASK AND PURPOSE”

“Maggie Seymour is a captain in the Marine Corps Reserves and a current doctoral candidate at Old Dominion University.

After leaving active duty in 2017, she ran across the country in 100 days to support veterans, Gold Star families, and special-needs athletes.”


“On July 22, I ended my active-duty service with the Marine Corps and started a 100-day run across the country. I decided to leave the Corps for a variety of reasons; some cultural, some personal, but mostly because I didn’t want to move every three years. I was tired of rebuilding a life and community with every PCS. In that same sense of community and service, I wanted my last PCS to be a tribute to the communities that had embraced me over my time on active duty. I set out to raise $50,000 for veterans, special-needs athletes, and Gold Star families.

Going into this run, I was woefully under trained, slightly overweight, and more than a little arrogant — not unlike many service members transitioning to civilian life. So it was to even my own surprise that on Oct. 28, I reached the Atlantic Ocean, relatively injury-free and on schedule.

It has been a month since I finished and I am still not sure how I did it, but I have a feeling it was through a little bit of luck, a lot of stubbornness, and my military training. As it turns out, the Marine Corps did a pretty good job in preparing me for that grueling 2,850-mile trek.

Here’s five ways how:

Bearing

I called it grace, but bearing would be appropriate, too. The Marine Corps teaches bearing in any number of ways. I learned to keep a straight face and cool head mostly by counseling Marines through some notoriously bad decisions, like the time my chief intentionally impregnated his mistress, while still married. Or when that same chief held a “commitment ceremony” with his pregnant girlfriend, again while still married. Overcoming those experiences prevented me from completely losing my shit when on Day 64 of this run, my support driver drove to the day’s end point instead of the start point, wasting an hour of the blessed cool morning air. It allowed me to stay in control when that sweet old lady in Virginia hit me with her car. There is a strength in being able to remain calm, especially when everything around (or inside you) is going apeshit.

Flexibility

Pick a cliché: Go for the 80% solution. Semper Gumby. No plan survives first contact with the enemy. They all mean the same thing: The Marine Corps changes. A lot. Orders get modified hours before the movers show up. The movers don’t show up. The movers show up drunk. All of these changes force us to learn how to flex. I started the run in July and reached the California desert by the second day, unprepared to face the searing heat that even most American tourists know to steer clear of — clearly understanding weather isn’t my forte. In the desert, everything is trying to kill you: the sun, the sand, the animals, even the plants (jumping chollas, anyone?). My enemy became the rocks and sand, the goat trails and wadis, my blisters, and always my own mind. So, my crew and I flexed. I began running at night to avoid the heat of the day. We adjusted the route to make the timeline. My crew bought safety vests, cooling towels, and a second cooler. When one route didn’t pan out, we found another. When the van needed a repair, we called friends. When we hit a fence, a mounter, or a herd of cattle — we went over, around, or under it.

Land Navigation

As if running in the desert in the dead of the night wasn’t bad enough, the desert between eastern California and Phoenix has very few roads suitable or legal for pedestrians. In some stretches of the trek, there were no viable roads at all. Luckily my crew and I know how to read a map and use a compass (or rather the compass app on the iPhone) and picked our way across the desert, avoiding becoming those lost lieutenants, or in this case lost captains. Thanks to The Basic School.

The ability to suffer monotony

At the end of each day, my crew would congratulate me on another day down. I’d bitterly ask what my reward was. Cheerfully, they would reply, “You get to do it again tomorrow!” Running 33 miles a day for 99 days was my own personal Groundhog Day from Hell. It reminded me a lot of deployments; the days were long, but the weeks were short, no matter how miserably monotonous. Every Marine — from a staff officer preparing commander’s update brief slides and non-judicial punishments to the infantry lance corporal cleaning his weapon — knows the feeling. The level of tedium experienced day after day in the Marines kills motivation and feeds misery. Luckily the Corps gives you company in your suffering. Shared torment reminds you that you’re not alone and that someone always had it worse. When the monotony of the run became nearly unbearable, I always had a friend to reach out to — someone who reminded me that it could be worse.

Success is a team effort

When the 1995 VW Eurovan camper named Diana that was meant to carry my support driver, running partners, me, and my gear broke down the day before the launch of the run, I started to panic. Luckily my friends — also Marines — stepped in. One friend lent me a Jeep. Another called a tow truck so that Diana could make the launch party. Other friends transferred my coolers and running gear from the van to the loaner Jeep and kept me calm. Throughout the run, this teamwork was a running (pun intended) theme. My crew made me weird potato-chip sandwiches, ran my ice baths, and even rubbed my feet. Friends from afar sent me messages, linked me up with places to stay at different stops of the journey, and spread the word about my mission. Everyone chipped in with whatever support they could. I got through this run the same way I got through any tough challenge in the Marine Corps. I asked for help. I asked for a lot of help, from a lot of different people. I reached out to those people who knew what they were doing, I reached out for logistical support, emotional support, medical advice, or just simple encouragement.”

http://taskandpurpose.com/marine-corps-prepared-run-across-country-100-days/?utm_source=Sailthru&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=ebb-1/2&utm_term=Editorial%20-%20Early%20Bird%20Brief

 

 

 

Key Processes for Winning Proposals

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Writing Winning Proposals

“WASHINGTON TECHNOLOGY” By Matthew McKelvey

“Don’t be fooled, winning proposals are created, and do not simply materialize from some magical force. It’s not magic, but a disciplined process.

By adhering to key principles and steps, such as: careful planning, time management, attention to detail, and assembling a team of experts, your organization can create your own recipe for success.”


“The often lengthy and detailed process involved with developing winning proposals for new government opportunities can sometimes seem almost mythical.

You decode a requirements document that is hundreds of pages long and identify a combination of recommendations from limited or conflicting information, past performance experience which doesn’t necessarily match the current opportunity exactly, and somehow propose a price you will have to live with for five years or more.

The bottom-line is that, while writing cost proposals requires following a basic formula, it is critical to develop a multi-level, detailed plan to include all data points and requests to ensure a timely turnaround and delivery. Following a process ensures your proposal is compliant (meets all of the government requirements) and accurate (no mathematical, grammatical, or presentation errors). Failure to be either compliant or accurate is a sure way to lose — regardless of how great your solution is.

Here are some ‘pro tips’ from our experts to take the guesswork out of your cost proposal development process:

Arm Yourself with Tools for Success- Key Processes for a Winning Approach

From the get-go, it is essential to begin a proposal response approach that will result in a consistent, repeatable new business approach that wins time and again.

In a RFP review, for example:

  • Always be sure you read the full document up-front and ensure you have all of the relevant information required to respond accurately and comprehensively.
  • Document key questions right away, as well as identify areas where you’ll need more detail. Also, remember that the best time to meet the client, gather information, develop your team, and plan the proposal response is before the RFP is ever released.
  • Assemble your team and develop your production schedule that highlights key milestones and backs into known due dates. At this stage of the game, it is critical to involve your pricing team right out of the gate and before the RFP drops (at the capture process). This is a critical step because of the potential impacts your teammates and sub-contractors can exert on your cost decisions.
  • Always create a Compliance Matrix. The best proposal is often eliminated from consideration all because of a minor compliance error. To avoid this happening to you, put together a matrix to organize all steps, responsibilities, activities, deliverables, and team members so you can keep your eyes on the prize (that finished response!) and track progress at-a-glance while keeping communication lines open. The matrix should list everything the RFP requires so nothing is missed, and it also makes it easy for reviewers to check off the boxes to ensure you hit all necessary points.
  • Determine the Cost Schedule right away. This includes an assessment of indirect rates, using a model to calculate inputs and additional costs beyond RFP requirements, calculate your wrap rate, and analyze basis and pools, as well as ceiling impacts.

Tricks of the Trade – The Secret Sauce

  • Get Started Early. Particularly with cost decisions, time is a critical factor to be sure your data is accurate. Building in the over-communication and transparency among your team members is important to finishing the response in a timely manner, but also to allow for early intervention and mitigation of any roadblocks that may arise.
  • Develop a production framework and strategy early, and use it often. Implement a phased, targeted structure to your cost meetings during a response development process. Doing so early on makes it much easier to adjust for changes in requirements or information as they come up as you already have your framework established.
  • Master Excel. Consolidate data entry onto single tabs for easy management and recall, use color coded values as opposed to formulas where possible, check formatting, data validation, and perform independent quality checks on your model as you go to ensure everything is on track.
  • Manage your Sub-Contractors Effectively. Create templates for key deliverables and document responses to distribute to subcontractors, helping to ensure a consistent work product – and less editing, formatting, and merging later on – while establishing a structure of regular communication and status updates throughout each project stage.
  • Own the Narrative. Refer back to your compliance matrix regularly, create an outline based on the RFP, and create your narrative early in the process so it can grow and evolve as the process unfolds. The narrative is where you sell your price and clarify all bases of estimates.
  • Determine Labor Rates and Support Your Proposed Cost Elements. Typically, the distributor of the RFP will tell you what they are looking for. You’ll need to know early on what exactly you’ll be proposing to address this need. To do this, you’ll need to gather as much data as you can up-front and map requirements from the RFP against company, prime, and labor categories.

Remember- especially in the government sector, you are not just making a case about what is needed to address an identified objective, you are also selling what the associated costs will be.

Having a strong and competitive cost strategy for each of your cost estimates (staffing, direct labor, subcontractors, other direct costs, indirect rates, and fee/profit) is key to increasing win likelihood.

Doing this right, with compelling support, will ensure you are able to successfully defend your case in your response and demonstrate that your proposed solution – and the associated costs – are realistic and reasonable.

How To Develop a Tight Production Machine

At the top of the list is to always plan ahead! The enemy of timely production and accurate completion of tasks is rushing to the finish. It’s a good idea to dedicate at least three days for review – whether in soft copy or printed.

It is also a good idea to conduct your pricing reviews ahead of the last minute to allow for time to correct quality control issues, formatting (which is a compliance issue), and others. Allow five days here in your production schedule, ideally.

Other tips? Color code everything on your spreadsheet documents- this allows you to keep things organized, but also to know on the cost side which sheets are to be printed and submitted, and which stay with you.

Leverage all of the power of your team here as well; they are often your best proofers!

The Bottom-Line

Overall, the secret to a winning proposal process and cost structure is not a mystery. Proposals take time and effort – maximize both by ensuring you plan early, assemble a strong team, develop a compliance matrix, create a tight production schedule, use your narrative to sell your approach, and make sure you provide a compelling cost story. Remember – compliance and accuracy are key.

Adhering to these principles will ensure your cost proposal isn’t just a mix of ingredients. Instead, it is a well-formed recipe which produces a very tempting choice for the government.”

About the Author

Matthew McKelvey is the president of the McKelvey Group, a financial consulting firm in Gaithersburg, Md.

https://washingtontechnology.com/articles/2017/12/21/insights-mckelvey-no-magic-proposals.aspx