New Policy: Military Bases Can Shoot Down Trespassing Drones

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Shoot Down Drones

A small drone crash-landed at the White House in Washington, D.C. An increase in similar private drones above U.S. military complexes led to the Pentagon issuing guidance on how bases can now defend themselves against the private aircraft. (U.S. Secret Service via AFP)

“MILITARY TIMES”

“The Pentagon has signed off on a new policy that will allow military bases to shoot down private or commercial drones that are deemed a threat, Pentagon spokesman Navy Capt. Jeff Davis said Monday.

The policy itself is classified and was transmitted to the services in July, Davis said. Broadly, it outlines the rules of engagement for a base when a private or commercial drone is encroaching upon its airspace.

On Friday, unclassified guidance was sent to each of the services on how to communicate the new policy to local communities.

The installations “retain the right of self-defense when it comes to UAVs or drones operating over [them,]” Davis said. “The new guidance does afford of the ability to take action to stop these threats and that includes disabling, destroying and tracking.”

Davis said the private or commercial drones could also be seized.

However, in some instances where the military leases land for operations, the use of a drone may not always be a threat — and who owns the airspace may not always be clear.

The Air Force, for example, maintains its arsenal Minuteman III nuclear intercontinental ballistic missiles in 150 underground silos in vast fields around Minot Air Force Base, North Dakota. But the land is only leased from commercial and private farmers who use the rest of the area for crops or livestock. Those farmers sometimes find it easier to launch a drone to check on their cows or agriculture than to cover the miles by foot or truck.

As of last fall, the sky above the silos at Minot AFB was also not previously restricted airspace.

It was not immediately clear whether the new policy has changed access to the airspace above the silos or at other bases.

The policy would affect 133 military installations, DOD said.

Davis said the policy was worked through the Federal Aviation Administration and other federal agencies, and the specific actions a base takes when a drone encroaches upon it “will depend upon the specific circumstances,” Davis said.”

https://www.militarytimes.com/breaking-news/2017/08/07/dod-can-now-shoot-down-trespassing-uavs/

 

 

 

2011 “Insider Threat Program” in Jeopardy Under Justice Deparment Whistle Blower Investigations?

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Sott dot Net Whistleblower

Image: Scott.Net

“THE PROJECT ON GOVERNMENT OVERSIGHT”

“It is important to note that when information is not classified or otherwise specifically barred by statute from disclosure, most federal employees are protected for disclosing wrongdoing to the media. [under the Insider Threat Program in place since 2011].

POGO has worked for decades to ensure that whistleblowers are afforded strong protections when reporting through proper channels and urge the White House and the Department of Justice (DOJ) to conduct these investigations with a firm commitment to not target, discourage, or detect legally protected whistleblowing in the process. This commitment is written into the Executive Order creating the Insider Threat Program, and must be adhered to. It is also important to note, that when information is not classified or otherwise specifically barred by statute from disclosure, most federal employees are protected for disclosing wrongdoing to the media.

POGO’s Danielle Brian issued the comment below:

“Whistleblowers are the nation’s first line of defense against fraud, waste, abuse, and illegality within the federal government, the last thing this administration wants to do is to deter whistleblowing in an effort to stymie leaks. This administration must carefully tailor the parameters for this investigation with this important consideration in mind. While I appreciate the distinction between whistleblowers and leakers at today’s press conference, the commitment to strong whistleblower protections must be more than just lip service.

In the public discourse, the lines regularly become blurred between leaking and whistleblowing. While not all leaks are whistleblowing disclosures, it is often impossible to distinguish between the two activities without understanding all the facts in each instance. It is especially difficult when discussing ‘leaks’ of unclassified information.

Whistleblowers will be allies to this administration if the White House embraces them and their disclosures, which often are an early warning system that can spotlight problems before they metastasize. Such disclosure help save taxpayer dollars, prevent loss of life, and curb abuses. Overzealous investigations will chill legitimate whistleblowing and drive whistleblowers away from proper government channels to the press. ”

Founded in 1981, the Project On Government Oversight (POGO) is a nonpartisan independent watchdog that champions good government reforms. POGO’s investigations into corruption, misconduct, and conflicts of interest achieve a more effective, accountable, open, and ethical federal government.”

http://www.pogo.org/about/press-room/releases/2017/press-statement-doj-press-conference-to-address-leaks-of-classified-material.html

 

 

This is the Pentagon’s New Acquisition Structure

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Pentagon Reorganization 4

“DEFENSE NEWS”

“The Pentagon’s new acquisition plan creates almost a dozen new offices, in what the department hopes will be a streamlined organization better able to manage the needs of today while developing the technologies of tomorrow.

On Aug. 1, the department delivered to Congress its plan for devolving the undersecretary of defense for acquisition, sustainment and technology, or AT&L, into two smaller organizations — the undersecretary of defense for research and engineering, or USDR&E, and the undersecretary of defense for acquisition and sustainment, or USDA&S.

Those changes are required to be implemented by Feb. 1, 2018.

Among the notable changes, three quasi-independent offices — the Strategic Capabilities Office, the Defense Innovation Unit Experimental and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency — will be folded two levels under the USDR&E, while a new analysis cell will be set up to drive how the Pentagon invests its money for the future.

The Missile Defense Agency will also be rolled under the USDR&E, at a time when the Trump administration has made missile defense a priority for the department.

It is important to remember this is just the Pentagon’s plan, and in many cases the document is purposefully vague about details. Congress will still have its say and could make wholesale changes to the structure.

However, in reading the document, it appears the Pentagon took to heart the guidance in boththe 2016 and 2017 versions of the National Defense Authorization Act, which contained major reforms championed by both Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., and Rep. Mac Thornberry, R-Texas, the chairmen of their respective committees.

In addition to the breakup of AT&L, the report focuses on what should be the responsibilities of the new chief management officer. By admission of the report itself, the CMO layout will continue to evolve in the future as the Pentagon itself changes and as offices transform.

As currently envisioned, the CMO will have six ”reform leaders” who will oversee changes to logistics and supply chain; real property; community services; human resources; health care; and a broader performance management reform leader, who will be responsible to work with the CMO and deputy secretary to establish “a process for routinely managing the progress of the functional reforms and IT business system deployments against the plan using those goals and other measures.”

It also creates a program executive for IT business systems, with the express goal of bringing down the number of individual IT systems across the department and streamlining them.

One item left unanswered in the report — where the current assistant secretary of defense for energy, installations and environment office ends up. That could be placed in either the USDA&S bucket or in the CMO’s office.

That is an answer that Lucian Niemeyer, confirmed Aug. 1 for that job, will certainly be focused on. If any base closure round is approved in the next few years, he would be the point man for handling it, perhaps making the case his office should slide over to the CMO.”

http://www.defensenews.com/breaking-news/2017/08/02/this-is-the-pentagons-new-acquisition-structure/

 

Ex-GSA Contracting Official Gets Prison Time for Nepotism

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GSA Official Goes to Jail

“GOVERNMENT EXECUTIVE”

“The director of a central contracting office at the General Services Administration has been sentenced to one year in prison for a nepotism conspiracy, while her husband received 18 months, the Justice Department announced.

Part of the more than $200,000 scheme executed from 2010-2014 involved inducing an Arlington-Va.,-based contractor to hire Steve Ballard based on false statements about his education, qualifications and status as the husband of Renee Ballard, who would supervise the contract in question.

Helen Renee Ballard, 52, and Robert “Steve” Ballard, 56, both of Brandywine, Md., pleaded guilty last March to conspiracy to make false statements to authorities concerning the work qualifications Robert Ballard used in attempting to obtain work for federal agencies and contractors. Helen Ballard, who left GSA in 2016, had been director of the agency’s Central Office Contracting Division from May 2006 to May 2011.

The couple acknowledged causing more than 139 false employment applications and fake certification documents to be submitted to the FBI, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, the State Department, the Transportation and Security Administration, the Veterans Affairs Department, the Education Department, the Federal Communications Commission, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the Labor Department, the Office of Personnel Management, and the Internal Revenue Service.

“The Ballards sent Steve Ballard’s false resume to the Executive Office of the President in an attempt to obtain employment there,” the release said. Steve Ballard also submitted falsified applications to six private contractors working for GSA and Customs and Border Protection, among other agencies.

A co-conspirator, Donna C. Hughes, 32, of Lanham, Md., who worked under Renee Ballard as a contracting officer at GSA, pleaded guilty on April 21 and last week received a year of probation.

The sentencing in federal court Alexandria, Va., was announced by Dana Boente, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, and GSA Inspector General Carol Ochoa.”

http://www.govexec.com/contracting/2017/08/ex-gsa-contracting-official-gets-prison-time-nepotism/139975/?oref=federal-news-all

Northrop Grumman Expanding Grand Forks, North Dakota Unmanned Aerial Systems Facility

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Photo: Northrop Grumman

“NATIONAL DEFENSE MAGAZINE”

“Less than a year after Northrop Grumman opened the doors to its new unmanned aerial systems facility in North Dakota, the company will soon break ground on a new hangar to conduct testing and maintenance on its family of autonomous systems.

The company expects to employ 100 people by the end of 2017, with a mix of current Northrop employees coming from San Diego and other locations, and new hires from the North Dakota area.

The Grand Sky Park, for which Northrop Grumman is the anchor tenant, hosts several commercial tenants with ties to unmanned aerial systems, including General Atomics, Hambleton said. Northrop committed over $10 million to the initial Grand Sky project, and its initial 36,000 square-foot facility was completed in late 2016.

The company in April announced the opening of its new facility at the Grand Sky Unmanned Aerial Systems Business and Aviation Park near Grand Forks. The facility serves as a “nucleus” for research and development, pilot, operator and maintainer training, as well as operations and mission analysis and aircraft maintenance, according to Northrop.

Before the end of the summer, Northrop will start work on a new hangar that will allow it to take advantage of the proximity of Grand Forks Air Force Base’s remotely piloted aircraft squadron, David Hambleton, Grand Sky program manager and site lead, said in an interview with National Defense.

Northrop leased 10 acres of land from the Air Force to build the recently opened facility and the 35,000 square-foot hangar, which is expected to be complete by the end of 2018, he said. Flight testing and aircraft maintenance for the company’s family of autonomous systems will begin by the following year, he added.

The company’s facility in North Dakota will be an “offshoot” of its autonomous systems division in San Diego, California, he said. “In one place, we have access to both civil and restricted airspace [and] opportunities to collaborate with the universities nearby” such as the University of North Dakota and North Dakota State University, he said.

The Grand Sky team will have the ability to link different capabilities “through a modeling and simulation backbone,” he added. “We’ll be able to tie together system testing in a lab with monitoring mission data as it comes in, connecting to training simulators and linking them together in a technical way to enable new ways to doing what, in the past, we’ve done independently or separately.”

The FAA-designated Northern Plains unmanned aerial systems test site is also located in Grand Forks, and the Air Force’s fleet of RQ-4 Global Hawk unmanned surveillance aircraft, produced by Northrop, is based next door, he noted.

“Having all of these capabilities and infrastructure concentrated here makes Grand Sky a desirable place for us to pursue flight testing and system demonstration,” he added.

Northrop expects to perform flight testing and maintenance for the Global Hawk fleet at Grand Sky, but also intends to support other unmanned systems such as the Navy’s forthcoming MQ-4C Triton surveillance aircraft or the MQ-8 Fire Scout reconnaissance helicopter, he added.

Northrop committed over $10 million to the initial Grand Sky project, and its initial 36,000 square-foot facility was completed in late 2016, he added.

The local community and the state of North Dakota were interested in developing the unmanned aerial systems industry in the Red River Valley region, he said. A group of local actors that included the University of North Dakota and Grand Forks County developed the Red River strategic alliance agreement.

“Northrop Grumman signed on to this agreement to promote the UAS industry,” he said. “That set the stage for the goal of creating… the Grand Sky aviation business park for UAS.”

http://www.nationaldefensemagazine.org/articles/2017/8/3/northrop-prepares-for-new-hangar-construction-in-north-dakota

 

Congress Must “Step Up” Under Our Constitution to Directly Authorize Use of Military Forces

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James Madison President and War

Editors Note: 

Since September 18, 2001, the Congress of the United States has vested power in 3 Presidential Administrations to engage the United States Armed Forces through The Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF), Pub. L. 107-40. 

As combat veterans, we are alarmed that this practice continues in many countries 16 years later and far beyond the scope of the original threat posed by 911, with soldiers lives and billions in taxes at play. 

Extracts below from an article by Daniel DePetris In “Military Times” and another article by Shawn Snow and Mackenzie Woffin in the “Army Times” detail our alarm:

**Congress just removed a proposed amendment to the AUMF from legislation underway that would have required a debate on Congressional authorization for present use of military forces as specified in the Constitution. 

**The current President of the United States and his advisers are considering withdrawing military forces from current war zones and replacing them with civilian contractor ground and air forces reporting directly to the U.S. President in support of the occupied countries heads of state.

It is our hope the American People will become as alarmed as we are and insist their elected representatives accept the constitutional military authorization duties entrusted to them as well as stop all dangerous contracting to civilian military forces with tax payer funding. 


Congress Shirking Its Duty By Avoiding War Authorization Debate

“MILITARY TIIMES” By Daniel Detris

“Congress is preparing to adjourn for several weeks after a legislative session dominated by partisan infighting … and very little productivity.

Not a single piece of significant legislation has passed, and while most attention has gone toward health care reform and appropriations bills, we’re also talking about the legislative branch’s most solemn responsibility under the Constitution: Declaring war, or at least authorizing the use of military force.

The war on terrorism has expanded into new theaters of combat, encompassing terrorist groups that didn’t exist when President George W. Bush began the campaign against Osama Bin Laden’s al-Qaida network in October 2001. The U.S. military is either conducting bombing runs, combat missions or counterterrorism operations in at least seven countries.

A congressional resolution originally crafted to provide the president with the power to retaliate against the perpetrators of the 9/11 attacks has turned into a blank check to drop munitions or send American troops against any band of terrorists that may pop up in the mountains of Waziristan or the fields of Somalia.Under our system of government, Congress is just as responsible for war as the commander in chief. Many lawmakers, however, have gradually transmitted this responsibility to the executive branch, across three presidencies.

But the congressional neglect is disturbing for a far more fundamental reason: By default, the power to plunge the U.S. into conflict is decided by a single individual — the president — based on that individual’s determination of what’s in the national interest.

As James Madison rightly observed 219 years ago, ”[t]he Constitution supposes, what the History of all Governments demonstrates, that the Executive is the branch of power most interested in war, and most prone to it.”The country has unfortunately forgotten Madison’s words, operating as if it is the president’s job and the president’s job alone to not it outright.

At least a half-dozen lawmakers from both parties have filed AUMF drafts to stimulate their colleagues to start taking the issue seriously. At least in the rank-and-file, the momentum for a more assertive legislative branch is growing —the House Appropriations Committee voted to include a measure in the annual defense spending bill to sunset the 2001 AUMF in eight months, hoping that this would spur Congress into passing an updated version. The amendment was later stripped out of the bill.

The eagerness of the congressional rank and file has yet to reach the leadership. Their excuses are as varied as they are disjointed: It is not the right time to debate the war on terrorism; there is no room on the legislative calendar; a defense bill is not the appropriate vehicle to discuss a subject of such importance; bridging the gap between and among lawmakers on how extensive the president’s authority should be is simply too difficult, so why even try?

To the U.S. soldiers advising Iraqi security forces at the front and to the American taxpayers who are paying for these military operations, to the tune of tens of billions of dollars a year, the country’s elected representatives aren’t pulling their weight.

If congressional leadership will not authorize a debate –– and there is no reason to believe they will –– the committee chairmen who have jurisdiction over the writing of a military authorization bill shouldn’t wait any longer. Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., and Rep. Ed Royce, R-Calif., are making the right decision by holding hearings, but merely talking about the issue cannot be the end of the process.

It will be up to these two men to allow an AUMF measure to work its way through committee. For the sake of America’s democracy, the Constitution, and the Americans who sacrifice their lives and their wallets to fight and pay for these wars, let’s hope they will use their power to shock Congress out of submission.”

http://www.militarytimes.com/opinion/commentary/2017/08/02/commentary-congress-shirking-its-duty-by-avoiding-war-authorization-debate/

Blackwater Founder Wants to Boost the Afghan Air War With His Private Air Force

“ARMY TIMES” By Shawn Snow and Mackenzie Wolf 

“The development comes as the White House is considering a plan to draw down the U.S. involvement in Afghanistan and replace the ensuing power vacuum with contractors.

The proposal submitted to the Afghan government in March boasts an impressive array of combat aircraft for a private company. The aircraft offered in the proposal includes fixed-wing planes, attack helicopters and drones capable of providing close-air support to maneuvering ground forces, according to a copy of the proposal obtained by Military Times.

The proposal promises to provide ”high speed response” close-air support and ”the entire country can be responded to in under 1 hour.”  The proposal states that weapons release decisions will still be made by Afghans.

The air frames are also outfitted with equipment to provide intelligence collection that includes imagery intelligence, signals intelligence and communications intelligence. The aircraft would be operated by the private company’s employees.

The former Blackwater CEO sparked controversy a decade ago when his firm provided hundreds of millions of dollars in security support services to U.S. government in Iraq.

More recently, Prince has been using his private air force all over the globe to include Somalia, Iraq and South Sudan. Prince also reportedly has close ties to the Trump administration: He is the brother of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos and was reportedly tapped to create a back channel line of communication with the Russian government during the Trump transition.

Prince’s firm is now called the Frontier Services Group and is based in Hong Kong.

Through an affiliate known as EP Aviation, Prince operates his own personal air force. In Central Africa, the fight against the Lord’s Resistance Army is bolstered by Prince’s airpower. Helicopters registered to EP Aviation have been seen transporting U.S. Special Forces troops in the central African region, per a Daily Beast report.

The company named on the proposal to the Afghan government, Lancaster6, is already operating some of its aircraft in Afghanistan providing air mobility, troop transport, and parachute air drop support for supplies and cargo.

It’s unclear precisely what Prince’s current role is with Lancaster6, which is based in Dubai. The Afghan military official said Prince personally presented the Lancaster6 proposal to Afghan officials.

The current CEO of Lancaster6, according to a personal LinkedIn profile is the former director of operations and director of aviation for Prince’s Frontier Services Group, Christiaan Durrant.

Durrant was recruited by Erik Prince to build his private air force, according to a report by The Intercept.

Frontier Services Group and Lancaster6 did not respond to Military Times requests for comment.”

https://www.armytimes.com/flashpoints/2017/08/02/blackwater-founder-wants-to-run-the-afghan-air-war-with-his-private-air-force/

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

General Mattis and Special Inspector General Sopko Agree on “Spoils of War”

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Mattis and SIGAR

“THE PROJECT ON GOVERNMENT OVERSIGHT”

“When the head of an agency actually listens to the findings of an Inspector General (IG), great things can happen.

June 2017 report by the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) prompted Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis to acknowledge and denounce the Department of Defense’s (DoD) dismissive attitude towards reigning in its overspending of taxpayer dollars, and to highlight the good work done by SIGAR.

The official memo to DoD leadership, dated July 21, discusses SIGAR’s report on camouflage uniform misspending in Afghanistan, while also pointing out and decrying DoD’s “complacent mode of thinking” when it comes to spending in general. Mattis found that SIGAR’s report highlighted two truths about DoD work:

1) Every action contributes to the larger missions of defending the country

2) Procurement decisions have a lasting impact on the larger defense budget

Mattis uses these truths to reinforce the importance of effective spending at DoD, and wants to use SIGAR’s report and the instances of misspending it found as a “catalyst to bring to light wasteful practices – and take aggressive steps to end waste in [DoD].”

While this is potentially great news and a marked shift in DoD rhetoric, it is important to note that stating a problem exists is not the same as taking concrete action to fix it. Just last year, DoD was working to discredit SIGAR over a report on a $43 million gas station in Afghanistan, rather than working to fix the problem. Moreover, the $28 million in misspending that this most recent SIGAR report focused on and that drew Mattis’s attention is nothing compared to the waste, fraud, and abuse occurring in the larger defense budget (over $300 billion of which was spent on goods and services in 2016). It is important to remember that DoD is not known for its willingness to proactively address its spending issues, but is rather known for actively resisting efforts to increase transparency and accountability. (See, for instance, POGO’s work on DoD’s reluctance to examine its contracts for improper payments & DoD still not being able to pass an audit.)

It will take more than this memo for DoD to change the way it spends taxpayer money, but publically acknowledging the truth of SIGAR’s findings and trying to leverage that work for change—rather than fighting against and resisting the IG at every turn—is an important first step.

It is even more important, however, that DoD truly works towards achieving effective spending on an agency-wide scale.”

http://www.pogo.org/blog/2017/07/secdef-mattis-commends-ig-efforts-highlights-dod-shortcomings.html

Pentagon To Unveil New Acquisition Structure

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Pentagon Reorganization

“DEFENSE NEWS”

“The Pentagon is scheduled to deliver its new acquisition structure to Congress,  a major step toward redesigning how the building researches and procures equipment.

The 2017 National Defense Authorization Act instructed the Pentagon to devolve the undersecretary of acquisition, technology and logistics, or AT&L, into two separate jobs: undersecretary for acquisition and sustainment, or A&S; and a new undersecretary for research and engineering, or R&E, essentially a chief technology officer.

Those changes are expected to be in place by Feb. 1, 2018.

Congress purposefully allowed time for the Department of Defense to come up with its own road map on how the split should occur, which the department is supposed to deliver to Capitol Hill on Aug 1[2017].

Sources say there were discussions about delaying that delivery, in order to allow newly installed Deputy Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan a chance to weigh in. However, all indications are that the department intends to hit its Tuesday deadline.

It is important to note that this report will not be the final say in the issue. Its purpose is to inform Congress of how the department will split the duties of AT&L and the broad organizational strategy, but does not need to detail the nuts and bolts of currently shared services. That also means that Shanahan and Ellen Lord, the longtime Textron executive-turned-AT&L nominee who may be confirmed this week, will have a chance to continue to give input going forward.

An interim, two-page memo to Congress was delivered March 1, which contained few details about how the building is approaching the question of devolving AT&L into the new offices.

Congress, meanwhile, is trying to balance out how to give senior leaders a chance to weigh in and making sure the DoD meets the Feb. 1 deadline. And while the report will be happily received in Congress, there is skepticism about what the DoD will actually deliver and how closely it will hew to Congress’ vision of how the new structure should look.

Bill Greenwalt, a longtime defense acquisition expert who spent two years as a staffer on the Senate Armed Services Committee where he had a central role crafting McCain’s acquisition changes, emphasized that the Pentagon’s thoughts are recommendations and that Congress will have final say.

“I think it will be a back and forth between the Congress and administration in terms of how to make this work,” he told Defense News. “The key thing for Congress is R&E should be driving innovation. A&S should be providing the oversight structure. The boxes shouldn’t be transferred around, it should be a cultural shift.”

SCO, DIUx likely folded under R&E

While the majority of the changes to the AT&L structure will entail a reshuffling of offices already under central control, there are two notable offices that may be brought in house, whether they desire it or not.

The Strategic Capabilities Office, or SCO, and the Defense Innovation Unit Experimental, or DIUx, were two pet projects of former Secretary of Defense Ash Carter. The SCO is focused on finding innovative solutions to near-term challenges, while DIUx is charged with creating ties between the DoD and the commercial technology sector.

Notably, both offices have existed as quasi-independent entities. DIUx actually started as a report inside the AT&L structure before being relaunched a year ago following a lack of progress in its mission; it then became a direct report to Carter. The SCO, meanwhile, was created by Carter during his time as deputy secretary of defense and was formally introduced to the world by Carter during the fiscal 2017 budget rollout.

With Carter gone and Congress seeking to improve innovation inside the building, there is pressure from the Hill to see those groups folded into the new R&E portfolio. In a May 18 interview, Mary Miller, acting assistant secretary of defense for research and engineering, said SCO and DIUx “would naturally fit in the USDR&E, that’s the intent.”

“If we set this undersecretary up as we believe we will, as we’re hoping this turns out to be and it will be a select-in to this whole new culture we’re establishing, we don’t need to have special groups that were set up just to be different, because that will be the undersecretary mission,” Miller said during the interview.

Greenwalt said that if the Pentagon crafts the R&E spot “right,” groups like DIUx, SCO, the various rapid capabilities offices and perhaps the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency should all fall under its control.

When it was pointed out to him that regardless what the Pentagon says, Congress could step in and demand those groups fall under R&E’s control, Greenwalt smiled. “Right. That’s the back and forth,” he said. ”We’ll have to see how it works.”

Greenwalt isn’t the only one who thinks those outside groups should come inside. Frank Kendall, whose tenure of four-plus years as AT&L ended with the Obama administration, believes that for the R&E spot to work, it must include all the research groups scattered around the department.

“It would have basic research, 6.1, 6.2 and 6.3, it would have DARPA, it would have SCO and DIUx, it would have the existing office that does experimentation,” Kendall said in April, adding that he had provided that recommendation to Deputy Secretary of Defense Bob Work.

Andrew Hunter, an analyst with the Center for Strategic and International Studies, noted that the Senate clearly has been leaning toward putting SCO, DIUx and DARPA into the R&E portfolio. But that may be an imperfect fit, he warned.

“DARPA, by mandate, deals with that leap-ahead tech, 6.1, 6.2, 6.3 work, research that is early stage. Once it gets to prototypes, that’s no longer DARPA territory. SCO is on the other end,” Hunter said. “Both have a fit in the R&E position. But it seems the department is heading towards having R&E have more of an early stage focus, so they might come to a different answer.”

Leadership questions

While the future of the R&E office is uncertain, the A&S job appears to be more stable — in part because its leadership seems intact.

Lord, the former Textron executive, has already gone through a confirmation hearing for the AT&L job, during which she reaffirmed she would be sliding over to A&S once the AT&L office goes away in February.

The Senate’s version of this year’s defense authorization bill would require Lord to be reconfirmed for the A&S job, but given how little headwind she faced in her confirmation hearing, the assumption is she would easily be reconfirmed for the new title.

Which brings up the question of who her counterpart would be. It is understandable that no names have been put forth for the job, as the White House and Pentagon have been focused on filling existing roles, plus the R&E job does not exist. But waiting too long to put forth a nominee could have “risk,” Hunter said.

“You might not be able to get the quality person you want because of how it is cast. The earlier you name a person, the more they have a chance to shape the structure of the office,” he added. “However you slice the piece, what used to be one really powerful job is now two jobs, each of which is slightly less powerful — so how appealing are they for someone who wants to put their stamp on the future?”

http://www.defensenews.com/pentagon/2017/07/31/pentagon-to-unveil-new-acquisition-structure-on-aug-1/

 

 

 

Your Questions Answered About the New Veterans Online Shopping Benefit

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“MILITARY TIMES”
“More than 95,000 people visited the military exchanges’ VetVerify.org website in its first month, seeking to register for the new veterans online shopping benefit that starts Nov. 11, officials said.

All honorably discharged veterans will have access to the online exchanges as of that date. VetVerify is the first step in the eligibility process.

Some veterans will be chosen as “beta testers” and will have access to the online stores before Nov. 11; the earlier veterans complete the verification process, the better their chances of becoming beta testers, according to officials with the Army and Air Force Exchange Service, which administers the verification for all the military exchange services.
Veterans who register through VetVerify.org will receive notification of their acceptance as eligible online shoppers or, if their records are incomplete, will receive guidance on the steps they can take to update those records.
Officials were not able to provide information about how many of the 95,000 verification attempts have been successful. About 13 percent of the site’s visitors have been chosen as beta testers, AAFES spokesman Chris Ward said, and others who registered for verification already were eligible to shop.
Officials started the verification process early in preparation for at least 13 million people who will be newly eligible to shop online at the exchange. Until now, online military exchange shopping was available only to active-duty, reserve and National Guard members; retirees; 100 percent disabled veterans; the dependent family members of those individuals; and certain others.

Online pricing can be seen only by those who are authorized to shop at the exchange websites: www.shopmyexchange.comwww.shopcgx.com;www.mymcx.com; andwww.mynavyexchange.com.
Military Times and the exchanges continue to get questions about the VetVerify website and the new shopping benefit. Here are a few frequently asked questions, and some answers, supplied by AAFES.

Q. Is this site a phishingscam?
A. No. VetVerify.org is a shared service for all the military exchanges with the sole purpose of supporting the newly approved veterans online shopping benefit. VetVerify.org uses data from Defense Manpower Data Center, which holds the most comprehensive dataset on veterans, to verify eligibility.

Q. Do I qualify if I served for four years, or if I was in the reserves, or if I’m on disability?
A. All honorably discharged veterans and those with a general (under honorable) discharge can shop their military exchanges, through the veterans online shopping benefit, beginning on Veterans Day.
Q. Can my spouse (or other family member) shop? 

A. No. The new benefit is specific to veterans with honorable and general (under honorable conditions) discharges.
Q. Does the veterans online shopping benefit extend to shopping at the commissary? 
A. No.
Q. What if my service can’t be verified? 

A. There may be further information needed, so you will need to submit a digital copy of your discharge paperwork to be reviewed for eligibility. After you submit your verification form through VetVerify.org, you will be prompted to upload the necessary paperwork.
Q. Who should I call if I have problems with the verification process? 

A. The VetVerify.org customer call center, toll-free, at 844-868-8672.
Q. Why does VetVerify ask for my entire Social Security number? 

A. VetVerify is required to obtain the last four digits of your Social Security number, date of birth and last name in order to validate and authenticate shoppers. If a match is not found with the minimum information, then the Social Security number is requested for a more detailed search. Social Security number is the unique identifier by Defense Manpower Data Center data. When customers visit the website of their favorite online exchanges for the first time, however, they will create a new username to be used as the unique identifier with the exchange. VetVerify has taken appropriate measures to safeguard your personal information.”

Pricing Small Business Federal Government Service Contracts

Standard

Pricing Govnernment Contracts - Copy

Integrate Long-term Company Strategy With Short Term Proposal Pricing Objectives

INTRODUCTION

Small businesses entering or growing into federal contacting often struggle with developing a pricing approach. They must design a pricing structure to pass an audit and win competitively. A winning strategy for federal services contracting must involve a view of the horizon as well as the instant bid on the table.

If you are a small enterprise selling off-the-shelf commercial items under FAR Part 12 or marketing commercial products on a GSA schedule, you may be initially challenged by the government contracting venue. With persistence you will establish selling relationships through agencies and prime contractors. Your pricing challenge is minimal. A service contractor faces a far greater challenge in understanding the nature of government contact pricing and winning at it.

Strategic thinking must therefore be applied to structuring a government service contracting cost center in your company. It must involve long term planning and designing a business system as well as establishing rates and factors to bid new work.

LONG TERM COMPANY STRATEGY

Build a Business System With Pricing in Mind:

We have previously discussed the basics of small business government contracting business system design: Job Cost Accounting Basics

The structure or your pricing approach from the cost element level through burdens must use the same template as your job cost accounting and billing. The parallel mapping provides the consistency required to pass audits or get your billings approved on a service contract.

Please read the above article and its related references. Then design your processes recognizing the guidance there and applying it to your company organization, and the way you produce your supplies and services:

Sculpt the DCAA Auditor

As you begin submitting government contracting proposals you will encounter your local DCAA audit office. They learn about your company by auditing your cost proposal rates, job cost processes and systems, billings and contract closeouts.

Keep in mind that you are shaping opinions in these encounters on the part of these government personnel that will influence your future and be passed on in reports to contracting officers. Your unique company business system structure must be carefully explained to them against what they know best; their DCAA Audit manual and FAR Cost Accounting Standards:

DCAA Audits and Job Cost Accounting Systems

Protect Rate Information

Your fully loaded rates will appear on your GSA schedule in the public domain, in subcontracts from prime contractors and in data acquired under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) by competitors.

It is generally recognized by all industries participating in federal government contracting that internal overhead and G&A rates and the data that support them are proprietary data. The reason for the proprietary nature of rate data between companies is that in government work firms are teaming with each other exclusively on one project and competing against each other on additional contracts or projects at the same time.

Companies do not disclose the details of their rates to other companies and they do not expect to see another company’s proprietary rate information. So companies view each others rate information on a fully loaded basis, meaning the total of the base cost, any proprietary indirect cost and an agreed upon profit percent.

If a prime contractor requests that subcontractor proprietary rate information be supplied with a proposal the detail should be double wrapped and the package stamped, ‘Government Eyes Only’. The prime will then hand the package off to DCAA without opening it and receive only the fully loaded result of the burdened rate pricing.

For further information on intellectual property protection and protective markings on government contract proposals please see the following article:

Protecting Intellectual Property

Recognize Overhead and G&A Rates Are Critical

Assuming your competition pays a generally similar labor rate to their employees as you do and that fringe costs about the same for everyone, then overhead and G&A are what wins and loses contracts.

Please read the following articles carefully with regard to long range planning and setting your overhead and G&A rates:

FAR and CAS Compliant Systems

Provisional Indirect Rates

Keep in mind that if you are performing work inside a government facility the government will expect to be charged a lower overhead rate than if you were paying the space and occupancy costs and the light bill. This is normally achieved by establishing a separate cost center for “On site” (Internal to government quarters) work with lower overhead expenses applied to project direct labor dollars in that cost center.

Price Set Aside Contracts the Same as Full and Open Competitions

If you are a small business lucky enough to receive a sole source set aside contract under an 8(a) or Hub Zone award, or if you are participating in limited competition under a small business set aside designation, use the same sharp pencil you use on the full and open market. Your goal is to compete for the long haul and inflating estimates on particular jobs due to limited competition has an inflationary effect on your business as a whole.

Your company past performance is being constantly evaluated by the government and prime contractor community. Consistency attains and retains new business. You will eventually grow to the point where set asides and sole sourcing will no longer be available; prepare early.

Know the True Value of Your Proposal

Develop risk thresholds (ceiling and floor) for your bids. The ceiling is the price for which you can bid a job, perform to meet specifications and win. A floor is the lowest possible price for which you can accept a contract and survive.

Do not bid or be negotiated out of these thresholds. “Buying In” does not work and sacrificing the future of your company by “Low Balling” cost proposals and hoping to get well on scope changes later is dangerous.

In government contracting the only worse scenario than losing a contract is winning it, performing poorly (cost, schedule or technical) and getting a black eye on your company past performance record that takes a long time to go away.

Understand a Proposal is the Opening Chapter a Baseline for Your Contract

Your proposal represents an initial offer to a government agency or a prime contractor. Please read the following articles on how this baseline is initially set and controlled through the negotiation process and ultimately through careful contract management.

Project Baseline Managment

Contract Negotiation

SHORT TERM PROPOSAL OBJECTIVES

Make Bid/No Bid Decisions Wisely

Conduct your bid/no bid decisions effectively. Please see the bid/no bid analysis process at the beginning of the following article:

Contract Negotiation

Be Conservative in Rough Order of Magnitude Pricing

A common government planning technique in the early phases of marketing is to ask questions and review and approve a concept paper by a company then informally request for “Planning Purposes”, a rough order of magnitude cost estimate (ROM).

If you provide a ROM be very careful. It tends to get cast in concrete in the customer’s mind, even though it is not the final, formal proposal. Make it conservative in cost content and schedule duration, then plan to beat it with your formal proposal.

Make sure you caveat the ROM if you are asked for it with the statement in your cover letter that it is for planning purposes only and is not a commitment on the part of your company. State that you will be happy to make a full formal proposal/commitment upon receipt of a formal RFP from an authorized contracting officer. Keep in mind that contracting officers are the only people who can commit the government:

Customer Relations

The government usually goes forward with the concept paper and the ROM for approval of the funding necessary for the job. The “Agency Higher Ups” either give the project personnel the approval to do a set aside or they require a competitive procurement.

You may want to read the following article on Statements of Work:

Contract Statement of Work and Technical Specifications

Know the Difference Between Firm, Fixed Price, Time and Materials and Cost Plus Contracting

During the solicitation and proposal process the contract type is specified.

Firm, Fixed Price (FFP) is the riskiest type of contracting and should be undertaken only when you have a definitive grasp of a precise statement of work with known variables and end products. You should have achieved similar work scope in the past or be delivering follow-on products and services that are mature in nature to undertake a firm, fixed price contract.

FFP is particularly risky in software development contracts or high technology program pressing the state of the art. You will receive no more in the form of funding than your bid price on a firm, fixed price contract.

Time and Materials (T&M) contracting places the risk on the government and is suited to long term service contracts of a development nature. T&M may be contracted with fixed labor rates, making the hours and pass through materials and other direct costs the only variables.

Cost Plus (CP) contracting is the least risky of all contract types and you are assured of receiving every dollar of cost incurred under this type of contract.

The lower the risk to the contractor the lower the expected negotiated profit rate you can expect, since the government considers risk the principal factor in profit negotiation.

For further explanation of contract types in more detail, please see the following article:

Government Contract Types

Develop a Price Profile of the Competition

Use a copy of your own forward pricing long range plan (LRP) to model your strongest competitors. Profile your best intelligence regarding their size, location, contract base and estimated overhead and G&A expenses. Then interpolate, from your knowledge of the market, their labor and fringe costs, as well as other direct costs as you prepare your proposal. Incorporate any unique approaches you estimate your competition may offer that impact cost.

Modeling Your Competition

Adjust your competitor cost model to perform “What If Analysis” during your risk assessment and proposal review process. For an example of an LRP cost model please see the Box Net Cube in the left margin of this site: Small Business Federal Government Contracting It is Appendix B to the book, “Small Business Federal Government Contracting” and is available as a free download in Adobe format from the BOX in the right margin of the site.

Understand “Best Value” Source Selection

When the government declares a “Best Value” proposal award process the agency will perform a weighted trade study of cost verses technical and management factors in reviewing proposals. They will announce the weight of each factor in relative terms within the solicitation so contractors can focus on the most important elements.

What best value means quite simply is that if you are the low price bidder you may not win. If a competitor proposes a superior technical and management approach, a higher weighted rating in those factors may offset an otherwise non-competitive bid price, resulting in an award. This is a fact you must keep in mind when preparing your own proposal. In short you must perform your own trade study on your own bid.

Past performance has also become a significant weight factor in proposal evaluations in recent years. To address this challenge, please see the following article:

Past Performance Challenge

A balanced proposal, with specific, heavy emphasis on government-designated weight factors and an economical, yet realistic cost/price usually wins. Offsetting weaknesses in any designated government weighted area by proposing excellence in other weighted areas is vital.

Beware of Unallowable Costs

Over the years the federal government has determined that certain costs cannot be allowed in prices, cost reimbursements or settlements under contracts with the US Government. The government is unwilling to pay for these costs as direct charges to federal government contracts or through indirect expense pools applied to federal government contracts.

A company is not prohibited from incurring unallowable costs, but they cannot be recovered either directly or indirectly under federal government contracts. To manage unallowable costs, separate accounts must be established for these type expenses and they must not be priced directly into federal government contracts during the proposal process.

Such costs cannot be made a part of the expense pools which are applied to federal government contracts through an overhead, material handling or G&A cost allocation at accounting period close or during forward pricing rate planning. For more detail on unallowable costs please see the following article:

Unallowable Costs

Integrate Pricing With Technical and Management Approaches

Establish price targets as soon as possible for major tasks, evolve a program plan, or if you are bidding a T&M, IDIQ type program develop a sample work order for a typical representative effort.

As the technical and management proposal move toward completion, use established checkpoints to evaluate the efficiency of your cost estimate, escalation factors, labor, material and other direct costs. Then apply your indirect rates and subject your total proposal to a credibility check with regard to a believable cost estimate considering your solution and its time frame.

Run your competition price model and bring in some outside experts to review the end product proposal “Cold” before it is submitted.

Manage Best and Final Offers (BAFO) Carefullly

Most government solicitations require a format and terms and conditions with submission that permit contract award without further discussion. However, many involve a down-select process, briefings by those selected in the “Competitive Range”, a call for best and final offer (BAFO) or negotiation to achieve a final price.

The best and final offer period is a sensitive time. Most contracting agencies that call for a BAFO will cite weaknesses or concerns in the selected contractor proposals. They wish to hear about solutions to those weaknesses during BAFO briefings and require a re-submitted offer to correct them. The price may be adjusted as well and that is a key consideration. Pay particular attention to the way the BAFO instructions and concerns, specific to your down-selection, are worded. Look for hints that indicate critical opinion about your pricing, and then adjust your costs.

Consider the cost, schedule, technical and past performance implications of the BAFO request letter from the government and revise your proposal by the required submission date. Close the loop on all matters with your suppliers, subcontractors and prime contractors, and then conduct your briefing to the customer when it is scheduled. Present a united front to win. Your price should be your best. You will not be offered a chance to bid another competitively on that program.

On some procurements you may be asked to undertake additional discussions to determine final contract pricing. Please see the negotiation template at the following article for guidance on that process:

Government Contract Negotiation

SUMMARY

This discussion has conveyed how pricing should be a natural outgrowth of the organization structure, market strategy, competitive analysis, business system design and long range planning.

We have further explained how your long and short term pricing factors should be integrated with the management and technical elements of any given proposal. Take the long and the short view of your business by integrating long-term company strategy with short term proposal objectives