Tag Archives: Government Contractors

Cyber Tech Firms Need Integrator Partners to Broaden Their Services

Standard
Itegrator Parnter Oracle dot com

Image:  Oracle.com

“WASHINGTON TECHNOLOGY”

“Given the frequency and severity of security intrusions in the public and private sector, cybersecurity companies are now looking for more complete offerings beyond their core capabilities.

By demonstrating an ability to technically integrate with third party vendor products, these companies can show that they are able to more fully meet the needs of Federal government customers.”


“Government agencies are looking for companies that can act as general contractors, but not all companies are system Integrators. Therefore, the goal for many companies is to have the ability to provide a more expansive, holistic offering beyond just their own product portfolio.

That hasn’t traditionally been the case among cybersecurity providers. These companies have typically focused on selling their uniquely specialized products into agencies, which understandably can limit their success in responses to requests for proposals in more comprehensive programs.

For the government in particular, the approach agencies to more easily make decisions on which products to deploy in complex environments.

Let’s look at how some general technical cybersecurity integrations can add benefit to customers:

Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA) – An agency looking to deploy MFA tokens to all their employees will likely need a card management system (CMS) to enroll the certificates stored on the physical tokens. Some companies offer both tokens and a CMS, but particularly when looking for high assurance tokens that were designed with the Federal government in mind, they are unique areas of expertise. Having the ability to vet out, in advance, a working solution that can be jointly offered to a customer simplifies the overall process and allows a customer to more readily select the appropriate vendor.

Storage & Key Mgt Encryption – What’s important here is whether a storage encryption solution can work with a key manager through open standards such as the Key Management Interoperability Protocol (KMIP). This type of interoperability is another way of layering levels of security and creating an overall efficient solution for the customer. It alleviates the challenge of the customer having to validate that the products they purchase will properly integrate in their environments.

Complete offerings – In some cases a company may be missing one element to an overall holistic solution. Among encryption providers, encrypt everything is the Holy Grail. Some come very close to meeting that promise with encryption solutions for web/application servers, databases, file servers, disk encryption, virtual machines, etc. Often, however, what might be missing is the ability to encrypt email and documents. Companies should pool resources to be able to offer that level of encryption and storage with hardware for root key management, to provide an integrated solution for all available data venues.

So after being a bit late to the game on the need to create integrated offerings, cybersecurity firms have come to realize that there is more value to creating a simple means for agencies to ensure their IT security than there is to owning a narrow segment of the market.”

https://washingtontechnology.com/articles/2017/09/29/insights-schatz-cyber-integrator-role.aspx

 

Advertisements

Harvey, Irma, and Maria: Hurricane Recovery Contract Spending by the Numbers

Standard

Hurricane relief

“THE PROJECT ON GOVERNMENT OVERSIGHT (POGO)”

“Thanks to the Federal Procurement Data System (FPDS), taxpayers can start keeping a closer watch over some of the billions of dollars the US government is paying contractors to address the aftermath of hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria.

According to the data, as of October 19, the federal government has awarded a total of $1.65 billion for supply and service contracts to aid and rebuild areas damaged by the storms: $794.8 million for Harvey, $368.7 million for Irma, and $492.7 million for Maria.”


“FPDS posts regularly updated spreadsheets containing a wealth of data about relief contracts awarded in response to the three hurricanes that made landfall in the United States and its territories this year: Hurricane Harvey, which pummeled Texas and Louisiana in late August and early September, Hurricane Irma, which cut a destructive swath through Florida in mid-September, and Hurricane Maria, which days later inflicted massive damage on Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands.

There are three caveats: First, the data only tracks contracts—not other types of spending, such as grants and assistance to individuals and local governments, or other forms of federal relief aid such as military transport. Second, according to FPDS, the data “represents a portion of the work that has been awarded to date,” due in part to the challenges some contracting offices—particularly those located in disaster recovery areas—are facing as they try to feed timely and accurate contracting data into the system. Third, for military operational security concerns, the availability of Defense Department data is subject to a 90-day delay.

More than three-quarters ($1.3 billion) of the total was awarded under full and open competition. About 94 percent of the total has been spent by the Department of Homeland Security, mainly through the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the US Coast Guard.

FPDS tracks the principal place of performance of the contract, which is defined as “the location of the principal plant or place of business where the items will be produced, supplied from stock, or where the service will be performed.” Hurricane Harvey primarily affected Texas and Louisiana, yet those two states are the principal place of performance for just 3 out of every 10 contract dollars. For Hurricane Irma, Florida is the principal place of performance for about 36 percent of the contract expenditures, while Puerto Rico is the locus of 56 percent of Hurricane Maria contract spending. The US Virgin Islands were battered by both Irma and Maria, but the territory— home to 100,000 US citizens—has been the place of performance for just 2 percent and .09 percent of Irma and Maria contract expenditures, respectively.

The most lucrative contracts so far have been awarded by FEMA to address the immediate needs of the victims of Hurricane Maria. One was a $122 million task order awarded to Disaster Solutions Alliance, a joint venture involving top 100 contractor URS Corporation, “to execute a feeding mission” in Puerto Rico. The other was a $118 million order placed with Florida-based engineering firm Team Systems International to deliver 80 million liters of bottled water to Puerto Rico. The current top hurricane relief contractor is medical transportation company American Medical Response, with $153.8 million in awards.

Contract expenditures for the three hurricanes grew at vastly different rates during the first two weeks, based on our analysis of the data posted at the time. For all three storms, spending increased very little for the first three to four days after landfall. After the fourth day, Harvey contract spending surged and continued to grow rapidly over the next eight days. Irma spending spiked on day six, but then grew very slowly over the following week. We were particularly intrigued by the spending trend for Hurricane Maria. Even though Maria was the last of the three storms—when, presumably, the government was most ready to initiate the recovery effort—the amount spent on relief contracts remained a relative pittance and barely grew at all during the first five days. After the fifth day, contract spending began to grow slowly and then grew sharply after day nine.

As the recovery efforts shift over the coming weeks from providing temporary relief to performing large-scale cleanup and infrastructure rebuilding, Harvey/Irma/Maria contract spending will grow exponentially. Eventually, it could even eclipse contract spending for both Hurricane Sandy (nearly $3 billion) and Hurricane Katrina (more than $20 billion), which means the risk of fraud and waste will also grow exponentially. In fact, Congress and the FBI are already hot on the trail of suspected mishandling of federal funds and resources flowing into Puerto Rico. Past experience has taught us that corruption related to natural and man-made disasters takes many forms and can take many years to investigate.”

http://www.pogo.org/blog/2017/10/harvey-irma-and-maria-hurricane-recovery-contract-spending-by-the-numbers.html

 

National Network for Manufacturing Innovation – On the Move

Standard

Manufacturing USA

“DEFENSE NEWS”

“A series of centers of excellence spread around the country, with each center focused on a different technological area of study.As the initiative matures, it is beginning to show tangible feedback for relatively low cost.

The institutes are investing in what we call industrial commons. It’s a technology challenge that needs to be overcome, in order to get some capability.For small businesses, they say ‘what an amazing opportunity. “


“Tracy Frost, the Pentagon’s director of DoD Manufacturing Institutes and the acting head of the DoD Manufacturing Technologies (ManTech) program, sat down in August with Defense News to explain how it all works and why the defense industry should get involved.

Can you lay out the core idea behind the manufacturing institutes? – All of the technology advancements in the world don’t really mean much to the warfighter unless we can make it, make the product. We usually couch that as, ‘we have to make it when the troops need it, we have to make it in the quantity that they need, and we have to make it at affordable cost.’ The cheaper we can make things, the more we can buy. On a bigger scale, manufacturing kind of underpins all the productivity that we do in the country. That is both an economic and national security issue.

They are public-private partnerships, which is something the department has certainly utilized that authority for in the past but we’re using it in a very new way and revitalizing that authority. So one of the requirements is there was a 1:1 cost match of these awards. The Department of Defense puts [funding out] ranging from $55 million to $110 million of investment over a 5-7 year period. And the proposals had to come in with a 1:1 cost match, which can come from industry, academia and other government organizations.

By DoD standards, that’s not a ton of money. – It really isn’t a large investment considering what the goal was, and is, and what they’ve accomplished so far. And when you look at it as a 1:1 match, industry had to come to the table and match that funding, that’s a lot of skin in the game from day one. And that’s an important point, that from the beginning this is certainly a national effort.

The institutes are investing in what we call industrial commons. It’s a technology challenge that needs to be overcome, in order to get some capability. The applications are super wide. If we can figure out how to transmit information by light, look at the applications — It’s not just defense, its commercial. So all these institutes, we address a space that is going to change the world, not just DoD.

DoD has invested in eight areas. How did you go about selecting those? — We don’t want to bring all manufacturing back to the U.S., right? We want to bring advanced manufacturing back to the U.S. We’re selective, in the technology spaces we want to bring back. We tried to find a technology space that was advanced manufacturing, so not old-school, really moving it forward, where there was a commercial sector, an industry need for the technology as well, and where defense really thought we could use that technology going forward. If there wasn’t a strong commercial pull, it was off the table.

It’s interesting to look at the locations. Detroit makes sense for [the lightweight metals institute]. The fabric and textiles institute is in Cambridge, Massachusetts, which is located near Natick, which houses our Fabric and Textiles experts with the government. So there were some strategies when they proposed where it was going to be located. Youngstown is an old manufacturing town. It’s very economically depressed so the local government was happy to have them come in. A lot of them got fairly cheap rent spaces they can move into, because local government wants them there. It’s a national resource, but has local impacts.

It’s a public-private partnership, so how does industry funding work? – It’s all different. What was built into the institutes, in the model we have, is the flexibility. Each institute has membership agreements. Some they make public, some they don’t. There’s different tiers of membership. Some institutes say we’re a no-tiers institute. It’s a flat rate to join. Others range from membership fees goes anywhere from a couple hundred dollars for small businesses all the way up to a million dollars. They typically have higher-tier members. It depends, typically, on what kind of organization you are, and then also what you want to get out of it. The higher tier, the more money you give, you might have more seats on councils.

What has feedback been from the defense industry partners involved? – Large companies, some of our big OEM primes, I’ve been in some stakeholder meetings and they say ‘we came to the institutes first because there was money, and if DoD is going to put money somewhere we’ll go see what’s going on. But we’re staying because of the connections.’ The money is not that big. They’re staying because they’re getting access to our supply chain like never before.

For small businesses, they say ‘what an amazing opportunity, I’m sitting at a table with Lockheed and Boeing, and even the medium size companies that will buy my product and integrate into a subsystem Lockheed buys.’ We’re getting access to the rest of our supply chain in a way we couldn’t before. It’s a way to help secure our supply chain. It’s really catalyzed conversations and organizational relationships, and is addressing technology problems like we’ve never seen before.”

https://www.defensenews.com/smr/equipping-the-warfighter/2017/09/29/qa-tracy-frost-director-of-dod-manufacturing-institutes/

Techniques for Small Business Product/Services Development in Government Contracting

Standard
product_development

Image:  Getentrepreneurial.com

“SMALLTOFEDS” By Ken Larson

“INTRODUCTION

This article will suggest approaches in developing a product or service to the point where it can be marketed in the small business federal government contracting venue. Individuals usually succeed at such an endeavor by forming a company, separating it from their personal assets and then developing the company and its product(s)/service(s); even if it is only a one-person operation at the start.

There are techniques for small business to gain government participation in growing an idea into a company. Small Business Innovative Research and Technology Transfer (SBIR/STTR) programs in major federal agencies seek concepts that can be funded and developed into products the government needs. Here are some examples:

DOD SBIR/STTR Small Business Portal

National Institute of Health SBIR/STTR

Service contracting is another form of gaining entrance into the market, creating opportunities for introducing products by selling skilled labor under a government agency service contract or prime contractor teaming arrangement.

A GSA schedule affords a platform for products and services, but sales must have been achieved historically in the commercial or government markets before applying because GSA relies heavily the most recent 2-year pricing data in negotiating a schedule.

The government contracting product and services venue is competitive and requirements by federal agencies are often bundled into larger systems procurements. Therefore, it is necessary first to position a small enterprise and its product offerings before tapping the federal market for development support.

GENERAL OVERVIEW

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

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

Financing is always a factor and can be achieved through loans or investors with a good business plan. The remainder of this article will address the basic elements of a framework within which to succeed with your product development for federal government contracting.

BUSINESS STRUCTURE

For the majority of individuals who are starting single person or no more than 2 or 3 person operations, a Limited Liability Company (LLC) registered with the state and with the federal government is recommended.

It will separate personal assets from company assets and protect them. When product or services sales begin generating revenue an LLC has many tax advantages. It can be registered as Sub Chapter ‘S’ for tax purposes and revenue and the expenses can be passed through to personal tax returns, paying no taxes as a company. The double taxation issue prevalent with many of the other types of incorporation is avoided with a Sub chapter “S” LLC. An LLC assists in limits your personal liability for debt and court judgments that may not fall in your favor.

Representing the business as a company allows pursuing financing as an enterprise. You can think of a creative name for your LLC and you can complete the articles of incorporation necessary to bring your enterprise into existence. The term, “LLC” must conclude the name of your company if you decide to form such an organization.

Instructions for registering in your state and federally with the IRS are available at your state web site and at the IRS site. You will receive tax and employer identification numbers by registering your business.

PROTECTING INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY

Patents and copyrights for your idea may ultimately protect you to a degree but the government agencies granting them have no enforcement arm so you must discover a violation yourself, retain a lawyer, bring a court proceeding against a violator and then hope to recover your costs and a reasonable settlement if you win.

The U.S. Patent System

Therefore, most of my clients use non-disclosure agreements (NDA’s) in dealing with other companies. Teaming is a practical fact of life in pursuing the larger federal government contracts.

You can download an NDA from the “References” Box Net Cube at the right margin of this site. Fill in the blanks as appropriate for a given exchange with outside individuals and companies. Before you meet to disclose details with a potential teaming company or investor, for instance, ask them to sign the document with you up front, put a serial number on it and reference the serial number and the agreement and date on any written materials you give to them.

After the meeting draft a short letter, documenting the minutes of the meeting, what was discussed and stating that the verbal disclosures and materials in the meeting are subject to the agreement and reference the agreement by number and date. Put an acknowledgment line on the letter and ask them to return a signed copy to you. This confirms their receipt of your proprietary information and their agreement to protect it in accordance with the NDA.

There are certain exceptions with regard to individuals or companies you may be dealing with on investing where you may not choose to use an NDA. Some Angel and Capital Investors are sensitive about being asked to sign them. You will have to trade their objections off against the value they represent to your company and conduct your risk analysis on a case-by-case basis.

For detail information asserting rights in technical data and software to government agencies and protecting intellectual property with other companies please see the following article:

Protecting Intellecutal Property

BUSINESS PLANNING

Visit the SBA website on business planning. There are major topics in the business planning process which, when addressed in a plan, will insure the success of your enterprise and assist you in determining and supporting the amount of funding you need. Such topics as marketing, advertising, competitor analysis and financing are covered there. You will find a presentation and examples that you can follow in improving your plan or in generating a plan if you do not have one. The link to the site is below:

Writing a Business Plan

Articles on strategic planning and developing your marketing plan are also at the “References” Box Net Cube at this site. They address evolving an operations vision for your enterprise showing its potential to present to a banker or to an investor.

Here is a site with free business plan samples:

Business Plan Samples

It may assist you in visualizing your own business growth to look at an example of how someone else addressed a given topic. I have learned from having worked with many new business owners that it is best to have you examine the material and continue your plan, contacting me with issues and questions as they occur.

THINGS TO THINK ABOUT WHILE PLANNING

Locate teaming companies to further the objective that they would market your product as part of their offerings with your company licensing and sharing in the proceeds.

A business plan and the guidance above for its generation is the road map for developing ideas, laying out how to expand the sales of your product and researching your market to do so. It will also assist in developing pricing to considering the direct costs of product development, service implementation and distribution as well as the indirect costs of the enterprise itself (operating expenses).must be considered and financed.

A negotiation position for a given product will be driven by certain strategic factors:

1. Does a developer or teaming partner have a strong but realistic incentive to actively make the product a part of the marketplace?

2. Does market research indicate the idea will have strong sales volume once it is developed and distributed?

3. How much will a prospective teaming partner or investor have to invest in the product to get it to market? Does the product require testing?

4. Which is the better deal? Is it better to receive a 7% royalty on $5,000 worth of sales or a 1% royalty on $500,000 of sales? Even though 1% does not sound too impressive, of course it’s the better choice in this example.

A negotiation position should be based on support by for the argument that a concept will experience a certain level of sales and the royalty should be based on a % of estimated end user volume sales, discounted for the investment that the developer and distributor must make to get it to market.

The royalty should be outside of the distributor cost breakdown and the end user cost breakdown. It is simply a deductive factor the manufacturer will have to introduce into their profit equation after the costs have been tabulated. They should not view royalties as a cost factor; they should view them as a share of the profit on the total estimated sales.

Chances of succeeding with a negotiation with a developer and/or distributor are increased by showing understand the prospective market for the product and drawing some comparisons between the product and other similar successful products.

Naturally there will be some give and take with the other side about estimated costs to get the product to market. Be forthright in acknowledging their investment but also support a position with some research and comparative data on the product potential.

Lastly, settle on a % of the end user sales volume based on an estimate to which is agreed with the other party and insures that the purchase agreement for royalties entitles the agreed upon % on all future sales.

FINANCING

The SBA assists prospective business owners in completing sound business plans, which can then be presented to a banker in applying for financial assistance.

In the event that 2 banking institutions deny a loan application, a candidate can apply to the SBA for a loan guarantee that may assist in achieving a loan, since it would back up the application to a bank.

Loan officers are interested in a business plan to get a view of the business future and place a value on products and services based on the market, the competition, the sales projections, costs, expenses and profit expectations. The link to the SBA loan guarantee program is below:

SBA Loans and Grants

Veterans have access to small business loans via the Patriot express program:

Patriot Express Program

ANGEL AND CAPITAL INVESTORS

Angel and private investors have two prominent characteristics:

(A) They want a high return on investment (ROI)

(B) They typically want a great deal of control of the operation.

According to the Colorado Capital Alliance, surveys of angel investors show that:

1. Angels are seeking companies with high growth potential, proven management and sufficient information about the company, its management team, and its market to be able to assess a company’s value.

2. On average, Angels expect 10 to 15 percent above of the S&P 500 return on equity.

3. Typically, Angels invest in companies seeking between $50,000 and $1,000,000.

4. Angels generally prefer to finance manufacturing or product-oriented ventures, especially in the high-tech fields.

5. On average, Angels are 47 years old, have a postgraduate degree, and management experience in an entrepreneurial venture.

An angel investor may ask for at least ten to twenty times return in just five years. For many angel investors, it’s not just about the money; they want to actively participate in developing your business. They want to act as a mentor and sometimes even to take an active role in managing the company. This often translates into the angel investor having a seat on the company Board of Directors.

Angels are also highly interested in an exit strategy from for a full return on their investment in your business. The closest thing to it is an astute business plan that calls out the specifics of potential ROI, based on sound planning and analysis and addresses the following as possible exit strategies. Remember, investors are very aware that an exit strategy cannot be guaranteed. But they can be offered more than the wishful thinking that an IPO will occur in three years.

It is always good to have a lawyer involved in complex documents or in the development of documents. This will further protect a concept. A lawyer does not necessarily have to be present during the exchanges with prospective companies, but a lawyer review and comment on documents before they are signed.

SUMMARY

This article has conveyed preliminary steps for the small business in product development for the federal marketplace.

It should be noted that much of the process discussed in this article is the same for the commercial product development and a certain amount of commercial success is usually achieved before selling products in the government contracting venue. The exception to that rule is in highly technical product pursuits where the government is funding advanced development.

To consider non-profit grants and direct government contract funding potential please see the following article:

Grants Vs, Direct Government Contracts

Once a company is formed, a product platform established and a position to market a useful product to the federal government is achieved, please see the following articles at this site in developing a marketing plan

Registering Your Business For Government Grants and Contracts

Multiple Front Marketing

Should You Consider Small Business Governement Contracting?

Small Business Teaming

With careful structuring, planning and marketing, a product with potential can find its place in federal government contracting.”

Smalltofeds – Techniques for Product Development

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Ken Portrait

Ken Larson has over 40 years in the Military Industrial Complex. He is a veteran of 2 tours in the US Army Vietnam. Subsequently Ken spent over 30 years in federal government program and contract management and 10 years in small business consulting. As a Micro Mentor Volunteer Counselor, he assists many small businesses with their planning and operations processes. 

Vindictive Army Contractor Planted Virus Costing Taxpayers Millions

Standard

 

Defense Contractor Virus

An Army investigation found that a defense contractor inserted a “logic bomb” into a computer program used to handle pay and personnel actions for reservists. Five of the servers associated with the program are located at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. (Senior Airman Franklin R. Ramos/Air Force)

“ARMY TIMES”

A defense contractor was found guilty Wednesday of knowingly transmitting malicious code with the intent of causing damage to an Army computer, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of North Carolina said in a statement Thursday.

Mittesh Das, a 48-year-old resident of Atlanta, unloaded the computer virus in November 2014 — days before the company he was contracted under was supposed to hand over operations to a different firm.

The Army projected the total labor cost to remove the computer virus and restore the corrupted information as roughly $2.6 million.”


“The code affected a national-level computer program the Army Reserve uses to handle pay and personnel actions for nearly 200,000 reservists, according to the statement. Five of the servers associated with the program were located at Fort Bragg, North Carolina.

“Cyber-sabotage is not a ‘prank.’ It is a very serious crime with real victims and real costs. In this case, the crime cost taxpayers $2.6 million,” said John Stuart Bruce, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of North Carolina.

Das was indicted on April 5, 2016, for the offense that occurred in 2014.

In December 2014, the Army Times reported on incidents of delayed payments to Army reservists. The delay — which averaged about 17 days — was attributed to a glitch in the Regional Level Application Software, said Lt. Col. William Ritter, a spokesman for the Reserve. That software’s functions included processing pay and orders, as well as transfers, awards and promotions, Ritter added.

The Justice Department was pleased with the outcome of the indictment, said Director Daniel Andrews of the Computer Crime Investigative Unit, U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Command.

“Let this be a warning to anyone who thinks they can commit a crime in cyberspace and not get caught. We have highly trained and specialized investigators who will work around the clock to uncover the truth and preserve Army readiness,” Andrews said in the statement.”

http://www.armytimes.com/news/your-army/2017/09/22/man-who-planted-virus-in-an-army-computer-program-cost-taxpayers-millions/

 

5 Tactics That Will Help You Win In 2018

Standard

 

Winning Tactics

Image:”Linked In” Mark Amtower

“WASHINGTON TECHNOLOGY” By Mark Amtower

“What is your fiscal 2018 Strategy?  If you are a smaller government contractor, are your plans in place? Do you have goals supported by a strategy?

If not, are you just going to continue to tread water by looking for bids to go after, or are you going to map out a strategy that gives you a better chance at winning more business?

For over 30 years I have watched smaller businesses struggle to grow from fiscal year to fiscal year, including those who won spots on coveted contracts alike SEWP, Alliant, CIO-SP3 Small Business, VETS, 8(a) STARS and others. There are always under-performers and many of these wonder why.

So I would like to offer a few things for you to think about.

1. If you own a spot on any of the IDIQs or MACs, like the ones mentioned above, are you fully exploiting the value of the contract? If you are on an IDIQ or MAC and are simply responding to RFQs and RFPs but not winning a significant percentage, perhaps your bidding strategy needs to be revised. There are a number of reputable firms that can help you improve your bidding process.

Or perhaps you need to partner with other companies that bring different strengths to the bid, still using your contract.

These contracts are coveted and there are many ways to grow your business if you are a prime.

2. Are you looking at other IDIQs to see if you can bring something to the primes on those vehicles that would make them more attractive in the bidding process?

If you bring a unique skill set or strong agency relationship to the table, you may be able to open the door to better sub-contracting opportunities.

3. Have you looked at your top government clients to determine if you need to focus more on fewer agencies?

Account or agency based marketing can be quite effective. Selling in an agency where you are known is much easier than attempting to break into new agencies.

4. Are you looking to better utilize LinkedIn and fully develop your social selling skills?

Social selling is the art of leveraging social networks to find key influencers and get on their radar, and it works. There are 1.6 million feds on LinkedIn representing all agencies, and more than 15 percent have IT titles. Another 30 percent to 40 percent have program and project related job functions. Odds are the people you need to reach and influence are on LinkedIn.

5. Are you developing and sharing content that helps define who you are and what you bring to the market?

Content marketing is an increasingly valuable tool in government contracting. Saying you are an expert is one thing, but developing and sharing content to support the claim helps you establish your company as a legitimate player.

These are just a few of the things you may want to consider as you move into what promises to be an interesting year in government contracting

So ask yourself, what are my goals for fiscal 2018? I hope you have an answer.”

https://washingtontechnology.com/articles/2017/09/21/insights-amtower-fiscal-2018-strategy-tips.aspx

About the Author

Mark Amtower

Mark Amtower advises government contractors on all facets of business-to-government (B2G) marketing and leveraging LinkedIn. Find Mark on LinkedIn at http://www.linkedin.com/in/markamtower

Disaster Relief Needs Oversight to Stop Waste and Fraud

Standard
Katra Fraud Image FBI.gov

Image:  FBI.gov

“THE PROJECT ON GOVERNMENT OVERSIGHT (POGO)”

“Better oversight on the front end can prevent fraud and keep the government from doing business with dishonest or under-qualified contractors.

Congress and the administration must ensure that our money is responsibly spent on assistance to communities in need rather than lining the pockets of disaster profiteers or otherwise wasted.”


“In the wake of Hurricane Harvey, Houston and vast swaths of south and east Texas have been devastated. Wildfires currently rage in Oregon and Washington State, leading to mandatory evacuations in some communities. Hurricane Irma in the Atlantic has strengthened to a powerful Category 5 storm; it threatens U.S. territories in the Caribbean, as well as Florida and the southeastern United States.

Despite an outpouring of community support and neighborly charity, large natural disasters require billions of dollars in aid from the federal government for short-term and long-term needs such as housing, cleanup, and infrastructure rebuilding. The aid is spent directly by federal agencies like the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), funneled to state and local governments, and outsourced to contractors.

Congress is rightfully planning on passing legislation to provide disaster relief.  For guidance on how to implement robust disaster aid oversight, policymakers might want to read POGO’s 2006 report on lessons from Hurricane Katrina, or the final report of Congress’s Select Bipartisan Committee to Investigate the Preparation for and Response to Hurricane Katrina.

The potential for waste and fraud is great. In an annual report issued in 2012, the Justice Department’s Disaster Fraud Task Force stated that, “In cases related to Hurricanes Katrina, Rita and Wilma alone, the task force through FY 2011 prosecuted 1,439 individuals in 47 federal districts throughout the country. These prosecutions involved a wide variety of fraudulent activity, including charity scams, government and private-sector benefit fraud, identity theft, contract and procurement fraud, and public corruption.”

The Justice Department continues those efforts. Its National Center for Disaster Fraud is based in Louisiana and is run by Corey Amundson, the Acting U.S. Attorney for the Middle District of Louisiana. He recently spoke with NPR about the risks of fraud in the wake of Hurricane Harvey.

“It starts with charity fraud, contractor fraud, emergency assistance fraud. And it evolves into program fraud as the monies come from the federal government,” Amundson said. He predicted that “this will likely be a 5- to 7-year odyssey and war against this fraud in its various iterations.”

False Claims Act case prosecuted by Amundson’s office 5 years after Hurricane Katrina highlights how these fraud schemes work and provides lessons on how to prevent similar situations from occurring.

Less than a week after Katrina made landfall in Louisiana in 2005, C. Henderson Consulting, Inc. (CHCI), a small consulting company in Texas, won a $5.2 million contract from FEMA to provide ambulances to help medical personnel evacuate hospitals and nursing homes dealing with the flooding and devastation wrought by Katrina. The FEMA contract was awarded through the General Services Administration (GSA), initially for a period of 60 days. With subsequent amendments to the contract, its value shot up to nearly $19 million. The company would earn $3,100 per day for each ambulance provided.

CHCI was supposed to provide roughly half of the 100 ambulances FEMA contracted to help with the evacuation. Yet the company and its owners, Charles Henderson and Richard Bell, “had never before been in the ambulance business, and had no prior experience providing this type of service,” according to the complaint the U.S. Attorney’s office filed in the case.

“Despite this lack of experience, Henderson held himself out to GSA and FEMA as the owner of an ambulance company, i.e., (CHCI) and able to provide properly equipped ambulances and qualified staff to operate them,” the complaint alleged. According to the government, after winning the FEMA contract Henderson and his company quickly cobbled together relationships with subcontractors who were able to provide some ambulances and personnel, but not enough of either. However, CHCI proceeded to bill FEMA for ambulances it never provided. On September 4, 2005—six days after Katrina struck New Orleans—CHCI billed for 19 ambulances when it actually provided 11. On September 10, CHCI charged FEMA for 66 ambulances but only provided 27.

FEMA took them at their word and overpaid, according to the lawsuit. The government accused CHCI of bilking taxpayers of nearly $2 million.

Charles Henderson settled the lawsuit in 2011 by agreeing to pay the government nearly $3 million.

After Katrina, there was a widespread ambulance shortage in the region. Thus, disaster relief fraudsters not only put taxpayer dollars at risk, but lives as well.

Congress’s investigative arm, the Government Accountability Office (GAO), referred to the CHCI contract and other egregious instances of fraud and waste in a 2006 report that recommended ways to improve federal disaster recovery contracting practices.

“Our fieldwork identified examples where unclear responsibilities and poor communications resulted in poor acquisition outcomes,” the GAO reported. “FEMA tasked GSA to write three contracts in Louisiana for base camps, hotel rooms, and ambulances, with a total value of over $120 million. GSA contracting officers awarded the contracts, but could not tell us which FEMA officials would be responsible for overseeing contractor performance. The FEMA official identified as the main point of contact by GSA did not have any knowledge of these contracts or who was responsible for oversight.” [emphasis added]

In our 2006 report on Hurricane Katrina, POGO observed that “poor oversight in the award and monitoring stages of contracting is one of the most recurrent problems in the federal government’s response to Hurricane Katrina.” In an era of Yelp, Angie’s List, and online Better Business Bureau listings, not to mention the government’s own digital databases on past performance and contractor responsibility, there is no excuse for awarding multi-million dollar contracts without performing adequate due diligence beforehand, even in the midst of an ongoing disaster.

On the back end, oversight offices such as the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Inspector General (DHS OIG) are critical to catching bad actors. While the Justice Department prosecuted the CHCI ambulance fraud case, it was DHS OIG that investigated the matter and arrested the company’s owner, according to the Disaster Fraud Task Force’s 2012 report. According to the report, “through the efforts of DHS OIG, 81 persons were indicted or otherwise criminally charged, and 143 individuals were convicted, in disaster fraud investigations.”

But DHS OIG’s budget may be facing a cut, even as disaster-related spending at FEMA, in addition to spending on border security and immigration enforcement at other DHS offices, is ramping up.

As Congress appropriates disaster relief funds to help communities in need, it must put a high priority on oversight. A dollar lost to fraud or waste is a dollar that isn’t helping Americans struggling in the wake of a disaster.”

http://www.pogo.org/blog/2017/09/disaster-relief-needs-oversight-to-stop-waste-and-fraud.html

Big Data At Its Best – POGO Federal Contractor Misconduct Data Base

Standard

 

 

POGO Misconduct

THE PROJECT ON GOVERNMENT OVERSIGHT – POGO”

“We encourage you to visit our Federal Contractor Misconduct Database, which currently contains 412 resolved and 121 pending instances of workplace-related misconduct by the federal government’s largest contractors.

The government’s top vendors have paid a collective total of $2.7 billion in fines, judgments, and settlements since 1996 for a wide variety of labor violations, including discrimination, health and safety hazards, unpaid wages, and whistleblower retaliation.

The vast majority of the labor misconduct instances in our database did not involve the federal government. About 54 percent were lawsuits filed by private parties, while another 7 percent were enforcement actions by local, state, and foreign governments. One instance we recently added is KBR’s $3.75 million settlement of a lawsuit brought by construction workers who alleged the company stiffed them on wages and meal breaks at a California mining facility.

The Trump administration’s efforts to roll back worker protections and oversight of contractors’ business practices could further shrink the percentage of labor instances involving Uncle Sam in our database. Nonetheless, at least for now, federal enforcers are still on the job. A few weeks ago, the National Nuclear Security Administration hit National Security Technologies, the managing contractor of the Nevada Test Site, with a proposed $112,500 fine for violations of worker safety and health requirements. In May, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration fined Exxon Mobil $164,775 for violations related to a November 2016 Baton Rouge refinery explosion that injured four workers.

A list of all resolved and pending labor misconduct instances in our database can be found at this link.”

http://www.pogo.org/blog/2017/09/celebrate-labor-day-by-diving-into-contractor-misconduct-data.html

 

 

Managing Small Business Government Contracting Business System Risks

Standard
aecbusiness.com - Copy

Image:  AEC Business.com

“SMALL TO FEDS By Ken Larson

“Most small enterprises must undertake some form of business process augmentation when entering federal government contracting.

There are rules of thumb to insure wise business system development decisions, specific to your company, for managing the associated risks.

The natural inclination for small business is to immediately jump to buying computer software tools or services in an effort to expedite the business system growth process. That propensity is often enhanced by suppliers who maintain their product or service is “DCAA Compliant”, has been “Validated by the Government as an Earned Value Management System (EVMS)” and other similar claims.

Here are cautions and tips regarding an immediate jump to software or services as a means of growing a government contract business system.

UNDERSTANDING THE REQUIREMENTS

The US Government learned decades ago that it cannot impose specific business systems on contractors.  One of the last great attempts to do so was the Program Evaluation and Review Technique (PERT).  It was abandoned in the late 1950’s and early 1960’s and replaced by a set of industry criteria now known as Earned Value Management Systems (EVMS).

Similarly, the Federal Government Cost Accounting Standards Board (CASB) determined that job cost accounting systems could not be imposed on contractors. Over the years they have developed and maintained a set of Cost Accounting Standards (CAS) which governs requirements for accounting on government contracts.

The GSA and similar agencies maintain policies on travel, human resources and wage/rate determinations that are not specific systems, but minimum standards as well.  A small business entering federal government contracting should research the above and similar requirements in such areas as quality assurance, inspection and acceptance and export management.

PROCESS COMES FIRST – MAXIMIZE WHAT YOU HAVE

Given a thorough understanding of the requirements for a government contract business system that fills the need for your specific product or service delivery, the next step is to examine existing processes to determine if they can meet the need or be minimally supplemented to do so.

Finding a need for major process changes or enhancements in the existing business system is the beginning of a requirements analysis to determine the labor, process change, planning, costs and eventual selection of new automated tools that fit the company and that need.

Many start-ups and small enterprises find they can crutch their existing job cost accounting system for service contracts with spread sheets instead of buying an expensive, data base oriented, software package or services initially.  As the company grows into government contracting and the number of transactions and associated revenue warrants the expense,  the firm can then evaluate more expensive packaged software tools or services and ease into them with a plan to minimize disruption.

A government contract award drives many things in government business, but small firms cannot wait until that event to position at least the minimal processes necessary to perform, price new business, function lawfully in the human resources area and submit supportable detail in billings.

Please see the following articles for guidance on minimal business system requirements for small business federal government contacting.

What Is A Small Business Federal Government Contractor?

Pricing Small Business Federal Government Contracts

Small Business Job Cost Accounting Basics

Small Business Federal Government Contracting Business System Development

RULES OF THUMB FOR SELECTING AUTOMATED TOOLS

From strategic planning to marketing, from forward pricing to job cost accounting, from subcontracting and vendor/contractor management to human resources policies, the small firm finds itself undergoing a business system design project upon entering the government contracting venue.

Understand the requirements first, review existing processes and tools next, develop a thorough requirements statement of what must be done in the way of enhancements and then consider automating.  While performing your analysis keep the following 5 rules of thumb in mind:

1. An electronic computer software package or service is not a system. One cannot acquire a system by acquiring them.

2. One acquires a system by conducting systems analysis, achieving a design and processes by working with the people who will run the system. This is hard work and time consuming. Processes are improved and made more efficient by modifying user behavior not by automating it.

3. Once system and analysis and system design are complete one can prudently choose tools to assist in running the system. The adequacy of a computer tool or service is driven by the requirements of the most efficient system design.

4. The biggest mistake implementation teams make is to believe they are buying a system when they buy a software tool or service or let the tools drive the systems analysis process. That is like asking a mechanic to drive a wrench from New York to St. Louis. It has resulted in millions of dollars wasted and plummeting efficiency in many organizations, large and small.

5. It is necessary to design a system and processes unique to the company to meet user requirements before going shopping for computer tools or services.  If you do not you will be pigeon-holing your company into becoming a slave to the company that owns the software source code or service. If you want anything changed it costs a big buck. ”

Small Business Federal Government Contracting

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Ken Fluther - Copy - Copy

Micro Mentor Volunteer Counselor Ken Larson assists many small businesses with their planning and operations processes. Small business owners or prospective owners locate through a background search capability at Micro Mentor.   Ken is a Veteran of 2 tours in the US Army Vietnam and has over 40 years in the Defense Industrial Complex. He spent over 30 years in federal government program and contract management and 10 years in small business consulting. Ken receives many inquiries from small companies wishing to enter or enhance their position in federal government contracting. Volunteer time, books, articles, and resources are 100% free through Small to Feds maintained exclusively for small business.

 

 

 

 

Two Government Contractors Lose ACLU Lawsuit for Developing CIA Harsh Interrogation Techniques

Standard

 

CIA Interrogations Lawsuit

James Mitchell, left, and John Jessen, Defendants in landmark lawsuit.  They were paid $81 million for their work.  (Trial Evidence/ACLU via AP)

“MILITARY TIMES”

“[It] marked the first time the agency or its private contractors have been held accountable for the program, legal experts said Thursday.

Terms of the settlement were not disclosed, but it avoided a civil trial set for Sept. 5 in federal court in Spokane.

The deal in the lawsuit from the American Civil Liberties Union also makes it unlikely the CIA will again pursue the tactics, which included beatings and waterboarding, slamming the three men into walls, stuffing them inside coffin-like boxes, exposing them to extreme temperatures, starving them and keeping them awake for days, the ACLU said.

James T. Smith, lead defense attorney, said the psychologists were public servants whose interrogation methods were authorized by the government.

“The facts would have borne out that while the plaintiffs suffered mistreatment by some of their captors, none of that mistreatment was conducted, condoned or caused by Drs. Mitchell and Jessen,” Smith said.

Jessen said in a statement that he and Mitchell “served our country at a time when freedom and safety hung in the balance.”

Mitchell also defended their work, saying, “I am confident that our efforts were necessary, legal and helped save countless lives.”

But the group Physicians for Human Rights said the case shows that health professionals who participate in torture will be held accountable.

“These two psychologists had a fundamental ethical obligation to do no harm, which they perverted to inflict severe pain and suffering on human beings in captivity,” said Donna McKay, executive director of the group.

The group’s anti-torture expert, Sarah Dougherty, said she hopes the case opens the door for additional lawsuits and more.

“What needs to happen next is criminal accountability,” Dougherty said.

The lawsuit sought unspecified monetary damages from the psychologists on behalf of Suleiman Abdullah Salim, Mohamed Ahmed Ben Soud and the estate of Gul Rahman.

This undated still photo provided by the American Civil Liberties Union shows Mohamed Ben Soud, a plaintiff in a landmark lawsuit that the ACLU filed against the creators of the CIA's harsh interrogation program used in the war on terror. A settlement was reached Thursday, Aug. 17, 2017. (ACLU via AP)
Plaintiff Mohamed Ben Soud (ACLU via AP)

Rahman, an Afghan, was taken from his home in Pakistan in 2002 to a secret CIA prison in Afghanistan. He died of hypothermia several weeks later after being shackled to a floor in near-freezing conditions.

According to the lawsuit, Salim and Ben Soud both were subjected to waterboarding, daily beatings and sleep deprivation in secret CIA sites. Salim, a Tanzanian, and Ben Soud, a Libyan, were later released after officials determined they posed no threat.

A U.S. Senate investigation in 2014 found that Mitchell and Jessen’s techniques produced no useful intelligence. President Barack Obama terminated the contract in 2009.

This undated still photo provided by the American Civil Liberties Union shows Suleiman Abdullah, a plaintiff in a landmark lawsuit that the ACLU filed against the creators of the CIA's harsh interrogation program used in the war on terror. (ACLU via AP)
Plaintiff Suleiman Abdullah  (ACLU via AP)

Mitchell and Jessen previously worked at the Air Force survival school at Fairchild Air Force Base outside Spokane, where they trained pilots to avoid capture and resist interrogation and torture. The CIA hired them to reverse-engineer their methods to break terrorism suspects.

The ACLU said it was the first civil lawsuit involving the CIA’s torture program that was not dismissed at the initial stages. The Justice Department got involved to keep classified information secret but did not try to block it.

Though there was no trial, the psychologists and several CIA officials underwent lengthy questioning in video depositions. Some documents that had been secret were declassified.

The ACLU issued a joint statement from the surviving plaintiffs, who said they achieved their goals.

“We were able to tell the world about horrific torture, the CIA had to release secret records, and the psychologists and high-level CIA officials were forced to answer our lawyer’s questions,” the statement said.

The lawsuit was brought under a law allowing foreign citizens to have access to U.S. courts to seek justice for violations of their rights.”

http://www.militarytimes.com/news/pentagon-congress/2017/08/18/legal-deal-over-harsh-cia-interrogations-marks-a-milestone/