Tag Archives: Government Contractors

Tech Giants Play the DC Influence Game to Win Pentagon Cloud Deal

Pentagon Cloud Deal

Illustration by POGO.


In a few months, the Department of Defense (DoD) will pick a company to build a cloud computing system for the U.S. military.

The prize is a two-year contract that could end up being extended for a full decade and be worth billions of dollars. The winner could also obtain a virtual monopoly over the federal cloud-computing market for the foreseeable future.”

“The odds-on favorite to win the Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure (JEDI) contract is Amazon Web Services, which currently manages a $600 million cloud system for the intelligence agencies and, through its network of “partners,” already has a stake in other federal cloud projects. Amazon’s dominant market position and past experience hosting sensitive government data give it a solid advantage over its primary competitors—Leidos, General Dynamics, Oracle, Microsoft, IBM, and Google. Despite pleas from these companies, who fear Amazon may have the inside track, DoD will not waiver from its plan to award JEDI as a winner-take-all, single-vendor contract.

Amazon is no longer an upstart online bookseller from Seattle. The company has taken its place among the federal government’s contracting heavyweights, employing the traditional methods of Washington influence in its quest to land the JEDI contract.

Amazon’s political action committee has given over $1 million in campaign donations to federal candidates in the past two election cycles, doling out the money to both parties in nearly equal shares. The company has spent over $37 million on lobbying since 2015, getting face time with Members of Congress and officials in the executive departments on matters involving cloud computing and myriad other issues. Those efforts appear to have paid off last year with the passage of the so-called “Amazon amendment,” a provision tucked into the defense authorization bill that will establish a program facilitating government purchasing through e-commerce portals like Amazon.com.

Amazon has also been taking advantage of the revolving door, hiring its share of former government officials. According to the watchdog group Center for Responsive Politics, 59 of Amazon’s 90 lobbyists (not all of whom worked, or are working, on cloud or IT issues) are “revolvers” who had previously worked for the federal government. Scott Renda, who oversaw an Office of Management and Budget (OMB) cloud computing initiative during his tenure in the Obama Administration, joined Amazon Web Services in 2014. Former Obama White House press secretary Jay Carney became Amazon’s senior vice president for global corporate affairs in 2015. Former U.S. Chief Acquisition Officer Anne Rung left the White House in 2016 to lead the government affairs division of Amazon Business. Rung spent two years as the leader of OMB’s Office of Federal Procurement Policy, which plays a central role in shaping how the government purchases goods and services.

From the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue, the company enlisted the lobbying services of former Senators John Breaux (D-LA) and Trent Lott (R-MS) and former Congressional staffer Rich Beutel. Beutel, the former lead staff member of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, was once described as “a player at the forefront of cyber [and] contracting.” Between 2015 and March 2018, Beutel represented Amazon Web Services before Congress and the White House on a range of issues, including cloud acquisition and deployment. Amazon Web Services was also a clientof Sally Donnelly, a well-connected political consultant who recently served as a senior adviser to Secretary of Defense James Mattis and was a consultant on the Defense Business Board, a DoD advisory panel of private-sector executives.

Pentagon Metro Amazon AWS Ad

Amazon placed targeted advertisements for its cloud service in Washington, DC’s Pentagon metro station ahead of the Department of Defense awarding the JEDI contract. (Photo: POGO)

For added measure, Amazon is making its presence known on local magazine coversand on the walls and floors of the Washington Metro. This public relations blitz may actually be targeting two audiences: the DoD officials who will choose the winner of the JEDI contract, and local politicians in DC and the neighboring suburbs in Maryland and Virginia hoping to be chosen as the site of the company’s second corporate headquarters.

Pentagon Metro Amazon AWS Ads

Amazon placed targeted advertisements for its cloud service in Washington, DC’s Pentagon metro station ahead of the Department of Defense awarding the JEDI contract. (Photo: POGO)

However, victory for Amazon is not a foregone conclusion. The competing tech and defense heavyweights also know how to play the influence game. Most of the companies—particularly General Dynamics and Google—are keeping pace with Amazon’s level of spending on elections and lobbyists. The revolving door spins just as rapidly at Amazon’s competitors: more than three-quarters of Microsoft’s 90 lobbyists previously worked in the federal government, while the board of directors of Leidos currently boasts former senior Pentagon officials Gregory Dahlberg and Frank Kendall. The revolving door took a big turn in the other direction last year at General Dynamics when James Mattis left the company’s board to become Secretary of Defense.

Meanwhile, former Google CEO Eric Schmidt, Google vice president Milo Medin, and Microsoft board member Reid Hoffman serve on the Defense Innovation Board, where they advise DoD on technology and acquisition matters. Oracle CEO Safra Catz was a member of the Trump transition team. She recently got a chance to discuss the JEDI competition at a private dinner with President Trump, who has made no secret of his animosity toward Amazon. Perhaps Catz or someone else at the dinner mentioned that she and four other Oracle executives made a total of nearly $35,000 in campaign donations to one of the President’s staunchest supporters in Congress: House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes (R-CA). Oracle is reportedly leading a campaign with other tech companies to “unseat Amazon as the front-runner” for the JEDI contract.

DoD will award the JEDI contract in late September. For the next few months, Amazon and its competitors will flood the Washington area with lobbyists, campaign donations, attractive job offers, and eye-catching advertisements. The millions they spend now could pay off in the billions later.

In the meantime, we need to ask two important questions. First, is it a good idea to award the contract to a single vendor? The DoD reasons that scattering data across multiple cloud systems would inhibit the ability to access and analyze critical data, and that it has “multiple mechanisms” in place to prevent a monopoly. However, tech and federal procurement experts dispute the government’s justifications for making JEDI a single-award contract.

Second, should the government do more to develop an in-house capability to run a cloud system? The DoD will likely pay significantly more for a contractor to operate and manage the system, over which the contractor will retain exclusive ownership rights. Ten years is an uncomfortably long period of time to entrust such a vital function to one private company.”



Important June Update Notices From GSA on Registering and Maintaining Government Contracting Registrations




“Notarized Letter changes and New Login Process Coming June 29th 2010”

“GSA. GOV SAM Update

GSA has taken action to address fraudulent activity in the System for Award Management (SAM). The measures GSA already put in place to help prevent improper activity in SAM include masking specific data elements in the entity registration even for authorized entity users; requiring “parent” approval of new registrations for their “child” entities; and requiring the formal appointment of the Entity Administrator by original, signed notarized letter.
Additional enhanced controls will be deployed at the end of June. These controls include implementing multi-factor authentication using Login.gov and notifying Entity Administrators when there is a change in the entity’s bank account information. As a result of these and other measures, GSA is modifying the current notarized letter review process in two phases.


How is the notarized letter review process changing on June 11, 2018?

  • Effective June 11, 2018, entities who create or update their registration in SAM.gov to apply only for federal assistance opportunities such as grants, loans, and other financial assistance programs no longer need to have an approved Entity Administrator notarized letter on file before their registration is activated.
    • Hint: This applies to you if your SAM.gov Purpose of Registration is Federal Assistance only. Check SAM.gov to find your Purpose of Registration.
  • Federal Assistance entities still must mail the original, signed copy of the notarized letter to the Federal Service Desk. Failure to do so within 30 days of activation may result in the registration no longer being active.

How is the notarized letter review process changing on June 29, 2018?

  • Effective June 29, 2018, all non-Federal entities who create or update their registration in SAM.gov will no longerneed to have an approved Entity Administrator notarized letter on file before their registration is activated.
    • Hint: This applies to you if your SAM.gov Purpose of Registration is either Federal Assistance or All Awards. Check SAM.gov to find your Purpose of Registration.
  • All non-Federal entities still must mail the original, signed copy of the notarized letter to the Federal Service Desk. Failure to do so within 30 days of activation may result in the registration no longer being active.

Where can I find the notarized letter templates?

Does the notarized letter requirement apply to U.S. Federal Government entities registering in SAM?

  • No.


What is the new login process for SAM.gov?

  • Effective June 29, 2018, when you go to SAM.gov and log in, you will be asked to create a Login.gov user account. Your current SAM.gov username and password will no longer work.

What is the most important thing I need to do before June 29th?

  • Make sure you know the email address associated with your current SAM.gov user account.

Why do I need my current SAM.gov user account email address?

  • Using the same email address allows SAM.gov to automatically migrate your roles. If a different email address is provided, your roles will need to be reassigned. This could cause delays updating your existing registrations.

How do I find the email address for my SAM.gov user account?

  • If you don’t know which email is associated with your SAM.gov user account, take action now. Go to www.SAM.gov → My SAM → My Account Settings → Edit User Information. As of June 29, 2018, your current username and password won’t work, so take steps now to confirm your email!

What do I need to create my Login.gov user account?

  • You will need to:
    1. know the email address associated with your SAM.gov username and password
    2. have access to that email to receive a confirmation email from Login.gov, and
    3. have a working phone (cell phone or landline) to receive a security code from Login.gov.

Why is SAM.gov making these user account changes on June 29, 2018?

  • To further increase security and deter fraud, SAM.gov is partnering with Login.gov to implement multi-factor authentication for registered SAM.gov users.

Will this change impact public users who do not log in to SAM.gov?

  • No. There is no change for users who search and view public data on SAM.gov without logging in to the system.

Will I be able to get help for this new login process?


GSA’s System for Award Management (SAM) continues to support an active investigation by the GSA Office of Inspector General (OIG) into alleged, third-party fraudulent activity in SAM. Only a limited number of entities registered in SAM were suspected of being impacted by this alleged fraudulent activity. In March 2018, GSA took steps to address this issue and notified affected entities. GSA continues to work with the OIG and law enforcement agencies to take additional action, as appropriate.

What has GSA been doing to address the problem?

GSA took a number of proactive steps to address this issue, including system modifications, to prevent improper activity going forward. In addition, GSA expired, then deactivated any entity registrations that appeared to have been affected. These entities were advised to validate their registration information in SAM, particularly their financial information and points of contact, before reactivating the entity registrations. Further, GSA has begun implementing additional reviews during the registration process to prevent future issues.

What interim changes were made to the SAM registration process?

These proactive steps include requiring submission of an original, signed notarized letter identifying the authorized Entity Administrator for the entity associated with the Data Universal Numbering System (DUNS) number. GSA posted instructions for domestic entities and instructions for international entities for easy reference. This requirement went into effect on March 22, 2018, for new entities registering in SAM and went into effect on April 27, 2018, for existing registrations being updated or renewed in SAM. Changes are coming to this process on June 11, 2018, for Federal Assistance only entities and on June 29, 2018, for all entities.

Who was impacted?

Entities with registrations that appeared to be impacted were notified. Instructions were provided explaining how to validate registration information and how to reactivate the registration. In addition, entities whose bank account information for Electronic Fund Transfer (EFT) changed within the 12 months prior to March 2018 were notified. Although not associated with suspicious activity, these entities are required to validate their registration information, particularly their EFT information.

What is an entity?

In SAM, you, your company, business, or organization is referred to as an “entity.” Individuals register themselves or their entity to do business with the U.S. Federal Government by completing the registration process in SAM.

What should entities registered in SAM do to protect themselves and confirm that their bank account information has not been changed?

Entities registered in SAM are advised to log into SAM and review their registration information, particularly their bank account information for Electronic Funds Transfer (EFT) on the financial information page. Contact the supporting Federal Service Desk at www.fsd.gov, or by telephone at 866-606-8220 (toll free) or 334-206-7828 (internationally) Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. (ET), for FREE assistance. Entities are responsible for ensuring that their information is current and correct in SAM in accordance with paragraph (b) of Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) clause 52.232-33 or Title 2 of the Code of Federal Regulations Part 25 (2 CFR § 25.310 and Appendix A), as applicable, and should routinely review such information for accuracy.

Who should entities contact if they find that payments due them from Federal agencies have been paid to a bank account that other than their own?

If an entity suspects a payment due them from a Federal agency was paid to a bank account other than their own, they should contact the Federal Service Desk at www.fsd.gov, or by telephone at 866-606-8220 (toll free) or 334-206-7828(internationally), Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. (ET), for FREE assistance.

Where can an international entity find information about the notarized letter process?

Entities not located in the U.S. or its outlying areas should read the international entity instructions posted at the Federal Service Desk that outline procedures and provide links to letter templates. If they have additional questions, international entities should contact the Federal Service Desk at www.fsd.gov, or by telephone at 866-606-8220 (toll free) or 334-206-7828 (internationally), Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. (ET), for FREE assistance.
GSA’s Office of the Inspector General (OIG) is actively investigating alleged, third party fraudulent activity in the System for Award Management (SAM).  At this time, only a limited number of entities registered in SAM are suspected of being impacted by this fraudulent activity. GSA is in the process of notifying these affected entities.
IMPORTANT NOTE:  In a proactive step to address this issue, GSA is now requiring an original, signed notarized letter identifying the authorized Entity Administrator for the entity (company) associated with the DUNS number before a new SAM.gov entity registration will be activated. GSA has very specific requirements for this notarized letter—click here for Federal Service Desk (FSD) guidelines.  A template has been developed by Procurement Technical Assistance Center (PTAC) experts that can serve as the starting point for this document.  It must be completed with the specified information, printed on company letterhead, notarized, and mailed to the Federal Service Desk at the address indicated. Download Template here.
Who is impacted? Entities who may have been impacted are those whose financial information has changed within the last year. GSA began notifying affected entities on March 22, 2018.
All entities registered in SAM are advised to log into SAM and review their registration information, particularly their financial (bank account) information. GSA reminds everyone that entities are responsible for ensuring that their information is current and correct in SAM.
Any entity finding that a payment due to them from a federal agency has been paid to a bank account other than their own should contact their Federal agency awarding official.
How is GSA addressing this situation?  In addition to the above, GSA has expired – then deactivated – any entity registrations that appeared to have been affected. These entities are being advised to validate their registration information in SAM, particularly their financial information and points of contact. Further, GSA has begun implementing additional reviews during the registration process to prevent more issues.



You have worked hard establishing your small business in the commercial market; or you have succeeded in your profession working for large enterprises. You have established yourself and you are recognized as a success by your superiors, your peers and your subordinates. Someone or something one day attracts your attention with the suggestion that the federal government may be in the market for your skills, products or services. This article will address the path to expanding your existing business or initially undertaking a business involving federal government contracts.


The best way to explore federal government contracting possibilities is to expand your business plan to include a sector for that type of business or develop your start up plan including a federal government business sector. Doing business with the Federal Government is not “Rocket Science” but it is different. It embodies a set of regulations entitled, “The Federal Acquisition Regulation” or FAR, which contain the rules by which the government and industry abide in contracting for supplies and services. The FAR had its genesis during World War II and has evolved since that time to control and regulate the ever-expanding amounts of goods and services which the federal government buys.

The following are the most important “Mechanical Steps” necessary in positioning your business to begin selling to the federal government. They are listed in the necessary sequence for becoming a supplier entity in the government system. A link to appropriate web sites is provided at each step.

A. Dunn &Bradstreet (D&B) Number Go to Small Business Tab At:


If you do not have one a D and B Number is necessary before you can complete a Registration (CCR) which is required for all companies who aspire to sell to the federal government. A D and B Number is also required for your Small Disadvantaged Business (SDB) application if you intend to pursue minority- owned business certification. If you are not already incorporated you may wish to incorporate before you set up your D and B number. Incorporation is fairly inexpensive these days and can be done via the WEB for either a non-profit or a for-profit business. Try search mechanisms, such as “Incorporate.com”, or “Incorporate Now”. It is best to do a check with the Better Business Bureau before using the results. Establishing your D and B is free.

B. For Central Contractor Registration:

C. For application in the SBA Small, Disadvantaged Business (SDB) Program:


If you qualify as a minority, follow the directions closely. Note there is a preview section which will acquaint you with the application and the types of information that will be necessary when you start the process.

D. For Historically Under-Utilized Business (HUB) Zone Information:

Note that Hub Zone qualification is based on where the business is located and where the personnel in the business reside as well.

E. For Searches on Federal Buys:


FEDBIZOPS is the gateway for all federal business. The search tool there is a very powerful engine with many filters that are useful. It is well worth the time to learn the filters. Every federal agency is required by regulation to advertise there and you will be amazed at the products and services the federal government buys.

F. For an example of a small business capability statement check the following web site:

A capability statement is always a good idea for marketing. The link above as an example. It was found on the web in the public domain Note that the site is a SDB. Later you will get into proposal preparation and the regulations governing the types of grants and contracts, as well as billing the government for your work and other factors.

G. Questions for you:

Are you planning to produce a deliverable, distinct, end product such as software, hardware, a commodity, a report, a conference, a survey or a study, sell it to meet the government’s statement of work and bill for the end product when delivered?


Are you planning to price your services at an hourly rate, sell them by labor categories with professional job descriptions to perform the government’s statement of work and bill by the hour for labor and at cost for material and travel?

Answers to the above questions are key factors in how you set up your business and price your work in proposals to federal agencies. The answer to the above questions is “Yes” in both cases for some businesses. Some small businesses sell their product commercially, but contract for product implementation and support on a service contract basis.
The next topic in this series of articles will deal with avenues for marketing a small small business in the federal government environment.”


How Reach the Washington Technology Top 100 Government Contractors


How to Hit Top 100



“Every year the Washington Technology publishes the Top 100.  Here are a few thoughts for upward migration.”


“AUTHOR’s NOTE: Ten years ago I wrote my first column for Washington Technology on how to break into the Washington Technology Top 100 – now it’s time to revisit

So, you want to be in the Washington Technology Top 100. But how do you migrate up the food chain?

I get calls and emails asking how some companies, especially the new ones, broke into the Top 100.

There are only two sure ways to get into the WashTech Top 100: buy one of them, or sell to one of them.

Other than that, you’ll need to work your way up the ladder.

Here are a few thoughts for upward migration.

Market Commitment

GovCon is not a part time gig, and those approaching it as an adjunct to their B2B business really need to understand the differences.

This is exacerbated if you are a public company and your Board and shareholders have expectations beyond what is attainable. Public companies do succeed in this market but only when the Board, investors and Wall Street understand that B2G is not a business based on quarterly reports.

The commitment involves bringing in the right talent, dedicating the right resources, and adequately funding each.

The commitment must be company-wide and the acceptance of the glacial nature of GovCon must be a given.


Focus can take many forms here: the focus on a particular technology or agency, focus on a special problem facing those in certain jobs, a regional focus, and more. Or possibly a combination of two or more of these. Fraud, waste and abuse (FWA), for example, is a pervasive and persistent problem, but it does not seem to be on the front burner…unless it is your job in your agency.

Focus on what you do best, then become among the best at what you do. This is not lost on the community where you work.

Focus on a beachhead in an agency and grow that business before thinking about migrating to other agencies. Develop a significant presence and understand that you earn this position on a daily basis, not simply when you win the contract.


Government time can seem like geologic ages. Things don’t usually happen quickly.

Those seeking rapid migration to the top tiers contracting, to be on par with GDIT, Northrop and others, are in the wrong business unless they have really deep pockets and buy their way in.

Time and a seriously thought out long-term plan are required. I have several anecdotes of those who were beginning to succeed, then made an alteration to their plan which short-circuited their growth. I have other anecdotes for the flip side: companies that made alterations that were well thought out and led to winning more business.


Those who read my articles and other posts know that I believe relationships are the key to success. These relationships include the client relationship, partner (prime/sub) relationship, management to employee, company to the channel, press relations and more.

Each must be handled properly and professionally. Snafus in any of these will impact your brand in the market as word of said snafu will invariably get out somehow (think White House leaks).


This market continues to evolve, and the evolution requires perpetual education for each discipline in your company, including sales, marketing, BD, proposals, accounting, and legal.

There are many venues for education, including associations, conferences, seminars, webinars, briefings, in-house training, continuing professional education, advanced degrees (I am an adjunct professor in the GWU graduate school for Government Contracting where I learn as much from my students as they do from me), and more.

There is education by osmosis, hanging out with market experts (in and outside of your company), education by continual scanning of market information (trade publications, blogs and other sources of market intel).

But the education has to be constant. Take a break for a few months and you are behind the curve.

Rinse and repeat (re-commit)

Your commitment to the market must be renewed regularly, formally or informally. This is a requirement for those seeking to move up in the pecking order, from third tier to second, from second tier to first.

There are no guarantees that you will migrate to the top even if you do all these things. But I can guarantee that you will fail if you don’t do them.

“Do or do not, there is no try.”


About the Author

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




2018 Washington Technology Top 100 Defense Contractor Rankings Highlight A Growing Market


Final Washington Technology 2018 Top 100 - Copy



“The annual Washington Technology Top 100 ranks the largest government contractors in the market based on their prime contracts. 

The aggregate value of the prime contracts won by the Top 100 companies reached $105.3 billion this y ear, compared to $101.9 billion last year.  And with a two-year budget framework in place, the expectation is that the market will continue to grow for at least that period.”

“For the second year in a row, a new company holds the No. 1 spot on the annual Washington Technology Top 100.
Last year, Leidos unseated Lockheed Martin after a 22-year run. But this year, Leidos is pushed aside by General Dynamics with Leidos dropping one position to No. 2.
The rise of both Leidos and GD in the rankings is thanks in large part to transformational acquisitions the companies completed. Leidos acquired Lockheed Martin’s IT business in 2016. And GD acquired CSRA earlier this year.
But those deals are about more than just the companies involved. They point toward a market that is undergoing a fundamental change.
The annual Washington Technology Top 100 ranks the largest government contractors in the market based on their prime contracts. We analyze data from the Federal Procurement Data System to identify the top companies providing IT, telecommunications, systems integration and professional services to federal agencies.
You can look up and down the 2018 list and see signs of changes in the market. The M and A activity is the most obvious signs. Besides General Dynamics’ acquisition of CSRA, there are other significant deals.
One to watch going forward is the three-way merger of Vencore, KeyPoint Government Solutions and the U.S. public sector business of DXC Technology. The new entity now known as “Perspecta” came in at the No. 9 spot with nearly $3 billion in prime contracts.
Other new entrants to the Top 100 also are the result of deal making such as Peraton at No. 34 with $740.3 million in prime contracts and NTT Data at No. 58 with $349.8 million in prime contracts.
Both companies were created via divestitures by other Top 100 companies. Peraton is the former IT services arm of Harris Corp. and NTT Data acquired Dell’s services business.
The Top 100 also shows some of the emerging tech and business trends in the market.
In recent years we’ve seen the emergence of several companies focused on the space market. Last year, SpaceX made its debut at No. 54 and this year it has come in at No. 46 with $482.1 million in prime contracts.
Northrop Grumman is at No. 3 with $6.7 billion in prime contracts. They are in the process of acquiring Orbital ATK at No. 79 with $251.5 million in prime contracts. If that deal had closed in time, Northrop very likely would have been ranked No. 2.
Executives from companies such as CACI International (No. 10), and Science Applications International Corp. (No. 9) said space is among one of several growing areas for contractors. And we’ve seen several other companies move into the space market and adjacent areas such as Parsons Corp.’s recent takeover of Polaris Alpha. Parsons is ranked No. 50.
Other priority areas include electronic warfare, unmanned systems, data analytics, machine learning, cloud and IT modernization. There also is strong demand for DevOps and Agile application development capabilities.
Some of these are already well established but others are just emerging but carry great promise.
For example, Booz Allen Hamilton (No. 7) is investing in machine learning because executives see it as a game changer for government agencies.
“We are seeing a lot of energy in our client base around an eagerness to learn more and do some piloting around how to apply that technology,” said Gary Labovich, a Booz Allen executive vice president.
And of course, cybersecurity rides as a layer over all of these areas and is a core offering for many companies.
For example, Unisys (No. 41) has developed the Stealth product, which is built on a micro segmentation software platform and mitigates the risk of a hackers by reducing the surface area they can attack.
Unisys’s development of the Stealth product is just one example of how many Top 100 companies investing in the development of solutions and reducing their reliance on just providing services to their customers.
“Our whole story line is we’re moving from being completely reliant on services to balancing our portfolio with solutions,” said CACI CEO Ken Asbury.
Companies on the Top 100 also are becoming more aggressive and increasing the pace at which they submit proposals.
Part of this is because more dollars are flowing so more customers are creating opportunities. At the same time, the trend toward IT modernization and the adoption of new ways of managing IT such as the cloud also are creating opportunities for companies.
Agencies also have moved away from low price, technically acceptable contracts. Executives also are heartened by a trend toward more industry engagement as evidenced by the use of Other Transaction Authorities and activities by organizations such as the Defense Innovation Unit Experimental. These new ways of doing business are driving innovation and the adoption of new technologies.
“I’d like to see it continue in that direction,” said George Wilson, president of ECS Federal (No. 47). “That’s the area we’re focusing all of our attention. We’ve moved away from the lower-end commoditized services and we’ve moved more and more into delivering advanced capabilities.”
Many of the executives reported a rebound in the market and the Top 100 itself validates that believe.
The aggregate value of the prime contracts won by the Top 100 companies reached $105.3 billion this y ear, compared to $101.9 billion last year.
That is two years of back to back growth in the market following five years where the market shrunk.
And with a two-year budget framework in place, the expectation is that the market will continue to grow for at least that period.
“The entire industry gets an opportunity to put sequestration in the rearview mirror for a while, at least for a couple years, and build the capabilities and solutions that have been put to the side,” Asbury said.”

SBA: Federal Government Hits Some Prime Small Business Goals, Falls Short On Others


SBA Goals


“Overall, the government met and even exceeded its goal for small business prime contracts last fiscal year, the $100 billion mark for the first time.

But agencies fell short of their overall subcontracting goal.”


“During fiscal year 2017, agencies bought $105.7 billion in goods and services from small businesses, which captured 23.9 percent of prime contract dollars. That proportion was slightly below fiscal 2016 when they captured 24.34 percent. Those numbers do not include subcontract dollars.

But the total dollars — prime and subcontracted — are higher with $105.7 billion in fiscal 2017, compared to $99.1 billion in 2016.

The Small Business Administration gave “A” grades to 20 agencies. Nine of those got an “A-plus” and 11 with an “A” grade. Two agencies received a “B” grade and one received “a” C grade — the U.S. Agency for International Development.

While the overall goal of 23 percent was surpassed, two specific small business categories fell short of their goals.

Women-owned small businesses have a goal of 5 percent but the government only spent 4.71 percent or $20.8 billion with these businesses. The fiscal 2017 percentage also is slightly below 2016 when women-owned small businesses picked up 4.79 percent of prime contract spending.

Results for Historically Underutilized Business Zone companies fell short. HUBzone firms won just 1.65 percent, or $7.3 billion, against the 3 percent goal. This also was a drop from fiscal 2016 when these businesses captured 1.67 percent of prime contract dollars.

Small disadvantaged businesses won 9.1 percent of the prime contracts, worth $40.2 billion in fiscal 2017. In fiscal 2016, they won 9.53 percent, a slight drop. The goal is 5 percent.

Only service-disabled, veteran-owned small businesses saw their percentage increase in fiscal 2017. They won 4.05 percent of prime contract dollars or $17.9 billion, compared to the 3.98 percent they won in 2016. The goal is 3 percent.

The overall subcontracting goal of 31.95 percent was not achieved. Small businesses won 31.4 percent of subcontract dollars.

Only women-owned and small disadvantaged businesses surpassed their 5 percent goals. Women-owned captured 6.2 percent of subcontract dollars, and small disadvantage captured 5.3 percent.

Service-disabled, veteran-owned business won 1.9 percent of subcontract dollars and HUBZone captured 1.3 percent. Both have a 3 percent subcontracting goal.

Agencies receiving A-plus:

  • Commerce Department
  • Education Department
  • Homeland Security Department
  • Housing and Urban Development Department
  • Labor Department
  • Interior Department
  • Nuclear Regulatory Commission
  • Office of Personnel Management
  • Small Business Administration

Agencies getting an A:

  • State Department
  • Transportation Department
  • Treasury Department
  • Agriculture Department
  • Environment Protection Agency
  • Defense Department
  • General Services Administration
  • Energy Department
  • National Science Foundation
  • Justice Department
  • Social Security Administration
  • NASA

Agencies getting a B:

  • Health and Human Services Department
  • Veterans Affairs Department

Agency with a C:

  • U.S. Agency for International Development”



Making Cost Overruns and Schedule Slips The Exception And Not the Norm

Cost Overruns and Schedule Slips    JosephineClaire.jpg

Image:  JosephineClaire


“The acquisition process is critical in maintaining the supremacy of U.S. forces.

Acquisition authorities should rigorously implement best business practices to navigate the acquisitions landscape and avoid financial, schedule and performance issues and the resulting criticism from Congress when expectations are not met.”


“Numerous past government projects, such as infrastructure, federal buildings, hospitals, satellite programs and weapon systems, have suffered under cost overruns and schedule slips that resulted in billions of dollars of unplanned expenditures.

This trend, which reaches back decades, demonstrates that cost and schedule issues are now the norm in government program performance rather than the exception.

It appears many have acknowledged and accepted this woeful circumstance and spend more time now accounting for and accommodating performance shortfalls than preventing lackluster performance. As both government and industry ramp up, best business practices must remain at the forefront.

The Defense Department depends on acquisitions to preserve a technological battlefield advantage and sustain current force structure. However, every administration struggles with contracts and how to balance development efforts with the risks of inflated budgets and schedules. Budgets that exceed planned funds and time adversely affect other essential programs by diverting funds, delaying start dates and initial operating capability, and reducing the unit quantity purchased. The result: a loss of technological advantage for U.S. forces.

In 1983, the Nunn-McCurdy amendment went into effect. This provision requires overruns greater than 25 percent to be reported to Congress; those over 50 percent warrant termination of the contract unless it is certified as essential to national security. The idea was for Congress to pressure and shame the various agencies and their programs into performing within the original contracted terms.

Yet issuing cure notices, threatening suspension, and even debarring contractors for a set period accompanied by withholding payments have had little effect — still the problem lingers.

Contractors also struggle, but on the other side of the issue. They spend months assessing government proposals to verify financial assumptions — such as estimates versus actuals, man-hours, degree of difficulty and areas of risk. Their engineering and manufacturing divisions, subcontractors and suppliers must make the same assumptions. Once a program starts, they implement a rigorous review schedule coupled with in-depth project analysis — but still the problem lingers.

The Budget Control Act of 2011, commonly referred to as “sequestration,” has perhaps disproportionally affected the Defense Department compared with other government agencies. More than a decade of fighting in the Middle East has strained sustainment, readiness and force structure. Now, the White House has lifted the financial caps sequestration placed on the military and passed a defense budget of about $659 billion in 2018. Defense acquisition organizations accordingly will issue requests for information and requests for proposals to industry.

The department must not squander this opportunity by continuing to use processes and procedures that have proved fruitless in controlling cost and schedule in the past. The nation has an opportunity to break the norm and put aside this lingering problem.

Cost-plus contracts, especially, tend to evolve into greater financial expenditures than planned and go beyond the original contracted schedule. Much of this unwanted growth can be attributed to factors shaped by the current acquisition process. The competitive nature of bidding often results in contractors providing overly optimistic proposals.

Contractors also routinely underestimate the development costs and time frame of leading-edge technology, the number of engineering change proposals and value change proposals, and requirements creep. Because the period of performance in many contracts exceeds 10 years, programs are expected to grow in these areas, but contractors and the government do not programmatically plan for these changes in an effective manner.

Many see fixed-price contracts as the answer to containing budgetary growth. However, fixed-price arrangements have their downfalls, too. The assumptions industry makes — about spinoffs from other programs, internal R&D successes — to prepare a competitive proposal may be too bold, and the programs will nevertheless experience schedule slips and financial plus-ups because of imprecise and ill-defined contract structure. This places the government in a difficult position.

Industry usually insists that the government stand down regarding oversight of fixed-price contract execution. Whereas the government usually welcomes lessening program oversight, this is so only when industry performs as planned. When programs do slip, contractors must submit to heightened review without passing the additional costs to the government. In this situation, industry controls its own destiny based on its performance.

With these issues known, the task then becomes one of determining how to minimize cost and schedule creep in contracts.

Here are a few tools that may be useful in managing contracted programs. First, regularly review the number and specific milestones accomplished. Be sure to guard against completing less demanding milestones earlier than planned while “snow plowing” more difficult milestones to later dates. Keep measurable milestones for a task as close together as possible, usually within 30 to 45 days maximum. Any further apart, and there may not be sufficient time to mitigate issues without affecting the whole program.

Next, track programs using a risk chart. There has never been an industry program manager who hasn’t worried about specific aspects of a program. Managers can detail their concerns in a risk chart that includes proposed steps to draw down the risk before it can affect the program. Providing details about the risk, mitigation steps and projected costs is essential. With a risk chart, managers can assess whether less time or money spent on other tasks can compensate for the unforeseen expenses of more difficult tasks.

Also, review expenditures, milestones, labor and risk regularly. Thorough reviews go beyond milestones and risk assessment to include comprehensive analysis of expenditures to date and head count charged to the program. A proper alignment of expenditures, milestone accomplishments, direct labor and risk is necessary to a healthy program.

Finally, implement a proactive review schedule with executive involvement. Schedule quarterly reviews for programs that are on schedule and on cost; monthly reviews for programs experiencing unforeseen obstacles such as labor issues and supply chain issues; and weekly reviews for programs with cost overruns and schedule slippage.

Successful defense program managers already conduct these types of reviews; therefore, moving programs toward this higher level of visibility should not result in significant additional costs. Also, when a review schedule such as this is incorporated into a request for proposals, it will be more realistic.

In both cost-plus and fixed-price contracts, industry sometimes promises more than is technologically possible when it is pushing the state of the art to the limit. Contractors are not trying to deceive the government to win bids; it is simply a matter of extreme difficulty in predicting when technological advances will be available. Even so, to offset missed targets, industry must compensate the government in some manner for these specification shortfalls — not as a penalty but as good faith accountability. Compensation can take many forms, such as increased spares, improved turnaround times on repairs, and greater performance in other specified areas. Both parties to the contract must then assess and agree on the offsetting value.

One last point: government and industry must select qualified program managers. It is unlikely managers can manage or even oversee technical, multifaceted and in-depth programs if they do not have the requisite skill set that enables them to understand the individual task orders and thus independently assess day-to-day progress. Even the most conscientious, hardworking program manager will struggle with a discussion regarding fluid dynamics, for example, without education and a background in the discipline. Senior executives must ensure individual managers are properly matched to programs. No manager is expected to know it all, but a manager must be inquisitive enough to ask in-depth questions and understand how every factor affects the program.

Detailed and meticulous requests for proposals and contracts, though arduous and time-consuming to prepare, result in more accurate execution of contracts and a true industry-government partnership in providing warfighters a battlefield advantage.”

Retired Air Force Col. John C. Johnson is a former vice president and general manager of Northrop Grumman. He can be reached at jjohn4236@yahoo.com.


Behind The Curtain: A Look At The Government’s Hidden Market


Behind the curatain


“Savvy contractors are influencing their customers to take advantage of Other Transaction Authority (OTA), Simplified Acquisition Procedures (SAP), and/or task order RFPs, which are largely hidden from public scrutiny.

IT companies must change the way they compete. They must steer customers to the vehicles they own and encourage the use of OTAs and SAP as appropriate.”


“By now, federal contractors realize that they must own multiple award contracts to compete in the $95 billion federal market. (If we subtract classified spending from this figure, fiscal 2017 IT spending topped $80 billion).

Meanwhile, IT modernization and related initiatives such as strategic sourcing, category management, and Better Buying Power are dramatically shrinking the number of prime contracts. Best in Class (BIC) preferred and mandatory vehicles are further decreasing buying options. If you don’t have the MACs, you simply cannot compete.

If you don’t believe me, look at the numbers. In 2012, according to Bloomberg Government, the federal government spent $6 billion on IT products and services through IT government wide acquisition contracts (GWACs). Overall, by 2017, that figure topped $13 billion with well over 60 percent of IT spending happening through GWACs and other MACs, including agency-specific IDIQs. In that same period, set-aside spending on MACs grew 137 percent.

Examining the Deltek GovWin data on how many IT and how many professional services RFPs are released each year, we see an interesting trend. While the number of professional services RFPs has increased steadily over the past five years, the number of IT services RFPs has decreased 44 percent while overall IT spending has remained steady.

Why this discrepancy?

OTAs gaining in popularity

OTAs are not subject to the Federal Acquisition Regulations and may be used by defense agencies to carry out certain prototype projects. The 2016 National Defense Authorization Act Section 845 gave the Department of Defense permanent authority to use OTAs for prototype projects directly relevant to weapons or weapon systems when it is in the government’s best interest to enter into an agreement that is not a contract, grant, or cooperative agreement.

According to Bloomberg Government, DOD OTA spending has increased nine-fold to $412 million in fiscal 17 from $43 million in fiscal 2014. The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency and the Army issued most of these awards, but the Air Force and the Defense Information Systems Agency are implementing plans to use OTAs as well. The Defense Innovation Unit Experimental (DIUx) also uses a related buying authority called Commercial Solutions Opening (CSO), so far constituting 61 technology buys totaling $145 million.

Use of SAP increasing exponentially

FAR Part 13 allows the use of SAP for simple supply or services requirements. The purpose of SAP is to:

  1. Reduce administrative costs
  2. Improve opportunities for small business
  3. Promote efficiency and economy in contracting
  4. Avoid unnecessary burdens for agencies and contractors

While the SAP ceiling is relatively small at $150,000 ($750,000 for defense or recovery efforts) for contracts awarded and performed in the United States and up to $1.5 million for recovery efforts outside the United States, the threshold increases for special emergencies or test programs up to $13 million. Remember, all that is needed for a SAP proposal is a quotation, which may even be oral.

According to Bloomberg Government, use of SAP has been increasing over the past six years (to nearly $22 billion in 2017), especially because it is also a way to avoid protests. In addition, SAP favors small businesses as SAP purchases between $3,500 and $150,000 must be set-asides. SAP allows sole source under certain thresholds, therefore providing an easy way for agencies to meet small business goals. Note that most of these actions are never posted to Federal Business Opportunities (FBO.gov) and receive little to no attention.

Task order RFPs

Unless you own a GWAC or other MAC, you cannot obtain RFPs issued under vehicles until sometime after award, if at all. How many IT task order RFPs were released in 2017? There is no way to know for sure, but as captured by the Deltek GovWin database, there were $10 billion in IT services task order RFPs released last fiscal year. Of note, in fiscal 2017, the federal government spent about $61 billion on IT services through 41,000 task orders. The average number of bids received per task order RFP was only three to four, making it a relatively less competitive playing field.

It is also more difficult to protest a task order award. Task order awards under $10 million for civilian agencies and $25 million for defense agencies cannot be protested unless the award was improper because it exceeded the scope, performance period, or maximum value of the underlying contract.

The bottom line

Especially for small businesses, owning Best in Class vehicles such as Alliant Small Business 2 and making extensive use of SAP to help customers meet small business goals (in addition to other set-aside advantages) is a way to propel forward to the mid-tier.

Of course, there are no advantages to being a mid-tier company, unless, like your larger brethren, you work to stay behind the curtain through MACs, OTAs, and SAP.”


Lisa Pafe

About the Author

Lisa Pafe is a capture strategy and proposal development consultant and is vice president of Lohfeld Consulting. She can be reached at LPafe@LohfeldConsulting.com 


The Next $10 Billion Chapter In The Veterans Administration Health Care Systems Development Saga


VA New System

Editors’ Note:  The story herein on “FEDSCOOP” announces the latest trip on a decades- long road of efforts by the Veteran’s Administration to connect the  health care systems of the military with those of the VA and establish state of the art records keeping for veterans.  

This sole source, non-competitive, contract award to CERNER,  a commercial firm in lieu of in-house systems development  is a major change in approach from past efforts that have cost billions and led to shut downs and start overs. 

Having seen these types of government systems management challenges from the inside for over 4 decades I find myself sincerely doubting that both the scope and the price tag are final.   For historical perspective, please see: 


Ken Larson



“The Department of Veterans Affairs announced Thursday that it has officially signed a contract with Cerner for a new electronic health record (EHR) system.

The inked contract is worth up to $10 billion over 10 years.

“With a contract of that size, you can understand why former Secretary [David] Shulkin and I took some extra time to do our due diligence and make sure the contract does what the President wanted,” acting Secretary Robert Wilkie said in a statement. “President Trump has made very clear to me that he wants this contract to do right by both Veterans and taxpayers, and I can say now without a doubt that it does.”

The new EHR will be “similar” to that used by the Department of Defense, which will allow patient data will be “seamlessly” shared between the two. This has been a major pain point with the Department’s current EHR, the Veterans Information Systems and Technology Architecture, or VistA.

Wilkie reiterated Shulkin’s comments, from March, that the VA will learn from some of the DOD’s challenges in deploying its new EHR, known as MHS Genesis, and will not fall prey to the same pitfalls, which have plagued early pilots of the system and led to a report calling it “neither operationally effective nor operationally suitable.”

“VA and DoD are collaborating closely to ensure lessons learned at DoD sites will be implemented in future deployments at DoD as well as VA,” Wilkie said. “We appreciate the DoD’s willingness to share its experiences implementing its electronic health record.”

“Signing this contract today is an enormous win for our nation’s Veterans,” Wilkie said. “It puts in place a modern IT system that will support the best possible health care for decades to come. That’s exactly what our nation’s heroes deserve.”

However big an announcement this may be, actual rollout of the new EHR will take time. At an event in January, former VA CIO Scott Blackburn told the crowd to expect another 10 years of VistA.”




GSA Weighing ‘Multiple Initiatives’ For Government 2019 Centers of Excellence (COE) Projects


GSA Centers of Excellence.png


“The USDA was selected to be the “lighthouse” agency for the rollout of all five CoE teams, but future projects could focus on agencies using individual teams.

Those teams are paired with contractors, as well as personnel at target agencies, to carry out IT modernization projects based on their skill sets.”


“As the General Services Administration moves forward leading the White House’s Centers of Excellence program to modernize IT operations at the Department of Agriculture, agency officials at the agency’s Technology Transformation Service are already looking toward the next round of projects.

Joanne Collins-Smee, deputy commissioner of the Federal Acquisition Service and TTS director, said Friday that the agency was already looking for what projects it could deploy the CoE teams to in fiscal 2019.

“That’s the vision, that we would have several agencies that the CoEs are in at one time,” she said at ACT-IAC’s Igniting Innovation event. “So, for the first substantiation, we all agreed it’s USDA and USDA alone. But as we look into 2019, we are looking at are there other agencies that we would bring on?”

The CoE program, announced in December, is built on five teams of IT talent specializing in cloud adoption, IT infrastructure optimization, customer experience, contact center services and service delivery analytics.

“So as we are evolving this model, the view is that it doesn’t have to be all five. We are going to be building up the teams also,” she said. “So our vision is that we are going to have similar tiger teams. Obviously, they have a very specific skill, but they would go into the next agency. So it’s not like the same team would do USDA and [another] agency.”

The ongoing USDA modernization project is currently in its assessment phase of what is projected to be a three-year overall project, with each team on a separate timeline.

USDA CIO Gary Washington said he expects the implementation phase to begin this fall after the agency assessment and game-planning by the CoE teams are complete.

“We have set ambitious, but realistic timeframes to accomplish this,” he said.

Collins-Smee added that GSA and USDA would be revealing some of that assessment information, as well as the timeline for the implementation phase, in an industry day next month.”



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


Bid Protest New Reg


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

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


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

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

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