Tag Archives: Government Contractors

Government Contractor Tax Day Tidbits – “Food for Thought”

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tax day

“THE PROJECT ON GOVERNMENT OVERSIGHT”

[On] the federal tax filing deadline, the Project On Government Oversight (POGO) offer[ed] some tax-related contractor oversight food for thought:

  • ” The Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) found that the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) awarded contracts to at least 20 companies that owed more than $5 million in delinquent federal taxes. TIGTA also found that 11 contractors owing $4.3 million in taxes were awarded more than $356 million in IRS contracts and an additional $3.7 billion in contracts from other federal agencies
  • POGO tracks tax violations in our Federal Contractor Misconduct Database, which shows that contractors have paid $3.64 billion to resolve cases with local, federal, and foreign revenue collection authorities. The bulk of this amount comes from GlaxoSmithKline’s record-breaking $3.4 billion payment in 2006 to settle IRS charges of under-reporting profits.
  • There are some noteworthy tax misconduct cases pending against the large federal contractors, including actions by New York City and State against FedEx and United Parcel Service for allegedly trafficking in contraband cigarettes, and a complaint filed with the IRS accusing ExxonMobil of violating tax laws to wage a campaign attacking climate science.
  • Earlier this month, the IRS launched a program employing private debt collection companies to recover delinquent income taxes. This is the third time since 1996 the IRS has tried to outsource tax debt collection—both previous attempts were dismal failures.
  • Congress has taken another stab at passing a law that would prevent individuals with seriously delinquent tax debts from obtaining federal employment, contracts, and grants. Similar bills introduced in 2011, 2013, and 2015 ultimately failed to advance. The Senate is also attempting to strengthen protections for those who blow the whistle on tax fraud.

So get those tax returns out the door! You can rest assured that POGO will do its best to make sure the government collects what it is owed and does not waste that money.”

http://www.pogo.org/blog/2017/04/tax-day-tidbits.html

 

 

 

Secrets That Highly Successful Government Contractors Use Everyday

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“WASHINGTON TECHNOLOGY”

“What does it take to deliver at least 20 percent revenue growth year after year?

Last month, we released a new study of high-growth firms, including 445 government contractors. We found three key findings from that study that your  business can use to improve your growth prospects.

Each of these findings can be folded into a cohesive strategy. And a characteristic of high-growth firms is that they often employ all three.

Strategy 1: High-Growth Government Contractors Specialize

Our first finding was that high-growth government contractors tend to specialize. Interestingly, so do the firms that exhibited little or no growth. The difference was what they chose to specialize in.

As you can see in Figure 1 below, high-growth firms often focus on solving a particular challenge or providing a specialized service. In fact, high-growth contractors were two-and-a-half times more likely to be highly specialized. No-growth firms that described a specialty usually specialized in an industry.

~ most valuable digital content

Why does specialization matter? In a related finding, 68 percent  of buyers cited specialized skills and expertise as their top criterion when selecting a firm. Specialization implies expertise, and buyers value that.

Takeaway: Try to define an area of focus for your firm. As you do so, consider building it around a specialized service or common client challenge.

Strategy 2: High-Growth Contractors Are Well Differentiated

According to our research, high-growth firms are three times more likely than their no-growth peers to have a strong differentiator.

Differentiation is the way in which a business separates itself from other similar firms. Usually this difference is expressed in the language a contractor uses to describe itself or its services. But there is more to a differentiator than lip service. It has to meet three criteria. A differentiator must be:

  1. True
  2. Relevant
  3. Provable

And of course, it must be different from most of your competitors. Figure 2 lists the differentiators cited most often by the high-growth firms in our study.

~ most valuable digital content

Now, this data begs the question, how can a characteristic that’s favored by over 80 percent of high-growth firms still be a differentiator?  After all, isn’t the point of a differentiator to be different?

The answer is that many of the responses in Figure 2 are aggregated and categorized. That means “The expertise of our team,” for example, represents a diverse range of answers that are more specialized than the generic category name implies. A firm that differentiates around its expertise might have deep experience in a narrow discipline, such as conducting insider threat risk assessments or designing secure but welcoming embassy facilities.

Takeaway: Figure out how you are different from your competitors and develop messaging to convey this to your audiences. Make sure your differentiators really are in fact truly different.

Strategy 3: High-Growth Firms Invest in Marketing Techniques that Build Their Visibility and Reputation

While high-growth firms grow much faster than their peers, they actually invest less time and money doing so. That means their marketing is more efficient. Figure 3 lists the 10 most favored marketing techniques of high-growth and no-growth firms.

~ most valuable digital content

One thing you will notice is that high-growth firms tend to use more marketing techniques overall than their no-growth brethren. Now let’s look at the five techniques high-growth contractors identified as having the most impact on their business.

~ most valuable digital content

All five of these share two characteristics: 1) they build the firm’s visibility, and 2) they leverage their expertise to enhance their reputation.

The top technique, partnership marketing, deserves a little explanation. Traditional partnership marketing is a strategy in which a firm seeks out other firms, associations or organizations that share one or more target audiences with the firm but don’t directly compete with them. The two parties then pool their resources and market jointly to their audience. For instance they might conduct joint webinars or promote each other’s services to their client lists.

In the case of government contractors, however, partnership marketing takes an interesting twist. Often the partnering firms are direct competitors, but because they have different characteristics, they need each other from time to time to qualify for an RFP or comply with a regulatory requirement, such as 8(a) or HUBZone certification.

Takeaway: Don’t waste your limited marketing dollars on timeworn tactics that no longer produce results. Instead, model your marketing on today’s most successful government contractors.

If you are wondering why your firm is stuck in the doldrums while others grow quickly, take heart. There are changes you can make to change your fortunes.

Reposition your firm as a specialist, clearly articulate how your firm is different, and look to the high-growth firms in your industry to uncover what marketing techniques are most effective.”

About the Author

Elizabeth Harr is a partner with Hinge Marketing and leads the firm’s technology and consulting practice. She is the co-author of two books, the Visible Expert and the Buyer’s Brain.

https://washingtontechnology.com/articles/2017/04/14/insights-harr-differentiation-and-success.aspx

 

Military Contract Manufacturing There When You Need It

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Electronic Contracting

“MILITARY AND AEROSPACE ELECTRONICS”

“The nation’s prime defense contractors often find themselves with too many orders to handle with in-house expertise.

That’s where electronics contract manufacturing comes in.

With the rapid expansion of high-tech military equipment and componentry, thousands of small specialty manufacturers have come into being, with the initial big boost during with the Space Race of the 1960s.

Throughout that period – and with even greater frequency since the turn of the century – contract manufacturing of military electronics grew into a major industry in its own right. Working primarily for systems integrators, contract manufacturers typically focus on specific areas, such as machining; mechanical and electrical assemblies; power systems; lasers; optics; sensors; robotics; vehicular controls; RF systems; satellite instrumentation; environmental stress screening; G-force testing; and electronic circuit card assembly.

“In the last 10 years, if you look at industry consolidation, that tends to support systems integration, which intuitively should mean more contract manufacturing,” says Matt Turpin, CEO of contract manufacturer Zentech Manufacturing Inc. in Windsor Mill, Md. “Given the peaks and troughs of the mil-aero business, any company that tried to stay vertically integrated would probably die. Given the rate of technology change, vertical integration would not, in general, be able to keep up.”

The role of industry consolidation

This is the primary reason that big systems integrators like Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, and L-3 rely on best-in-breed contract manufacturing,” Turpin says. “The economics don’t really support them trying to do it all in-house. If you try to bring in that capability for just your stuff, you can’t even out the troughs in mil-aero the way an independent contract manufacturer can.”

Contract manufacturing of military electronics is significantly different from the model in use in many other industries, where the contract manufacturer produces complete products under the contractor’s brand.

In the military market, the contract manufacturer may produce unique components designed by the contractor or provide its own designs, developments, prototyping and modeling, assemblies, fabrication, tooling, manufacturing, qualification testing, procurement, and logistics services to meet the contractor’s requirements.

Representative of that is Jabil Circuit Inc. in St. Petersburg, Fla. With $18 billion in annual revenues, Jabil is the third largest contract manufacturer in the world – behind Taiwan’s Hon Hai Precision Industry (Foxconn) and Singapore’s Flextronics International Ltd.

Trailing closely behind Jabil in size are U.S. contract manufacturers Sanmina Corp. in San Jose, Calif.; Benchmark Electronics Inc. in Angleton, Texas; and Plexus Corp. in Neenah, Wis.

Jabil promotes its second largest division, Defense and Aerospace, as providing a skilled workforce for aerospace and defense manufacturing, design, and supply chain management for high-mix, low- to medium-volume products and electronic and mechanical solutions to complement original equipment manufacturers’ core competencies and reduce program costs.

“Systems integrators are still doing a lot of work in-house, but are outsourcing more each year, although the increase is not that great,” says Mike Matthes, president of the Jabil Aerospace and Defense division.

Demonstrating Value

“We have to provide a value proposition to show it is more advantageous to outsource electronics manufacturing than to keep it in-house, which allows them to focus more on their strategic plans and not worry about the actual manufacturing,” Matthes says. “Jabil is moving into a new capability – aerospace machining – and entering into agreements to provide that to defense and civilian companies.” Contract manufacturers also have to grow their capabilities to retain that value, he points out.

“We do electronic manufacturing and systems integration, but not the machining portion,” Matthes continues. “At Jabil Green Point, our largest division, we do machining, mostly in China, but not for aerospace. It’s not an easy capability to master and we’re working with our customers to develop and launch that. Some of that will be based in the U.S., other parts in Asia. Military contracting would have to be done in the U.S., including a new facility. Almost everything we have at this time is commercial aerospace, but we will be working toward that.”

Jabil’s high volume of non-military contract manufacturing is fairly common among the larger contract manufacturers, much of it for overseas customers, although many of the smaller companies have focused their efforts tightly on items in demand by U.S. military contractors. While the vast majority of such contracts are with industry, some contract manufacturers do have direct contracts with the military services and the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD).

“It’s a combination,” says Zentech’s Turpin. “We have two divisions, one with a long history of direct contracts, primarily with the Navy. The other does fewer direct contacts, but in the last five years contracts with the Army at Aberdeen Proving Ground and a blanket purchase agreement with the Navy have increased. But most are with industry,” he says.

“For us, the U.S. government – and certainly DOD – are huge customers with lots of opportunity, predominantly subcontract work for primes, especially as we come out of sequestration, where defense dollars really did shrink a lot,” adds Jabil’s Matthes. “As we move forward under the new administration, there certainly are possibilities for increased defense spending.”

Prime defense contractors are reluctant to surrender their manufacturing capabilities to contract manufacturers.

“The primes have their own manufacturing and to move it out they would have to cut jobs and close factories, which is never palatable for anyone,” Matthes says. “And moving jobs and changing the labor landscape is never popular, even if the work remains in the U.S. It does become popular when the benefits outweigh concerns, so our job is to show where that value is.”

Industry diversity

U.S. military electronics contract manufacturers come in all sizes, representing the full gamut of needs from systems prime contractors and, to a lesser extent, the military services themselves. By focusing their efforts and investments in specialty technologies and workers, they can make themselves too valuable to the defense industry at large to be taken in-house by individual companies.

Representatives of that diversity include: NEO Tech in Chatsworth, Calif., with a focus on advanced IP protections systems, anti-counterfeit protection, and upgrading or replacing out-of-date legacy systems for its aerospace and defense customers.

“The obsolescence of electronic components is a serious challenge in the aerospace and defense markets. Many of the ICs designed into systems have shorter life cycles than the end products in these markets,” according to a company document. “NEO Tech has implemented a supply- chain design for the industry that can support long product life cycles. NEO Tech Obsolescence Mitigation helps customers through the obsolescence process so disruption to ongoing programs is mitigated.”

Many contract manufacturers also are prime contractors themselves, typically on smaller systems for the military services.

One such is Sparton Corp. in De Leon Springs, Fla., which focuses on specialized technologies like embedded systems, RF, lasers, optics, sensors, and robotics for uses as varied as undersea warfare to cockpit controls to satellite communications, as well as aerospace and military printed circuit board assemblies.

Sypris Electronics in Tampa, Fla., a division of Sypris Solutions in Louisville, Ky., offers complete electronic manufacturing services (EMS) from circuit card assemblies to complex box builds and systems integration. Their approach is based on a Lean/Six Sigma, continuous improvement culture cultivated through internal investments.

TeligentEMS LLC in Havana, Fla., another ITAR and ISO 9001 registered contract manufacturer, offers product manufacturing services in a wide range of technologies, including unattended ground sensors, GPS tracking devices, spread spectrum transceivers, and handheld communication devices. The company promotes its capabilities in “technically complex defense projects, combined with strong configuration management capabilities and organizational flexibility.”

Specializing in electronic, electro-mechanical, and electro-optical equipment, the engineering group at TRICOR Systems Inc. in Elgin, Ill., develops complete packages for their customers, from concept to operating manuals. That has included a broad array of products, under contract and for sale directly by TRICOR, from extremely complex to simple test equipment, hardware and software simulators, illuminator systems, and airborne black boxes.

Steady work flow

Commercial and non-military government contracts provide the ability to “even-out the troughs” as defense spending changes from year to year and administration to administration. Homeland security, for example, has grown significantly as a market in which contract manufacturers can find customers and is expected to continue to grow for the foreseeable future. That also applies – primarily in the U.S. – to investments in cyber-related hardware and chem/bio-detection equipment. Globally, industry experts say there has been a stated focus on improving commercial air fleets.

The resulting increased demand for contract manufacturers has led not only to growing competition but also to closer industry oversight.

“For existing EMS companies, if there is more demand for military equipment, most U.S.-built, there will be an uptick of military assembly work in the U.S., but it also is likely to incentivize people to get into the market, either through acquisitions or expansion,” says Zentech’s Turpin. “To an outsider looking in, military electronics may seem pretty simple, but hiring and maintaining a skilled workforce, and maintaining a balance through the peaks and troughs is a different story.”

About three years ago, industry standards group IPC – Association Connecting Electronics Industries in Bannockburn, Ill., came up with a list of trusted sources. “Competition to receive that is brutal,” Turpin says.

IPC describes its origin and purpose on its website: “IPC Validation Services was created to answer a recognized need identified in an industry survey – 75 percent of responding engineers and executive management from OEMs, EMS providers, and industry suppliers viewed a supplier qualification program as vital to their business. For EMS providers and industry suppliers, IPC Validation Services provides the opportunity to become part of a network of trusted sources that industry will look to first and foremost when evaluating existing and potential business partners.

“Participating EMS providers and supplier companies will be audited by IPC Validation Services – the authoritative, objective source for quality conformance and data reporting – to earn certification through the Qualified Products List (QPL) and Qualified Manufacturers List (QML) programs. Once certification is achieved, EMS companies and industry suppliers earn the right to a high level of visibility throughout the industry,” the IPC description reads.

Disruptive technologies

Industry leaders largely agree that coming disruptive technologies, including further advances in miniaturization and evolution of the Internet of Things, also will change the world of electronics contract manufacturing.

“There are many disruptive technologies being developed right now, but nobody knows which ones will actually displace an existing technology in a way that is efficient and effective in meeting military SWaP [size, weight and power] requirements or commercial requirements for quality. Everything active will be disrupted by such things as nanotech, nanostructures, new fabrication techniques other than 3D printing – which itself is changing so fast, making prototyping faster and less expensive, for example,” Zentech’s Turpin says.

“Quantum computing is another that will change everything in the future, if and when they get it nailed down – how manufacturing and product development are done,” Turpin continues. “As relates to EMS companies, all that further underscores and exacerbates the issues surrounding capital investment. These technologies are not cheap and it doesn’t make sense for a prime to invest in such technologies with only relatively small production requirements.”

As more new and disruptive technologies come out, it will be incumbent on the primes to determine which EMS companies have the right people and equipment to build their products and properly use those technologies. Those in charge of contracting complex, high-reliability, military and aerospace assemblies will have to place even more emphasis on who is building those components by fully understanding the problems, challenges, and risks involved.

“If you use the wrong electronics contract manufacturer, no matter how good they may be, if they don’t have the right people or equipment, you could end up killing your own business,” Turpin warns.

Jabil’s Matthes agrees, but does not believe such new developments constitute an immediate concern for military electronics contract manufacturing.

“I see disruptive technologies that will take hold, but not in the short term,” Turpin says. “When you have a force out there fighting, if you are going to change the equipment they are using, you will have to do a lot of testing before making that move, which could take years. It could be a long time before it finds its way into the field to any large extent,” he predicts.

“So in the next few years, I don’t think disruptive tech will be a big changer; it will be more policy, funding, and outsourcing strategies from the primes,” Turpin says. “The big technology trends are going to make their way in, but will require a lot of time to mature and meet pretty stringent reliability and operating requirements. So while those will slowly become part of it, they will be slower to adoption than on the commercial side.”

Government and industry policies

For the military, then, technology changes will not be as important to contract manufacturing as new government policies, especially given the anticipated changes of the new Trump Administration. That also applies to changes in how the military does business, moving more toward autonomous systems, major improvements in battery technology, and overall energy requirements and technologies, with the commercial sector leading the way. Continuing advances in materials science also will shape that future.

Regardless of how quickly new technologies and new demands on contract manufacturing develop, they are on the horizon and primes and contract manufacturers will have to prepare themselves for them.

“Wherever there is change, there is opportunity; it just depends on how well you are positioned to take advantage of it, especially in areas in which you are investing,” says Jabil’s Matthes. “The trick is to invest in the right technologies at the right time.” Jabil’s size will be an advantage that will enable company executives to make strategic decisions rather than betting the company. “The more resources you have, the easier it is to fund that type of research and development.

“We are a Fortune 150 company, about $18 billion in annual revenue and 180,000 employees worldwide,” Matthes says. “That can be an advantage in having a breadth of resources and capabilities, but it can be a disadvantage if a customer fears we’re so large, their work might get lost. But divisionalizing our business units and keeping each customer with its own business unit manager makes the connection much more intimate and gives the feel of a smaller, more nimble company.”

For the next decade, Zentech’s Turpin sees a future depending on increased investment in manufacturing technologies for the military electronics market, in the U.S. and abroad.

“I would love to say increased profitability will mark the decade, but I say that tongue-in-cheek due to the continuing peaks and troughs in mil-aero. Nevertheless, the promise of increased military spending should be good for business,” Turpin says. “Other changes for contract manufacturing to stay in business, especially on the mil-aero side, will mean more new investments in capital equipment. When new technology comes out, you need equipment to work it and inspect it in order to compete.”

While all military electronics contract manufacturing must be done by U.S. companies at plants in the United States, successful competition for customers – primarily commercial – around the world is important to the ability of contract manufacturers to maintain a steady level of business and invest in the appropriate technologies and expertise.

Domestic manufacturing

In one of the first efforts to support advanced domestic manufacturing technologies, the U.S. Congress approved the Revitalize American Manufacturing and Innovation (RAMI) Act in 2014. It was designed to use federal and private matching funds to create an initial network of as many as 15 institutes around the country, pursuing areas of greatest interest to industry.

The resulting National Network for Manufacturing Innovation, renamed Manufacturing USA in 2016, established nine institutes in its first years of operation, with another six planned for 2017. The long-term goal is for as many as 45 public-private partnerships, each with its own technology focus area, but working toward a common goal, to secure America’s technological future through manufacturing innovation, education, and collaboration.

Seen as a major boost for prime and contract manufacturers, the Manufacturing USA network is operated by the inter-agency Advanced Manufacturing National Program Office (AMNPO), headquartered in the National Institute of Standards and Technology at the Department of Commerce. The office is staffed by representatives from federal agencies with manufacturing-related missions, as well as fellows from manufacturing companies and universities, all working with DOD, NASA, the National Science Foundation, and the departments of Energy, Education, and Agriculture.

As it has grown and adjusted to continuing rapid changes in technologies, manufacturing processes, and market demand, but the organization says it has not changed its overarching mission:

  • “to convene and enable industry-led, private-public partnerships focused on manufacturing innovation and engaging U.S. universities; and
  • “to design and implement an integrated whole-of-government advanced manufacturing initiative to facilitate collaboration and information sharing across federal agencies.

“By coordinating federal resources and programs, the AMNPO enhances technology transfer in U.S. manufacturing industries and helps companies overcome technical obstacles to scale up new technologies and products.”

Turpin describes it as the best effort to date to help contract manufacturers, primes, and the military maintain the nation’s technological lead.

Manufacturing goals

“At a macro level, the U.S. does a lot of things extremely well, but one thing it has not done well is have a national manufacturing strategy. Other countries have a very defined national strategy to embrace, enhance, and grow advanced manufacturing in their nations,” Turpin explains.

“The IPC was very active in lobbying Congress to set up the RAMI Act. The advanced manufacturing centers being created throughout the country to focus on building up the next generation of manufacturing in the U.S. should help the military and commercial worlds.”

In a strategic plan for Manufac-turing USA issued in February 2016, Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker noted that manufacturing “innovation is the lifeblood of our economy, supporting one-third of our economic growth,” from the largest defense and commercial companies to the smallest contract manufacturers and suppliers. “Having a cutting-edge manufacturing sector that remains a step ahead of the global competition is not simply nice to have, it is a ‘must have’ for our country to thrive, now and in the future,” she wrote. “In today’s advanced manufacturing industries – those that make the highest-value goods, pay the highest wages, and export all over the world – product and process innovation are two sides of the same coin. Inventing, designing, making, and improving happen in concert, which requires a collaborative environment that brings together researchers and companies throughout the supply chain.

“America has all the essential ingredients to form innovation ecosystems, including universities and government labs that excel at basic science and technology research, top-flight original equipment manufacturers, capable suppliers, enterprising start-ups, and a new generation of workers,” Pritzker wrote. “The NNMI Program assembles our diverse competitive assets – the people, organizations, and resources – necessary for the United States to stay at the head of the pack in the global race to out-innovate – and out-produce – the competition… [laying] the foundation for American manufacturing competitiveness for generations to come.”

http://www.militaryaerospace.com/search.html?q=Contract+manufacturing%253A+there+when+you+need+it&x=13&y=1

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Federal Government Contracts Need to Be Posted Online

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Open Contracting

“THE PROJECT ON GOVERNMENT OVERSIGHT’

“Last Week Senator Claire McCaskill (D-MO) introduced the “Contractor Accountability and Transparency Act of 2017” (S. 651), which POGO and eight other bipartisan groups supported.

The bill will expand the contracting information available on USASpending.gov (which now only offers summaries of contracts), make the contract information more accessible and readable, and help reduce Freedom of Information Act backlogs.

In fiscal year 2016, the federal government spent $472 billion for the acquisition of goods and services. In order to rein in spending and regain public faith in the contracting system, the government must provide public access to information on the contracting process. Posting copies of contracts—rather than summary data that offers little, if any, insights into the goods and services being purchased—is essential to learning about government activities and eliminating waste, fraud, abuse, and substandard performance.

When contract information is publicly accessible, genuine competition will increase, and the government will be better situated to get better deals, especially as budget constraints take hold. Simply stated, the government will be in a much improved position to leverage its robust buying power.

Despite concerns some have voiced about posting contracts, it can be accomplished without compromising national security information or contractors’ proprietary commercial or financial information.

In fact, many states have already adopted a more transparent contracting system without negatively impacting their ability to do business with contractors. According to a recent Project On Government Oversight report, at least 33 states proactively post some contracts online. That means two-thirds of the states are ahead of the federal government when it comes to contract transparency.

For many years, groups and Members of Congress have worked in a bipartisan manner to enhance transparency in the area of federal contract spending. In 2006, Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK), with the support of Senators John McCain (R-AZ), Tom Carper (D-DE), and Barack Obama (D-IL), introduced a bill that brought federal spending out of the Dark Ages—the Federal Funding Accountability and Transparency Act of 2006 (FFATA). That bill was signed into law (see the Notes section) by President George W. Bush, and it provided the foundation for USASpending.org and learning more about federal spending.

In 2008, all four Senators teamed up again to introduce the Strengthening Transparency and Accountability in Federal Spending Act of 2008, which proposed to enhance federal spending transparency. The new bill was intended to expand the scope of information that would become publicly available, including details about the contract bids and the award’s financial terms. Additionally, the bill would have posted searchable copies of “all contracts, subcontracts, purchase orders, task orders, lease agreements and assignments, and delivery orders.”

The 2008 election, pitting Senator Obama against Senator McCain, essentially caused the bill to die in the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs. But that wasn’t the last we heard about posting contracts online.

In addition to Senator McCaskill, Senator Jon Tester (D-MT) has also been working on the issue.  He not only cosponsored the McCaskill bill, but since 2010 and most recently on March 14, 2017, has also introduced the Public Online Information Act, which will make information from all three branches of government available on the internet, including contracts.

With annual contract spending bouncing back up to nearly $500 billion, oversight of that spending is crucial. Groups from across the political spectrum support efforts to increase disclosure of federal contracts to improve transparency and accountability in federal spending. Posting contracts online should have happened years ago. We will see if the 115th Congress is serious about transparency and accountability in federal spending. If it is, passing Senator McCaskill’s and Senator Tester’s bills will be a good start.”

http://www.pogo.org/blog/2017/03/contracts-need-to-be-posted-online-mccaskill-sunshine-transparency.html

 

 

Federal Contractors Seek Edge in Specialized Services

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Competive Edge Virtual Elves dot com

Image: “Virtualelves.com”

“NATIONAL DEFENSE MAGAZINE”
“In the cutthroat world of government services contracting, the lowest bid generally wins the project.
That trend has driven a cadre of technically specialized firms to reposition themselves in the market so they can compete less on price and more on the value of particular skills and knowledge. 
 
This shift is especially apparent in sectors like defense, space and intelligence that depend on contractors for highly complex missions. Companies that have the technical expertise are carving out niches where they can dominate and be less vulnerable to price wars. 
 
Lynn Dugle, CEO of government services contractor Engility Inc., said the company has been moving in that direction for the past couple of years, and the plan going forward is to focus more acutely on projects that are awarded based on “best value.”
 
“We are positioning our defense business to be more like our space and intelligence businesses, where we can differentiate the work we do in higher end services and engineering,” Dugle told National Defense. 
 
Dugle is finishing up her first year as CEO of $2.1 billion Engility. The company was spun off nearly five years ago from top defense contractor L-3. In 2015 it acquired the services contractor TASC and doubled its size.
 
Engility initially sought to compete in broader categories of federal support services that are awarded to the lowest bidder in so called “lowest price technically acceptable” contracting. Over the past eight months, only 5 percent of Engility’s bids have been for LPTA contracts, Dugle said. Now almost all the company’s proposals are “best value.”
 
LPTA is widely despised by companies in the defense industry and viewed as a race to the bottom. There is now a growing consensus that LPTA contracting works for nontechnical services like maintaining government facilities or staffing mess halls. Dugle has seen the Defense Department walk back from LPTA for engineering support and other “mission support.” Defense agencies frequently found that companies selected based on LPTA were technically unqualified.
 
“The market has shifted,” Dugle said. “Customers got burned on those higher end contracts with LPTA. Competitors bid really low and then they couldn’t staff the jobs.”
 
Engility is moving to hire specialized talent to shore up its defense expertise. “We are close to naming a senior VP for defense,” she said. “We need a certain percentage of our leadership to have operated and been successful at pursuing big programs, and at best value proposal writing. That’s a different skill than competing on price for smaller projects.”
 
The shift to higher end services appears to paying off. Engility reported an $11 million loss in 2016, but that was an improvement over $235 million of red ink in 2015. The numbers are “encouraging,” said Dugle. “Four contracts we won were over $200 million. That requires getting the right people with the right experience.” Engility has submitted at least 10 bids worth over $100 million that are still in source selection.
 
“We want to be primes in large jobs,” said Dugle. The company’s government work today is 40 percent defense. Dugle predicts that share will increase. “The market itself in DoD continues to get more attractive,” she said. 
 
Like other industry executives, Dugle is bullish but cautious about the anticipated spending boost to defense and veterans programs projected by the Trump administration. Even if the increase materializes, every agency in the federal government including the Defense Department will be squeezed. A new Trump executive order requires agencies to conduct a “thorough examination” of its operations and to recommend “where money can be saved and services improved,” White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer told reporters. That could result in layoffs of government workers but also in cutbacks in the use of contractors.
 
The message for contractors is that “we have to be prepared to respond,” said Dugle. “We do a lot of thinking about scenarios and how we can be prepared. Services is always a challenging business. It’s not a technology play, it’s a people business.”
 
Dugle is especially optimistic about the possible privatization of parts of the Federal Aviation Administration. “We just won the largest contract with the FAA, the largest we’ve ever won, to help them modernize their systems.”
 
Trump’s budget has been widely rejected on Capitol Hill and many specifics remain unknown so Engility, like other defense firms, has been conservative in its future earnings and sales guidance to Wall Street. “It’s premature until we know the program details of the FY18 budget,” she said. “We believe we are more advantaged than disadvantaged in a Trump administration but we did not want to put that in a plan.”
 
The industry also will be watching congressional action led by House Armed Services Committee Chairman Rep. Mac Thornberry, R-Texas. The committee is drafting a procurement reform bill to accompany the 2018 national defense authorization act. On the list of Thornberry’s targets are services contracts. 
 
The 2017 NDAA sets limits to the use of LPTA in defense procurements. Thornberry has pushed Pentagon officials over the years to more precisely articulate the military’s needs for contracted services and how services vendors are selected.
“One of the big challenges is the definition of requirements,” Dugle said. That is partly the reason DoD has had to re-evaluate its use of LPTA contracts, she noted. “If you just write a requirement that you need five people with 10 years of experience with a particular degree, that is when people default to price.” Conversely, the government could make the requirement to accomplish a desired mission, and leave it up to the bidders to decide how to staff the job. “If you are relying on systems engineering, you have to write good requirements.” 

Make GWACS and IDIQ Contracts Part of Your Government Contracting Strategy

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“WASHINGTON TECHNOLOGY”  By Mark Amtower

“Government Wide Acquisition and Indefinite Delivery, Indefinite Quantity Contracts (GWACs and IDIQs)  will continue to grow, with or without you.

If you don’t have a prime spot, look for a partner company that does.

As new programs and projects will be on hold for the foreseeable future, agencies will be turning to contracts that are in place. As has been noted by Bloomberg Government and my research, GWACs and other IDIQs like OASIS have experienced significant growth over the past few years.

SEWP, the NITAAC contracts (CIO-SP3, CIO-SP3 SB, CIO-CS) and Alliant and Alliant SB each had banner years in in fisal 2016, and reports from each contract shop indicate that thus far this year there is continued growth for each vehicle. OASIS is experiencing similar growth.

The apparent downside to this is if you don’t own a prime spot on one of these contracts, you may be out of luck. While those with prime positions certainly have the edge, any company offering products or services that fall within the scope of these contracts has the opportunity to partner with a prime to gain access to these contracts.

The program managers for Alliant, SEWP and NITAAC have all stated publicly that this is a viable option, indeed, an encouraged option, for those not on one of the GWACs or other IDIQs.

There is a big upside for the small contractors already on these contracts. Partnering with other companies allows them to bid on more RFQs that come though the GWAC, thereby reaching a broader audience.

We know that the large contractors have gone after smaller contracts and task orders in recent years and this trend will continue.

To counteract this, small contractors, especially those with prime spots on the GWACs, need to aggressively seek partner companies to go after more of the task orders coming through the GWACs. When smaller contractors are successful in responding to RFQs that go through the small business side of these contracts, the more likely it is that more RFQs will follow. When fewer responses occur, the small business task order pipeline dries up.

To fully leverage GWACs and other easy-to-access (from the government buyer point of view) contracts, you need to create your own advantage, not wait for someone to level the playing field.

We know the proactive outreach on the part of the contract program managers helps grow these contracts. Joanne Woytek of SEWP makes a habit of meeting with all of her contractors. I know Bridget Gauer and her staff at NITAAC and Casey Kelley of the Alliant contract pursue a similar approach.

There are also several things contractors should be doing, including:

  • Proactive contractors on each contract have learned how to leverage these contracts. This includes knowing which agencies prefer which contracts and focusing efforts on growing that business.
  • Contractors that do their homework and develop a deeper understanding of and relationships with targeted agencies win more business from those agencies.
  • Contractors that know when to bring senior executives and other experts to certain meetings will win more business.
  • Contractors that communicate with and leverage the relationship with the GWAC/IDIQ program office always do better than those that don’t develop that relationship.
  • Contractors that develop deeper relationships with OEMs and focus on particular technologies tend to do much better than those who will sell anything to anyone.
  • Contractors partnering with carefully selected companies to respond to RFQs will likely have a higher win rate.”

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Outgoing Weapons Chief : “Acquisition Improvement Must Come From Within”

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Frank Kendall, Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics

“DEFENSE NEWS”

“The Pentagon’s outgoing acquisition chief slammed Congress for recent efforts to improve the weapons buying process.

“What it does do, almost inevitably is create more bureaucracy. Because everything it gets put in statute, we have to implement to demonstrate compliance, and that adds and adds and adds to the body of regulation that is a burden to our acquisition system.”

Lawmakers on Capitol Hill have only “imperfect tools” to improve defense acquisition, said Frank Kendall, under secretary of defense for acquisition, technology and logistics, during a Tuesday speech at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. Congress can overhaul organizational structures and set very firm regulations on how the Defense Department operates, but ultimately those actions can be counterproductive.

In a wide ranging speech that drew from his new 228-page book, “ Getting Defense Acquisition Right,” Kendall shared anecdotes about his career in the Pentagon and made the case that incremental changes would serve the procurement process better than sweeping change.

“Acquisition improvement is going to have to come from within. It is not going to be engineered by Hill staffers writing laws for us. It’s going to be done by people in the trenches, everyday, dealing with industry, trying to get the incentives right, trying to get the performance right, trying to set up business deals and enforce them, set reasonable requirements in our contracts [and] do all the hundreds of things that are necessary to get good results,” he said.

The department’s procurement wing is on the right track, and “we should be reinforcing” good practices, he said. For instance, data shows that cost overruns have been coming down “significantly” over the last couple of years, in part because program managers feel empowered to do the “right thing” for the program instead of simply adhering to regulations.

That flexibility is important in many areas of contracting, Kendall said, pointing to his fight with Congress over fixed price contracts. Although many lawmakers favor fixed-price contracts that shift risk to industry, data gathered over the past few years shows that fixed-price and cost-plus contracts seem to generate the same amount of cost growth.

“The idea that fixed price is the solution to our problems. It was tried. It was tried and it failed. One of my frustrations having been in this business for so long is that we don’t seem to learn from the past,” he said. “I spent a few years in the Pentagon in the late ’80s, early ’90s cleaning up the messes that fixed price development caused across the department.”

Kendall offered a couple suggestions on how Congress could help the acquisition process. For one, it could make it easier for the department to recruit and retain skilled personnel and compensate them fairly.

The Pentagon also needs more money for research and development. Over the past few budgets, the department has invested in a number of demonstration programs that prove out innovative and cutting edge technologies, but it doesn’t have the budget to turn them into procurement programs.

“We have, I’m afraid, conveyed the impression, unintentionally, that lack of innovation is our problem, and that more innovation is the solution to our problems. I don’t believe that. We actually have quite a bit of innovation. What we haven’t had is the money to take that innovation and translate it into products,” he said.

There are signals that the Trump administration could funnel more money into the Defense Department, something that Kendall said “wouldn’t be a bad thing.” However, some of that money needs to flow into modernization programs.

Although much of Kendall’s comments focused on how congressional meddling negatively impacts defense acquisition, he offered some sharp criticisms of Pentagon policy as well.

So far, the department’s Third Offset effort has funded a series of demonstrations, with artificial intelligence and autonomy being seen as two of the key enabling technologies. However, officials do not have a clear vision of the capabilities needed or how they can be used to revolutionize warfare.

“We’re doing a lot of experimentation,” Kendall said. “But we do not yet have the clear design concept … for a new suite of capabilities that will be dramatically better on the battlefield.”

Requirements development could also be improved by doing more analysis to ensure that what is being asked for will actually make a difference to the warfighter, he said.”

http://www.defensenews.com/articles/outgoing-weapons-chief-pleads-his-case-for-incremental-change-to-acquisition-process

Organizational Conflicts of Interest In Federal Government Contracting

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INTRODUCTION

While planning, marketing, teaming, proposing or performing under federal government programs (particularly service contracts) the business will encounter the term, “Organizational Conflicts of Interest” or “OCI”. The term has been established by the government as part of the process to control procurement integrity.

OCI clauses in solicitations and contracts require that companies certify their organizations and personnel as not having a procurement integrity issue with regard to a pending contract award or disclose what may be deemed an issue and provide mitigating factors to still be considered.

We have discussed procurement integrity and the law at the following article:

http://www.smalltofeds.com/2007/08/procurement-integrity-and-law.html

Meeting OCI requirements involves strategic planning to avoid situations where your company, your management and/or your personnel are placed in potentially compromising positions while government contracting in your industry.

An apparent win can be delayed indefinitely by a competitor protest claiming OCI. Government actions after the fact if an OCI violation is uncovered will be annotated to a contractor’s past performance history and in severe cases result in disbarment from government contracting.

This article will define Organizational Conflict of Interest (OCI), discuss situations under which OCI issue are likely to occur and recommend strategic planning and processes to manage the requirement.

DEFINITION

The term “organizational conflicts of interest” means that a relationship or situation exists whereby an offer or a contractor has past, present, or currently planned interests that either directly or indirectly (through a client, contractual, financial, organizational or other relationship) may relate to the work to be performed under the forthcoming contract and:

(a) may diminish its capacity to give impartial, technically sound, objective performance

(b) may result in it having an unfair competitive advantage.

It includes chief executives and directors, to the extent that they will or do become involved in the performance of the contract, and proposed consultants or subcontractors where they may be performing services similar to the services provided by the prime contractor.

It does not include the normal flow of benefits from the performance of the contract.

EXAMPLES

1. Competing for a management/services contract that might require the contracting company to evaluate its own or its competitors’ products for use by the government

2. Competing to supply products/services for which you have designed the specifications

3. Access to other companies’ proprietary information that has not been authorized for use in landing/performing the contract

4. Access to other companies’ proprietary information obtained by leveraging the contract in question, which might provide an unfair competitive advantage.

The below article in the Washington Post addresses an apparent blatant example of OCI:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/07/09/AR2009070902927.html

TYPICAL OCI REPRESENTATION AND DISCLOSURE

Below are exampes of typical representation certifications and disclosure statements required by OCI regulations. For a given procurement either the Representation or the Disclosure is submitted – not both:

OCI REPRESENTATION STATEMENT

I hereby certify (or as a representative of my organization, I hereby certify) that, to the best of my knowledge and belief, no facts exist relevant to any past, present or currently planned interest or activity (financial, contractual, personal, organizational or otherwise) which relate to the proposed work; and bear on whether I have (or the organization has) a possible conflict of interest with respect to (1) being able to render impartial, technically sound, and objective assistance or advice; or (2) being given an unfair**competitive advantage.

Signature: Date:

Name : Organization:

Title :

OCI DISCLOSURE STATEMENT

I hereby certify (or as a representative of my organization, I hereby certify) that, to the best of my knowledge and belief, all relevant facts–concerning past, present or currently planned interests or activities (financial, contractual, organizational or otherwise) which relate to the proposed work and bear on whether I have (or the organization has) a possible conflict of interest with respect to (1) being able to render impartial, technically sound, and objective assistance or advice, or (2) being given and unfair**competitive advantage–are fully disclosed on the attached page(s) and formatted to show:

o For ease of presentation, divide following data into four parts: Organizational,

contractual, financial, other;

o The company, agency, organization in which you have a past, present, or currently planned interest or activity (financial, contractual, organizational, or otherwise);

o A brief description of relationship;

o A period of relationship;

o The extent of relationship (e.g., value of financial interest of work; percent of total holdings, total work, etc.).

Signature:

 Date:

** An unfair competitive advantage does not include the normal flow of benefits from the performance of the contract. 

STRATEGIC MANAGEMENT FACTORS

When considering the implications of OCI, examine your strategic plan for the following factors:

1.  Examine your market niche and what aspects of it would be subject to OCI as a function of your company role in it or the roles of past and future personnel and suppliers or prime contractors.

2.  If you are considering becoming a SETA contractor determine what portion of the market in your industry will be unavailable to you in that role. Systems Engineering and Technical Assistance (SETA) contractors are civilian employees or government contractors who are contracted to assist the government (In some areas of DOD, the acronym SETA refers to “Systems Engineering and Technical Assessment” contractors; also refers to “Systems Engineering and Technical Analysis.”) SETA contractors provide analysis and engineering services in a consulting capacity, working closely with the government’s own staff members. SETA contractors provide the flexibility and quick availability of expertise without the expense and commitment of sustaining a government staff long-term.

3. Bear in mind that non-disclosure agreements and OCI requirements for major programs have long term implications and expiration dates.

4. Keep in mind that subcontractor and prime contractor relationships also bear on OCI. Vet your prospective teaming companies and suppliers carefully with regard to the OCI impact they may have on ventures you undertake and flow the requirement down to them in the early stages of any teaming agreement with them.

5. Carefully consider the following guidance from FAR Part 9.505:

“Each individual contracting situation should be examined on the basis of its particular facts and the nature of the proposed contract. The exercise of common sense, good judgment, and sound discretion is required in both the decision on whether a significant potential conflict exists and, if it does, the development of an appropriate means for resolving it. The two underlying principles are—

(a) Preventing the existence of conflicting roles that might bias a contractor’s judgment; and

(b) Preventing unfair competitive advantage. In addition to the other situations described in this sub-part, an unfair competitive advantage exists where a contractor competing for award of any Federal contract possesses — Proprietary information that was obtained from a Government official without proper authorization; or Source selection information (as defined in 2.101) that is relevant to the contract but is not available to all competitors, and such information as would assist that contractor in obtaining the contract.”

CONCLUSION AND RECOMMENDATIONS

If a potential for a conflict of interest is real, it is best to make that fact a principal factor in your bid/no bid decision.

If you feel the risk could be mitigated and an effective OCI management plan could be submitted as part of your proposal to the government then carefully establish how such practical matters as firewalls, OCI certifications and clearances at the individual worker level will be handled.

Keep careful records of all written certifications and commitments in the form of NDA’s, Teaming Agreements and OCI Certifications and Disclosures. Review them on a regular basis for renewal, expiration and in connection with bid/no bid decisions.

Be open and honest in your presentation of the facts to the government. Your past performance rating will take a major hit if OCI is uncovered after award and you have not made full and open disclosure previously.

Defense Innovation Unit Fast Tracks Contracts to Commercial Firms

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“NATIONAL DEFENSE MAGAZINE”

“$36.3 million in contracts in the last quarter of fiscal year 2016

The initiative, created last year, is intended to cut through bureaucratic red tape that often plagues the Pentagon’s procurement system, and fast-track contracts with high-tech commercial firms.

The Defense Innovation Unit-Experimental, known as DIUx, is headquartered in Silicon Valley, with additional outposts located in Boston and Austin. The initiative, created last year, is intended to cut through bureaucratic red tape that often plagues the Pentagon’s procurement system, and fast-track contracts with high-tech commercial firms.

“Core to our value and our approach here … is to help non-traditional vendors work with the department so we get access to their technology earlier and more directly than we normally would,” DIUx managing director Raj Shah told reporters during a conference call where he provided the first quarterly update on the initiative since the new leadership team took over.

In the fourth quarter of fiscal year 2016, which ended Sept. 30, DIUx awarded 12 contracts. The average time between solicitation response to contract award was less than 60 days, Shah noted. The $8.3 million initial spend by DIUx was augmented by $28 million that the services and other Defense Department agencies kicked in to support the initiative.

Following a leadership shakeup in May, DIUx launched the “commercial solutions opening” contracting mechanism to provide a shot in the arm to the initiative, which in its early days was criticized for being ineffective.

The mechanism “facilitates fast, flexible and collaborative work between DoD and technology companies that traditionally have not done business with the department. This enables us …  to work at the speed of business,” Shah said.

Projects funded to date include prototyping efforts in areas such as high-speed drones, autonomy, cybersecurity and wireless technologies.

An additional 13 projects are moving through the pipeline, according to a DIUx fact sheet. They include multifactor authentication for data access, cyber protection toolkits, micro-satellites and advanced analytics.

“These are things that the private sector is investing hundreds of millions, if not billions of dollars towards, and for us to leverage and harness that investment will be critical to our national defense,” Shah said.

The Pentagon requested $30 million for research, development, test and evaluation for DIUx in fiscal year 2017. If Congress approves that level of spending, the office expects to combine it with funds contributed by other Defense Department organizations, he said.

For many small commercial companies, there are several impediments involved in the traditional contracting process that dissuade them from doing business with the Pentagon, he noted.

DIUx has used new authorities granted by Congress in the 2016 National Defense Authorization Act to break down some of those barriers.

“It’s not really exclusive to us but we have leveraged it to great use,” Shah said.

The commercial solutions opening mechanism has increased speed and transparency in the contracting process. Upon the success of a prototype, the process enables a “quick translation or transition” into procurement contracts that enable the services or other Defense Department organizations to scale the prototype if it meets their needs, he said.

DIUx also requires less cumbersome accounting standards, and intellectual property and data rights are negotiable on project-by-project basis, Shah noted.

He hopes that other Defense Department organizations will follow his office’s lead when it comes to using new contracting authorities.

“Whenever you try something new there has got to be someone that’s first that goes through the motions and irons out the wrinkles and makes it into a reputable process, so we’re happy to have played that role,” Shah said.

“We’re in fact spending time educating others in the department of how they might use this capability and authority, and I’m very optimistic that others in the department will follow suit,” he added.

The DIUx initiative has been Carter’s pet project. Shah said he’s confident that it will survive well past the Pentagon chief’s tenure, which is expected to end when a new administration takes office next year.

“I’m quite optimistic that … the subsequent secretary and the subsequent secretary after that will see the value of this engagement and will be pleased to have DIUx in his or her quiver of tools to achieve their mission and goals,” he said.”

http://www.nationaldefensemagazine.org/blog/Lists/Posts/Post.aspx?ID=2332

 

 

Intelligence Watchdog Finds Contractor Abuses

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“POGO”

“Dozens of instances when contractor employees fudged their timesheets, billing the government for time they were not at work or when they engaged in activities either personal in nature or outside the scope of the contract.

38 substantiated cases  – loss to the government of more than $2.5 million.

Last week brought news that another Booz Allen Hamilton employee was accused of improperly removing sensitive material from the National Security Agency (NSA). Harold Thomas Martin III was charged with theft of government property and unauthorized removal and retention of classified materials. The government alleges Martin took documents and digital files containing information that, if disclosed, “reasonably could be expected to cause exceptionally grave damage to the national security of the United States.”

It was another black eye for Booz Allen, which was NSA surveillance program whistleblower Edward Snowden’s employer. It was equally embarrassing for the U.S. intelligence community, which pays contractors like Booz Allen billions of dollars each year to help run its global operations and keep a tight lid on our country’s more sensitive secrets.

Just days after the Harold Martin story broke, U.S. intelligence contractors were again in the spotlight. On Sunday, VICE News reporter Jason Leopold posted hundreds of pages of Intelligence Community Inspector General (ICIG) investigative reports. The documents contain the juicy—and occasionally disturbing—details of misconduct investigations conducted by the ICIG, the watchdog office that oversees the federal intelligence agencies. Most of the cases involved employees of Booz Allen and other prominent contractors.

Specifically, the documents contain dozens of instances when contractor employees fudged their timesheets, billing the government for time they were not at work or when they engaged in activities either personal in nature or outside the scope of the contract.

The ICIG also found that some contractor employees, while working on extremely sensitive intelligence programs and operations, risked exposing classified information by using non-secure networks and computers. They did so while working for some of the government’s most trusted private sector partners: Booz Allen and SAIC are among only a handful of private firms that collectively employ nearly all of the intelligence community’s contractor workforce.

The implications of the VICE News revelations are enormous. Not only did the contractor employees rip off taxpayers, they also compromised national security. The ICIG reports bolster POGO’s concern that contractor timesheet fraud is especially rampant among intelligence programs due to a lack of transparency and insufficient contract oversight. However, they also give us a reason to be optimistic: they show that the intelligence watchdog takes its role seriously and doggedly pursues allegations of wrongdoing.”

http://www.pogo.org/blog/2016/10/intelligence-watchdog-finds-contractor-abuses.html