Tag Archives: Government Regulations

First-ever Audit At The Department of Defense

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First Ever Audit at the Pentagon

“DEFENSE ONE”

“The Department of Defense is preparing for its first-ever audit.

The nation’s most sprawling and expensive bureaucracy and the world’s largest employer—has yet to undergo a formal, legally mandated review of its finances.

[It] has become a preoccupation for members of Congress intent on demonstrating their fiscal prudence even as they appropriate more than $600 billion annually to the Pentagon.

“Like Waiting for Godot,” one Democratic senator, Jack Reed of Rhode Island, quipped about the absent audit at a recent hearing. The lack of formal accountability has left unanswered basic questions about how the military spends taxpayer money, like the precise number of employees and contractors its various branches have hired. Cost overruns have become legendary, none more so than the F-35 fighter-jet program that has drawn the ire of President Trump. And partial reports suggest that the department has misspent or not accounted for anywhere from hundreds of billions to several trillion dollars.

After years of missed deadlines, the mounting political pressure and a renewed commitment from the Trump administration might finally result in an audit. For the first time last year, both major political parties called for auditing the Pentagon in their campaign platforms. That unites everyone from Hillary Clinton and Elizabeth Warren to Ted Cruz and the House Freedom Caucus. And last week, Trump’s nominee to serve as comptroller for the Pentagon, David Norquist, testified at his Senate confirmation hearing that he would insist on one whether the department could pass it or not. “It is time to audit the Pentagon,” Norquist told members of the Senate Armed Services Committee in his opening statement.

As comptroller for the Homeland Security Department a decade ago, Norquist, the brother of the anti-tax advocate Grover Norquist, undertook the first successful audits of that much younger federal agency. The Defense Department is unlikely to meet a statutory deadline to be “audit-ready” by the end of September. But Norquist said he would begin the process even if the Pentagon’s financial statements were not fully in order, and he committed to having the report completed by March 2019.

What has prevented the Pentagon from being examined this way before? The answer lies somewhere “between lethargy and complexity,” said Gordon Adams, a distinguished fellow at the Stimson Center who was the top budget official for national security in the Clinton White House. “It hasn’t been done ever,” he told me, “partly because it’s incredibly complicated to do and also because there’s not a great, powerful will in the building to do it.”

The complexity of the project dates back to the Civil War, Adams said, when the Army and the Navy set up their own separate accounting systems. The Air Force also went its own way after its creation following World War II, and the military build-ups of the last four decades scrambled the department’s financial records many times over. The explosion of military contractors since 9/11 has made scrubbing the books harder still. Adams estimated that an audit would have to account for 15 million to 20 million contracting transactions each year. The Pentagon has spent several billion dollars over the last seven years just trying to consolidate its accounting systems in preparation for a potential audit.

Despite the ramp-up costs, the project has never risen to be a top priority; the Pentagon has simply been too busy fighting wars. “The military has repeatedly argued that they need to focus on the war effort and accountability can come later,” said Kori Schake, a fellow at the Hoover Institution who previously served in a variety of national-security positions in the government. That excuse carried more weight with lawmakers in the years when the United States had hundreds of thousands of troops fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Now, top Republicans like Senator John McCain of Arizona, chairman of the Armed Services Committee, are pressing for an audit with more urgency. “This has been a very public continuing failure for the Department of Defense, in large part due to the failure of senior management to make this a priority for the department and invest the necessary time and will to get it done,” McCain said at the outset of Norquist’s hearing. “This must end with you,” he told the president’s nominee.

Yet those fiscal hawks hoping that the long-awaited report will spur substantial reforms to defense spending are just as likely to be disappointed. An audit by itself won’t dismantle the “military industrial complex” that former President Dwight Eisenhower famously warned about, nor will it lead members of Congress to stop fighting to protect the bases and weapons systems that are manufactured in their districts—and the jobs that come with them. Several times in recent years, it has been congressional lobbying that has kept up production of weapons and equipment that the military no longer considers necessary.

“An audit does not raise the big issues,” Adams said. “It doesn’t tell you that we’re not getting the right bang for the buck. It doesn’t tell you anything about whether we’re getting the right forces for the threat. It doesn’t tell you how well the forces perform. It doesn’t tell you where we are wasting capability that we don’t need.”

“What it allows a member of Congress to do,” he continued, “is to look tough on defense and spend a lot on defense at the same time.”

Spending a lot on defense is what the Trump administration wants to do, even as it pledges its support for a Pentagon audit. The White House has asked Congress for a $54 billion increase in the military budget over the next year and secured about $15 billion of that in the recent spending deal. “It’s harder when there’s a big inflow of cash to focus on something like the audit,” said William Hartung, director of the arms and security project at the Center for International Policy. “There’s still that incentive to just push the money out the door.”

There’s some hope among audit advocates that the administration’s demand for more money will give congressional spending hawks leverage to insist on progress toward the accounting milestone in exchange for a budget increase. But they also don’t believe leverage should be necessary to demand that a department with a workforce pegged at more than 3 million people commit, at long last, to some basic bookkeeping. “We would never accept the argument that the Department of Education is too big and too complicated to be accountable,” Schake argued. “Why do we accept that for Defense?”

http://www.defenseone.com/politics/2017/05/white-house-vows-audit-pentagon-which-would-be-first/137928/?oref=d-channeltop

 

Navigating Defense Department Cyber Rules

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Cyber Rules

“NATIONAL DEFENSE MAGAZINE”

“Defense contractors by Dec. 31 are expected to provide “adequate security” to protect “covered defense information” using cyber safeguards.

Thousands of companies who sell directly to the Defense Department, and thousands more who sell to its suppliers, are or will be, subject to the rule.

This obligation arises from a Defense Acquisition Regulation System Supplement clause, “Network Penetration Reporting and Contracting For Cloud Services,” that was finalized last October and described in the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) Special Publication 800-171.

The Pentagon is well-justified to seek improved cyber protection of sensitive but unclassified technical information. Hackers have exploited network vulnerabilities in the defense supply chain for the unauthorized exfiltration of valuable and sensitive defense information. Senior defense officials have expressed alarm at this persistent and pervasive economic espionage. 

Since 2013, the Defense Department has used acquisition regulations to protect controlled technical information significant to military or space. Other forms of information may not have direct military or space significance, but loss of confidentiality through a cyber breach can produce serious, even grave national injury. 

The Defense Department is the leader among federal agencies in using its contractual power to cause its vendors to improve their cybersecurity. The principal instruments are two contract clauses, DFARS 252.204-7008, “Compliance with Safeguarding Covered Defense Information Controls,” and DFARS 252.204-7012, “Safeguarding Covered Defense Information and Cyber Incident Reporting.” Both were the subject of final rulemaking released Oct. 21.

Where the -7008 “compliance” clause is included in a solicitation, the offeror commits to implement the SP 800-171 safeguards by the end of this year. Defense Department contracts will include the -7012 “safeguards” clause, which defines the types of information that must be protected, informs contractors of their obligation to deliver “adequate security” using SP 800-171 controls, and obligates reporting to the department of cyber incidents.  

Every responsible defense supplier supports the objectives of these cyber DFARS rules. But the requirements are complex and are not currently well-understood. Outside of a few of the largest, dedicated military suppliers, many companies in the defense supply chain view these rules with a mix of doubt, concern and alarm. This recipe serves neither the interests of the Defense Department nor its industrial base.

A technology trade association, the IT Alliance for Public Sector, released a white paper that examines the Defense Acquisition Regulation System Supplement and other federal initiatives to protect controlled unclassified information. The goal was to assist both government and industry to find effective, practical and affordable means to implement the new cyber requirements. The paper examines these five areas: designation, scope, methods, adoption and compliance.

As for designation, the department should accept that it is responsible to identify and designate the covered defense information that contractors are obliged to protect. It should confirm that contractors only have to protect information that it has designated as covered, and that such obligations are only prospective — newly received information — and not retrospective.

In regards to “scope,” the Defense Department should revise the rule to clarify that contractors must protect information that it has identified as covered and provided to the contractor in the course of performance of a contract that is subject to the rule. The definition of “covered defense information” should be revised to remove confusing language that can be interpreted to require protection of “background” business information and other data that has only a remote nexus to a Defense Department contract.

The October 2016 revision now allows defense contractors to use external cloud service providers, where covered information is involved, only if those vendors meet the security requirements of FedRAMP Moderate “or equivalent.” The Federal Risk and Authorization Management Program, or FedRAMP, is a government-wide program that provides a standardized approach to security assessment, authorization and continuous monitoring for cloud products and services.

The regulation fails to explain what is meant by “or equivalent” and who decides. The Defense Department needs to explain what it expects from cloud services to satisfy SP 800-171 and the DFARS rules. A security overlay should be prepared by NIST to add cloud-specific controls. But it is unnecessary to impose the whole of the FedRAMP process and federal-specific controls on commercial cloud providers.

The Defense Department continues to depend on small business for many needs, and seeks their innovative ideas. The supplements are an obstacle and burden on smaller businesses, and yet security is just as important at the lower levels of the supply chain as at the top. The department can improve the ability of small business to implement the required security controls. Several specific recommendations are made as to how it can reach and assist the small business community. One recommendation is to make increased use of the NIST voluntary cybersecurity framework.

As far as compliance, contractors are required to represent that they will deliver “adequate security” and fully implement the SP 800-171 controls by the year-end deadline. The Defense Department needs to better inform its contractors how they can be confident their security measures will satisfy the requirements should they come under scrutiny following a cyber incident. The white paper explores different ways to create a safe harbor for compliance. A key component is contractor documentation of a system security plan, which was added as a 110th requirement to SP 800-171.        

The White Paper is available here. The Defense Department is hosting an industry day on the cyber DFARS, June 23 at the Mark Center in Alexandria, Virginia. Information and registration details available here. ”     

http://www.nationaldefensemagazine.org/articles/2017/4/21/navigating-defense-department-cyber-rules

Revolving Door Picking Up Speed at the Pentagon and Homeland Security

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Pentagon Revolving Door

“THE INTERCEPT”

“Defense firms have eagerly watched as Trump recently unveiled a budget calling for $54 billion in additional military spending next year.

President Trump has weaponized the revolving door by appointing defense contractors and their lobbyists to key government positions as he seeks to rapidly expand the military budget and homeland security programs.”


“The spending spree will provide a brand new opportunity for defense lobbyists to get business for their clients. And the most effective lobbying generally involves contacting former colleagues in positions of power.

Two Department of Homeland Security appointments Trump announced Tuesday morning are perfect examples.

Benjamin Cassidy, installed by Trump as assistant secretary for legislative affairs, previously worked as a senior executive at Boeing’s international business sector, marketing Boeing military products abroad. Jonathan Rath Hoffman, named assistant secretary for public affairs, previously worked as a consultant to the Chertoff Group, the sprawling homeland security consulting firm founded by former Secretary of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff. The firm has come under fire for advising a variety of firms seeking government contracts, including for full-body scanners deemed invasive by privacy activists. Hoffman also led a state chapter of a neoconservative military-contractor advocacy organization during the 2016 presidential campaign. Neither position requires Senate confirmation.

Personnel from major defense companies now occupy the highest ranks of the administration including cabinet members and political appointees charged with implementing the Trump agenda. At least 15 officials with financial ties to defense contractors have been either nominated or appointed so far, with potentially more industry names on the way as Trump has yet to nominate a variety of roles in the government, including Army and Navy secretaries.

Before their confirmations, Jim Mattis and John Kelly, the secretaries of the departments of Defense and Homeland Security, were primarily paid by defense firms.

Mattis was paid $242,000, along with up to $500,000 in vested stock options, as director of General Dynamics, a company that produces submarines, tanks, and a range of munitions for the military. Mattis also received speaking fees from several firms, including Northrop Grumman. Kelly previously served in a number of roles at defense contracting consulting and lobbying firms and worked directly as an adviser to Dyncorp, a company that contracts with the Immigrations and Customs Enforcement.

Major lobbying groups for the arms companies, including the National Defense Industrial Association and the Aerospace Industries Association, welcomed the selection of Secretary Mattis, who has already scheduled meetings with industry executives. Secretary Kelly has pledged to work more closely with the private sector, promising greater collaboration with private firms to accomplish his agency’s goals.

To carry out this private-sector friendly agenda, defense officials have taken major roles throughout Trump’s administration.

Pat Shanahan, nominated last week by Trump to serve as deputy secretary of defense, is a vice president at Boeing who formerly led the company’s missile defense subsidiary. Disclosures show that Elaine Duke, the nominee for deputy secretary of homeland security, previously consulted for Booz Allen Hamilton, General Dynamics, and the Columbia Group, a small contractor that builds unmanned naval drones.

The nominee to lead the Air Force, former New Mexico Congresswoman Heather Wilson, worked as a consultant to a Lockheed Martin subsidiary after retiring from public office. The company sought Wilson’s help to maintain a $2.4 billion a year contract to manage Sandia National Laboratories, the premiere nuclear weapons research facility, and to keep the contract closed to competition. “Lockheed Martin should aggressively lobby Congress, but keep a low profile,” Wilson urged the company in a memo revealed later by an inspector general report.

Trump’s pick for national security council chief of staff, retired Lt. Gen. Keith Kellogg, has worked at a variety of defense contracting companies. After serving in senior roles in Iraq’s provisional government after the 2003 invasion, Kellogg left the government for the private sector. He told the Washington Post in 2005 that he joined Oracle to “establish a homeland security business unit” at the firm, and later joined CACI International, a company with major contracts in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Following CACI, Kellogg joined Cubic Defense in 2009 to develop the company’s combat training business.

A list of temporary political appointees recently published by ProPublica reveals a number of less-known influence peddlers who have taken senior roles in the administration.

Chad Wolf and Lora Ries, two recently appointed advisers at the Department of Homeland Security, are formerly registered defense lobbyists. Wolf lobbied for Harris Corp. and the United Launch Alliance, a partnership between Boeing and Lockheed Martin. Ries previously lobbied for a range of defense and homeland security contractors, including Altegrity, Boeing, Implant Sciences Corp., General Dynamics, L1 Identity Solutions, and TASC Inc.

In the White House, one of the newest members of the National Economic Council staff is Michael Catanzaro, formerly a registered lobbyist working for both Boeing and Halliburton.

Palanatir Technology’s Justin Mikolay, formerly a chief in-house lobbyist for the company who worked to win over billions of dollars in Army contracts, was quietly appointed to serve as a special assistant in the Office of the Secretary of Defense.

Several appointees are associated with SBD Advisors, a consulting that firm that advertises its ability to facilitate “engagements between the technology and defense sectors,” and is advised by a high profile team of former government leaders, including former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff retired Adm. Mike Mullen and former National Security Agency Director of Operations Ron Moultrie.

SBD Advisors’d Sally Donnelly and Tony DeMartino work as temporary political appointees at the Office of the Defense Secretary, according to the list assembled by ProPublica. Kristan King Nevins, recently appointed as chief of staff to Second Lady Karen Pence, also previously worked at SBD Advisors as the director of communications.

The Trump administration is the “military-industrial complex personified,” said William Hartung, director of the Arms & Security Project at the Center for International Policy. Hartung noted that while the administration is bringing arms industry officials into government, it is also demanding a massive increase in military spending and appears to be escalating conflicts in Syria and Yemen.

In short, the Trump proposals are an armsmaker’s dream come true,” he said. “

https://theintercept.com/2017/03/21/revolving-door-military/

 

 

Want to Reform Government? Start with the Basics.

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government collaboration

Image:  “IP Dimensions”

“WASHINGTON TECHNOLOGY” By Stan Soloway

“The principal, and ultimately most impactful, evolution that needs to take place has little to do with law and everything to do with culture and people.

The generally poor quality of cross-sector communications and collaboration suggests, the workforce entering government today is being trained and developed in much the same way as multiple generations before them.”


“The email was most unexpected. In the midst of what had been a series of substantive discussions with a Defense Department command about the potential application of a new capability that might help address one of the command’s most pressing concerns, a command attorney effectively directed that the conversations cease. Because no “requirement” exists for the capability being discussed, he said, the conversations had to end.

Of course there is no “requirement” in place; they had only recently become aware of the technology. Our conversations were about whether and how it might be applicable. In other words, one can’t have a requirement for something one doesn’t even know about.

And let’s not even get started on why an attorney even stepped in. One would think the relevant program office could decide when and if their time was being wasted.

As I’ve relayed this story to friends and colleagues in both government and industry, it became clear that it is far from uncommon.

More than 20 years after the passage of acquisition reforms that, among other things, were designed to improve the government’s access to and communications with the private sector, and a half dozen years since the Office of Management and Budget issued its “Mythbusters” memo that was designed to make clear the importance of open communications, the problem remains all too present.

That is not to say there are no good examples of agencies and components swimming against the tide. There most certainly are. The Special Operations Command has created SofWerx, which invites companies of all sizes to demonstrate their capabilities and explore with the command possible applications. SOCOM acquisition executive Jim Geurts says his hope is that SofWerx will become a kind of “mosh pit” of ideas.

And then there is the Defense Innovation Unit Experimental, innovation labs in a range of agencies including Homeland Security, HHS and USAID. Beyond that, there have been more than 500 procurement contests and challenges, which by design invite any interested party to propose a solution to an identified problem.

For each of these activities, communications and collaboration are a core operating principle. But the reach of each also remains quite limited and each operates, to one extent or another, outside of the traditional acquisition process.

As the Trump Administration launches its new Office of American Innovation, focused on bringing smart business acumen to government, these examples also provide something of a framework from which to start.

First, whether acquisition is high on their target list or not today, it needs to be. After all, it is a critical engine upon which the government runs. And yes, there are a number of regulatory barriers that need to be eliminated to make that process work as it should.

Changing that paradigm in government requires that the workforce be given the tools, the training and the support to both understand and incorporate smart business concepts in the execution of their work. It requires that the workforce understand, far more than most do now, how businesses identify, manage and mitigate risk.

And it requires that they recognize that communications can be both appropriately limited and significantly more open than they might think.

Simply put, while the government is not a business, there are a wide array of best business practices from which the government would greatly benefit. And none is more important than the degree to which successful businesses have adapted and changed their approach to people and collaboration.

Every day I see examples where clients are engaged with their commercial customers at levels and depths that are exceptionally rare in the government arena.

As some have suggested, most of the business world has moved from the information age to the collaboration age. It’s past time for the government to embrace that shift as well. Finding new ways to make that happen would be a terrific first step to really changing and moving the government forward.”

About the Author

Stan Soloway is a former deputy undersecretary of Defense and former president and chief executive officer of the Professional Services Council. He is now the CEO of Celero Strategies.

https://washingtontechnology.com/articles/2017/03/27/insights-soloway-kushner-message.aspx

 

 

 

Army Vet: “Disgraceful Gun Bill Endangers Veterans”

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Vets Suicide and Guns

(Photo: M. Spencer Green, AP)

“USA TODAY”  By Lindsey Donovan

“Every day, 20 veterans take their lives — not surprisingly, two-thirds of them use a gun.

Yet in the midst of this crisis, our elected officials voted to remove from the background check system nearly 170,000 records of veterans with severe mental illnesses.

These veterans will now be able to purchase and possess firearms, even if they have been determined to be incapable of managing their own affairs.

I am a proud veteran of the Army. The seven Army Values are a part of my moral DNA. Loyalty, duty, respect, selfless service, honor, integrity and personal courage are at the heart of who I am today.

These values serve as the backbone to every servicemember who has served or is still serving in our armed forces, and they deserve better than what our federal lawmakers have given them. Instead of protecting our most vulnerable veterans — men and women with severe mental illness — the House recently passed a bill that made it easier for them to get guns.

Our veteran population is facing a devastating suicide crisis

How did we get to a point where the gun lobby’s bottom line means more to our lawmakers than the health and safety of those who have bravely served this country?

This issue hits the raw nerve of individuals who have lost their husbands, wives, children and friends to suicide. For me, it’s personal. Though I am a proud veteran, I am also the proud wife of a U.S. soldier. My husband has completed three combat tours in Iraq and a fourth in Afghanistan. Anyone who has been a witness to what multiple wars and deployments can do to soldiers and their families knows that war is hell. We send them over to do a mission and welcome them back expecting them to go on as usual. But it never works that way. Transitioning back to “normal” is sometimes too much to endure and for some, in the blink of an eye, it can seem like the only way out is through the barrel of a gun.

My own experience is what fuels me to speak out and urge our lawmakers to take a stand against this very dangerous bill. Shortly after my husband’s last deployment, a soldier who served in his unit died by suicide with a gun. It happened a few days after we saw that soldier. The shock I felt was indescribable. And the pain and sorrow I felt for those left behind, I hope to never feel again. To this day I still think about that individual. I don’t so much concentrate on the why, but the how. It was the gun, a deadly means to a tragic end.

In basic training, I was assigned a “battle buddy.” We were each other’s keeper; we had a duty to one another, a bond cemented by a shared experience. I look at my fellow veterans in the same terms, staying true to the Warrior Ethos of “I will always place the mission first, I will never accept defeat, I will never quit and I will never leave a fallen comrade.” Granting access to firearms to veterans who have been deemed mentally incompetent by the Department of Veterans Affairs is not looking out for the men and women who so courageously served our country. It is a disgrace, and it is far from patriotic.

As a gun owner, a veteran and a volunteer with Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, I know this is not a Second Amendment issue. This is an issue about common sense. This is an issue about moral courage and fortitude to stand up and fight to keep our most vulnerable veterans safe from gun violence. The House bill on veterans is the second attempt to roll back gun laws in Congress. Just last month, President Trump signed a law reversing a requirement that the Social Security Administration submit records of mentally impaired recipients to the gun background-check system.

I won’t sit idly by and watch this latest affront to our safety. Our veterans deserve better, our active-duty military deserves better, than lawmakers who cater to the gun lobby and ignore the crisis of veterans and suicide. The well-being of our veterans should be the priority, and our lawmakers should reject this dangerous legislation.”

“Lindsey Donovan, an Army veteran married to an active-duty soldier, is a volunteer leader for the Georgia chapter of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, part of Everytown for Gun Safety.”

http://www.usatoday.com/story/opinion/2017/03/29/gun-bill-endangers-mentally-ill-veterans-suicide-army-vet-column/99740790/

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

 

 

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Government Shutdown? Stakes for the Military and What Contractors Need to Plan

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government shutdown

Image: “Fedsmith.com”

“MILITARY TIMES”

“Congress could cause a partial government shutdown next month, with proposed defense spending at the center of a looming feud between Capitol Hill and the White House.

Currently, the Defense Department and most other federal programs are running off a continuing budget resolution that expires at the end of April.

The White House plan includes a $25 billion boost in base defense spending for the final five months of the current fiscal year, and at least $18 billion in cuts to non-defense programs over the same period.

The extra money is for “urgent warfighting readiness needs,” President Trump said in an accompanying letter to Congress. It’s also necessary, he says, to begin a “sustained effort to rebuild the U.S. armed forces,” and to address shortfalls in everything from personnel and training to equipment maintenance and munitions.

Standing in the way is a new agreement from congressional Democrats to lift the defense spending caps known as sequestration — without corresponding spending increases for non-military programs. Party leaders have refused to do that for the last six years.

To overcome Senate procedural rules, Republicans would need at least eight senators from outside their party to approve any spending plan.

Earlier this week, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., indicated that any “poison pill riders such as defunding Planned Parenthood, building a border wall, or starting a deportation force” will force Democrats to oppose Republican budget plans, even if that means a partial government shutdown.

The White House’s fiscal 2017 proposal does include $1.4 billion for the first phases of building a wall along the Mexican border.

What does this mean for the Pentagon, and rank-and-file military personnel and their families? Earlier this month, House lawmakers voted 371-48 in favor of a $578 billion spending bill to keep the military operating through September, roughly matching the White House’s request but allotting the funding differently — and excluding proposed cuts to non-defense programs.

That measure is currently stalled in the Senate.

The last extended government shutdown occurred in October 2013, resulting in unpaid furloughs for civilian workers employed by the departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs. That disrupted some basic services on military bases and installations, and delayed implementation of some military pay and benefits.

The White House spending plan for the remainder of 2017 also includes $5 billion in new funding for overseas contingency operations, including $1.4 billion for the mission in Iraq and Syria, and $1.1 billion for ongoing operations in Afghanistan. Another $2 billion for be set aside for a “flexible fund” for the war against Islamic State militants, to “maximize the impact of U.S. counter-terrorism activities and operations.”

A partial shutdown this year would not affect VA operations, since its full 2017 budget was approved by Congress last fall.

The administration’s fiscal 2018 budget plan also includes a stark divide between defense and non-defense spending, with a $52 billion boost for the military and $64 billion in proposed cuts to the State Department, Environmental Protection Agency, Department of Health and Human Services, and other federal programs.

But lawmakers must resolve spending plans for the current fiscal year before fully engaging in that debate. ”

http://www.militarytimes.com/articles/trump-fiscal-2017-budget-plan-government-shutdown

WHAT IS A GOVERNMENT CONTRACT STOP WORK ORDER?

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“SMALLTOFEDS”

“During the Federal Government Shutdown of 2013 many enterprises received stop work orders on contracts.

Stop work orders are serious matters and require special handling to comply with government direction and to manage risk.

The below article specifies the purpose of a stop work order, actions that must be taken upon receipt of the order and the relationship of the order to resumption of effort, funding constraints, contract terminations and associated business risk.  It also discusses the principal options and equitable adjustment terms and conditions available to you if you undergo a stop work on a government contract.

Continuing effort on a contract after receipt of a stop work order is high risk.”

https://rosecoveredglasses.wordpress.com/2015/09/30/what-is-a-government-contract-stop-work-order-2/

 

 

 

 

Astutely managing your options is a far better approach.

 

Innovating Federal Contracting: Be Careful What You Wish For

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“FEDERAL TIMES” By Michael P. Fischetti

“We’re all aware of — and perhaps have participated in — the criticism of today’s model of contracting with the federal government.

However, when  change is forthcoming, criticism and second-guessing is swift in response and often before the results of such innovation are yet known.

Recent examples include lowest price technically acceptable selection strategies, transactional data reporting or other transaction authority. All of these initiatives have resulted in constituencies warning, criticizing or outright objecting to their use for numerous reasons. The mantra “damned if you do; damned if you don’t” comes to mind.

So what’s the contracting officer or program manager to do? Everyone wants innovation in acquisition, but not really? Take risks, but make sure everything works out well? Leadership has your back, as long as [insert favorite oversight authority or trade association here] is supportive. Buy more commercial, but make sure [insert favorite administration, agency, industry priority, or compliance and socioeconomic statutory and regulatory requirements here] is adhered to and included.

Under a new administration, there is a sense of unpredictability. Everything is on the table across multiple government policy areas — acquisition included. Thus, along with optimism that true “reform” could actually occur, there is conversely fear as well that, yes, true “reform” might actually occur! Perhaps the many subsets of today’s government contracting community should be cautious and prudent in criticism of today’s acquisition system, and thus be careful of what they ask for. One is reminded of the line from Charles Dickens’ “A Tale of Two Cities”:

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness … [I]t was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way.”

The credibility of today’s professional pundits and promoters of acquisition change is under threat. What if change really occurs? What if the innovation we all say we want actually happens? While there will always be individual winners and losers in such a scenario, one winner might be empowering those innovative acquisition professionals in government and industry interested in program results; those invested in improving what is acquired versus how it’s acquired. Another winner might be the American taxpayer.

Time will tell. Hang on to your seats and let’s see what happens. ”

NCMA ED

Michael P. Fischetti is the Executive Director of the National Contract Management Association.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What Mark Thompson Has Learned Covering the Military for 40 Years

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“Scant public interest yields ceaseless wars to nowhere”

 

“Straus Military Reform Project – Center for Defense Information at POGO”

“It turns out that my spending four years on an amusement-park midway trying to separate marks from their money was basic training for the nearly 40 years I spent reporting on the U.S. military.

Both involve suckers and suckees. One just costs a lot more money, and could risk the future of United States instead of a teddy bear.

But after 15 years of covering U.S. defense for daily newspapers in Washington, and 23 more for Time magazine until last December, it’s time to share what I’ve learned. I’m gratified that the good folks at the nonpartisan Project On Government Oversight, through their Straus Military Reform Project, are providing me this weekly soapbox to comment on what I’ve come to see as the military-industrial circus.

As ringmaster, I can only say: Boy, are we being taken to the cleaners. And it’s not so much about money as it is about value. Too much of today’s U.S. fighting forces look like it came from Tiffany’s, with Walmart accounting for much of the rest. There’s too little Costco, or Amazon Prime.

There was a chance, however slight, that President Trump would blaze a new trail on U.S. national security. Instead, he has simply doubled down.

We have let the Pentagon become the engine of its own status quo.

For too long, the two political parties have had Pavlovian responses when it comes to funding the U.S. military (and make no mistake about it: military funding has trumped military strategy for decades). Democrats have long favored shrinking military spending as a share of the federal budget, while Republicans yearn for the days when it accounted for a huge chunk of U.S. government spending. Neither is the right approach. Instead of seeing the Pentagon as the way to defend against all threats, there needs to be a fresh, long-overdue accounting of what the real threats are, and which of those are best addressed by military means.

The Defense Department’s Quadrennial Defense Review, which is supposed to do just that every four years, has become an engine of the status quo. The Pentagon today is little more than a self-licking ice cream cone, dedicated in large measure to its growth and preservation. Congress is a willing accomplice, refusing to shutter unneeded military bases due to the job losses they’d mean back home. The nuclear triad remains a persistent Cold War relic (even former defense secretary Bill Perry wants to scrap it), with backers of subs, bombers and ICBMs embracing one another against their real threat: a hard-nosed calculus on the continuing wisdom of maintaining thousands of nuclear weapons on hair-trigger alert.

Unfortunately, it’s getting worse as partisan enmity grows. It’s quaint to recall the early congressional hearings I covered (Where have you gone, Barry Goldwater?), when lawmakers would solemnly declare that “politics stops at the water’s edge.” The political opposition’s reactions to Jimmy Carter’s failed raid to rescue U.S. hostages held in Iran in 1980 that killed eight U.S. troops, and to the loss of 241 U.S. troops on Ronald Reagan’s peacekeeping mission in Beirut in 1983, was tempered.

But such grim events have been replaced Hillary Clinton’s Benghazi and Donald Trump’s Jan. 29 special-ops raid in Yemen. Rancid rancor by both sides cheapens the sacrifice of the five Americans who died. It only adds a confusing welter of new rules designed to ensure they aren’t repeated. Yet mistakes are a part of every military operation, and an unwillingness to acknowledge that fact, and act accordingly, leads to pol-mil paralysis. It’s amazing that the deaths of Glen Doherty, William “Ryan” Owens, Sean Smith, Chris Stevens and Tyrone Woods seem to have generated more acrimony and second-guessing than the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, in which 6,908 U.S. troops have died.

There is today a fundamental disconnect between the nation and its wars. We saw it in President Obama’s persistent leeriness when it came to the use of military force, and his successor’s preoccupation with spending and symbolism instead of strategy. In his speech to Congress Feb. 28, Trump mentioned the heroism of Navy SEAL Owens, but didn’t say where he died (Yemen). Nor did he mention Afghanistan, Iraq or Syria, where nearly 15,000 U.S. troops are fighting what Trump boldly declared is “radical Islamic terrorism.”

But he did declare he is seeking “one of the largest increases in national defense spending in American history.” His $54 billion boost would represent a 10% hike, and push the Pentagon spending, already well beyond the Cold War average used to keep the now-defunct Soviet Union at bay—even higher.

“We are going to have very soon the finest equipment in the world,” Trump said from the deck of the yet-to-be-commissioned carrier Gerald R. Ford on Thursday in Hampton, Va. “We’re going to start winning again.” What’s surprising is Trump’s apparent ignorance that the U.S. military has had, pound-for-pound, the world’s finest weapons since World War II. What’s stunning is his apparent belief that better weapons lead inevitably to victory. There is a long list of foes that knows better.

It’s long past time for a tough look at what U.S. taxpayers are getting for the $2 billion they spend on their military and veterans every day. It would have been great if Trump had been willing to scrub the Pentagon budget and reshape it for the 21st Century. But the U.S. has been unwilling to do that ever since the Cold War ended more than 25 years ago. Instead, it simply shrunk its existing military, then turned on a cash gusher following 9/11.

I know many veterans who are angered that their sacrifice, and that of buddies no longer around, have been squandered in Afghanistan and Iraq.

I recall flying secretly into Baghdad in December 2003 with then-defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld. The bantam SecDef declared on that trip that the U.S. military had taken the “right approach” in training Iraqi troops, and that they were fighting “well and professionally.” Last month, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, the fifth man to hold that job since Rumsfeld, declared in Baghdad that the U.S. training of the Iraqi military is “developing very well.” His visit, like Rumsfeld’s 14 years earlier, wasn’t announced in advance.

Even as Army Lieutenant General H.R. McMaster, Trump’s national security adviser, tries to chart a path forward in Iraq, it’s worth remembering that he earned his spurs 26 years ago as a captain in a tank battle with Iraqi forces.

If we’re going to spend—few would call it an investment—$5 trillion fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan (and Syria, and Yemen), don’t we, as Americans, deserve a better return?

The problem is that the disconnect between the nation and its wars (and war-fighters) also includes us:

  • Our representatives in Congress prefer not to get their hands bloodied in combat, so they avoid declaring war. They prefer to subcontract it out to the White House, and we let them get away with it.
  • Through the Pentagon, we have subcontracted combat out to an all-volunteer force. Only about 1% of the nation has fought in its wars since 9/11. We praise their courage even as we thank God we have no real skin in the game.
  • In turn, the uniformed military services have hired half their fighting forces from the ranks of private, for-profit contractors, who handle the critical support missions that used to be done by soldiers. The ruse conveniently lets the White House keep an artificially-low ceiling on the number of troops in harm’s way. We like those lower numbers.
  • Finally, we have contracted out paying for much of the wars’ costs to our children, and grandchildren. We are using their money to fight our wars. They’ll be thanking us in 2050, for sure.

Until and unless Americans take responsibility for the wars being waged in their name, and the weapons being bought to wage them, this slow bleeding of U.S. blood and treasure will continue. “We have met the enemy,” another Pogo once said, “and he is us.”

http://www.pogo.org/blog/2017/03/military-industrial-circus-national-security-column.html

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2By: Mark Thompson, National Security Analyst

Mark Thompson Profile

Mark Thompson writes for the Center for Defense Information at POGO.