Tag Archives: ideas

U.S. Defense and Justice Departments Signalling Massive Cloud and Services Single Award Contracts


Related imageImage result for contract1200px-Seal_of_the_Federal_Bureau_of_Investigation.svg.png


“The DOD team leading the Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure cloud procurement released the second draft of its working request for proposals Monday.  the contract’s single award acquisition strategy remains.

The FBI is interested in pursuing an “all-encompassing” $5 billion contract to provide all IT services across the Department of Justice.”


“In second draft, DOD stands firmly by single award for JEDI cloud contract”

“Despite numerous questions and comments pushing for the Department of Defense to reconsider its decision to award a single contract for its forthcoming landmark commercial cloud acquisition, it appears the department isn’t budging.

The decision to award a single contract has drawn ire from all around the government cloud industry and largely driven the conversation concerning JEDI since its inception. The questions and comments attached to the new release of the RFP largely reflect industry’s refusal to accept that a single award would be in the best interest of the DODas it could handcuff the department to a single cloud provider for up to 10 years, limiting innovation and a failsafe in the event of an outage.

In many cases, the team’s response was: “Your comment has been noted. The requirement remains as stated.”

And many respondents asked for the written justification for a single award contract, which is required by federal acquisition law, to be made public. But DOD won’t indulge them “at this time.”

However, another frequent answer about teaming and subcontracting leaves the door open for vendors to get creative despite there being one award up for grabs. Asked if cloud service providers can partner together under a single prime contractor or some similar arrangement, the department responded, “Offerors may propose any kind of teaming/partnering arrangement so long as the proposed solution meets the requirements of the solicitation.”


FBI weighs $5B ‘all-encompassing’ IT contract for Justice Department

The FBI is interested in pursuing an “all-encompassing” $5 billion contract to provide all IT services across the Department of Justice.

The bureau issued a request for information for a centralized contract covering a range of IT services that would be awarded in March 2019.

The FBI’s Information Technology Acquisitions Unit has been pursuing a new IT contract to replace the current $30 billion Information Technology Supplies and Support Services (ITSSS) blanket purchase agreement, which is set to expire in October. It’s unclear why the proposed new contract’s ceiling would be so much less than its predecessor, but since it’s an RFI, that could change based on industry feedback.

The new RFI outlines a possible indefinite delivery, indefinite quantity contract with a one-year base period — followed by nine yearlong option periods — to start in March 2018. The new timeline envisions that a final solicitation would be issued in August and be due Oct. 5, but it makes no mention of a bridge contract for the expiring contract.

The new contract would be split into several sections, covering agile, development, operations and maintenance, engineering services, IT consulting, IT scientific services, cloud, Telecomm, IT services, cybersecurity, IT security services, and IT help desk support across the entire Justice Department.

Interested vendors have until April 20 to respond to the RFI.  FBI officials plan to hold a follow-up industry day April 30.

fBI officials also recently issued an RFI seeking information on a cloud computing solution.”












Defense Innovation Board Lays Out First Concepts




“Thinkers and business leaders from the tech world outside of the traditional defense sector.

The sole exception to that is the presence of retired Adm. William McRaven, the former head of SOCOM.

The board came out with a series of rough recommendations for Secretary of Defense Ash Carter — or his successor — that they believe will lead to injecting a culture of innovation into the Pentagon.

Schmidt opened the meeting by acknowledging the importance of the Pentagon’s mission: “We all believe an outside perspective would be beneficial and we’ve set out to try and make some recommendations.”

He added that members of the board have spent the summer traveling around to various DoD installations, including trips to Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada, Fort Bragg in North Carolina and Special Operations Command (SOCOM) headquarters in Tampa, Florida. Schmidt also spent two days last week traveling with Carter to learn about the nuclear enterprise, and future trips are scheduled for US Pacific Command and US Central Command.

So what are the early ideas from the board?

A Chief Innovation Officer

The first idea listed by the board was the concept of a chief innovation officer, appointed directly by the secretary of defense, to serve as a point person for innovation efforts around the department.

Cass Sunstein, a professor at Harvard Law School who has served in various government positions, explained that the sharing of best practices around the DoD is currently “less than ideal,” and noted that the position could act as the umbrella from which funding for low-level projects could flow.

Sunstein also said he believes that office could be set up “in a hurry. This could be done in a relatively informal way in the very near future.” At the same time, he acknowledged that there are “significant” legal and logistical challenges about creating the office.

The position could particularly help create cover for individuals who are down in the ranks and have ideas but are unable to flow them forward on their own.

“There are innovators who are in the Defense Department and who are excellent, but who could be sharing best practices and better coordinated and could be spurred a bit more, and the idea there is a dispersed innovative capacity in the form of lower-level people who have great ideas but face obstacles,” Sunstein told journalists after the event. “The idea of that as an umbrella for various concepts, we’re drawn to that.”

Create a Digital ROTC

The recent hacks of the Office of Personnel Management and state election offices show how critical it is for the US to recruit and retain top cyber talent, said Marne Levine, chief operation officer at Instagram. Top commercial firms with deep pockets and great benefits compete fiercely for that talent, with DoD struggling to keep up.

So in order to attract talent to the Pentagon, the board suggested creating a “digital ROTC,” where the Pentagon would pay college tuition for cyber experts in exchange for their service.

Levine acknowledged setting aside the funding for such a program “may require hard budget choices,” but “one only has to think of the high cost of cyberattacks to understand the value of such an investment.”

Similarly, she put forth the idea of creating a science, technology, engineering and math, or STEM, career-path specialization inside the department, similar to that followed by doctors or lawyers.

The good news, said astrophysicist and television personality Neil deGrasse Tyson, is that the generation currently in high school and college is more interested in science than any before it.

“If you’re going to recruit people who have an interest in science and technology, I can assert that the pool of people now available to you is greater than ever before,” he said. But to attract those people from the commercial sector, the Pentagon needs to offer the best opportunities for new technologies and programs around.

“You can’t just say come because we’re cool. You have to be cool,” Tyson said. “And you’ll get ’em, for sure.”

Create a Center of Excellence for Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning

The use of artificial intelligence and machine learning have the “ability to spur innovation and represent transformational change,” said J. Michael McQuade, senior vice president for science and technology with United Technologies.

That is certainly an opinion shared by Deputy Secretary of Defense Bob Work, who has talked extensively about the importance of artificial intelligence for the next generation of Pentagon systems. But McQuade said the Pentagon needs to think broadly about that potential and how it can impact things down to supply-chain optimization and training, and not just combat functions.

“We do believe substantial changes are happening in the core science and technology capability” here, McQuade said, which means the Pentagon should look at creating a center of excellence to be the central hub of this work. Whether that is a national lab or institute isn’t clear yet, but the center would ensure “adequate” focus on the issue.

Embed Software Development Teams Within Key Commands

Reid Hoffman, a co-founder of LinkedIn and now with Greylock Partners, joked that the tech industry has become so reliant on software that Silicon Valley should be renamed Software Valley. And the Pentagon, he said, simply has not kept up.

As a result, he put forth the idea of creating embedded software development teams in various key commands, which would be “small, agile teams of software developers where you would keep these teams current on modern techniques of software development.”

Improve Software Testing Regimens

Milo Medin, vice president of Access Services with Google Capital and a former NASA official, also emphasized the importance of software for the Pentagon, noting it is the driving factor behind upgrade programs for everything from radars to the F-35 joint strike fighter.

Currently, operational testing of software is set in the classic mindset, Medin said, adding that the testers seem to have “an implicit assumption” that the Pentagon’s firewalls, as currently constructed, are sufficient.

“In the heavily networked battle space these systems are operating in, the consequences of our weapon systems being breached from a security perspective could be severe,” he warned, adding that as autonomy enters the battle space the risk of systems being hacked could expand.

As a result, software testing needs to happen on an ongoing basis, not just when the planes are going operational. And for that to happen, the government needs access to the software code that runs the systems.

Speaking to reporters after the event, Medin stressed that does not mean defense contractors should be forced to hand over control of code developed in house, a major issue that has been raised from industry in recent years.

“The issue isn’t owning the software. The issue is access to the software,” he said. “If software is your differentiator, if software becomes a core competency … that’s something the government needs to be able to have access to, to be able to build and to be able to potentially modify. That’s what you find in the tech sector.”

Create Funding Streams for COCOMs

The Defense Innovation Board is made up of thinkers from academia and the private tech sector, in a purposeful attempt to inject outside thinking into the department. The sole exception to that is the presence of retired Adm. William McRaven, the former head of SOCOM.

Now the Chancellor at the University of Texas, McRaven provides an insider’s perspective on the acquisition system and internal processes that drive the Pentagon. He also understands how to operate around them to innovate quickly, due to his experience at SOCOM, which is famously able to develop and deploy technology at rapid rates.

But while SOCOM has that ability, other parts of the military do not — something McRaven said the board came to understand during various visits this summer.

“We were a little frustrated as you see these magnificent infantrymen and pilots who are equally as smart [as SOCOM], equally want to innovate, and yet the layers of bureaucracy to get the decision-makers to make those decisions are difficult.”

As a result, McRaven would like to see a way to give other combatant commanders acquisition ability. Not for big, Category 1 programs — “You need to let that go through a traditional approach,” he said — but for smaller technology programs. And if the commanders can quickly turn small projects into fielded capabilities, the idea that innovative thinking will be rewarded will “spread like wildfire” through the force, he added.

Future Concepts

Those concepts are still in their infancy, but represent the more concrete ideas the board has come up with. But there are several broader concepts that the members are still trying to get their head around.

Jennifer Pahika, the founder of the nonprofit Code for America, said she wants to tap into what tech companies call the “maker movement,” with an eye on the tinkerers in the military who have good ideas but not the venue for turning them into products. Eric Lander, president and director of the Broad Institute, said he was really interested in what role biological technologies could provide.

But the toughest issue to tackle, and perhaps the most important, is cultural. All involved agreed that developing a culture where new ideas can be tested and fail, without fear of ending a career, is going to be the biggest challenge. And it’s not clear exactly how that can be changed.

Schmidt said he is “convinced” the biggest change the board needs to look at is with people and culture, more than specific pieces of technology.

That was driven home by the public comment section of the meeting, which featured a number of junior and mid-level officers talking about the risk-adverse nature of the Pentagon. At the end of the day, however, the hope is that the ideas from the board can start to change that around the edges before injecting change more directly into the system.

“The fact [board members are] not steeped in the Department of Defense may be the best thing this group brings,” McRaven told reporters. “At the end of the day, we want to have an outside look because I think that’s where we can make real change.”

Added Schmidt: “We’re not going to write a report without impact. We view ourselves as more of a contact sport, working with whatever way is appropriate.”

Another question is about the future of the group once Carter leaves office, which is expected to occur early next year as a new administration comes to power. The board is currently scheduled to expire in April 2018, but could be renewed much the same way other advisory boards have been in the past.

“The other boards have been around for a while, and I’m assuming we will generate enough value that people want us around,” Schmidt said. “And if we don’t perform, we will be fired.”





Defense Program Taps Small Business Innovation




“It’s not the innovation of the technology. It’s the innovative application of a technology,” said Smith. “It could even be an innovative process change. Sometimes it’s the disruption of the bureaucracy.”

“The RIF program is not about disruptive technologies, because these technologies are mature,” said Bob Smith, the Navy’s program manager for RIF.  “But it has created a disruptive way of doing business because it has accelerated the acquisition process much faster than the normal budget cycle.”

“Making the transition from research and development to acquisition by the military is hard. A Defense Department program called the Rapid Innovation Fund (RIF) is designed to make that transition easier. It allows the military to collaborate with small businesses to provide innovative technologies that can be rapidly inserted into acquisition programs.

RIF is administered by the office of the secretary of defense, by the assistant secretary of defense for research and engineering and the office of small business programs.

Initial proposals consist of a four-page white paper. If nominated by one of the services’ program executive offices and selected by the service, funding can be awarded for up to $3 million for two years to speed the insertion into a program of record. RIF doesn’t develop technologies; it validates that existing technologies will meet a requirement of a program of record.

A recent RIF success story involved a small Massachusetts company working with Brett Gardner, an engineer at the Navy’s Fleet Readiness Center Southwest in San Diego.

Gardner is involved in the maintenance and repair of aircraft, such as the Navy’s F/A-18 Hornet fighter jet. He saw an interesting product offered by Midé Technologies of Medford, Massachusetts, at the 2011 Navy Opportunity Forum that he believed could be adapted to help the Navy test aircraft.

“We sell a vibrational energy harvester for vibrating machinery that can be used to power sensors, microcontrollers, low power antennas or things like that. It has to be tuned properly to optimize how much energy you’ll get,” said Jeff Court, a company executive. “So we developed a small accelerometer to measure the vibrations. The result was the original Slam Stick.”

Gardner asked if the Slam Stick could measure G forces.  The answer was yes.
Instrumenting an aircraft is very expensive, Gardner said. “It costs hundreds of thousands of dollars, and there has to be an engineer assigned to the project. The process takes a lot of time.”

If the fleet reports unexplained incidents of cracking in the avionics bay, Gardner said Slam Stick would help determine the cause.

”If the racks are breaking, and we don’t know what’s going on, we can put some two-sided tape on the Slam Stick; program the G loading, temperature or atmospheric pressure where you want it to go off — or it could be a combination of triggers; and place it near the area where you’re concerned about. You go out and do a flight test.” It records data that can help to make a determination if excessive G loading is causing the problem.”

The RIF funding will pay for the adaptation and validation of the Slam Stick for use as aircraft test equipment.

“It’s unbelievable how little it cost to get this designed, compared to some of the systems we’ve paid for,” said Gardner. “If it takes off, the benefits and the cost savings to the taxpayer are going to be off the charts.”

“The RIF program turned something that was sort of a useful novelty item into a real engineering tool,” Gardner said.

Slam Stick is one of 16 projects executed by the Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR) in the inaugural year of the RIF program. The remaining projects are on track for completion by the end of fiscal 2014, with anticipated transition shortly thereafter.

“NAVAIR’s success is due to the close relationship between the chief technology officer’s science and technology portfolio managers and the program officers,” said NAVAIR’s Chief Technology Officer James Sheehy. “The selection of topics was virtually effortless because contracting support was in place and ready to award while the program managers were poised waiting to accept the RIF project.”

Many RIF technologies have their origins in the Small Business Innovation Research program. Stuart Berkowitz of Out of the Fog Research in San Francisco said his company applied for RIF to take the technology it had developed previously under the SBIR program to build an engineering design model to evaluate for the Navy’s shipboard signal exploitation equipment program.

“With the RIF funding, we can test how well our technology performs, do shock and vibe testing and test responses to high and low temperature, electromagnetic interference and all of those things you might find out on a ship.  And that’s really the benefit of RIF. We’ve answered all those questions,” Berkowitz said.

Berkowitz has this advice for companies considering applying for RIF: “You can’t just propose this cool technology and have it transition. You have to have a program of record saying, ‘We will buy it if you can prove that it actually does what you say it’s going do, and that it’s actually deployable.’”

There are no guarantees that the program will be funded for acquisition, he said. “Perseverance is one of the key parameters to transition into the military marketplace.”
Smith said the first step to obtaining RIF funding is to watch for the next broad area announcement to come out.

“That’s your next funding opportunity, but you should start having conversations with the acquisition community now. Look at the websites, talk to the CTO’s science and technology portfolio managers, talk to the program manager and see what the challenges are. You can look at the most recent BAA, because most of those challenges will still be there in the next BAA. They are enduring challenges and we don’t have the money to solve all of them.”

The white papers are relatively simple, but the evaluators are looking for convincing opportunities.

According to Robert Parker, Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command deputy CTO and assistant PEO for science and technology within PEO C4I, the RIF program has become an important way to rapidly introduce new capabilities. “It exposes us to a wide range of companies that we wouldn’t normally see, since we don’t typically have industry days on our more generic requirements. We can get an assessment of what’s mature and what provides us a pretty high value to our programs of record.”

The funding of up to $3 million, he said, “reflects the emphasis on transition for capabilities that are already pretty mature.”

For SPAWAR, the transition rate for RIF projects is 50 percent. “I expect it to go higher,” said Parker. “We’re taking less risk. The RIF white paper process allows us to cherry pick the best capabilities for our programs.”

His advice is to take advantage of the open communications period. “Every time a business calls us up, I pair them with a program office so they can have a much more detailed conversation,” said Parker. “I think companies have appreciated talking to us, even if the outcome isn’t what they hoped for.  If we tell them ‘Your technology isn’t something we can use,’ at least they know not to waste their time.”

RIF can involve something already planned for a program of record, but deliver it faster or make it better. A RIF-funded effort by Progeny Systems Corp. of Manassas, Virginia, to test the upgrade kit for the Mk-54 Mod 1 lightweight Torpedo to improve effectiveness in littoral and mine countermeasures environments, allowed the Navy to deploy that capability a year or so earlier than planned. “It was a modest investment to verify the capability,” said Smith. “The Navy was already planning to buy it, but now it can buy a better version of it. And it got enough fleet priority that it kind of moved to the front of the line.”

Janet McGovern, one of NAVAIR’s science and technology portfolio managers who is also the command’s RIF lead, emphasizes the importance of building relationships over time. “We don’t want to discourage small companies from submitting their good ideas, but I certainly recommend that they do their homework in advance. If it’s a continuation of SBIR, then there’s a relationship with the program office already in place. But I think that it’s harder for a company to break through the barrier if they haven’t done the legwork ahead of time. It’s much more advantageous if they’ve had that relationship built beforehand.”

Smith said it comes down to effective communication. “Successful RIF projects result from starting and continuing a conversation.  And it usually is a conversation about a solution, technology solution, to my problem.  That’s how you do it.  And a lot of talking is involved because it’s a complex world.”

The time and effort is worth it, for all parties involved, he added. “On the Navy side, if you get selected, your odds really skyrocket that you’re going places — because we picked you, because we want you to succeed, because we need you to succeed, we want to transition you to our program.”