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HHS is a Major Player in the Move toward Agile Acquisition

HHS is helping to lead the way toward more agile acquisition of IT. Outgoing HHS CTO, Brian Syvak, recruited Mark Naggar to start the HHS Buyers Club and blaze a trail for more innovative acquisition in the agency. The Buyers Club brings together HHS procurement professionals to discuss and test innovative purchasing ideas. 

 

Naggar used the Digital Services Playbook for the first HHS Buyers Club procurement, redesign of the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation’s (ASPE) public and intranet websites.  Vendors were only required to submit an eight-page concept paper after which five were chosen to proceed by creating prototypes.  This procurement concept allows vendors to show the federal buyer “what they can do” rather than writing about it in a lengthy proposal.  Naggar involved all of the stakeholders and significantly shortened the procurement cycle. 

 

In an interview with FedScoop Naggar said, "So often we're focused on getting something awarded and there's not enough attention focused on implementation, which is why we're trying to switch from waterfall to agile."

 

The waterfall method traditionally used for procurement and development has proven to be time-consuming, costly, and has not delivered what agencies truly need. So often, agencies don’t realize they’re headed down the wrong path until large sums of money have already been spent on a project.  "It's basically, 'Congratulations, you won the award,' they drop the mic and walk out of the room. And in six months you get something and realize it's not what you wanted, not what you needed," Naggar told FedScoop.  An agile approach dramatically mitigates risk and delivers results faster.

 

Naggar feels so strongly about government-wide acquisition innovation and reform that he organized a Conference for Innovative Acquisitions in February of this year.  The conference was sponsored by the Federal-wide Buyers Club with help from OFPP, the US Digital Service, and GSA and its 18F team.  The attendance of over a thousand government employees and contractors showed that Naggar is not alone in his quest to re-invent federal acquisition. 

One goal of the innovative acquisition movement is to change the federal government’s aversion to risk.  Although current procurement methods have been shown to be ineffective, federal procurement officials are trained to be good stewards of taxpayer funds.  Failure is not an option.  The private sector realized long ago that failure is part of innovation using the adage "fail fast, fail often."

Anne Rung, OFPP administrator and strong supporter of innovative acquisition, said at a recent conference, "We don't tolerate any kind of perceived failure. And people immediately walk away and resort to the old way of doing things."

The President’s FY 2016 Budget Request calls for more digital services teams and idea labs modeled after HHS across the federal government.  With such strong support from top officials and buy-in from the procurement ranks, we are likely to see increased use of innovative acquisition methods in the coming months and for years to come. 

 

GAO Updates High Risk Programs List

Yesterday, GAO released its biennial update of federal high risk programs, a total of 32 programs including two new areas, Veterans Health Care and IT Acquisitions and Operations.

Since the list’s inception in 1990 with an initial slate of 14 program areas, 43 programs have been added and 23 removed.  GAO removes programs from the list when the following criteria are met: leadership commitment, agency capacity, an action plan, monitoring efforts, and demonstrated progress.

This year GAO states that progress is being made, but no programs were removed.  Eighteen of the 30 programs on the list in 2013 partially met criteria for removal and 11 met at least one of the criteria for removal.  GAO is reducing the scope of two high risk areas, Protecting Public Health through Enhanced Oversight of Medical Products and DoD Contract Management, due improvements made.  GAO is expanding its oversight of two other programs due to growing risk potential:  Enforcement of Tax Laws and Ensuring the Security of Federal Information Systems and Cyber Critical Infrastructure and Protecting the Privacy of Personally Identifiable Information (PII).

GAO is adding the program entitled Managing Risks and Improving Veterans Affairs Health Care due to VA’s lack of action on many of GAO’s past recommendations to improve veteran health care access and delivery.  Although VA has taken some action, work still remains in the areas of policies and processes, oversight and accountability, IT, training, and resources.

GAO is also adding the program entitled Improving the Management of Information Technology Acquisitions and Operations.  Despite legislation and administrative efforts to improve IT acquisitions and management, investments are still experiencing cost overruns, schedule lapses, and failure in some cases.  According to GAO’s report, “Over the past 5 years, GAO made more than 730 recommendations; however, only about 23% had been fully implemented as of January 2015.”

Efforts to improve IT acquisition and management will directly affect federal contractors, adding to increased scrutiny of contractor performance and potentially increasing required project performance documentation. Additionally, program areas such as those that are benefits based, may offer opportunities for technology contractors.  Federal demand for IT solutions to combat waste, fraud and abuse will continue to increase over the next several years.  Such products and services include technologies for pre-screening and identity authentication; data capture and processing; examination and detection; big data and analytics; and investigation, prosecution and recovery.

Through Congressional oversight and legislation, along with OMB leadership and agency accountability and corrective actions, vast improvements have been made to areas remaining on the high risk list.  Continued diligence by agencies in implementing GAO recommendations will lead to continued progress and elimination of federal program areas from the list.  

 

Federal Spending on Enterprise Business Systems Stays Strong

Ongoing initiatives to modernize government business systems offer prime examples of the ways federal agencies are looking to leverage technology transformation to achieve cost savings and efficiency gains. 

At end of 2014, Deltek’s Federal Industry Analysis team completed analysis of the market for business systems, identifying four segments characterized by different types of enterprise solutions. These four segments are financial management, asset and material management, human resources management, and administration and government management. 


Financial Management – The goal of improving financial management across the government has led to updated guidance for financial management system and shared services initiatives. Systems in this segment include solutions for payroll, accounting, invoice processing, budget formulation, and collections. This segment is expected to grow by 4.7% from FY 2014 to reach $3.4 billion in FY 2015.

 

Asset and Materials Management – Business systems for asset and materials management facilitate tighter asset control. Systems in this segment include solutions for supply chain management, inventory control, and fleet management. This segment remains flat from FY 2014 to 2015.

 

Human Resources Management – These systems support efforts to improve workforce performance. Solutions include personnel management, performance management, recruiting, and compensation management. This segment is expected to grow by 8.3% over FY 2014 levels to $3 billion.

 

Administration and Government Management – These systems include solutions for contract management, program management, customer relationship management, and travel management. Spending in this segment continues near FY2014 levels.

 

Deltek predicts contractor addressable spending on federal business systems to total $10.6 billion for FY 2015, increasing slightly over FY 2014 spending levels.  While many government efforts to improve business systems have been underway for some time, policies and legislative mandates continue to shape both the strategic direction and agency progress. For example, demand for improved business performance is underscored by reporting requirements and the need for increased financial transparency. The goal of reducing spending is also linked to efforts like adoption of shared services and plans to address auditability of financial systems. Ongoing budget pressure has increased the tendency to take an incremental approach to streamlining and enhancing government business operations.

 

Agencies making the largest investments in modernizations efforts include the Department of Defense, Treasury, and Veterans Affairs. Going forward, agencies are looking to continue advancing business system capabilities through mobile access and business analytics. The role of cloud environments is expected to expand, as only a small percentage of systems have completed migrated to cloud environments. Further exploration of the government initiatives targeting modernization of business systems is available in the recent Federal Industry Analysis report Federal Enterprise Business Systems, 2015.

 Originally published for Federal Industry Analysis: Analysts Perspectives Blog. Stay ahead of the competition by discovering more about GovWinIQ. Follow me on twitter @FIAGovWin.

 

North Carolina’s massive IT restructuring plan could impact vendors

In December, the North Carolina State Chief Information Officer (SCIO) issued a recommendation plan to restructure the state’s IT operations, consolidate resources and increase efficiency over the next four years. The report is a culmination of a year-long review of the state’s IT infrastructure and seeks to address various issues North Carolina currently experiences in the provision of IT services. If the restructuring plan is approved by the North Carolina General Assembly, it could impact IT vendors that do business with the state.

The plan in a nutshell

One of the key issues identified in the report is that the SCIO does not currently have direct authority over IT staff and funding of state agencies, which limits the SCIO’s ability to make enterprise-wide decisions and maximize state resources. This resulted in the duplication of numerous applications and IT contracts, as well as excess spending on IT projects. The plan recommends a shift from a decentralized structure – where agencies maintain control over things such as IT governance, funding, security, operations, and resources – to a unified model where these decisions are made at the enterprise level. The SCIO believes that this move toward centralized authority and accountability would allow for greater efficiency and cost savings while allowing agencies to focus on their core missions.

The plan further recommends the establishment of a new Department of Information Technology as an agency within the Governor’s Cabinet, which would require a statutory change by the General Assembly. The DIT will be responsible for tasks such as personnel management, risk management, contract management, supplier performance management, and supplier relationship management. In addition, the DIT will be in charge of making technology investment decisions such as “build versus buy and in-house or externally-sourced.”

The plan recommends a phased approach to the implementation of the unified model, which would take place over four-and-a-half years and complete by the end of fiscal year 2019. The “pre-structuring” phase would not require any additional funding or approval by the General Assembly and would mainly consist of the shift of IT personnel from state agencies to the SCIO. The “restructuring” phases, which constitute the bulk of the process and will take four years, would require the General Assembly to establish the DIT and some more funding before additional phases could begin.

Implications for vendors

Currently, the statewide IT procurement team is only responsible for the development and issuance of enterprise contracts, such as enterprise license agreements, statewide term contracts, and short-term staffing. Agencies use internal procurement staff to run and manage their IT procurements, but because these procurements do not occur frequently, agency staff does not have the knowledge necessary to develop and implement the contracts in the best and most comprehensive manner.

The early emphasis of the restructuring process will be placed on enhancing efficiency in places such as procurement, staffing, and operations. This includes a push to establish enterprise contracts, which pairs well with the SCIO’s current modernization of contracting vehicles to better address the state’s business needs, such as the IT supplemental staffing contract, which is already underway. The SCIO intends to establish a consistent set of standards for IT procurement to streamline the process and lead to more advantageous contracts that leverage actual spend and reduce the risks to the state. In addition, the plan states that in order to reap the benefits of a centralized and standardized IT procurement system, a dedicated contract management staff will be needed, and that these employees will be the only people officially authorized to speak with vendors on behalf of the state.

These changes have both positive and negative implications for the vendor community. On the plus side, vendors will be dealing with knowledgeable professionals during the procurement process and will be responding to detailed solicitations. The establishment of procurement standards will facilitate continual business with the state as vendors become familiar with these standards and know what to expect. 

North Carolina IT bids, FY 2011-2014

However, the image above represents the IT bids released by North Carolina during fiscal years 2011-2014. Of the more than 1,440 bids, only 339 came out of the Office of Information Technology Services, with the remainder coming from other agencies, namely Transportation, Public Safety, Health and Human Services, and Administration. The state’s drive to increase efficiency will likely result in the elimination of some of these agency-specific contracts, which will be replaced by statewide/enterprise contracts. This coupled with the SCIO’s push to leverage actual state usage and spending during the procurement process means that vendors will need to be more competitive in their pricing if they want to win these contracts. Further, it may become more difficult to obtain key information about projects as established points of contact are no longer available to discuss upcoming projects. Deltek will continue to monitor the progress of North Carolina’s IT restructuring plan and how it may impact vendors that do business with the state.

You can learn more about current procurement opportunities in Texas in the GovWin IQ State and Local Opportunities database. Not a Deltek subscriber? Click here to learn more about Deltek's GovWin IQ service and gain access to a free trial.

 

FY 2015 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) Set to Pass

The National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2015 has crossed a major hurdle to passage before the end of the calendar year as a House-Senate compromise bill has emerged. The final bill has implications for information technology acquisition and management at the Pentagon and beyond.

The legislation is a combination of two bills that each passed last May: HR 4435, which passed the full House, and S 2410, which passed in the Senate Armed Services Committee. As is typical, this year’s NDAA goes well beyond funding of national defense operations to include organizational and acquisition reform efforts and information technology priorities. Below is an overview of the high points of the bill.

Overview

  • Authorizes $521.3 billion in base discretionary defense spending and an additional $63.7 billion for Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO), reflecting the President’s initial request of $58.6 billion and the additional request of $5.1 billion to primarily cover counter-ISIL operations. The FY ‘15 NDAA is $48.0 billion less than the enacted FY ‘14 NDAA.
  • Does not reflect a proposed BRAC round as requested by the Administration, citing concerns that previous rounds did not yield the promised savings but rather imposed large up-front costs only to shift property between federal agencies. The current flux of military size and structure is also cited as a reason to postpone a BRAC round.
  • Selectively supports some White House proposals – like limited compensation increases for military personnel, including a for a pay freeze for General and Flag Officers – while adjusting others – like replacing a 5% reduction in basic allowance for housing (BAH) with a 1% decrease. This NDAA also blocks retirement of the A-10 aircraft, but provides for some reprogramming of those funds to higher priorities if needed.

Reform Efforts

  • Restores the Office of Net Assessment (ONA) to an independent status, reporting directly to the Secretary of Defense, and increases the ONA budget for FY ‘15 by $10 million to $18.9 million
  • Directs the SECDEF to report on the feasibility of reducing or consolidating combatant command functions by FY20 and a plan to implement a periodic review and analysis of management headquarters. This NDAA would also task GAO with assessing the DoD’s headquarter reduction efforts as part of GAO’s previous work assessing HQ growth.
  • Directs the Under Secretary for Acquisition, Technology, and Logistics, (USD (AT&L)) and senior acquisition executives for the Navy and the Air Force to issue DoD-wide policies implementing a standard checklist to be completed before issuing a solicitation for any new contract for services or exercising an option under an existing services contract. The FY ‘08 NDAA established an annual services contracts inventory requirement that DoD has yet to fully implement.
  • As a cost-control mechanism, the bill requires the Comptroller General to conduct a review of cases in which an acquisition program office believes that the Director of Operational Test and Evaluation has required testing above the required test plan.
  • Directs the SECDEF to provide the congressional defense committees with frequent reports on DoD’s damage assessment resulting from unauthorized disclosures of classified information and steps the Department is taking to mitigate the damage.
  • Provides for an overhaul of the Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR) process to produce a new Defense Strategy Review that is more long-term and strategic in nature and a more useful oversight tool.

Information Technology and Cyber Operations

  • Directs the President to maintain a list of nation-states or individuals that engage in economic or industrial espionage using cyber tools, and allows for the President to impose sanctions on such individuals or nation-states
  • Directs the SECDEF to designate an executive agency for cyber test ranges and another for cyber training ranges to better coordinate and resource each
  • Requires the development of a Major Force Program for cyber to better account for the budgeting and resourcing of cyber operations capabilities
  • Requires mandatory reporting on penetrations of operationally critical contractor networks
  • Requires the development and implementation of operational metrics for the performance of the Joint Information Environment (JIE)
  • Implements the Federal Information Technology Reform Act (FITARA) that has stalled and been removed from last year’s NDAA, according to Nextgov. FITARA will give additional budgetary and management authorities to agency CIOs, although no so much in the DoD. Nextgov also notes that the NDAA also supports federal data center consolidation efforts, the DoD’s move to cloud computing, and a plan to expand the use special IT acquisition experts.

While the final bill still needs to pass both the full House and Senate and be signed by the president, the FITARA provisions should not be a major reason for a presidential veto, according to a Federal News Radio interview with some members of Congress.  

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Originally published for Federal Industry Analysis: Analysts Perspectives Blog. Stay ahead of the competition by discovering more about 
GovWin FIA. Follow me on Twitter @GovWinSlye.

 

Justice to Streamline IT Buying through Service Broker

In the coming year, the Justice Department will join the ranks of agencies leveraging service broker arrangements for acquisition of IT infrastructure and services.

In recent years, Department of Justice (DOJ) has progressed efforts to consolidate contracts, reducing redundancy of acquisition efforts and improving enterprise capabilities. Some of these initiatives began as informal strategic sourcing efforts. The department has actively leveraged Enterprise License Agreements (ELAs) and Blanket Purchase Agreements (BPAs) to achieve cost savings. The majority of the department’s mobile device and wireless services were consolidated through several contract vehicles. By leveraging strategic sourcing and shared services for wireless and telecom needs, DOJ can lower equipment expenditures by moving to contracts with best negotiated prices.

Now, it seems that the Justice Department is taking the next step by pursuing service broker. Other federal agencies that have adopted a service broker model include Defense Department and the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA). These broker arrangements allow agencies to identify solutions for common requirements and simplify technology buying within organizations.

According to recent reports, DOJ expects to target infrastructure and commodity IT services initially. These technologies would include wide area network (WAN), data centers, storage, email, telecommunications, security, and Trusted Internet Connection (TIC) services. The “next tier” of services that would be addressed, according to Justice’s CIO Klimavicz, cover business enterprise services, such as voice and collaboration.

The decision to formally adopt service brokerage aligns with the department’s strategic plans and technology initiatives. For a number of years, DOJ has actively leveraged Enterprise Level Agreements and Blanket Purchase Agreements to achieve cost savings. In 2012, Justice established ten commodity area working groups focus on IT functions, like data centers, email, and mobility. These groups provide recommendations to the DOJ CIO Council to address commodity investment areas, to identify potential for consolidation and cost savings, as well as to manage milestone and performance metrics.

DOJ’s near term information resource planning highlights 5 goals including institutionalizing IT portfolio management, streamlining operations, enhancing IT security, delivering innovative solutions, and expanding information sharing. The shift to centralized delivery of IT capabilities, such as multi-component (enterprise) IT services, and use of enterprise platforms is expected to drive greater value than silo solutions. Ongoing assessments and continuous enhancement of existing IT assets and vendor relationships will improve the value of the IT portfolio by evaluating the risks of adopting new technologies too soon or sustaining legacy technology for too long.

Brokerage would facilitate increased use of shared services, enable enterprise capabilities, and consolidate departmental purchasing power to improve pricing through strategic sourcing. The Department of Justice’s vision for strategic sourcing has led to the establishment of a Vendor Management Office (VMO) targeting improvement of buying practices for IT infrastructure. The VMO will lead efforts to analyze procurement data, to identify best practices, and to centralize enterprise procurement vehicles.

As with other federal markets being impacted by strategic sourcing, vendors will need to be increasingly mindful of market positioning. IT spending will be increasingly directed through agencies strategic sourcing and preferred contract vehicles, but that shift inhibits spending as government organizations look to achieve economies of scale for commodity IT purchases. The establishment of Vendor Management Offices means contractors can expect increased oversight and greater need to partner smartly.

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Originally published in the GovWin FIA Analysts Perspectives Blog. Follow me on Twitter @FIAGovWin.

 

The U.S. Digital Service – “Hey, Mikey!”

Walking the halls of the West Wing in a rumpled casual button-up shirt, Mikey Dickerson’s mission as the Administrator for the new U.S. Digital Service is “to improve and simplify the digital experience that people and businesses have with their government.”

Mikey’s name immediately brought back memories for me of Life Cereal’s Mikey commercials in the early 1970s.  The line “He likes it! Hey Mikey!” came to mind.  And in the same way Life was bringing to market a new cereal that was good for you, the federal government is trying to break down barriers to ignite innovation. 

Mikey is different from the typical Washington government leader, from his casual attire to his unassuming name.  What he brings to the table is experience, knowledge, speed and out-of-the-box thinking.  He’s not weighed down by bureaucratic work experience.  He comes from a more nibble environment which the White House hopes to bestow across government. 

Mikey’s first foray into government was last year as part of the Healthcare.gov rescue team.  The aim of the U.S. Digital Service is to build on the success of that effort by bringing a small team of America’s best digital experts together to collaborate with other government agencies and make websites more consumer friendly, identify and fix problems, and help upgrade the government’s technology infrastructure.

The White House press release announcing the establishment of the U.S. Digital Service states that it will accomplish its mission by:

  • Establishing standards to bring the government’s digital services in line with the best private sector services  
  • Identifying common technology patterns that will help us scale services effectively  
  • Collaborating with agencies to identify and address gaps in their capacity to design, develop, deploy and operate excellent citizen-facing services  
  • Providing accountability to ensure agencies see results

During a testimony in May, federal CIO Steve VanRoekel called the idea of a U.S. Digital Service a "centralized, world-class capability...made up of our country’s brightest digital talent."  This team will be "charged with

removing barriers to exceptional government service delivery and remaking the digital experiences that citizens and businesses have with their government."

 

To get to know Mikey better, click here to watch the White House’s video “Day One: Mikey Dickerson, U.S. Digital Service Administrator.”  I find his demeanor and persona refreshing.  He states in the video that a lot of people want to know if he’s wearing a suit every day.  It’s their way of asking, “is this the same old business as usual or are they (the government) actually going to listen.”  His philosophy, as well as that of much of Silicon Valley, is that innovation doesn’t happen in a suit.

 

GAO Testifies Regarding Ailing IT Investments

GAO’s David A. Powner, Director Information Technology Management Issues, testified before the Senate subcommittee on Efficiency and Effectiveness of Federal Programs last week that $1.4 billion worth of federal IT investments are in peril and another $8.6 billion need attention.

Powner stated before the subcommittee under the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs that according to the OMB IT Dashboard 183 federal investments are in jeopardy, equating to $10 billion.  “OMB and agencies need to aggressively govern these at-risk investments using TechStat sessions and other governance mechanisms,” Powner said.

 

Last month, Powner appeared before the entire Senate Committee for Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs on Identifying Critical Factors for Success in IT Acquisition to offer insight into best practices and reform initiatives that can help improve IT investment management.  Expanded use of critical success factors in IT acquisition, such as active stakeholder engagement and support from agency executives, along with further implementation of government and industry best practices, will better position agencies to more effectively deliver mission-critical systems, according to GAO.

The IT Dashboard, launched by OMB, has been one key reform issue.  The IT Dashboard was meant to help mitigate risk in federal IT programs and it has increased visibility and garnered success.  However, it has its weaknesses.  GAO issued a report in 2011 which voiced concerns about accuracy and reliability of dashboard data, but also pointed out that data was improving over time.  Recently, GAO reported that agencies had removed major investments from the dashboard which raises concerns about transparency.  Additionally, GAO noted that the timeliness of updates to the dashboard was lacking.  As of December 2013, the public version of the dashboard was not updated 15 of the previous 24 months.

Powner also cited OMB recommendations for increased incremental development, but GAO’s recent findings indicate that almost 75% of investments reviewed did not plan to deliver capabilities every six months and less than half planned to deliver capabilities in 12 month cycles.

In recent reports, GAO has also offered recommendations for PortfolioStat efforts.  PortfolioStat requires agencies to conduct annual reviews of their IT portfolios and make decisions about eliminating duplication.  This initiative has the potential to save $5.8 billion through FY 2015, however weaknesses exist in the implementation of the initiative across agencies.  One implementation issue revolves around CIO authority.  

With over $80 billion in federal IT spending per year, it’s incumbent upon agencies and the administration to learn from successful IT implementations, as well as failed projects.  While use of best practices, legislation, and OMB efforts at transparency and oversight have improved IT execution and spending, continued leadership and attention is necessary to build on current progress.

 

Could New Cybersecurity Acquisition Plans Disrupt Federal Procurements?

Growing concern over cybersecurity and vulnerabilities to cyber-attacks that would impact the supply chain of both military and civilian agencies has led the federal government to look for ways to build cyber-protections into the federal acquisition process. But some in industry are concerned that new proposals coming out of the Pentagon and GSA could be disruptive in their own right.

The joint DoD/GSA publication, Improving Cybersecurity and Resilience through Acquisition - Final Report of the Department of Defense and General Services Administration, is one component of the government-wide implementation of Executive Order 13636 and Presidential Policy Directive (PPD) 21, issued in February 2013 and both addressing improved critical infrastructure cybersecurity.

The report included six recommended reforms addressing cybersecurity and federal acquisitions:

  • Institute baseline cybersecurity requirements as a condition of contract award for appropriate acquisitions

  • Include cybersecurity in acquisition training

  • Develop common cybersecurity definitions for federal acquisitions

  • Institute a federal acquisition cyber risk management strategy

  • Include a requirement to purchase from original equipment manufacturers, their authorized resellers, or other trusted sources

  • Increase government accountability for cyber risk management

In the news release announcing the report release GSA Administrator, Dan Tangherlini noted that “the ultimate goal of the recommendations is to strengthen the federal government’s cybersecurity by improving management of the people, processes, and technology affected by the Federal Acquisition System.  GSA and DoD will continue to engage stakeholders to develop a repeatable process to address cyber risks in the development, acquisition, sustainment, and disposal lifecycles for all federal procurements.”

Industry Concerns

The report has been open for industry comment for a few months and several IT industry organizations have expressed concerns over the direction the DoD and GSA are taking, according to a recent account. Specifically, some in industry are concerned that assessing cyber-risk based primarily on the inherent risk of the purchased products or services (i.e. product category) creates additional issues because it ignores the larger risk environment surrounding their implementation and it adds complexity and ambiguity that will make it difficult to use by agencies. If implemented in its current form, it sounds like it could run the risk of “the law of unintended consequences.”

Implication

While the emphasis of the executive order is on using security standards to influence acquisition planning, contract administration, and to ultimately increase resiliency, agencies are also under pressure to improve the economy and efficiency of their IT acquisitions.  Agencies also struggle with delays to procurements due to changing or additional requirements as well as protests. How security and resiliency controls are added to the acquisition process will have direct implications for the complexity, speed and cost of completing procurements. 

Implementing good cybersecurity intentions is important, but it is equally important to implement them in the right way. Otherwise, agencies run the risk that some supply chain disruptions they experience could be self-inflicted.

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Originally published in the GovWin FIA Analysts Perspectives Blog. Follow me on Twitter @GovWinSlye.

FY 2016 Budget Guidance Calls out Information Technology

The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) released guidance on May 5, 2014 outlining requirements for federal agency budgets in fiscal 2016. The details included lower discretionary spending and a continued focus on areas like improving customer services and information technology delivery.

According to guidance from OMB, the FY 2016 budget will aim to build on the strategy for growth, opportunity, and national security by decreasing funding on lower priority programs “in order to create room for effective investments in areas that remain critical to securing our Nation’s future.” Agency guidance in the memoranda falls into the following categories:

2016 Discretionary Budget Submissions: Agency budget submissions for FY 2016 should reflect a 2 percent reduction from the FY 2016 total provided in the FY 2015 budget, unless OMB has given an agency “explicit direction otherwise.” These reductions are to be met through prioritizing spending and reducing duplicative or ineffective investments. The guidance attempts to close historic loopholes by explicitly stating that submissions are to exclude across-the-board cuts and shuffling activity (e.g. reclassification of discretionary spending to mandatory, shifts of costs to other budget areas). However, these approaches may be included in a separate proposals. Agencies are also tasked with providing recommendations to increase effectiveness within their own programs and those at other agencies.

Mandatory Budgets: Agencies are expected to address mandatory investments with the same level of precision spent on discretionary spending. OMB is encouraging agencies to propose new savings within mandatory spending areas.

Support for the Administration’s Management Agenda and Cross-Agency Priorities: The FY 2015 budget focused on four areas of reform priorities (i.e. effectiveness, efficiency, economic growth, and people and culture). Agencies are expected to continue to target these priorities areas in their FY 2016 submission. Several areas are specified in particular: customer service, information technology, and employee engagement. Specific to information technology, agencies will target improvements to infrastructure along with addressing necessary reforms around security clearances and insider threats.

Emphasis on Strategic Reviews: OMB recommends that agencies use the results of reviews and progress on objectives in the new agency strategic plans (published with the FY 2015 budget) to align their FY 2016 requests with agency goals. Additionally, agencies should note investments linked to Agency Priority Goals.

Evidence and Evaluation: Building on efforts to drive data and evidence-based decision making, agencies will be supported in using data and evidence-based tools and techniques to improve program delivery and to expand successful approaches. Going forward, agency budget materials will include: an overview of agency (or department) progress and plans with accomplishments and priorities, as well as an agency plan for embedding evaluation in programs.

The priorities outlined in this guidance stands to bolster spending on key information technology programs related to both IT infrastructure reform and information security. While program oversight investments continue to receive support for funding, contractors can expect ongoing scrutiny into program delivery and performance.


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Originally published for Federal Industry Analysis: Analysts Perspectives Blog. Stay ahead of the competition by discovering more about GovWinIQ. Follow me on twitter @FIAGovWin.

 

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