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FAA’s NextGen Remains a Winner in Fiscal 2015 Budget Request

The Federal Aviation Administration, a perennial “winner” when it comes to appropriations, is slated to once again receive nearly $1 billion in funding for work related to the Next Generation Air Transportation System (NextGen).  The president’s budget request for the FAA actually works out to $836 million, plus an additional $186 million if Congress also chooses to fund the so-called “Opportunity, Growth, and Security Initiative” for the Department of Transportation.  One billion dollars per fiscal year is a lot of money under good circumstances.  In the context of the United States’ currently dire fiscal condition, it is an eye-popping amount

What has the DOT/FAA been doing with this annual budgetary largesse, generally untouched even in the face of sequestration?  Falling behind schedule and making bad business decisions, according to a recent audit by the DOT’s Office of the Inspector General.  To quote from the report “While FAA is making progress with elements of NextGen, [its] work continues to find longstanding problems with cost increases, schedule slips, and performance shortfalls.”  Some specific problems cited in the report include:

  • Failing to make “key Enterprise Architecture decisions … such as investments needed for a NextGen weather-related system that was scheduled for 2010.”
  • Failing “to develop an executable implementation plan that addresses costs and technology development and integration.”
  • Allowing the production schedules of “key modernization projects … needed to implement NextGen capabilities” to slip.

The result of these “challenges” is that members of the aerospace industry are becoming increasingly skeptical of spending money on the installation of NextGen electronic components in their aircraft given the lack of clear benefits to do so.  This is a remarkable observation considering NextGen has been touted for years as the future of air travel in the United States.

The picture that emerges from the OIG audit is not uniformly bleak.  In fact, for IT providers there is considerable opportunity in the FAA’s chaos.  NextGen schedule slips suggest the potential for more contractor work in the future and if the government is going to continue throwing close to $1 billion at the problem, who are industry partners to complain? 

For example, the longer NextGen systems remain under development, the longer legacy National Airspace System components will require sustainment.  The DOT proposes to fund the FAA’s NAS Sustainment Strategy to the tune of $370 million in FY 2015 “to reduce some of FAA’s multi-billion dollar maintenance backlog.”  Therefore, what we are really talking about in FY 2015 is a total of $1.37 billion for NextGen/NAS sustainment funding.

Finally, if all this screams legacy contract recompetition to you, then we’re on the same page as the DOT OIG.  To again quote from the report, the “FAA will need a sufficient workforce to manage FAA’s increasing acquisition workload.”  By my count there are at least 7 NextGen/NAS related contracts expiring by the end of FY 2015.


Of these contracts, two stand out – the ERAM support contract held by Lockheed Martin and the System Wide Information Management (SWIM) System Engineering and Business Support Services contract held by the North Star Group.  The ERAM contract deserves attention because it is by far and away the largest of the contracts listed and because the implementation of ERAM has experienced repeated delays over the years.  The SWIM support contract is worth knowing because the SWIM system is the SOA-based information sharing interface that sits at the center of NextGen.  Obviously, the others are worth having on the radar as well.  It’s just that these efforts stand out to me more than the others.

 

 

FY 2015 President’s Budget Request – A First Take

The White House released its much-anticipated FY 2015 Budget request yesterday, a month past its legal and historical due date. Several of my fellow GovWin Federal Industry Analysis (FIA) colleagues and I dug right into reading the budget so that we could provide you with our first impressions of what we found noteworthy.

Like any presidential budget, the FY 2015 President’s Budget Request provides a blueprint for the administration’s policy and legislative agenda for the coming fiscal year and beyond. We reviewed the largest federal departments’ discretionary and information technology (IT) budgets to get a sense of direction and priorities for FY 2015, which begins October 1, 2014. Below is a summary table followed by key funding details and initiatives arranged by department.

 

Defense

DoD’s budget request is down this year as FY 2015 discretionary funding of $495.6B represents a 0.8% decrease from the FY 2014 enacted budget of $496B.

Funding highlights include:

  • $120.3B for the Army (a decrease of $1.3B from the FY 2014 enacted level)
  • $147.6B for the Navy (an increase of $300M from the FY 2014 enacted level)
  • $137.7B for the Air Force (an increase of $3B from the FY 2014 enacted level)
  • $89.8B for Defense-Wide operations (a decrease of $2.5B from the FY 2014 enacted level)
  • $199B for DoD operations and maintenance funding (an increase of $6B from the FY 2014 enacted level)
  • $90.3B for DoD procurement funding (a decrease of $2B from the FY 2014 enacted level)
  • $63.5B in DoD RDT&E funding (a decrease of $700M from the FY 2014 enacted level)

Provisions of Interest

  • $128M for military infrastructure in Guam, $51M of which is to establish facilities for Marine Air-Ground Task Forces throughout the region
  • $47.4B for the DoD Unified Medical Budget
  • $2.9B for the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency
  • $11.5B for basic and applied research and advanced technology development

Agriculture

The USDA’s budget request is down this year as FY 2015 discretionary funding of $23B represents a 4% decrease from the FY 2014 enacted level of $24B.

Funding highlights include:

  • $7.2B for the Food and Nutrition Service (an increase of $124M from the FY 2014 enacted level)
  • $4.8B for the Forest Service (a decrease of $700M from the FY 2014 enacted level)
  • $2.4B for Rural Development (a decrease of $400M from the FY 2014 enacted level)
  • $1.8B for the Foreign Agricultural Service (same as the FY 2014 enacted level)
  • $1.5B for the Farm Service Agency (a decrease of $100M from the FY 2014 enacted level)
  • $1.1B for the Agricultural Research Service (same as the FY 2014 enacted level)
  • $1B for the Food Safety and Inspection Service (same as the FY 2014 enacted level)
  • $837M for the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (a decrease of $8M from the FY 2014 enacted level)
  • $815M for the Natural Resources Conservation Service (a decrease of $14M from the FY 2014 enacted level)

Provisions of Interest

  • The Opportunity, Growth, and Security Initiative provides funding to build a new biosafety research laboratory in Athens, GA
  • $45.2M for the USDA OCIO
  • $15M for IT investments for the Comprehensive Loan Program (CLP)
  • $44 million to address climate change’s risk to agriculture, including investments in cyber infrastructure for big data

Commerce

The president’s budget request provides $8.8B in base discretionary funding to Commerce, a 6% increase over FY 2014 enacted levels.  It requests $2B in IT funding, an increase of 5.3% over FY 2014 enacted levels. 

Funding highlights include:

  • Provides funding for NIST to accelerate advances in areas such as cybersecurity and advanced manufacturing
  • Supports key trade promotion activities to stimulate economic growth
  • Seeks to promote business investment in the US to create jobs and promote US competitiveness
  • Provides $753M for innovative design methods for achieving the lowest cost possible 2020 decennial census
  • Establishes up to 45 manufacturing innovation institutes across the US
  • Continues strong support of NOAA, including $2B to continue the development of polar-orbiting and geostationary weather satellite systems
  • Provides $1.6B for research and development
  • Funds a new investment line item for modernizing IT and business processes at PTO ($64.4M)

Energy

The DOE’s budget request is up this year as FY 2015 discretionary funding of $27.9B represents a 2.6% increase over the FY 2014 enacted level of $27.2B.

Funding highlights include:

  • $11.7B for the National Nuclear Security Administration (an increase of $M from the 2014 enacted level)
  • $6.0B for Department Management and Performance (a decrease of $200M from the FY 2014 enacted level)
  • $5.1B for Science Programs (an increase of $100M from the FY 2014 enacted level)
  • $4.0B for Energy Programs (an increase of $300M from the FY 2014 enacted level)

Provisions of Interest

  • $180M in R&D to facilitate the transition to a Smart Grid
  • $325M for Advanced Research Projects Agency–Energy programs
  • $141M ($91M in Science and $50M in NNSA) for R&D related to exascale computing
  • More than $300M for DOE cyber security initiatives

Health and Human Services

The president’s budget request provides $77.1B in base discretionary funding to HHS, a 1.7% decrease over FY 2014 enacted levels.  It requests $8.6B in IT funding, a decrease of 10.4% over FY 2014 enacted levels. 

Funding highlights include:

  • Supports the Affordable Care Act and operation of the Health Insurance Marketplace
  • Provides $30.2B to NIH for medical research
  • Improves mental health services for youth and families
  • Invests in payment innovations and other reforms for Medicare and Medicaid and other federal health programs to improve program integrity and delivery of high-quality, efficient health care
  • Invests in a new initiative to improve access to high-quality health care providers
  • Funds construction of two new Indian Health Service health care facilities
  • Increases the investment in CMS IT infrastructure by $58.6M, a 19.4% gain
  • Increases the investment in CMS Healthcare Fraud Prevention Partnership (HFPP) by $17M, a 354% increase
  • Decreases IT funding for the CMS  investment that developed the health insurance marketplace (-$297M) and transfers to states for CMS Medicaid Management Information System (-$618M) 

Homeland Security

DHS is slated to receive $38.2B in base discretionary funding in the president’s budget request, a 2.6% decrease over FY 2014 enacted levels. The budget also includes and $6.8B for disaster relief. The budget requests $5.8B in IT funding which includes a $3M reduction from the FY 2014 enacted levels, a 0.1% decrease year over year.

Funding highlights include:

  • $514M for research and development in homeland security technology and developing state-of-the-art solutions for first responders – target opportunities in cybersecurity, explosives detection, nuclear detection, and chemical and biological detection.
  • $300M to initiate construction in 2015 of the National Bio- and Agro-Defense Facility to study large animal zoonotic diseases and develop countermeasures
  • $124M to support, expand, and enhance E-Verify system to aid U.S. employers with employment legality verification
  • $112.5M for Secure Flight, under which DHS conducts passenger watch list
  • $3.8B for the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) screening operations. Supports risk-based security initiatives at the Transportation Security Administration that enhance the efficiency of passenger screening operations, while improving the customer experience for the traveling public.
  • $1.25B for cybersecurity activities including:
    • $377.7M for Network Security Deployment, including the EINSTEIN3 Accelerated (E3A) program
    • $143.5M for the Continuous Diagnostics and Mitigation (CDM) program
    • $173.5M to support ICE cyber and cyber-enabled investigations of cyber-crime, etc.
    • $28M for the classified Homeland Secure Data Network to security and info sharing
    • $67.5M for Cybersecurity/Information Analysis Research and Development
    • $8.5M to establish a voluntary program and an enhanced cybersecurity services capability to support Executive Order 13636, Improving Critical Infrastructure Cybersecurity
    • $3.9M for Secret Service Cybersecurity Presidential Protection Measures to support monitoring of protective sites which directly or indirectly support a Presidential visit

Justice

The president’s budget request provides $27.4B in discretionary funding for the Justice department, $122M above the 2014 enacted level – for DOJ core law enforcement needs, safe and secure prisons, and other Federal, State, and local programs. DoJ’s IT budget is just slightly better than flat (+0.4%) year-over-year at $27.4B.

Funding highlights include:

  • $722M for cybersecurity efforts to combat increasingly sophisticated and rapidly evolving cyber threats
  • $13M to the FBI for investment in the National Instant Criminal Background Check System as part of the DOJ’s overall $182M budget for Federal, State, and local gun violence reduction efforts
  • $8.4B for Federal prisons and detention facilities, to maintain secure prison facilities and to continue bringing newly completed or acquired prisons online
  • $15M under the Smart on Crime initiative for prisoner reentry programs and for Prevention and Reentry Coordinators
  • $15M to expand the Residential Drug Abuse Program at the Federal level and $14M to expand the Residential Substance Abuse Treatment program at the state level
  • $1.7M to develop new multidisciplinary program evaluation and policy analysis capability to improve budget, management, and policy decisions
  • $299M for the Department’s Juvenile Justice Programs
  • $423M (roughly half of which are grants) to combat violent crimes against women
  • $9M to establish a National Center for Building Community Trust and Justice to promote procedural fairness in policing, use deterrence strategies to reduce crime, and encourage police departments to track the quality of their interactions with the public

Transportation

DOT’s budget request is down this year as FY 2015 discretionary funding of $13.7B represents a 2.14% decrease from the FY 2014 enacted level of $14B.

Funding highlights include:

  • $48.6B for the Federal Highway Administration (an increase of $7.2B from the FY 2014 enacted level)
  • $15.3B for the Federal Aviation Administration (a decrease of $584M from the FY 2014 enacted level)
  • $4.9B for the Federal Railroad Administration (an increase of $3.3B from the FY 2014 enacted level)
  • $17.6B for the Federal Transit Administration (an increase of $6.9B from the FY 2014 enacted level)
  • $851M in mandatory and discretionary funding for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (an increase of $32M from the FY 2014 enacted level)
  • $669M for the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (an increase of $97M from the FY 2014 enacted level)
  • $261M for the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (an increase of $51M from the FY 2014 enacted level)

Provisions of Interest

  • $302B four-year surface transportation reauthorization proposal to support critical infrastructure projects
  • Funding for FAA NextGen investments is preserved
  • $370 million for National Airspace System Sustainment
  • $5M for cyber security initiatives, a decrease of $7M from the FY 2014 enacted level

Treasury

The president’s budget request provides $12.4B in base discretionary funding to Treasury, a 1.5% decrease over FY 2014 enacted levels.  However, provides total resources of $13.8B which is a $1.2B increase partially funded by proposed program integrity caps. It requests $4B in IT funding, an increase of 13.4% over FY 2014 enacted levels. 

Funding highlights include:

  • Continues implementation of the Affordable Care Act
  • Continues implementation of the Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act to create a more stable  and responsible financial system
  • Invests $12.5B in the IRS, which includes a $480M program integrity cap adjustment.  Aimed at improving enforcement of current tax laws and reducing the current tax gap.  Includes more than a $100M increase to improve customer service, and an additional $165M is proposed to further enhance customer service through the Opportunity, Growth, and Security Initiative
  • $1.5B for a new round of State Small Business Credit Initiatives
  • Expands the level of detail and capabilities of sorting federal spending data to enable better use of the data
  • Calls for a $227M increase to the IRS Main Frames and Servers Services and Support investment over FY 2014 levels

Veterans Affairs

The president’s budget request provides $65.3B in base discretionary funding to VA, a 3% increase over FY 2014 enacted levels, giving VA total budget authority of $68.4B which includes $3.1B of estimated medical care collections.  The budget requests $4B in IT funding, an increase of 4.7% over FY 2014 enacted levels.

Funding highlights include:

  • $56B for VA medical care, and $58.7B in advanced funding for FY16 appropriations for medical care
  • Emphasis on ending veterans’ homelessness. ($1.6B) Working with HUD
  • Supports continued improvements in delivery of mental health care and telehealth technologies ($7B)
  • $1B in mandatory funding to help put veterans back to work protecting and rebuilding America
  • An additional $400M for high priority capital projects
  • Invests $138.7M in the Veterans Claims Intake Program and $173.3M for the Veterans Benefit Management System to address the claims backlog

Stay tuned to FIA as we will be publishing our complete analysis of the FY 2015 budget request later this month, where we will go into greater detail on the key initiatives, IT investments and contractor implications that will shape the federal IT marketplace for FY 2015.

Fellow GovWin Federal Industry Analysis (FIA) analysts Angela Petty and Alex Rossino contributed to this entry.

The Federal Aviation Administration Turns to the Cloud for NextGen Solutions

It has been 14 months since the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) published its cloud computing strategy.  In that time, the agency has made progress toward using cloud solutions on a large-scale.  The going so far has been slow, just as the agency promised it would be in its strategy document, and as former acting DOT CIO Tim Schmidt reiterated at an industry event in January of this year.  Recent events suggest, however, that the FAA is poised to enter the cloud market in a big way, providing business opportunities for infrastructure providers and systems engineering firms alike.

FAA Cloud Services

In terms of infrastructure, the FAA has settled on a strategy that leverages an industry partner capable of hosting government owned computing and storage hardware in a commercial facility.  The selected partner will also provide additional cloud infrastructure as required, as well as platform-as-a-service (PaaS) and software-as-a-service (SaaS) cloud services.  These services are all required as part of a large acquisition the FAA is conducting for FAA Cloud Services (FCS).  After releasing a Request for Information for FCS in July 2012, there had been little activity associated with the procurement.  Then, in April of this year, the agency released a draft procurement package outlining the requirements in greater detail.  This package makes it clear that much like the Intelligence Community and the Department of Defense, the FAA will spend a majority of its cloud dollars in the near-term on industry provided infrastructure.  Additional cloud services, e.g., the migration of applications, will be required as the model proves itself.  The industry partner will also be required to ensure that the facility and services provided operate smoothly with the FAA’s Telecommunications Infrastructure (FTI) and other networks and systems.  The solicitation for FCS is currently anticipated to be released in August 2013.

Systems Engineering Efforts

This brings me to the other cloud-related efforts underway at the FAA.  The most important of these is the System Wide Information Management, or SWIM, program.  SWIM was developed on a service-oriented architecture to be a data sharing hub between the various elements of the Next Generation Airspace Transportation System (NextGen).  The effort to cloud-enable SWIM has been underway since 2011, with work being performed by Noblis (Order #18 on contract #DTFAWA11D00051) and the North Star Group (Order #2004 on contract #DTFAWA10C00032).  The SWIM program has been well over budget and it is years behind schedule.  Currently, the SWIM program office anticipates Segment 1 of this system will be fully operational in FY 2015.  Presumably work on Segment 2a, introducing an enterprise messaging system via nodes in the National Airspace System, will also have begun by this time.  My expectation is that SWIM will be hosted in the FCS cloud facility.

Another system that appears destined for the cloud is the Common Support Services-Weather (CSS-Wx) program.  CSS-Wx is intended to be the single source of aviation weather information for the FAA and the data will be distributed via the SWIM system.  So, work will be required to engineer CSS-Wx for interoperability with SWIM.  CSS-Wx also will be hosted in the facility provided by the FCS vendor.

Finally, there is the Aeronautical Information Management Modernization (AIMMS2) effort to consider.  AIMMS2 provides an automated interface through which “Management of Airspace for Special Use Special Activity Airspace (SAA) assignments, schedules, coordination, and status changes” are communicated.  Like CSS-Wx, AIMMS2 is supposed “to take advantage of FAA-provided cloud infrastructure for its implementation,” and it leverages the SWIM program for data sharing, meaning that it too will require development, testing, and engineering to be interoperable.

These efforts illustrate that work related to both NextGen and cloud computing is beginning to appear in FAA procurements.  Industry should expect more projects to appear in the years to come, as the FAA gets its cloud infrastructure established and gains experience with a cloud-based approach.  This is a welcome surprise in a market where finding business opportunities can be challenging, particularly because as of last year it appeared that the FAA was going to use its own internal cloud infrastructure to host NextGen components.  One other thing to note about these efforts is that the FAA is not thinking short-term for them.  The potential duration of the FCS, CSS-Wx, and AIMMS2 awards is in the range of 10 years apiece, so vendors who lock up this work will have it for a long time.

 

Will FAA Spending on NextGen to Remain Strong through 2020?

A few weeks ago the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) published a report entitled Department of Transportation: Key Issues and Management Challenges, 2013. This report examined challenges the DOT is facing when it comes to “leveraging investment in surface transportation networks to meet national goals and priorities.” Being a market analyst focused on federal IT I read through the report seeking insight into department pain points and future technology needs. This was time well spent, because I hit pay dirt. Check out this doozy of a revelation on page 19 - the Federal Aviation Administration’s “NextGen modeling indicates that even if all ongoing and planned NextGen technologies are implemented, 14 airports—including some of the 35 busiest—may not be able to meet the projected increases in demand.”
Among these 14 airports could be found Newark International, LaGuardia, and Philadelphia, or, in other words, major airports serving major population centers. A look through DOT line items in the fiscal 2013 Exhibit 53 shows that spending related to the FAA’s Next Generation Air Transportation System is expected to make up $2.2 billion of the DOT’s $3.1 billion IT budget in FY 13 alone. Spending on this level is not an aberration either. Every year an overwhelming majority of the DOT’s IT dollars are dedicated to NextGen related investments.
The results of the FAA’s NextGen modeling suggest a significant amount of IT dollars will continue flowing into NextGen related procurements for at least the next decade. In today’s climate of shrinking IT budgets, this revelation is akin to discovering an unexpected oasis in a desert. The question is figuring out where these dollars will materialize. The GAO report does not provide any clues so those of us looking in from the outside are left to speculate about potential investments. In my opinion, two general possibilities present themselves at this time.
First, current contracts supporting NextGen investments could be extended and/or scope increased to provide the extra capacity.  By my count there are more than 30 currently active contracts related to NextGen components expiring between September 2014 and October 2018. Still others expire up to 2020. Competing for the follow-ons to these contracts (assuming follow-ons are planned) is a no-brainer.

Second, the FAA may choose to compete brand new contracts for NextGen requirements. The $64,000 question at this point is will the FAA leverage cloud computing for its needs? Publicly, the FAA’s progress toward the cloud has been slow. Behind the scenes, however, it is beginning to look like the agency is growing more comfortable with using cloud-based solutions. For example, Noblis has been providing cloud computing support for the FAA’s System-Wide Information Management (SWIM) program since June 2012. That order was awarded via Enterprise Communications Support Services (ECSS) contract # DTFAWA11D00051. More recently the FAA Office of Airports awarded a contract to L-3 Services (a subsidiary of L-3 Communications) for its System of Airports Reporting (SOAR) II requirement. Section 4.2.3 of the Statement of Work called specifically for the awardee to complete an assessment of a potential cloud computing solution for SOAR II. Strictly speaking, SOAR II is not a NextGen system, but because it interfaces with NextGen systems I am wondering how long it will be before a lot more Market Surveys calling for NextGen related cloud solutions start appearing on FedBizOpps.gov.

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