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2014 NDAA Directs DoD to Address Gaps in Space Capabilities

You may have read the news recently that the People’s Republic of China has landed a probe and rover on the moon.  Interesting story, right?  Whatever thoughts the Chang’e-3 lander and accompanying Jade Rabbit rover elicited, it would be worthwhile to consider what a technological accomplishment like this by China means.  China is demonstrating rapidly evolving technological capabilities.  It is also inexorably moving to weaponize space.

The United States has a lead in this area of technology, but that lead is rapidly eroding and the Department of Defense knows it.  China’s lunar capabilities show that not only can China successfully launch and target an intercontinental ballistic missile (a.k.a. a rocket with a nuclear warhead instead of a lunar lander) it can also employ command and control capabilities on a global basis.  This fact undoubtedly keeps the DoD’s leadership awake at night and now it has also grabbed the attention of Congress, which is poised to pass the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2014.  This iteration of the NDAA contains provisions calling out the importance of space as a domain that the DoD must invest in to protect the United States.  Congressionally mandated investment is good news for industry, which will play a critical role in providing the DoD with the goods and services it needs to get the job done.

What exactly are these provisions?  The first is Section 912, “National Security Space Defense and Protection,” which directs the Secretary of Defense and the Director of National Intelligence to address near- and long-term threats to U.S. national security space systems by reviewing those threats and reporting on measures being taken to mitigate them.  Such a review could lead to the exposure of a number of gaps that the DoD will be required to address and gaps often lead to procurements.  One gap that comes to mind immediately is stovepiping of satellite control operations.  Earlier this year the GAO criticized the DoD for deploying standalone satellite control operations networks designed to operate a single satellite system, as opposed to shared systems that can operate multiple kinds of satellites.  Other gaps include bandwidth shortages and antiquated ground stations.

The second NDAA provision is Section 913 concerning “Space Acquisition Policy.”  In this section the Congress scolds the DoD for habitually using single-year leases for securing commercial satellite services, calling them “the most expensive and least strategic method” of procurement.  Instead, the DoD is encouraged to investigate using multi-year leases commercial satellite services and for procuring Government-owned payloads on commercial satellites.  The Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology, and Logistics and DoD Chief Information Officer are directed to come up with an acquisition strategy by March 2014.  Assuming this strategy evolves on pace it looks possible that the DoD could begin procuring additional commercial satellite services toward the end of the fiscal year or, possibly, early in fiscal 2015.

This brings us to Section 914 regarding Congress’ demand that the DoD provide it with a “Space Control Mission Report.”  This report is expected to provide the following information:

  • Identification of existing offensive and defensive space control systems, policies, and the technical possibilities of future systems
  • Identification of any gaps or risks in existing space control system architecture and possibilities for improvement or mitigation of such gaps or risks (see above!)
  • A description of existing and future sensor coverage and ground processing capabilities for space situational awareness
  • An explanation of the extent to which all relevant and available information is being utilized for space situational awareness to detect, track, and identify objects in space
  • A description of existing space situational awareness data sharing practices
  • Plans for the future space control mission, including force levels and structure

These requirements force the DoD to explain to Congress what the current state of command and control capabilities are, where gaps and vulnerabilities in these exist, and where C2 is going in the future.  This study may not lead the DoD to spend any money on space mission control systems in the near-term, but given the certainty that gaps will be uncovered, it could easily lead to spending down the road, so be sure to keep these potential requirements on your radar.

 

 

IT Reform Bill Introduced in Senate

Riding on the heels of the Healthcare.gov debacle, Sens. Tom Udall (D-NM) and Jerry Moran (R-KS) introduced legislation on Tuesday, December 17th, that would overhaul the way the federal government buys and manages IT products and services. 

The Federal Information Technology Savings, Accountability, and Transparency Act (S.1843) parallels the FITARA legislation awaiting action from the full House.  By some estimates, the House legislation could save taxpayers as much as $20 billion annually by fundamentally reforming the way federal agencies purchase IT.  If passed, either version of the legislation would be the most significant reform to the IT acquisition landscape since the 2002 E-Government Act and the 1996 Clinger Cohen Act, which created the agency CIO function.

Both the Senate and House bills mandate only one CIO per agency who would be accountable for IT within their agency.  Additionally, both bills support more transparency for IT investments.  The House bill shifts all authority for IT spending to the CIO.  The Senate version would give CIOs responsibility for COTS products and heavy influence over other IT budget decisions.  The House bill establishes Assisted Acquisition Centers of Excellence to promote best acquisition practices and supplement the IT acquisition workforce where needed.  CIOs would have hiring authority for IT staff in the Senate bill.

“The federal government needs to be able to build cutting-dege, 21st century computer systems, but right now we are hobbled by laws written in the days of floppy disks and telephone modems,” Udall said.

Both bills were introduced as amendments to the House and Senate versions of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), but neither made it to the final bill which is awaiting Senate action.

Udall and Moran are using the flawed rollout of the Healthcare.gov website as a platform to promote their legislation and prompt quick Congressional action. 

The White House has not publicly commented on either IT reform legislation.  However, federal CIO Steve VanRoekel has said that giving CIOs a major role in IT decision making is more important than budget authority.

The Senate bill was referred to the Committee of Homeland Security and Government Affairs.

 

GovWin Recon - December 23, 2013

GovWin Recon, produced by Deltek's Federal Industry Analysis (FIA) team, is designed to support awareness and understanding of the issues impacting the government and the contractors that serve it. Recon highlights key developments surrounding government technology, policy, budget and vendor activities.

Headlines beginning with an * include quotes from Deltek analysts. 

 

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GovWin Recon is Deltek's daily newsletter highlighting federal government contracting news and analysis from around the government contracting world. Get it delivered to your e-mail inbox, free!

 

 

 

 

GovWin Recon - December 20, 2013

GovWin Recon, produced by Deltek's Federal Industry Analysis (FIA) team, is designed to support awareness and understanding of the issues impacting the government and the contractors that serve it. Recon highlights key developments surrounding government technology, policy, budget and vendor activities.

Headlines beginning with an * include quotes from Deltek analysts. 

Sequestration / Budget:

Federal IT:

Agency News:

Vendor News:

Cybersecurity:

Health IT:

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GovWin Recon is Deltek's daily newsletter highlighting federal government contracting news and analysis from around the government contracting world. Get it delivered to your e-mail inbox, free!

 

 

 

State UI Modernization and the Difficulties of Consortium-based Systems Development

While vendors can deliver solutions that to an individual state, the difficulties presented by a consortium make it unlikely that solutions will meet the needs of all or be portable.

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) found that most states (both individually and in consortia) are struggling to modernize their unemployment (UI) insurance systems. The finding regarding the difficulties of modernizing IT systems will be familiar to any IT vendor. However, the findings regarding the difficulties inherent to IT consortia provide solid insight for vendors, who often overestimate the potential value of such arrangements.

Deltek's inaugural Market Driver Research Brief provides a high level overview of the GAO's findings along with some vendor recommendations for incorporating consortia into their business development (BD) strategies.

 

Air Force Reveals Causes Behind ECSS’s $1B Failure

With ongoing budget uncertainty, the Department of Defense and Congress are looking for ways to trim waste, improve program performance and modernize key aspects of the nation’s military capability. So when there are major program failures like the Air Force’s Expeditionary Combat Support System (ECSS) Congress wants answers.  The results of an Air Force inquiry into ECSS reveal a program fraught with issues.

When the ECSS cancelation was announced last December, Senators Carl Levin (D-MI) and John McCain (R-AZ), the Chairman and Ranking Member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, demanded an explanation for the failure in a letter they sent to then-Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta. In March, 2013 the Air Force appointed an Acquisition Incident Review (AIR) Team to respond to Congressional demands for an explanation. Now, nearly a year later, the Air Force has submitted its findings.

Contributing Causes to the ECSS Cancelation

The report, of which only an executive summary has been released publicly, identifies four contributing causes as to why the ECSS project was cancelled. These four contributing causes are:

  • Governance – a confusing and, at times, ineffectual governance structure that varied repeatedly during its existence. Various DoD acquisition methodologies were used and/or combined throughout the program and there lacked coherent leadership guidance and coordination on how to implement these meshed approaches, adding delays, uncertainty and additional effort. The AIR Team says this issue is not yet resolved.
      
  • Tactics, Techniques, and ProceduresECSS “suffered from instances where either the wrong “tool” was selected from the “acquisition toolbox” or the proper tool was selected but misapplied.” The driver for this was an underestimation of how to deal with the size and complexity of the effort, lack of defined requirements and use of an ESI BPA for an effort that required significant development effort. The AIR Team concludes that the Air Force did not understand the magnitude of legacy system data involved so they were not able to effectively communicate requirements to program bidders.
     
  • Difficulty of Change – ECSS attempted to develop a strategic and disruptive technology to improve logistics business processes while concurrently seeking “buy in” from a skeptical user community. The Air Force didn’t effectively manage the proposed changes in systems and processes demanded by the ECSS approach. The issue was made worse by lack of program successes undermined credibility with the field.
      
  • Personnel and Organizational Churn – High turnover (6 PMs in 8 years, 5 PEOs in 6 years, etc.), the use of term positions (vs. permanent positions), and the way the Air Force organizes its acquisitions all led to instability, uncertainty and program churn that put the program at increased risk.

Recently I wrote about how the House version of the FY 2014 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), passed in June, includes provisions related to Air Force ERP systems modernization efforts and specific requirements for root-cause analysis of the ECSS program. It appears that both this AIR Team report and the NDAA provisions are an acknowledgement of the level of scrutiny which major systems modernization efforts will continue to have on Capitol Hill. We’ll see if the House provisions survive to the final NDAA if and when the Senate finalizes their version of the bill and the two sides head to Conference.

Either way, it seems that it will take significant time to work out any modernization approach.  A related recent news article reveals that the Air Force continues to wrestle with how to modernize its logistics systems, even if they have begun to see how not to proceed from lessons learned with ECSS.

---
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.

 

GovWin Recon - December 19, 2013

GovWin Recon, produced by Deltek's Federal Industry Analysis (FIA) team, is designed to support awareness and understanding of the issues impacting the government and the contractors that serve it. Recon highlights key developments surrounding government technology, policy, budget and vendor activities.

Headlines beginning with an * include quotes from Deltek analysts. 

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Federal IT:

Agency News:

Vendor News:

Big Data / Analytics:

Mobility:

Transparency and Performance:

Defense / C4ISR / Embedded Technology:

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State and Local:

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GovWin Recon is Deltek's daily newsletter highlighting federal government contracting news and analysis from around the government contracting world. Get it delivered to your e-mail inbox, free!

 

 

 

GovWin Recon - December 18, 2013

GovWin Recon, produced by Deltek's Federal Industry Analysis (FIA) team, is designed to support awareness and understanding of the issues impacting the government and the contractors that serve it. Recon highlights key developments surrounding government technology, policy, budget and vendor activities.

Headlines beginning with an * include quotes from Deltek analysts. 

Sequestration / Budget:

Federal IT:

Agency News:

Vendor News:

Cybersecurity:

Cloud Computing / Data Center Consolidation / Virtualization:

Health IT:

Mobility:

Defense / C4ISR / Embedded Technology:

Legislation:

State and Local:

AEC News:

GovWin Recon is Deltek's daily newsletter highlighting federal government contracting news and analysis from around the government contracting world. Get it delivered to your e-mail inbox, free!

 

 

 

 

New Defense Health Agency is Key to Military Health System Efficiency and Effectiveness

Establishment of the Defense Health Agency (DHA) is critical to Military Health System (MHS) governance reform and key to consolidation and centralization of IT used in the delivery of health care and supporting military health organizations.

DoD convened a task force in 2011 to evaluated MHS governance.  In a report delivered in September 2011, the task force recommended governance reform in order to achieve more efficiency and effectiveness in health care delivery.  MHS governance reform aims to supply medical support jointly, respond to fiscal challenges by achieving a sustainable health program budget, and attain greater integration of direct and purchased health care delivery systems.  A critical component to governance reform is the standing up of the DHA.

To date, each military service branch administered their own health care support services.  Consolidation will offer cost savings and efficiency, which the Pentagon estimates between $1.5 billion to $2.9 billion over the next six years for the initial consolidation phase.

Creating DHA allows DoD to enhance its ability to create and expand shared services for common business and clinical practices under the leadership of a three-star general or flag officer, Lt. General Douglas Robb.  At the same time, this action accomplishes these objectives without large-scale changes to the MHS.  According to DoD statements of intent, forming DHA is an appropriate next step to improve MHS governance and provide a structure to rein in health care costs.

DHA initial operating capability was achieved October 1, 2013, bringing into the organization 3,251 staff and 5,000 contractors, to include 532 IT personnel.  Full operational capacity will be reached by October 1, 2015. 

DHA will manage the activities of MHS including those previously managed by the TRICARE Management Activity (TMA), and offer a broader set of shared health care support services to support all military branches:

  •  TRICARE health plan 
  • Pharmacy programs 
  • Medical education and training 
  • Medical logistics
  • Facility planning 
  • Health information technology 
  • Medical research and development 
  • Facility planning 
  • Public health 
  • Acquisition 
  • Other common clinical and business processes 

The new agency will change how the Defense Department handles procurement, oversight, and implementation of all facets of military health, including IT acquisitions.

DHA is expected to lower costs by merging services.  In October, DHA brought under one organization, facilities planning, medical logistics, health IT, as well as Tricare and pharmacy services. By October 1, 2015, when DHA becomes fully operational, it will have oversight over public health, medical acquisition, budget and resource management, medical education and training, and medical research and development. The services will keep their respective medical commands, each headed up by their particular surgeon general.

What does this mean for contractors?  Many changes are happening in the DoD health IT space:  new organizations, new personnel, and new or redirected IT initiatives.  Contractors should maximize the opportunities that these changes bring.  Contractors need to acquaint themselves with DHA organizations and their personnel to get their foot in the door or to foster existing relationships.

 

GovWin Recon - December 17, 2013

GovWin Recon, produced by Deltek's Federal Industry Analysis (FIA) team, is designed to support awareness and understanding of the issues impacting the government and the contractors that serve it. Recon highlights key developments surrounding government technology, policy, budget and vendor activities.

Headlines beginning with an * include quotes from Deltek analysts. 

Sequestration / Budget:

Federal IT:

Agency News:

Vendor News:

Health IT:

Big Data / Analytics:

Mobility:

Transparency and Performance:

State and Local:

GovWin Recon is Deltek's daily newsletter highlighting federal government contracting news and analysis from around the government contracting world. Get it delivered to your e-mail inbox, free!

 

 

 

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