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OFPP Targets Acquisition Workforce Training for Efficiencies and Strategic Sourcing

In an effort to save money, reduce duplication and improve outcomes the Director of the Office of Federal Procurement Policy, Joseph Jordan, has decided to consolidate management of federal acquisition training efforts into one consolidated system and apply a strategic sourcing approach to obtaining procurement training.

In a memo to Chief Acquisition Officers and senior procurement executives, Jordan recognized the role that well-trained acquisitions personnel can have on the effectiveness, efficiency and value of government procurements and wants to improve upon and reduce the cost of the management of their training. To save money through reducing duplicative training and development efforts Jordan tasked the Federal Acquisition Institute (FAI) to reduce duplication of workforce management information systems and leverage scarce training resources across agencies.

The directives for federal civilian agencies include: 

  • Mandated use of the Federal Acquisition Institute Training Application System (FAITAS), the government-wide acquisition workforce career management system managed by GSA.  Aimed at improving  acquisition workforce management, agencies are directed to use FAITAS to:
    • Collect and maintain user profiles of standardized information by January 1, 2014
    • Apply for certifications by April 1, 2014
    • Track continuous learning points in the FAITAS Continuous Learning Module by June 1, 2014
    • Manage training registrations for agency-provided acquisition training by October 1, 2014
  • Creation of a government-wide Federal Acquisition Council on Training (FACT) chaired by FAI that will focus on increasing efficiencies and economies in acquisition certification and continuous learning training and development. The specific objectives are to leverage commercially available training, promulgate course development standards, increase agency collaboration, and identify lead agencies in the development of common curricula.

Strategic Sourcing Contract on the Way

In a recent interview with Federal News Radio, Jordan said these changes would put civilian agencies’
“workforce management tools into one place, … optimize our resources, … [and] maximize the efficacy of every training opportunity."  The Federal Acquisition Council on Training (FACT) will oversee several initiatives, including developing a new contract run by FAI and the General Services Administration from which all agencies would buy acquisition training. The move advances the idea of shared services that has gained in acceptance across agencies and applies it to procurement training, according to the interview. Both the Bush and Obama Administrations have supported a growing role for FAI. The FY 2014 budget requests a total budget of over $15 million for FAI, a $6.2 million increase.

At a recent Northern Virginia Technology Council (NVTC) event Jordan emphasized improving the acquisition workforce as one of his top three priorities, alongside buying smarter – focusing on leveraging data to do it better, and identifying the right suppliers – building the right relationships, especially with small business.  Jordan is focused on recruitment, retention, and training, plus changing agency cultures to encourage innovation verses inappropriate risk aversion when it comes to acquisitions.  In her remarks, OFPP Deputy Administrator Lesley Field highlighted strategic sourcing and acquisition policy as means to removing duplication in buying and improving IT management. She emphasized the improvement and development of the acquisition workforce community in systems, communications and the FAR.

Implications

The decision to center on FAITAS as the main civilian acquisition training management system could gain it some additional funding for maintenance and enhancements, but that is yet to be seen.  In the FY 2014 IT budget GSA requested $2.4 million for FAITAS, which includes about $850 thousand in new development spending (35% of total) slated for next year. That is down from the enacted FY 2013 budget of $2.8 million but 40% higher than the FY 2012 budget of $1.7 million. Given the due dates listed in the memo it is likely that any enhancement related to the new mandates are either done or underway.

The application of strategic sourcing to acquisition training is no surprise, given OFPP’s and GSA’s efforts to increase strategic sourcing. The Federal Strategic Sourcing Initiative (FSSI) has been a big priority for both agencies. In December 2012 OMB created the Strategic Sourcing Leadership Council (SSLC), the follow-on to the Strategic Sourcing Working Group (SSWG), to lead the government's efforts in this area. Jordan’s reference to an upcoming FACT government-wide training contract may or may not be a reference to an existing GSA Acquisition Training Delivery IDIQ opportunity that is currently being protested. A determination is due in November 2013. Either way, the protest underscores the highly competitive environment we are in and the challenge these kinds of contracts pose to agencies. Further limiting the number of contract awards under strategic sourcing will likely continue to make these contracts must-wins for companies wanting to do business in the federal space.

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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.

GovWin Recon - September 30, 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:

Big Data / Analytics:

Transparency and Performance:

Defense / C4ISR / Embedded Technology:

Contracting / Acquisition:

Legislation:

Mergers and Acquisitions:

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!

GovWin Recon - September 27, 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:

Big Data / Analytics:

Transparency and Performance:

Defense / C4ISR / Embedded Technology:

Contracting / Acquisition:

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!

GovWin Recon - September 26, 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:

Big Data / Analytics:

Mobility:

Defense / C4ISR / Embedded Technology:

Contracting / Acquisition:

Legislation:

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!

GovWin Recon - September 25, 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:

Big Data / Analytics:

Mobility:

Transparency and Performance:

Defense / C4ISR / Embedded Technology:

Contracting / Acquisition:

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!

Cybersecurity – From Frameworks and Farewells to Foreign Affairs

It’s been a busy time lately on the cybersecurity news front. In the last few weeks, there have been reports ranging from the release of evolving cybersecurity policies to outright attacks, and rumors of past and future attacks, on traditional networks and websites as well as industrial and weapons systems. It seems that cybersecurity issues are all-pervasive.

On the policy side, the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) released a preliminary cybersecurity draft framework outlining various standards, best practices and guidance to provide guidance to organizations on managing cybersecurity risks. According to comments surrounding the release, the goal is to complement, rather than replace, an organization’s existing cybersecurity processes. The primary focus of the framework is improving cybersecurity among private critical infrastructure owners like utilities and other industrial entities, although there may be some applications for government agencies as well. The current draft is the next round in an eventual final framework that is expected to be codified in October.

The NIST critical infrastructure cyber- framework draft release comes on the heels of some very earnest comments from the outgoing Homeland Security Secretary, Janet Napolitano. In her farewell address, the Napolitano urged her eventual successor to have a strong sense of urgency in preparing for major cyber-attack on US infrastructure. “While we have built systems, protections and a framework to identify attacks and intrusions, share information with the private sector and across government, and develop plans and capabilities to mitigate the damage, more must be done, and quickly,” Napolitano said.

While it is widely acknowledged that adversarial nations employ offensive cyber capabilities against the US government and industry, etc. the threat also includes non-state and other loosely-defined actors. For example, al-Qaeda has been exploring ways to conduct cyber-attacks on US drones, enlisting engineers to identify ways to exploit any technical vulnerability in the aircraft to jam or remotely hijack them or otherwise compromise them to reduce their effectiveness.  And with the brewing potential for US strikes in Syria there were reports of tampering with a Marine Corps recruitment website by apparent pro-Syrian government hackers. It is unclear whether these or other actors could or would be able to effectively strike at other, less mundane, targets if things escalate.

Speaking of cyber-attacks . . . There’s growing confirmation that the US is taking its offensive cyber capabilities as seriously as its defensive know-how. The news that US intelligence entities have carried out hundreds of offensive cyber-operations against adversaries over the last few years, likely to include the Stuxnet attack on Iranian nuclear control systems, hints at the scope, abilities, and magnitude of their efforts. A related report reinforced the fact that federal cybersecurity spending – both defensive and offensive – is decentralized and peppered throughout numerous programs and areas.

There is a theme that connects all of these areas: As information technology continues to advance and permeate how we operate our critical infrastructures, government and military, the demand to protect and exploit this technology will continue to grow. And federal spending will likely grow with it.

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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.

NIST Guidance Tackles Mobile Authentication

The Commerce Department’s National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) recently updated its guidance to government agencies for electronic authentication (e-authentication) for federal IT systems and services providers.
 
NIST’s Electronic Authentication Guidance (Special Publication 800-63-2) covers remote authentication of users (e.g. employees, contractors, and private individuals) leveraging open networks to interact with government information systems. As a supplement to the Office of Management and Budget’s (OMB) guidance, E-Authentication Guidance for Federal Agencies, the NIST work builds on levels of assurance that are defined by the consequences of authentication errors and credential misuse. The OMB guidance from 2003 provides federal agencies with criteria for determining the level of assurance needed for applications and transactions. These four levels of assurance address identity proofing, registration, tokens, management processes, authentication protocols and related issues.
 
 
The guidance from OMB also provides a five step process for agencies to fulfill their e-authentication requirements. The guidelines from NIST target third step in this process, which involves selecting “technology based on e-authentication technical guidance.” Outlining specific technical requirements for each of the assurance levels, the NIST document addresses:
·          Registration and identity proofing;
·          Token (e.g. cryptographic key, password) for authentication;
·          Token and credential management mechanisms;
·          Protocols to support authentication mechanisms;
·          Assertion mechanisms used in communicating remote authentication.
 
The lowest level achieved in any of the technical areas listed above determines the overall authentication assurance level. Agencies may use additional risk management measures to adjust the level of assurance. In particular, privacy requirements and legal concerns may contribute to a context in which an agency may deem additional authentication measures appropriate.

Previously, NIST released updated guidance that reflected authentication token technologies and restructure the e-authentication architectural model for increased clarity. Among other changes, that revision also added technical requirements for credential service providers, protocols used in transporting authentication data, and assertions related to implementation within the e-authentication model.
 
The most recent edition provides a more limited update with most of the changes focused on processes for registration and issuance of professional credentials. Two general categories of threats for the registration process are impersonation and compromise of the infrastructure. Since infrastructure threats are addressed by normal security controls, the NIST guidance emphasizes mitigating the threat of impersonation. Two approaches are presented for deterring impersonation: either make it more difficult to accomplish or increase the likelihood of detection. The technical guidance provides several strategies for making impersonation more difficult and describes general requirements for each of the four assurance levels.
 
Despite budget limitations, agencies continue to look for ways to make information more accessible and empower an increasingly mobile workforce. System risk assessments and technical requirements associated with specific assurance levels will shape the solutions they implement mobile strategies. While assurance requirements will vary across the government, this technical guidance provides a structure for describing agency security requirements and provides vendors with a framework for articulating how solutions will fulfill those needs.
 
Originally published for Federal Industry Analysis: Analysts Perspectives Blog. Stay ahead of the competition by discovering more about GovWinIQ@FIAGovWin.. Follow me on twitter 

Health insurance exchange deadline just days away

It’s almost here. By October 1, states have no choice but to have some form of health insurance exchange (HIX) up and ready to enroll consumers in health insurance plans. Many states that have decided to take on the development of their own exchange have just about finished their systems and are focusing more on customer-facing websites and outreach efforts. However, some states have admitted that more time will be needed to tweak components of their system after October 1, which may even be true for the federally-facilitated exchange (FFE) model. According to the Wall Street Journal, the FFE is having challenges with calculating the amount of subsidies an individual applicant is eligible for. 

There is also the looming threat of a government shutdown and the defunding of Obamacare. Still, in the case of a government shutdown, the funds to states should not be significantly impacted. The funding set aside for the Affordable Care Act’s (ACA’s) implementation of insurance exchanges was considered a “permanent appropriation,” so states will feel little, if any consequence of a government shutdown. For that, states will still be able to apply for funding to help continue the build out of various components for their exchange. 

As for upcoming opportunities, vendors can expect to see a push for fraud prevention and protection services for insurance exchanges. The California Health Benefit Exchange (CHBE) released an RFP earlier this month for an enterprise-wide consumer protection assessment. The state is interested in strategic expertise in fraud prevention and consumer protection to help formulate enterprise-wide solutions to protect consumers of their insurance exchange from fraud.

California has been a golden child of the HIX initiative since the mandate came out in March 2010, and its HIX, Covered California, is expected to be ready for launch next month. The state spent a whopping $80 million (all federal funds) on marketing and outreach campaigns for the exchange to help encourage people to sign up.

Deltek's Health Care and Social Services Team will be releasing a report later this year to provide an update on statewide efforts in the implementation of these exchanges. For now, be sure to check out Deltek’s Health Insurance Exchange Vertical Profile Application to learn more about the ACA's initiative. Not a Deltek subscriber? Click here to learn more about Deltek's GovWin IQ service and gain access to a free trial.  

 

 

 

ESPCs to fund DCC: Great idea, what’s the problem?

Energy savings performance contracts (ESPCs) appear to be a logical way to fund federal data center consolidation projects without the upfront costs to the agency.  However, Department of Energy (DOE) efforts to use an ESPC to fund data consider consolidation have floundered for over two years. 

 

ESPCs allow federal agencies to accomplish energy savings projects without up-front capital costs by partnering with an energy service company (ESCO).  The ESCO provides the upfront funding and guarantees that the improvements will generate energy cost savings over the life of the contract.  The ESCO receives payments generated from the cost savings over time.  Currently, sixteen contractors hold umbrella ESPC IDIQ contracts with DOE for use by all federal agencies.

 

ESPCs have been used for years by federal agencies to fund projects to improve facility energy efficiency and reduce operation and maintenance costs.  In an innovative move in July 2011, DOE chose Lockheed Martin to consolidate their data centers under a $70 million ESPC.   A recent Federal Times article stated that DOE is still reviewing the contract, but that OMB appears to be stalling the project.

An anonymous industry source told the Federal Times that “OMB is holding up the project because too much of the projected savings – about 70% – comes from operations and maintenance as opposed to energy savings. “

Several congressmen are supporting the use of ESPCs for funding data center consolidation and expressed their concerns about the delay of the DOE contract in a July letter to the DOE Secretary and OMB Budget Director, according to the same Federal Times article.  In a December 2011 memo to the heads of all executive departments and agencies, the administration also encouraged the implementation of energy savings projects to make federal facilities more energy efficient.

Meanwhile, Lockheed Martin has invested millions in upfront funding at its own risk on the DOE project to optimize a New Mexico and Maryland data center.  The project is predicted to generate $6 million in annual cost savings and achieve a 70% reduction in energy consumption.

Other agencies considering using an ESPC for data center consolidation initiatives include DOT, Interior, GSA, NASA, Navy and Air Force.  All are anxiously awaiting a resolution of the maiden Lockheed/DOE ESPC which will set the stage for future use of ESPCs for consolidation efforts. 

Given the current budget environment, the inability to use ESPCs to avoid upfront investments for data center consolidation, optimization and improved data center energy efficiency, could likely stall further federal data center consolidation progress.

 

Big Data and Cloud Computing at the Heart of the Army’s Distributed Common Ground System

In a federal market under tremendous fiscal pressure, the Army’s Distributed Common Ground System (DCGS-A) program stands out for its visionary approach to the use of cutting-edge technology solutions. Over the next few years, the consistently well-funded DCGS-A program will seek to make even more extensive use of big data tools, like advanced analytics and visualization applications, hosted and delivered in a cloud setting. These capabilities will provide a consistent stream of intelligence data to Army intelligence, joint Defense components, and the intelligence community, making the DCGS-A one of the most intriguing and forward-looking programs currently in existence.
At the end of last August, the Project Manager Distributed Common Ground System - Army (PM DCGS-A) and TRADOC Capability Manager for Sensor Processing (TCM-SP) hosted an industry event called the 2013 DCGS-A Innovation Showcase.  Speakers at this showcase outlined the way ahead for the Army’s iteration of Distributed Common Ground System.  The presentations included multiple discussions of upcoming requirements and capabilities.

For those not familiar with it, the DCGS-A is a single system that receives data from multiple types of sensors.  This includes data from aerial and terrestrial platforms (e.g., drones and vehicles), from individual soldiers, and from national level intelligence sources.  The system enables this data to be easily shared across the joint Defense environment and with coalition partners while enabling multi-disciplined analysis that fuses signal data, imagery, and human intelligence into a common data product.  Every branch of the Armed Services has a version of the DCGS, making it the de facto tactical intelligence network for the Department of Defense.

The Army’s portion of the DCGS appears to be the most highly evolved, a status that has attracted the attention of Congress for cost overruns and problems with interoperability.  This said, the DCGS-A continues to be one of the Army’s top priorities and largest investments.  The Army has, for example, requested more than $295 million for DCGS-A in FY 2014.  Best of all from an industry standpoint, 100% of these dollars are slated for Development, Modernization, and Enhancement (DME).  DME dollars tend to flow into contracts so this is good news in an overall shrinking market.  Finally, to illustrate just how important the DCGS is to the Army and the DoD, funding for the system in FY 2012 and FY 2013 totaled $239.3 million and $225.3 million respectively.  Again, all of these dollars were for DME so even in the leanest of fiscal years, large amounts of money have continued to flow into the program.

Why has the DCGS-A program been so well funded?  Simple.  It is critical to the national security of the United States.  The DCGS-A program is also notable for its employment of the most forward-looking technologies, including cloud computing and big data analytics.  For example, according to the presentation given by COL Dave Pendall, the Army G2 Liaison to MIT Lincoln Laboratory, the requirements forecast for the DCGS-A include

- Real-Time Distributed Cloud Architecture and Analytics
- Sensor Situational Awareness, Sensor Collaboration, and On-Board Processing
- Collaboration Technology and Data Fusion Visualization Tools
- Identity Intelligence
- Network / Data Security Advancements for the Distributed Enterprise at Network Speed

The way ahead for the system is also anticipated to include work developing an interface between the DCGS-A cloud and the Intelligence Community IT Environment (ICITE) cloud.  This interface will enable data from the DCGS-A to be stored in the hosting infrastructure provided by the National Security Agency (NSA).

This brings us to the question of procurement.  The PM DCGS-A makes use of a large variety of acquisition avenues to buy what it needs.  Covering all of these avenues is beyond the scope of this brief blog post, but there is one contract vehicle worth mentioning that the PM likes to use most frequently - the Army’s Strategic Services Sourcing (S3) multiple award IDIQ contract.  Over the lifetime of S3, spending related to DCGS-A amounts to approximately $1.6 billion.  Much of this earlier spending was for systems integration efforts.  Future spending is likely to be related to data fusion efforts (i.e. data cleansing, interoperability, metadata tagging), additional analytics for full motion video analysis, and enhanced geospatial capabilities.  Therefore, to maximize potential for winning business with the PM DCGS-A, one of the DoD’s best funded programs, competing for the next iteration of S3 is essential.

 

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