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NSA Works to Set A Standard Configuration for Non-Microsoft Operating Systems

With the February 2008 deadline for federal agencies to comply with OMB's standardized desktop configuration mandate just around the corner, the National Security Agency (NSA) is working to establish similar security configurations for operating systems by Apple, Red Hat, and Sun Microsystems.

OMB's March 2007 memorandum only applies to the configuration of Windows XP and Vista Enterprise operating systems. While it is government policy not to endorse specific products, the fact that OMB is only addressing the security of Microsoft operating systems has raised concerns from Unix/Linux based vendors, most recently at ITAA's Breakfast Forum on the Federal Desktop Core Configuration, which was attended by GovWin.

NSA's effort to set standard configurations for this group of operating systems is a solitary effort not currently backed by OMB, or any other federal agency. The willingness of other agencies to follow in NSA's footsteps will depend on how daunting of a process the actual standardization of Microsoft desktops turns out to be, and how willing OMB is to back the effort in the future.

Floridaperforms.com Shines the Light on the Sunshine State

Gov. Charlie Crist on Monday unveiled a new Web site - floridaperforms.com - that outlines 35 of his goals for the state and rates the progress of each as improving, maintaining or worsening. Citizens will find mostly high grades when they check how Florida is doing in public safety, education, transportation, education, economy-taxes and environment-conservation. A color-coded arrow shows the trend for three to seven subjects in each area - green for improving, red for worse and yellow for steady. The data to determine the trends comes from the state agencies and the Legislature.

The purpose of the site, Crist stated, is "to work harder, to be more accountable, to be more responsible and to provide [the people] with services they expect and deserve and should have."

One of the two areas showing a downward performance is "access to health care/rehabilitative services," where things are "worsening," according to the Web site. The scorecard includes the finding that the U.S. census reports Florida is 47th among the states in percentage of population with health insurance. The second area showing a significant downward performance is the "housing market", where the website states, "Housing has slowed substantially, both in construction and sales over the past year. Single family building permits dropped by more than 25%, while the number of existing single-family homes sold by realtors witnessed a similar decline."

GovWin's Take

  • Transparency, Transparency, Transparency...Government accountability means that public officials -- elected and un-elected -- have an obligation to explain their decisions and actions to the citizens. As budgets tighten, and constituents become more educated and demand more insight into State's decisions, GovWin anticipates more state Governors to pass into law transparency related bills expected to be introduced in upcoming legislative sessions. As a result, more online websites tracking "scorecards" of governors' goals and initiatives and how the states are meeting them will be developed and available to constituents to view.

More information about transparency websites and legislation nationwide can be found in GovWin's latest Industry Insight report "State 'Transparency' Websites Provide Immediate Insights and Long-Term Opportunities for Vendors" (July 2008).

Department of State Proposes New Identity Verification Rule

Under a newly proposed rule, the Department of State (DOS) is considering adding a new contract clause to its acquisition regulations requiring the implementation of the Department's requirement regarding personal identity verification of contractor personnel. The policy is being considered in order to comply with identity compliance requirements under HSPD-12. The rule applies to contractors that require outside employees to work on DOS sites and access DOS information systems.

The rule directs contractors to an Internet based document that explains the verification process for the various types of contractors. The Department will be accepting comments on the rule change through January 18, 2008.

American Association of Grant Professionals Annual Conference- A Look at Grants.gov

On November 8-10, the American Association of Grant Professionals (AAGP) held its annual Conference in Washington, DC. Hundreds of grant professionals were on hand to learn, discuss, and evaluate the different techniques and best practices for grant programs and grant writing. Federal, State, and Local government officials, along with industry leaders, took part in a variety of workshops over the three day period. The workshops ranged from project development and program evaluation to preparing successful online grant applications and becoming an expert peer reviewer.

GovWin was able to attend a variety of workshops, but felt that the workshops discussing Grants.gov provided the most insight into the grant process. Grants.gov is an online website maintained by the federal government that allows government agencies, academia, not-for-profits, and other organizations to find and apply for over 1,000 grant programs totaling $400 billion in funds. The grants.gov workshop was a question and answer forum that allowed users to discuss their problems with the system. Many people discussed the difficulty in searching for certain grant programs. One of the main concerns dealt with the lack of specific search results. Many users found that when searching using keywords, the grants.gov search engine would pull up grant programs that were not related to the keyword used. This causes many users the pain of shuffling through hundreds of search results to find the grant program they are looking for. Michael Pellegrino, Management Analyst Officer for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and speaker, confirmed that this problem had been plaguing many users, but would be corrected in the next few months through the implementation of new updates to the system.

While the workshops encompassed the majority of this conference, the one thing on everyone's mind was the administering of the first ever AAGP credentialing exam. In 2000, at the Second Annual AAGP Conference in Berkeley California, the AAGP membership voted, through formal resolution, to explore the feasibility of offering some form of professional certification. After a long seven year journey, AAGP and the Grant Professional Certification Institute (GPSI) offered the first ever credentialing exam at this year's conference. The exam allows grant professionals to be accredited and recognized for their work.

GovWin's Take:

Whether you are a government official or industry leader, grants.gov is a valuable source of information on new and upcoming programs available for funding. It can be a very beneficial tool for industry leaders in identifying new business opportunities within their market. It can also be a great starting point in identifying and building relationships with state and local agencies by helping them throughout the grant process. It should also be noted that a certification through AAGP and GPCI can be a valuable tool in helping your company stand out amongst other competitors. Blogs:

NYC PlanIT - Impact Beyond Bloomberg’s Administration

In June 2006, New York City Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg appointed Paul Cosgrave to serve as the City's Commissioner and CIO for the Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications (DoITT). Cosgrave was charged with structuring the City's IT approach in a way that it further advances government accessibility, transparency and accountability through superior customer service for the balance of Bloomberg's term and beyond.

Since Cosgrave's appointment, New York City has instituted the Technology Steering Committee (TSC) as a new IT governance structure. DoITT has been re-organized to support the new IT governance and most recently DoITT released PlanIT, the City's first-ever technology plan. PlanIT builds upon principles and practices of accountability, transparency and accessibility to be embedded in the foundation of the City's government.

PlanIT identifies twenty-three major IT initiatives supporting the City's key business goals. These are either planned or underway projects categorized into customer service, six mission areas, mission support areas and supporting infrastructure. Mission areas consist of agencies directly interacting with citizens such as Economic Development and Sustainability, Public Safety, Social Services, Education and Community services. Mission support areas are functions that the City performs to run effectively such as human resources and administrative management, procurement and legal services. Lastly, supporting infrastructure refers to the City's physical and technical infrastructure needed to be in place for the City to implement the twenty three IT projects. Initiatives in this area include data center consolidation, telecom and networks, and IT services and security.

GovWin's Take

GovWin anticipates cities will take an aggressive approach to review or develop an IT strategic direction aligned with the City's business goals and objectives. Flowing from this shift will be a restructuring of technology agencies' operations and functions as well as a reform in citywide IT governance. For IT Vendors, the strategic initiatives outlined in PlanIT represent a number of contracting opportunities in the city's key functional areas such health care, social services, public safety and general government services. Vendors with vested interested in New York City's groundbreaking technology initiatives can view PlanIT at GovWin's New York City Local Profile documents library.

Helpful Hints for Capture Planning and Proposal Management

Helpful Hints for Capture Planning and Proposal Management

A recent industry event hosted by the Association of Proposal Management Professionals (APMP) focused on the development of proposals and featured key proposal managers and consultants from leading government contractors. The government was represented by contracting officers, project managers and program managers.

One of the most interesting sessions was a discussion focusing on "Capture Plan Development and Management." Three panel members each presented a different topic that dealt with the first phase of the government RFP response process. Each panelist is an GovWin member, Patty Nunn (Sr. VP for Strategic Programs @ INDUS), Kristin Dufrene (Sr Proposal Development Manager @ CACI), and Carole Dunn (President and Principal Consultant of Red Team Consulting).

Patty Nunn's topic was "Capture Management – Best Practices and Lessons Learned." Her main point was to focus on gathering information and making decisions. Information gathering included:

  1. Past Performance data

  2. Relevance – size, scope, complexity

  3. Competitive Intelligence

She also presented four tips for success in the Capture Plan process:

  1. Know Your Customer or Don't Bother

  2. Team Early and Only if required

  3. Apply Resources before RFP release (18-24 months)

  4. Sell Before RFP release

Kristin Dufrene's topic was "Handoff from Capture to Proposal Management – Best and Worst Case Scenarios". She used a "Good, Bad & Ugly" theme to highlight recent efforts at CACI where their planning overcame obstacles, both on the government side and internally, to get major wins, including winning a contract from 2 incumbents. All three scenarios resulted in wins for CACI.

The "Good" (must win) scenario was characterized by

  1. Early Planning & Organization

  2. Effective communication between Capture and Proposal Manager

  3. Early involvement of Proposal Manager in all phases of effort

  4. Regularly scheduled meetings

The "Bad" (takeaway – 2 incumbents) scenario was characterized by

  1. Early Planning & Organization

  2. Documented strategy

The "Ugly" (unexpected re-compete) scenario was characterized by

  1. Poor communication between Capture and Proposal Manager

  2. Shortcuts taken in proposal strategy

  3. Lack of effective QA

  4. Result was a win but with new metrics that will be difficult to manage

These scenarios showed the audience what works and what does not work in the Capture and Proposal Management process.

Carol Dunn's topic was "Effective Capture Management – Two Case Studies." The first Case Study was about "Unseating the Incumbent." She highlighted the process of a Navy program that was expiring and instead of issuing a recomplete, the Navy decided to use an upcoming Army RFP as the follow-on contract. The incumbent did not win the follow-on despite having a lower price due to the winning bidder having "excellent focus and understanding of the evaluation criteria." She also highlighted the steps used by the winning vendor in the capture and RFP response process which led to the win.

Her second Case Study was about a small company winning a large contract by defeating the incumbent. The presentation highlighted the steps in the process that helped the smaller company defeat the larger incumbent. These included:

  1. Focus on Past Performance contracts that were similar in size, scope and complexity.

  2. Customer needs were exceeded in the proposal due to the vendor knowing the customer's hot buttons.

All panel members agreed to start the Capture and Proposal Management process early, establish effective lines of communication between the Capture Manager and the Proposal Manager and to keep the lines of communication open.

There were other topics discussed during the event and one of the more energized topics dealt with Executive Summaries and when they should be composed, early or late in the RFP process. All panel members as well as the Government representatives agreed that the Executive Summary should be composed early so that the Proposal Manager can address all points in the summary.

The government representatives also were in a consensus that Traceability Matrices should be part of the vendors Capture Planning and Proposal Management process and should be included in the proposal to the government.

Cyber security Commission to advise the New Administration on IT security

A cyber security commission, proposed by the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), will create a list of recommendations of top IT security priorities for the next U.S. president that takes office in January 2009, with the goal of setting an agenda and making recommendations to aid in the proliferation of cyber security.

The commission will be mixture of 25 cyber security experts from the public and private sectors. A private sector advisory group will provide validation to the findings of the committee.

Key topics that will be considered during the commission's period of discovery will include infrastructure protection, software assurance, agency cyber security, and IT security in the public and private sectors. Up to five plenary sessions will be held to discuss risks and existing policies that address them, sessions on federal organization, a discussion on existing authorities and whether new incentives, legislations, or regulation is needed, a concluding session to refine the committee's recommendations.

CSIS intends for the committee to finish its work by the end of 2008.