DHS’s newest office established to Counter Weapons of Mass Destruction

Published: October 22, 2018

Contracting TrendsCWMDCritical Infrastructure ProtectionCybersecurityForecasts and SpendingHomeland SecurityDHSInformation TechnologyInformation TechnologyJustice/Public Safety & Homeland SecurityMedical & Scientific EquipmentOpportunitiesProfessional ServicesResearch & DevelopmentResearch and DevelopmentSubcontracting

Overview and analysis of the DHS Countering Weapons of Mass Destruction Office

FY 2019 Budget Request confirms emphasis on protecting the country

The Countering Weapons of Mass Destruction Office was established in December 2017 by combining the former Domestic Nuclear Detection Office (DNDO) and the Office of Health Affairs (OHA) and is awaiting congressional authorization. The Office’s primary mission is to focus efforts on preventing threats from terrorists and entities using harmful agents, such as chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear material and devices to harm Americans and U.S. national interests. 

The interim CWMD organization consists of five mission Directorates operated by DNDO and OHA personnel as shown below. Each Directorate has Joint Program Activities aligned with its specific mission functions.

  • Policy, Plans, Analysis, Requirements Directorate
  • Operations Support
  • Operational Medicine and Health Support
  • Systems Support
  • Enterprise Support Directorates

Former DNDO Director, Jim McDonnell, was selected to lead the office as the acting assistant secretary and Clarence Johnson as the deputy assistant secretary. Recently, McDonnell told Defense Daily that he had created a Rapid Capabilities Office to help respond faster to operational needs. That office will work with the U.S. Special Operations Command (SOCOM) with personnel from the CWMD Office being assigned to SOCOM for 4-month stints to learn from the command’s rapid capabilities tools and become qualified in rapid acquisitions.

Additionally, Johnson said during a recent briefing that the Office will utilize non-traditional procurement vehicles such as Other Transaction Authority as well as the CWMD Consortium used by the Army’s Joint Program Executive Office for Chemical and Biological Defense for rapid acquisitions. Their goal is to be able to move requirements through the procurement cycle faster.

“This is a great example of a partnership that we’re seeing emerge associated with more effective acquisition solutions that are more agile and responsive,” Johnson told Defense Daily. He added that with the new Rapid Capabilities Office, “The idea is to not be chasing and reacting to the adversary but actually driving the decision calculus and affecting their behaviors in ways that they make mistakes. And in order to do that we have to be more agile, we have to be more rapid in our solutions and so the OTA is a way to do that.”

McDonnell confirmed he is synchronizing his rapid capabilities efforts with FEMA’s national grant programs as well to put together a system that will allow the office rapid acquisition response to needs as they arise and “do better at sticking to advertised schedules.” He further stated that the office will be in the “fix-it” mode, acting on things they know and being very aggressive in pushing capabilities into the field instead of the policy and analysis mode.

“What I want to be able to do as well is say, ‘Hey, we’ve got an emerging threat and we may not want to deploy a total national capability right now but we’d like to do a pilot capability and kick it out into 10 or 20 or 30 locations around the country and try it out,’”

Eligible technologies will have to be fairly mature “almost ready to go out the door” so that the CWMD office can then get it out the door, he emphasized.

This hints to a similar methodology to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services’ recent trend in using an agile DevSecOpps approach. Companies having an ability to collaborate and respond rapidly to government needs, holding a proven track record for agile team utilization, and a desire to partner with companies outside their typical network could gain a competitive edge in winning future contracts.

Based on Johnson’s earlier remarks, it’s also quite possible that opportunities may be also limited to consortium members and/or issued via OTAs. (See recent GovWin blog on Other Transaction Authority (OTA) Trends, Points of Interest, and Entry Points.)

Additionally, while the bulk of opportunities will most likely be issued under the CWMD, contracting opportunities may still be released on FedBizOpps (FBO) under the DNDO or OHA agencies since a separate CWMD Office structure has not yet been established on FBO. Grant and research opportunities could come through FEMA and/or via Broad Agency Announcements and Small Business Innovative Research (SBIR) channels.

Historical Review of CWMD Contracting

Types of services purchased

Over the past five fiscal years, the top five purchased services included:

  • Professional Services $350M
  • Research and Development $160M
  • Information Technology $75M
  • Medical and Scientific Equipment $74M 
  • Health Services $63M.

In conjunction with McConnell’s and Johnson’s emphasis on moving away from the research and development aspect and towards rapid response, the chart below shows a steady trend toward a reduction in R&D spending. Although the Professional Services dipped slightly in fiscal 2018, Deltek anticipates increased utilization in the coming years consistent with their plans. Medical and Scientific Equipment spending declined significantly during the last fiscal year, while Information Technology and Health Services increased slightly. Deltek does not anticipate significant changes in these areas.

Procurement Methods

During this same period, GSA’s Schedule 00CORP PSS Professional Service Schedule (PSS) was by far, the most utilized method of procurement with $279M in contracts awarded. GSA Schedules 621, 66, and 70 along with DHS EAGLE II complete the top five contracting vehicles. This includes services provided under the DNDO and OHA offices prior to the CWMD formation. However, while Deltek anticipates the use of PSS Services to be a preferred procurement method, DHS has more than 70 mandatory-use Strategic Sourcing vehicles, such as EAGLE II. Depending on the type of requirement, socio-economic status and, in some cases, geographical regions, opportunities could utilize more DHS vehicles depending upon the services being acquired.

Socio-economic Allocation

A five-year analysis of socio-economic utilization shows that while the use of Women-Owned Businesses remained relatively stable, use of Service Disabled Veteran Owned, Veteran Owned, HUBZone, Small Disadvantaged Businesses and 8(a) companies decreased significantly as shown below. FY17 spending (primarily budgeted via DNDO and OHA) was $182M with about 39% awarded to small businesses. This indicates potential opportunities for small businesses to pre-market with the agency, influence socio-economic decisions and/or to seek teaming and partnering agreements with other companies. FY 2018 contained a mix of the old organization structure and the new. Analysis details are available in the GovWin Agency Profile for the CWMD


FY 2019 Budget Outlook 

For FY 2019, the CWMD is represented as a separate entity in the Congressional Budget Request and has requested $429M overall in FY 2019, up from $350M requested for FY 2018. Of this request, $209M is targeted for Operations and Support (O&S), $75M for Procurement, Construction, and Improvements (PC&I), $80M for Research and Development (R&D) and $65M for Federal Assistance. The office is requesting 248 positions and 232 FTEs for FY 2019. The chart below shows comparative spending in these areas over the past five years.

As mentioned in McConnell’s interview, the trend shows a dramatic shift from R&D since FY 2015 to the actual O&S area in FY 2019. Vendors can expect to see this trend continue. This includes funding for chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear, and medical support programs and activities as transition from the DNDO and OHA offices continue. This program also provides for readiness activities as well as the day-to-day organizational operations such as those in the CWMD A&AS opportunities previously mentioned.

During the coming years, the CWMD will be looking for that are flexible, able to quickly respond to immediate needs, and offer mature products while being willing to partner with previous competitors to meet CWMD needs. Small businesses should not only pre-market with the agency to influence socio-economic decisions and/or to seek teaming but also network with other companies to establish teaming and partnering agreements to increase their visibility and viability in this arena.

Below are Deltek’s Top 5 CWMD opportunities:

  1. Personal Radiation Detector (PRD) Maritime Variant (Opportunity 163541)
  2. Test and Evaluation Independent Verification Validation and Technical Support (Opportunity 152451)
  3. CWMD System Engineering Support Personnel Services (CWMD SESPS) (Opportunity 173181)
  4. Countering Weapons of Mass Destruction Office Small Business Innovation Research FY 2019 (Opportunity 172429)

A complete organizational analysis is available through GovWin’s CWMD Agency Profile.