Proposed line item rule to trace contract funding

The U.S. Department of DefenseNASA and the General Services Administration on August 5, 2014  proposed changing federal acquisition regulations for line items in government contracts to standardize the system and make it easier to trace.

The DOD, NASA and GSA proposed to amend the Federal Acquisition Regulation in fiscal year 2016 to establish a uniform line item identification structure providing pricing, delivery and funding information on items purchased, improving the traceability, accuracy and usability of federal procurement data, according to the proposal published in the Federal Register.

Funding traceability is currently limited to contract-level information, making it harder to implement governmentwide initiatives such as strategic sourcing, according to the rule. Tracking in the new line item identification structure, including keeping tabs on unit pricing in fixed-price contracts, will help trace funding from the time it’s obligated through the time it’s spent, the rule states.

“With this proposed rule, the federal procurement community continues to improve standardization of a unique instrument identifier, moving the procurement community in the direction of enhancing the uniformity and consistency of data,” according to the rule. “This, in turn, will promote the achievement of rigorous accountability of procurement dollars and processes.”

The new rule would apply to solicitations, contracts including governmentwide acquisition contracts and multiagency contracts, purchase orders, agreements involving prepriced supplies or services, and task and delivery orders, according to the rule.

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$619 billion missing from federal transparency site

A government website intended to make federal spending more transparent is missing at least $619 billion from 302 federal programs, a government audit has found.

And the data that does exist is wildly inaccurate, according to the Government Accountability Office, which looked at 2012 spending data. Only 2 percent to 7 percent of spending data is “fully consistent with agencies’ records,” according to the report.

Among the data missing from the 6-year-old federal website:

■ The Department of Health and Human Services failed to report nearly $544 billion, mostly in direct assistance programs like Medicare. The department admitted that it should have reported aggregate numbers of spending on those programs.

■ The Department of the Interior did not report spending for 163 of its 265 assistance programs because, the department said, its accounting systems were not compatible with the data formats required by The result: $5.3 billion in spending missing from the website.

■ The White House itself failed to report any of the programs it’s directly responsible for. At the Office of National Drug Control Policy, which is part of the White House, officials said they thought HHS was responsible for reporting their spending.

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Agencies often fail to report contractors’ performance

Most of the top federal government agencies have not complied with regulations requiring them to report contractors’ performance to a central database used by government purchasers, according to a recent report by Congress’s watchdog.

While the agencies showed improvement, only two of the 10 departments surveyed by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) met their goal, investigators found, which stymies the government’s ability to know if it is dealing with reputable firms.

“Government agencies rely on contractors to perform a broad array of activities to meet their missions,” the GAO wrote. “Therefore, complete and timely information on contractors’ past performance is critical to ensure the government does business only with companies that deliver quality goods and services on time and within budget.”

The shared database acts like Yelp or Angie’s List — Web sites where consumers rate all sorts of businesses — for government purchasers, who spend billions of dollars annually.

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Blurred lines: Commercial, Defense sectors begin to blend

As companies continue to turn their eyes toward the Middle East and Asia for new business, a trend has emerged: The lines between commercial and defense businesses are increasingly blurring.

All but one company in the top 10 of this year’s Defense News Top 100 — our annual ranking of the largest global defense firms — saw the percentage of their defense business decline or remain flat in 2013. Thales, at No. 9, was the only company in the top 10 that saw growth in the percentage of its business generated by defense.

Click here for the complete list.

Defense-heavy companies, such as U.S. giant Lockheed Martin, which is once again at the top of the list, are diversifying their businesses. Lockheed is entering the commercial marketplace in areas such as air traffic management, aviation training and simulation, energy, and advanced manufacturing.

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IG: USPS facility nearly 4 months late paying contractors

The Postal Service made payments nearly four months late to contractors shipping mail out of the Indianapolis processing and distribution facility, a recently released USPS inspector general report says.

The distribution center did not process about $74,000 in exceptional service payments in a timely manner over the eight month period from June 2013 through January 2014, the report says. The Postal Service gives bonuses to contractors who provide exceptional service, including changes in normally scheduled transportation operations including extra trips and late leaving trips.

“Management stated that contractors were alarmed by the frequency and amount of payments the Postal Service owed them and were looking for assistance to resolve these payment issues,” the report says.

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Recommendations for DoD acquisition reform focus on 7 areas

The Defense Department added its voice to a growing list of associations and lawmakers with ideas on how to improve the military’s acquisition process.

DoD’s ideas center less on what Congress can do and more on what it shouldn’t do.

Frank Kendall, the undersecretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics, sent a letter to Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Carl Levin (D-Mich.) back in June detailing seven areas where he thinks DoD needs help to improve acquisition outcomes.

For the first time publicly today at the AFCEA Acquisition Modernization conference in Washington, Kendall highlighted his seven recommendations.

Kendall said the biggest thing Congress could do is end the threat of sequestration in 2016 and beyond.

“2013 was a nightmare year. We actually implemented sequestration well into the year. We bought ourselves a little time with the deal that got us through 2014 and presumably through 2015. It’s coming right back in 2016,” he said. “We are working on the budget right now. The services are finalizing their [budget plans], and we will go through an exercise this fall where we will have to look at what the President will submit and something that is compliant with sequestration to see what the damage is. The damage is huge.”

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Contract administration course kicks-off on Sept. 8

Georgia Tech is teaching a course in September that is beneficial to both contracting officials seeking to hone their skills as well as contractors looking for insights into the government contracting process.

The course — CON 090-4, Contract Administration in the Federal Acquisition Regulation — covers every aspect of post-award activity.  This includes monitoring of contract performance, quality assurance, contract modifications, enforcement of terms and conditions, processing payments, handling disputes and appeals, terminations, and the contract close-out procedure.

  • For government contracting officers, this course represents the fourth module of coursework required to maintain a contracting warrant.   A warrant is a written document providing a contracting officer with the limits of his or her authority.   Per FAR 1.601-2, Contracting Officers have the authority to “enter into, administer, or terminate contracts and make related determinations and findings” to the extent of the authority delegated to them by their warrant.   Georgia Tech’s Contracting Education Academy offers a set of courses — each equivalent to Defense Acquisition University (DAU) course standards — that help contracting officials maintain their warrants and enhance professional development.
  • For businesspeople who compete for and fulfill government contracts, Academy classes are equally pertinent.  Contractor personnel who attend Academy courses gain real-world knowledge about how government officials are trained to formulate and administer contracts.   Insights in these areas provide invaluable guidance pertinent to reaching greater success in competing for, winning, and fulfilling government contract work.

CON 090-4 is a five-day course being offered during the week of September 8, 2014 on Georgia Tech’s midtown Atlanta campus.  CON 090-4 is part of an overall four-week course that deals with every aspect of the Federal Acquisition Regulation, the set of rules which govern the government’s “acquisition process” — that is, the process through which the government purchases (or “acquires”) goods and services.

For more information on CON 090-4, including cost and registration, please visit

For information about the entire CON 090 course series and other courses offered by The Academy, please visit


Georgia Tech Research Institute’s Huntsville operation works to shorten modeling and simulation testing

Georgia Tech Research Institute (GTRI) researchers are working with a Huntsville, AL company and the U.S. Missile Defense Agency (MDA) to test high-altitude missiles without ever firing a shot.

AEgis Technologies, specialists in modeling and simulation, contracted GTRI’s Applied Systems Laboratory to collaborate with MDA on testing high-altitude air defense missiles. ASL is in its second phase of a multi-year project utilizing “hardware-in-the-loop” testing to enable more accurate modeling and simulation for its customer.

“Testing a missile can be very expensive,” said GTRI Senior Research Engineer and principal investigator Glenn Parker. “Additionally, because of the large number of control variables in a real exercise, it isn’t technically feasible to get complete testing coverage. High-fidelity simulation addresses many of these concerns, but even with modern processors it can take days to compute the trajectory and heat signature of a complex ballistic target.”

Hardware-in-the-loop simulations use portions of the real missile hardware, such as the seeker, with any missing pieces made up by simulated components.

“We use the missile’s actual guidance system and manipulate simulated inputs to make the hardware think it is flying,” Parker said. “By using real hardware in tests, confidence in the results is much higher than in fully simulated models. For non-reusable portions of the missile like the motor and warhead, the use of simulation models makes it possible to run thousands of test cycles without leaving the laboratory, and for less than the cost of one live test.”

With current testing models, thermal signature databases must be computed offline prior to the test, and can take up to three days for a mere fifteen minutes of simulation time. Any alteration to the parameters—altitude, weather, terrain, or even the position of the sun—requires a total re-coding of the database. Testing a missile launch from Hawaii, for example, to intercept a target at a certain distance, altitude and speed takes a long time to calculate all of the missile hardware inputs that are used in the test.

What GTRI is working on, according to Parker, will enable the simulated components to be “looped in” for real-time calculation, eliminating the need for database computation ahead of time. Using off-the-shelf NVIDIA graphics cards, the group will work to provide the seeker with simulated thermally emissive ballistic targets heated by atmospheric effects in real time. The team will be using CUDA, NVIDIA’s parallel computing architecture.

“Our goal is to calculate and provide inputs at up to 200 Hz, which means simulated measurements are sent to the seeker unit 200 times each second,” Parker said. “This will allow us to run dozens of tests in the amount of time we used to spend calculating data for a single run. Test parameters can be changed on the fly—MDA will be able to run many more ‘what if’ scenarios before fielding a defense system.”

AEgis Technologies in Huntsville is the prime contractor of the project. They will operate the Army-owned, hardware-in-the-loop test bed and generate scenarios for use in simulations. GTRI provides the expertise in real-time computing. Prior to this, AEgis had worked indirectly with GTRI’s Electro-Optical Systems Laboratory (EOSL) on the same program, which supported ultraviolet sensor testing.

“We selected GTRI based on what I knew of EOSL’s capabilities, and their expertise in GPU technology,” said AEgis Program Manager Dennis Bunfield. “GTRI’s CUDA expertise is a great value, and their expertise in verification and validation is invaluable.”

The system will be scalable, and the plan is to take what they learn from this project and use it elsewhere in the defense industry. The thermal solver aspect of the project, for example, will be useful for any simulation requiring a real-time solution for thermal image simulation.

“I think with some enhancements to the code framework, the capabilities can be extended to generate signatures in other regions, such as UV, the visible spectrum and for LADAR,” Bunfield said. “Aside from military applications, it could be possible to use the thermal solver for commercial and manufacturing applications, such as thermal analysis simulation.”

“We’re working with AEgis Technologies to best model and simulate firing and the performance of these missiles by providing scenario inputs at the true hardware rate,” Parker said. “Our main goal—writing a massively parallel NVIDIA CUDA thermal differential equation solver—will enable faster and more effective testing of high-cost components at hardware-in-the-loop testing centers.”


DHS, OPM suspend contracts with USIS after major cyber attack

Peter Boogaard, a DHS spokesman, would not confirm the identity of the contractor but said that a multiagency cyber response team is working to identify the scope of the attack and how many employees were affected.

He said the agency has determined that some DHS personnel have had their personal information compromised and the agency has notified its entire workforce to monitor their financial accounts for suspicious activity.

“As we continue to investigate the nature of this breach on an urgent basis, we will be notifying specific DHS employees whose [personally identifiable information] we can determine was likely compromised.”

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Executive order will mandate federal contractors report labor law violations

Contractors will have to report any labor law violations to federal agencies under an executive order signed by President Obama July 31, 2014.

Contractors will need to disclose any labor law violations from the past three years before a contract can be awarded to them. Violations include family and medical leave, collective bargaining and wages.

The order would also charge agencies with taking contractor labor law violations into account when awarding contracts.

Only contracts valued at more than $500,000 would be affected and the order will be implemented in 2016.

The order also lays out rules for agencies and contractors.

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