Big win for Amazon: 1st provider authorized to handle sensitive DoD workloads in cloud

Amazon Web Services has become the first commercial cloud provider authorized to handle the Defense Department’s most sensitive unclassified data.

Today’s announcement that AWS has achieved a provisional authority to operate under DOD’s cloud security model at impact levels 3-5 is a major win for the company, as it allows DOD customers to provision commercial cloud services for the largest chunks of their data.

In technical speak, the provisional ATO granted by the Defense Information Systems Agency means DOD customers can use AWS’ GovCloud – an isolated region entirely for U.S. government customers – through a private connection routed to DOD’s network. DOD customers can now secure AWS cloud services through a variety of contract vehicles.

In layman’s terms, AWS is the first company with the ability to take any and all of DOD’s unclassified data to the cloud.

Keep reading this article at: http://www.nextgov.com/cloud-computing/2014/08/big-win-amazon-first-provider-authorized-handle-sensitive-dod-workloads/92069

Court of Federal Claims rejects attempt to shoehorn what it characterizes as a contract administration matter into a bid protest

Recently, the CFC rejected a bid protest action filed by Kellogg Brown & Root (KBR) with respect to one of the Army’s LOGCAP contracts. The contractor had performed the logistics and civil augmentation contract, under which the Army issued task orders for different years, on a “cost-reimbursement basis.” When the Army tried to change to a firm-fixed price arrangement for the 2013 close-out period, KBR balked and refused to submit a proposal—instead filing a bid protest action. The CFC dismissed the case, ruling that KBR did not properly invoke the court’s bid protest jurisdiction but rather was attempting to litigate a contract administration dispute.

After years of submitting cost-reimbursement proposals under the LOGCAP agreement, it seems reasonable that KBR didn’t want to switch to a firm-fixed price basis for the close-out period, as “there was ‘no way to accurately define the scope or duration of work’ and [the] ‘[l]egal, administrative compliance, audit response, vendor issues, subcontract close-out, and dispute resolution . . . are all unknowns.’”

Keep reading this article at: http://www.mondaq.com/article.asp?articleid=334576

FEMA’s 50% rule costing gov’t hundreds of millions of dollars in overpayments

Hundreds of millions of dollars were lost due to a misinterpretation of a Federal Emergency Management Agency rule that funds the replacement or repair of facilities after a natural disaster, according to a recent Homeland Security Department inspector general report.

FEMA’s public assistance program provides financial assistance for people in the aftermath of hurricanes, earthquakes, tornadoes, floods and terrorists attack. The agency spends around $10 billion every year for the Disaster Relief Fund to help people rebuild after a natural disaster.

Under the 50 percent rule, FEMA will replace a facility if the estimated cost of repair exceeds 50 percent of the estimated cost to replace it.

But applying FEMA’s 50 percent repair or replace rule correctly can be very difficult and susceptible to error, misinterpretation and manipulation, the report dated Aug. 7 said.

Keep reading this article at: http://www.fiercehomelandsecurity.com/story/ig-femas-50-percent-rule-costing-govt-hundreds-millions-dollars-overpayment/2014-08-21

Buying what works: Case studies in innovative contracting

Last week, the White House announced the launch of the U.S. Digital Service (USDS), a new team of America’s best digital experts dedicated to improving and simplifying the digital experience that people and businesses have with their government.  The USDS team has already begun to make progress by releasing the TechFAR Handbook, a guide that helps explain how Federal agencies can take advantage of existing procurement authorities to execute key plays in the Digital Services Playbook.

The Federal Government has long used its buying power as one of the world’s largest customers to accelerate well-known innovations, from the first microchips to the Global Positioning System (GPS).  Today, Federal agencies continue to leverage innovative procurement practices that spur the private sector to develop advanced technologies to better serve the American people – and to pay only for successful results, not just best efforts.

Today, the Office of Science Technology Policy (OSTP) and the Office of Management and Budget are pleased to release the first version of Innovative Contracting Case Studies, an iterative, evolving document that describes a number of ways Federal agencies are getting more innovation per taxpayer dollar – all under existing laws and regulations. For example, NASA has used milestone-based payments to promote private sector competition for the next generation of astronaut transportation services and moon exploration robots.  The Department of Veterans Affairs issued an invitation for short concept papers that lowered barriers for non-traditional government contractors, which led to the discovery of powerful new technologies in mobile health and trauma care.  The Department of Defense has used head-to-head competitions in realistic environments to identify new robot and vehicle designs that will protect soldiers on the battlefield.

We encourage both private sector stakeholders and public servants to engage in a sustained public discussion, identifying new case studies and improving this document’s usefulness in future iterations.  At the same time, Federal government employees can join a community of practice around innovative contracting by signing up for the new “Buyers Club” email group (open to all .gov and .mil email addresses).  This “Buyers Club” group should provide a useful forum for troubleshooting and sharing best practices across the Federal government, serving everyone from contracting officers with deep expertise in the Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) to program managers looking for new ways to achieve their agencies’ missions.

All of these innovative contracting efforts are aligned with President Obama’s management agenda to deliver a 21st century government that is more effective, efficient, and supportive of economic growth, including specific cross-agency initiatives on Smarter IT deliverystrategic sourcing, and shared services.  We encourage readers to join the public discussion of Innovative Contracting Case Studies, or sign up for the Feds-only “Buyers Club” email group.  We look forward to raising awareness about the many ways that the Federal Government can use the power of the purse to deliver powerful and cost-effective technology solutions for the American people.

Tom Kalil is Deputy Director for Technology and Innovation at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy.

Lesley Field is the Deputy Administrator for Federal Procurement Policy at the White House Office of Management and Budget.

IG: Google executive broke ethics rules while heading-up DARPA

A Google executive who previously ran a $3 billion Pentagon agency tasked with developing technology for the U.S. military violated ethics rules by pitching products from a company she had previously founded, according to a report released Wednesday by the Pentagon’s watchdog agency.

Regina E. Dugan, who ran the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency from July 2009 until March 2012, was cited by the Defense Department Inspector General’s office for endorsing a specific product, service or enterprise, a breach of ethics.

The IG found that while serving as DARPA’s director she briefed numerous senior defense officials on methods for U.S. troops to find improvised explosive devices and bomb-making facilities. The meetings created potential business opportunities for the company RedXDefense, LLC, in which she was a former chief executive officer, said the IG report, released to The Washington Post through the Freedom of Information Act.

“In communications with senior DoD officials, she used RedX proprietary and other materials originally developed for and used in RedX sales presentations,” states the IG report. “She advanced a theory integral to RedX product development, promoted a multi-step process the RedX product suite used to implement the theory, highlighted the results of field trials that used RedX products to demonstrate the efficacy of the theory and process, and featured a RedX sales slogan. She also endorsed the adoption of an effort to put sensors on dogs, an extension of a DARPA project on which RedX performed.”

Keep reading this article at: http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/checkpoint/wp/2014/08/13/watchdog-google-executive-broke-ethics-rules-while-working-for-pentagons-darpa

IG says Army paid too much upgrading Russian copters

U.S. Army contracting officers overpaid an American company upgrading Russian-made Mi-17 helicopters as contract costs increased almost 70 percent, according to an audit by the Pentagon inspector general.

The Army Contracting Command has responded that it will seek to recoup $128,990 of $151,543 in what the audit called “excess fees” paid since 2010 to Columbia, Maryland-based Science and Engineering Services Inc. The remaining $22,553 in fees was justified, according to the audit by the inspector general dated July 28.

While the amounts wouldn’t put a dent in the Pentagon’s $496 billion annual base budget, the inspector general’s report is the latest of three to question the contracting practices of an Army-run office set up in 2010 to manage the purchase and maintenance of foreign-made helicopters such as the medium-lift Mi-17 transport helicopters sold to U.S. allies Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iraq.

Keep reading this article at: http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2014-08-12/u-s-army-paid-too-much-upgrading-russian-copters-audit.html

IG: USPS should rescind its facilities contract delegation

The Postal Service should rescind its facilities contract delegation because the contracting officers aren’t required to meet professional qualifications or establish competition requirements, an Aug. 5 USPS inspector general report says.

USPS’s Supply Management office is responsible for approving contracts to acquire goods and services, but they can delegate contracting authority to personnel outside of Supply Management, the report says.

In September 2013, the Postal Service reported six delegations. And though five of those delegations have performed well, the facilities delegation hasn’t, the IG says.

Facilities did not require contracting officers to meet professional qualifications or establish sufficient competition requirements for contracts, the report says. Also, the facilities delegation could not identify its active contracts and did not timely submit the required annual reports.

Keep reading this article at: http://www.fiercegovernment.com/story/ig-usps-should-rescind-its-facilities-contract-delegation/2014-08-12

GAO: Most agencies still not providing complete data on contractors’ past performance

Although their level of compliance has improved over the last year, most federal agencies still haven’t met established governmentwide targets for providing complete, timely and accurate information on contractors’ past performance, congressional investigators found.

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) said compliance among the top 10 agencies – based on the number of contracts that each agency needed to evaluate – varied greatly, ranging from 13 percent to 83 percent, as of April.

Only two departments – Defense and Treasury – had compliance rates above 65 percent, said the GAO report released Aug. 7.

The Office of Federal Procurement Policy, or OFPP, which has been trying to improve agency compliance on this issue, had wanted all such departments to reach or exceed that 65-percent threshold by the end of fiscal 2013, GAO said.

Keep reading this article at: http://www.fiercegovernment.com/story/gao-most-agencies-still-not-providing-complete-data-contractors-past-perfor/2014-08-12

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.

Keep reading this article at: http://www.law360.com/articles/564299/dod-nasa-propose-line-item-rule-to-trace-contract-funding

$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 onUSASpending.gov 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 USASpending.gov. 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.

Keep reading this article at: http://www.federaltimes.com/article/20140805/MGMT02/308050017/-619-billion-missing-from-federal-transparency-site