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.

Keep  reading this article at: http://www.washingtonpost.com/business/economy/agencies-often-fail-to-report-contractors-performance/2014/08/08/87cc1f76-1f02-11e4-82f9-2cd6fa8da5c4_story.html

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.

Keep reading this article at: http://www.defensenews.com/article/20140803/DEFREG02/308030015/Blurred-Lines-Commercial-Defense-Sectors-Begin-Blend

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.

Keep reading this article at: http://www.fiercegovernment.com/story/ig-usps-facility-nearly-4-months-late-paying-contractors/2014-08-06

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.”

Keep reading this article at: http://www.federalnewsradio.com/394/3676550/Kendall-shapes-DoD-acquisition-reforms-around-7-areas-

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.”

Keep reading this article at:  http://www.federaltimes.com/article/20140807/IT/308070009/DHS-OPM-suspend-contracts-USIS-after-major-cyber-attack 

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.

Keep reading this article at: http://www.fiercegovernment.com/story/executive-order-will-mandate-federal-contractors-report-labor-law-violation/2014-08-04

DHS contractor suffers major computer breach, officials say

A major U.S. contractor that conducts background checks for the Department of Homeland Security has suffered a computer breach that probably resulted in the theft of employees’ personal information, officials said Wednesday.

The company, USIS, said in a statement that the intrusion “has all the markings of a state-sponsored attack.”

The breach, discovered recently, prompted DHS to suspend all work with USIS as the FBI launches an investigation. It is unclear how many employees were affected, but officials said they believe the breach did not affect employees outside the department. Still, the Office of Personnel Management has also suspended work with the company “out of an abundance of caution,” a senior administration official said.

Keep reading this article at: http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/dhs-contractor-suffers-major-computer-breach-officials-say/2014/08/06/8ed131b4-1d89-11e4-ae54-0cfe1f974f8a_story.html

Federal agencies falling short in providing accurate, complete federal award data, GAO says

Information about grants and loans found on a federal awards website isn’t as reliable as it should be, said congressional investigators, adding that greater oversight is needed.

The Government Accountability Office said agencies provided incomplete and inaccurate information about such assistance awards — totaling about $619 billion — on USASpending.gov, a publicly accessible website designed to improve transparency and accountability on federal spending.

However, GAO noted in its report released Aug. 1 that agencies largely provided complete information about awarded government contracts.

Keep reading this article at: http://www.fiercegovernmentit.com/story/federal-agencies-falling-short-providing-accurate-complete-federal-award-da/2014-08-03

‘We’ve got to stop throwing Hail Marys’

The future of federal IT contracting could look a lot like the environment at Google and other high-tech companies, where cutting costs and boosting efficiencies are as routine as breathing. But, say former and current procurement officials, winning the future will still involve knowing the nitty-gritty of what an agency is trying to accomplish with its IT contracts.

Being able to act quickly and effectively in the face of technology that has outpaced government’s ability to buy it effectively is a constant challenge, according to panel discussions at the National Contract Managers Association’s 2014 conference in Washington on July 28. In the face of similar challenges, private industry has adopted shorter development cycles coupled with more agile techniques.

If we want real innovation, we need to stop looking for ways to circumvent the federal acquisition system and work together to improve it, writes Stan Soloway.

Federal agencies are just beginning to do the same.

“We’ve got to stop throwing ‘Hail Marys” at large federal IT projects, Joe Jordan, former administrator of the Office of Federal Procurement Policy and now president of public sector at FedBid, said during a panel on technology’s impact on acquisition. “It’s got to be broken up into five- to 10-yard passes.”

Keep reading this article at: http://fcw.com/Articles/2014/07/28/No-more-Hail-Marys.aspx?Page=1&p=1

DOD stresses testing, evaluation improvements

Although “test and evaluation” is far from the most glamorous piece of the defense acquisition puzzle, Pentagon officials are making the case that it is one of the most important.

As part of the Better Buying Power 2.0 initiative unveiled more than a year ago, the Defense Department is emphasizing test and evaluation earlier in the acquisition process in an effort to keep contractors better informed about what the department expects on projects.

Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense Darlene Costello

Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense Darlene Costello

Conducting tests and defining project requirements earlier in the acquisition cycle were priorities in developing DOD’s most recent guidance to industry, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense Darlene Costello said at a July 23 conference in Washington hosted by the National Defense Industrial Association. That guidance was developed by Undersecretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics Frank Kendall, the senior DOD official leading the department’s attempts to make buying weapons, IT and everything else less costly and more efficient.

Keep reading this article at: http://fcw.com/articles/2014/07/23/dod-stresses-testing.aspx