Management of HealthCare.gov website now open for bid proposals

The White House has begun its search for the next stewards of HealthCare.gov.

contract solicitation posted online Wednesday enumerates the qualifications and requirements of the next Obamacare website contractor, charged with keeping the online federal health insurance exchange portal up and running.

The 60-page job posting says the next caretaker of the Obamacare site will need to be able to work “under aggressive time constraints” to work with the Federally Facilitated Marketplace in testing and upgrading a variety of hardware, software, and security features. It also states that the contractor will need to be able to perform tests that can demonstrate that the site can function when a large number of users are online.

Keep reading this article at: http://www.nextgov.com/cio-briefing/2014/07/obama-administration-looking-next-obamacare-website-contractor/88927

Teaching feds not to fear the FAR

From the General Services Administration’s 18F technology incubator and Health and Human Services’ emerging Buyers Club program to the Office of Management and Budget’s TechFAR guide, federal procurement officials have been busy rolling out plans aimed at reshaping the way government thinks about buying and developing IT.

Those officials are hoping the programs will spur the conservative, risk-averse federal procurement culture to more keenly navigate existing regulations and take more chances in IT acquisition.

The dense Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) issued by the Department of Defense, GSA, and NASA, is a primary target of the programs. More than a few federal officials and technology vendors have grown disillusioned with the FAR – or rather with how it has been used — arguing that it is wielded far too conservatively and is offers far more room for innovative than it’s given credit for.

Frustration with stagnant, staid FAR thinking spurred Health and Human Services to develop its Buyers Club program this spring. HHS officials talked publicly about development of the program in May, rolled out a Buyer’s Club web site June 24 and plan to accelerate the effort in the coming months, Bryan Sivak, HHS chief technology officer, told FCW.

Sivak said the program’s goal is to blaze new trails through the FAR that HHS contracting officers can follow to more efficient, innovative and successful IT procurement. Citing a Standish Group study that estimated roughly 90 percent of federal IT procurements valued at over $10 million fail, Sivak said it was obvious old thinking was not cutting it.  “Even if that estimate is a little on the high side, the numbers are still too way too high,” he said. “With those numbers, what’s the risk of trying to do something new?”

Keep reading this article at: http://fcw.com/articles/2014/07/14/far-fearing-feds.aspx 

VA forming cadre of specially-trained acquisition workers

The Veterans Affairs Department is recognizing and rewarding the success of its acquisition workers.

VA is professionalizing the acquisition workforce in a way comparable only to the Defense Department.

“We are establishing a professional acquisition corps in order to provide the benefits to VA by having a very specified cadre of highly-trained contracting officers and program managers who have a demonstrated history of high performance, and are qualified to lead VA’s most critical and high visibility programs and procurements,” said Ford Heard, VA’s associate deputy assistant secretary for Procurement Policy, Systems and Oversight and deputy senior procurement executive, during an interview on Federal News Radio’s In- Depth with Francis Rose.

“From a VA perspective, we are basically a soup to nuts organization as far as what is being procured in VA.  Not only is it IT.  Not only is it high professional quality healthcare services, but all the facility management requirements that anyone of our healthcare facilities would utilize. So, what we are actually doing is building this acquisition corps to really benefit veterans in the service we offer, and the opportunities for our employees to advance and receive training that they would not normally get under past circumstances.”

Keep reading this article at: http://www.federalnewsradio.com/538/3654616/VA-forming-cadre-of-specially-trained-acquisition-workers 

Procurement troubles still dog Defense Department

Congress has held hearings over the past 30 years seeking ways to fix the Defense Department’s poor procurement system.

A June 24th hearing offered interesting ideas.

No headlines afterward about stopping F-35 costs from skyrocketing, keeping new production of nuclear aircraft carriers on schedule or halting the failure of billion-dollar computer programs — in fact, there was hardly any press coverage at all.

Two worthwhile ideas that came from the four experienced procurement specialists who appeared before the House Armed Services Committee provided no silver bullets, but they made sense.

  1. Give the main contracting officer for major weapons projects absolute cradle-to-grave authority and responsibility and accountability.
  2. Interservice rivalry and even intraservice competition have far from ended, and they harm the procurement system.

 

Will FITARA help agencies embrace the cloud?

Even as the Federal Information Technology Acquisition Reform Act makes its way to the Senate floor, experts are split on whether the bill goes far enough and if legislation is needed at all to fix government’s IT acquisition problems.

Angela Styles, chair of Crowell & Moring’s government contracts group, said a bulky procurement process for industry often drives the private sector away from even giving the government options in what it purchases.

“These companies that come to us and ask ‘What does it mean to be a federal contractor?’ come with the expectation based on FASA (the Federal Acquisition Streamlining Act) and FARA (the Federal Acquisition Reform Act) from the ’90s that the government has an idea how to contract in a commercial fashion. Maybe the changes in ’94 and ’95 were more commercial, but they are not now,” Styles said, speaking Tuesday during a panel session at Amazon Web Services’ annual symposium for federal IT reform.

Styles said the provisions set up in part 12 of the Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) contribute to an “extraordinary gulf” between how the government and private sector do business.

Keep reading this article at: http://fedscoop.com/fitara-cloud/

GSA looks to ramp up contracting transformation with Alliant and Alliant II

As the General Services Administration (GSA) works to transform government contracting and consolidate agency spending under its roof, it is also working on a sequel to its highly successful IT services Alliant governmentwide acquisition contract.

The Alliant contract for complex and innovative IT services has served as a purchasing option for 54 agencies that have spent more than $16.5 billion.

GSA recently extended the option on the contract through to April 2019. To prepare for the sequel, GSA is also asking industry for input on possible emerging IT technologies and services on its social media site, Interact.

Casey Kelley, the director of GSA’s Governmentwide Acquisition Contract Center and the Alliant program manager, said the sequel to Alliant will offer agencies a flexible contract that can adapt to new IT technologies and services as they emerge.

Keep reading this article at: http://www.federaltimes.com/article/20140623/DEPARTMENTS/306120021/GSA-looks-ramp-up-contracting-transformation-Alliant-Alliant-II

GAO: $10 billion worth of current federal IT contracts could fail

At least $10 billion in federal technology contracts are currently at risk of failing, according to a new review by the Government Accountability Office — and the number could be larger.

Chief information officers across federal agencies reported that 183 of 759 major IT investments were at medium to high risk of failing before completion, the congressional watchdog found. Other IT projects also may be at risk, but federal agencies appear to be underreporting potential problems or removing or reclassifying IT investments that once were part of a public scorecard.

The GAO’s IT management director, David A. Powner, outlined the findings last week at a hearing of the Senate subcommittee on efficiency and effectiveness of government programs. His report comes as the government continues to recover from the problem-plagued rollout of HealthCare.gov and other high-profile IT miscues.

“Information technology should enable government to better serve the American people. However, despite spending hundreds of billions on IT since 2000, the federal government has experienced failed IT projects and has achieved little of the productivity improvements that private industry has realized from IT,” Powner said in written testimony.

Keep reading this article at: http://www.washingtonpost.com/business/on-it/gao-10-billion-worth-of-current-federal-it-contracts-could-fail/2014/06/13/1e6ee728-f24f-11e3-9ebc-2ee6f81ed217_story.html

Former DoD official argues for more commercial technology

Global defense companies need to import and adapt more commercial technology into military weapons and systems of the future, a former US deputy defense secretary turned industry CEO said Wednesday.

The Pentagon is more often using these types of technologies, such as 3-D printing and IT systems, allowing troops to use smartphones to view real-time reconnaissance information.

“The model was to develop things internally and then put them out [commercially],” said Bill Lynn, CEO of Finmeccanica North America and a former deputy defense secretary under Robert Gates and Leon Panetta.

“We still need to do that in some cases, but in many more cases we’re going to have to pull commercial technologies in and militarize them and operationalize them,” he said Wednesday at a Center for a New American Security (CNAS) conference.

Lynn and retired Adm. James Stavridis, now dean of Tufts University’s Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, presented ajust-completed CNAS report on the future of the global defense industry.

Keep reading this article at: http://www.federaltimes.com/article/20140612/ACQ02/306120016/Former-defense-official-argues-more-commercial-tech

Opening up competition in federal IT

The Public Spend Forum, a group focusing on public-sector procurement, analyzed government IT spending  and found that a  “check the box culture” and a broken requirements and procurement process inhibits competition and limits innovation.

Its recent report, Billions in the Balance: Removing Barriers to Competition & Driving Innovation in the Public-Sector IT Market makes several recommendations for IT managers:

  • Establish clear lines of authority and accountability.
  • Develop a simple needs and outcomes statement instead of voluminous RFPs.
  • Engage the market early.
  • Develop a cost/outcome (ROI)-focused IT strategy.
    • Focus on minimizing cost/outcome as the ROI of a government program
    • Implement flexible IT architectures as recommended in the ACT-IAC 7S for Success Framework.
    • Emphasize prototyping and approaches for minimum viable product rollouts.
    • Avoid monolithic acquisition approaches and instead leverage existing procurement vehicles and allow use of alternative vehicles.
  • Encourage smart risk taking.
  • Reduce burdensome requirements and speed up the procurement process.

Keep reading this article at: http://gcn.com/blogs/pulse/2014/06/competition-in-it-procurement-report.aspx

 

Is the third time a charm for federal IT acquisition reform?

While many support the current form of the Federal Information Technology Acquisition Reform Act that passed the House May 22 for the third time in nearly 15 months, some of the bill’s earliest advocates said the changes aren’t quite the reform they initially hoped for.

Brocade Communications Systems, a tech company focusing on products for data storage and networking, was part of the initial House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform hearing on January 22, 2013, about federal IT acquisition – the foundations of what would later become FITARA. At that hearing, the company’s former CEO, Michael Klayko, testified about the costs of over-dependence on a single-source supplier in the federal acquisition process.

Now, the company’s director of federal sales, Tony Celeste, said the latest version of the bill is good, but that government IT reform isn’t quite finished yet.

“We’re excited about the bill in its current draft,” Celeste said. “We were a little disappointed to see the IT centers of excellence be pulled from the bill. The rationale behind that was we thought that having the IT acquisition centers in there would give agencies the ability to see new technology, to try new technology, that they’re now not going to have the opportunity to do.”

Keep reading this article at: http://fedscoop.com/is-the-third-time-a-charm-for-fitara/

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