High risk list: Government IT acquisitions fail ‘too frequently’

The new federal chief information officer, Tony Scott, has his work cut out for him. The Government Accountability Office (GAO) today is adding information technology acquisition to its high-profile list of “high-risk” federal programs.

Despite a raft of reforms over the course of the Obama administration, “federal IT investments too frequently fail or incur cost overruns and schedule slippages while contributing little to mission-related outcomes,” the 2015 update to GAO’s High-Risk List states.

The government has wasted billions on botched IT projects that fail to deliver promised – or any – functionality and have been mothballed. Even more programs are still on the books, but remain at risk of falling behind. And hundreds of watchdog recommendations for improving the state of federal IT acquisitions have gone unaddressed.

Keep reading this article at: http://www.nextgov.com/cio-briefing/2015/02/high-risk-list-government-it-projects-fail-too-frequently/105063

Survey: Acquisition workforce falling behind on training

The buyers of products and services across government are not receiving the fresh training or modern skill sets needed to innovate and acquire the complex technology called for in today’s agency missions, according to a survey of federal acquisition employees released on Thursday.

“The acquisition workforce’s skills in areas such as business acumen, negotiation, risk mitigation and understanding complex information technology fall well short of what acquisition professionals say is required,” said Stan Soloway, president and CEO of the Professional Services Council. PSC and Grant Thornton prepared the seventh edition of a biannual survey titled “A Closing Window: Are We Missing the Opportunity for Change?”

“This not a failure of the workforce,” Soloway said, “but a result of our collective slowness to recognize the need for major change” in education and support.

In a session with reporters, he cited frustrations over a “growing gap” between acquisition specialists and the end users who increasingly say the technology being delivered isn’t suitable.

Keep reading this article at: http://www.govexec.com/contracting/2015/01/survey-acquisition-workforce-falling-behind-training/103512/

See more on this topic at: http://www.nationaldefensemagazine.org/blog/Lists/Posts/Post.aspx?ID=1719

Who’s the boss in government contracting?

he management structure of government procurement, where one of every six federal dollars is spent, has remained generally unchanged for many years, even as the volume and percentage of products and services performed by agencies has evolved to today’s outsourced, dependent model. One continuing characteristic of this model is decentralization.

For example, since its creation in 1971, governmentwide acquisition policy responsibility rests with the Office of Federal Procurement Policy (OFPP), residing within OMB. It helps shape the policy and practices governing over $500 billion of annual contract obligations. It does so with a very small budget and staff and relies on interagency cooperation to develop policy and workforce development planning in the form of memos, circulars, guides, or reports. OFPP chairs the FAR Council, consisting of senior procurement executives from GSA, NASA, and DoD (the largest contracting agencies at its creation), to manage cases (changes to the FAR) from civilian and defense agency councils, extensively relying on agency-provided “teams” for assigned subject areas. In addition, OFPP oversees the Federal Acquisition Institute (FAI), chairing its “board of directors” (agency procurement executives) to ensure training priorities are addressed, including development of a professional acquisition workforce. OFPP’s mandate relies on words like “collaborate,” or “assist” in describing its role over other civilian agencies. FAI itself has a small staff and relies on other, better-funded agencies, to develop training programs and schools, as well as private contractor-approved providers.

Keep reading this article at: http://www.federaltimes.com/story/government/acquisition/blog/2015/01/16/government-contracting-leadership/21858713/

Federal IT acquisition workforce law signed

The Federal Information Technology Acquisition Reform Act focuses heavily on the need to strengthen the federal IT acquisition workforce as a central part of improving acquisition outcomes and calls on OMB to come up with a five-year strategic plan to bolster these “cadres.”

OMB will have to annually report to Congress on its progress under the plan and GAO will track it as well. OMB further is required to submit to Congress plans for improving the management of IT programs and projects.

Cash bonuses and other incentives could become available in recognition of high performance on the part of individuals or teams in acquiring information systems and IT. (OPM will be sending guidance on developing awards programs.)

Keep reading this article at: http://www.fedweek.com/fedweek-information-technology/federal-acquisition-workforce-law-signed/

See related article on the Federal Information Technology Acquisition Reform Act at: http://www.fedweek.com/fedweek-information-technology/federal-projects-scrutinized/

OMB trumpets progress on tracking contractor performance and other cross-agency goals

From cybersecurity to agency customer service to strategic sourcing, the priority goals set by the Obama administration in the budget last March continue to guide agency management improvements and are producing “notable progress and success,” according to the Office of Management and Budget.

Deputy Director for Management Beth Cobert in a blogpost said updates on the 15 cross-agency priority goals and 91 agency goals for the fourth-quarter of fiscal 2014 have been posted on Performance.gov.  “Now, a year in, we are seeing notable progress and success as agencies work together and break down silos,” Cobert wrote. “Additionally, as a result of setting these goals and measuring progress against them, teams supporting the goals have identified new strategies to deal with roadblocks they have encountered. “

Each goal entry on Performanc.gov includes officials responsible for its pursuit, along with lists of actions taken and evidence of progress. The executive branch’s Performance Improvement Council also has launched a website, she announced.

Keep reading this article at: http://www.govexec.com/management/2014/12/omb-trumpets-progress-tracking-contractor-performance-and-other-cross-agency-goals/101712

House lawmakers call for OFPP to issue reverse auction guidance

House lawmakers are pressing the Office of Federal Procurement Policy to update the Federal Acquisition Regulations to detail how best agencies should use reverse auctions.

Reps. Jeff Miller (R-Fla.) and Sam Graves (R-Mo.), chairmen of the Veterans Affairs and Small Business committees, respectively, wrote to Anne Rung, OFPP administrator, Dec. 4, asking for a FAR case to be opened immediately to address reverse auctions.

“As you may well know, while our two committees recognize that reverse auctions, when properly used, may deliver savings to the taxpayer, we have long been concerned that some are misusing this tool to evade competition and compliance with other procurement regulations,” Graves and Miller wrote in the letter obtained by Federal News Radio.

Graves and Miller highlight findings from the December 2013 report from Government Accountability Office as well as recent GAO bid protest decisions detailing agency struggles with reverse auctions.

Keep reading this article at: http://www.federalnewsradio.com/517/3765084/House-lawmakers-call-for-OFPP-to-issue-reverse-auction-guidance

Major IT reform to have ‘immediate effect’ on feds

Included in the 2015 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) approved Friday (Dec. 12, 2014) is a technology reform package designed to significantly change the way federal agencies manage IT.

The Federal Information Technology Acquisition Reform Act (FITARA) has many components, all aimed at centralizing authority with the top department CIOs and increasing accountability over IT procurement and projects. Whether the bill helps or hinders IT programs will depend entirely on how it is implemented.

Of all the cyber and technology legislation considered on the Hill this year, FITARA is “nearest to [federal employees] and going to have the most immediate effect,” according to Rick Holgate, CIO at the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) and president of the American Council for Technology.

“In our department we’re already anticipating how we need to adjust our governance structure,” to respond to the new authority of the lead CIO, he said. “[Office of Management and Budget] is going to provide us an interpretation of the statute that we should all follow,” but until that time “we’re all trying to anticipate what adjustments we’ll need to make to adapt to the law.”

Keep reading this article at: http://www.federaltimes.com/article/20141212/FEDIT03/312120006/Major-reform-pending-NDAA-vote 

OFPP chief looks to procurement workforce, collaboration

Two months into her job as administrator of the Office of Federal Procurement Policy, Anne Rung said she’s open to proposals aimed at debunking misunderstandings about what is and is not permitted in agency/industry communications regarding pending and future contracts.

OFPP and the Office of Management and Budget have already begun similar efforts to better explain and facilitate accurate and usable information for government contracting officers through OMB’s Digital Services Team’s release of its TechFAR and Digital Playbook efforts.

Keep reading this article at: http://fcw.com/articles/2014/11/04/rung-looks-to-workforce-collaboration.aspx

Agriculture agencies need better contract management, GAO finds

Three Agriculture Department agencies failed to use preferred contracts in the procurement of professional services for about two-thirds of the funds assigned for such purchases from fiscal 2009 to 2013, the Government Accountability Office found.

That amounts to about $783 million of the nearly $1.8 billion USDA set aside in that time frame for professional services contracts, according to GAO’s report. USDA’s Departmental Management, Food and Nutrition Service, and Forest Service account for about 70 percent of the department’s total obligations for professional service contracts, but only about 37 percent of the funds were awarded via performance-based, firm-fixed-price contracts, the kinds that the Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) and the Office of Management and Budget say should be used to the maximum extent possible.

Keep reading this article at: http://www.fiercegovernment.com/story/usda-departments-need-better-contract-management-gao-finds/2014-10-30

Agencies must improve payment card security by year end

In the wake of massive data breaches involving consumer credit cards, President Barack Obama signed an executive order Friday to strengthen security measures on government credit, debit and payment cards and the readers that scan them.

The new order — part of the president’s BuySecure initiative — requires federal agencies to use chip-and-PIN security on all government-issued cards and update card readers to work with new technology.

“With over 100 million Americans falling victim to data breaches over the last year and millions suffering from credit card fraud and identity crimes, there is a need to act — and to move our economy toward stronger, more secure technologies that better secure transaction and safeguard sensitive date,” the White House said in a statement.

Keep reading this article at: http://www.federaltimes.com/article/20141017/IT/310170022/Agencies-must-improve-payment-card-security-by-year-end