White House to agencies: Embrace offbeat methods for buying tech

With no plans to return to the moon anytime soon in NASA’s future, the space agency decided to challenge private sector teams, including small startups and academia, to come up with ways to safely land commercial lunar landers on the moon’s surface and transmit data back to Earth.

None of the six teams selected by NASA to compete for the Google Lunar X PRIZE — which carries total prize winnings of $30 million and a Dec. 31, 2015, deadline — is a “traditional” government contractor.

And the method NASA used for the process — a milestone-based competition combining the best attributes of a firm, fixed-price contract with the flexibility of an indefinite-delivery deal — wasn’t exactly the typical FedBizOpps posting, either.

But the point is — it worked.

Keep reading this article at: http://www.nextgov.com/cio-briefing/2014/08/white-house-agencies-embrace-offbeat-methods-buying-tech/92051

‘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

The future of contracting

As government agencies now rely primarily on contractors to meet their mission objectives, they must embrace the oversight and management of contractors as a core competency, not as an administrative function buried deep within the management and/or administration office. Mission delivery through external, private-sector, and profit-motivated businesses requires all federal executives and staff to accept their roles in ensuring that contractors properly support the agency’s “customers” as well as its own private business objectives. Immense advances in technology in recent years and the rising prominence of new corporations in our information age replacing those of the industrial age raises the question: How can government acquisition better leverage new methods of communication and technology; and if so, how can it be more effective?

While technology continuously improves our lives in many ways, such as providing new and improved tools to make data more available, functions to perform faster, and communication to be more accurate and responsive, the professional competencies required and goals of government contracting cannot and should not change. These are concepts of fairness, competition, the role of small business, fair and reasonable pricing, ethical standards of conduct, best value, intellectual property, acquisition planning, compliance, etc. There are also business competencies of leadership, economics, accounting, marketing, etc.  The terminology of competencies may change, but the competencies themselves will remain.

Keep reading this article at: http://www.federaltimes.com/article/20140624/BLG06/306240011/The-future-contracting

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 

DIA opens new gateway to vendors, hoping for disruptive technologies

The Defense Intelligence Agency will formally roll out its new Open Innovation Gateway, a major pillar in the agency’s push to move away from big, monolithic technology acquisitions and bring new innovations on board in small bites and in very short cycles.

Officials have not discussed many of the inner workings of the gateway prior to Wednesday’s official announcement, during which DIA will declare it has reached initial operating capability.

The agency has made clear for the past year that the intent is to give technology developers much more insight into the technical requirements that a new capability must meet before the agency will buy it.

That insight, DIA says, extends beyond publishing black and white technical standards. Via the gateway, the agency will give developers access to the actual computing environment DIA uses today — and eventually, the shared set of systems under the entire intelligence community technology infrastructure — so that they will know from the outset whether their technologies will integrate with DIA’s existing systems, and if not, what changes they will need to make.

Keep reading this article at: http://www.federalnewsradio.com/239/3650653/DIA-opens-new-gateway-to-vendors-hoping-for-disruptive-technologies

‘Catastrophic’ network outage sets stage for ‘exception to fair opportunity’

The agency that manages the Pentagon Police Department  and also runs networks and computers used  the by the  Office of the Secretary of Defense experienced a “catastrophic network technological outage” on Jan. 3, and it could take until January 2015 to complete the repairs, an obscure document on the Federal Business Opportunities website revealed.

That document, posted on May 2, disclosed that the outage experienced by the Pentagon Life Safety System Network and Life Safety Backbone left the Pentagon Force Protection Agency “without access to the mission-critical systems needed to properly safeguard personnel and facilities, rendering the agency blind across the national capital region.”

The Force Protection Agency provides security and services to 100 military buildings in Washington, Maryland and Virginia.

The agency estimated it would take six to 12 months to “effect repairs and to upgrade the network core to mitigate future outage risks.” Repairs include recovery of data after the catastrophic network technological outage and upgrade and replacement of switches and routers.

SRA International Inc. won a $56 million contract for the Life Safety System Network in 2008 that expired on April 30. The Force Protection Agency falls under the Washington Headquarters Service, which extended the SRA contract through Oct. 31, with a value of $7.3 million, and a four month option through Feb. 28, 2015, with a total value of $11.4 million.

See the current posting on FedBizOpps at https://www.fbo.gov/index?s=opportunity&mode=form&tab=core&id=7a4521d43f5f5c78b19eab99bed941ea&_cview=0

Keep reading this article at http://www.nextgov.com/defense/2014/05/pentagon-police-agency-hit-catastrophic-network-outage/83842

1950’s RFP for the U-2 spy plane was just 2 pages long

Federal Communications Commission CIO David Bray dropped an interesting piece of government contracting arcana last week during a panel discussion on the past and future role of government chief information officers.

The conversation had turned to the acquisition process and how its complexities can sometimes prevent agencies from buying the best technology or prolong the process until that technology is sorely out of date. Bray noted that the request for proposals for the U-2 spy plane — the one that secretly flew over the Soviet Union gathering intelligence at high altitudes for half a decade during the early Cold War — was only two pages long.

That’s quite a contrast to modern RFPs, which can run dozens or hundreds of pages for comparatively simple technology.

Unfortunately the full U-2 RFP isn’t easily available online. There are several reference notes, though, attesting to its two-page length. Just as interesting, though, for anyone who’s worked under the contemporary Federal Acquisition Regulation, is this description of the U-2 contracting process compiled by Central Intelligence Agency historians Gregory Pedlow and Donald Welzenbach in 1998.

Keep reading this article at: http://www.nextgov.com/emerging-tech/emerging-tech-blog/2014/04/rfp-u-2-spy-plane-was-just-two-pages-long/83104 

SAM ‘inelegant and cumbersome’ says GSA CIO

The System for Award Management (SAM) is operational but it’s not what the future of acquisition systems should look like, said Sonny Hashmi, chief information officer at the General Services Administration (GSA).

Commonly called “SAM,” the consolidated acquisition system launched in August 2012 to bring together three previously separate systems.

“It is still inelegant and cumbersome. We have done just enough to make it operational,” said Hashmi during an April 11 chat on GitHub.

Shortly after the system went live, SAM ran into a variety of problems that required the back-end security architecture, business process management layer and database schema to be completely reconfigured.

Keep reading this article at: http://www.fiercegovernmentit.com/story/sam-inelegant-and-cumbersome-says-gsa-cio/2014-04-16

If you encounter a business having trouble getting registered in SAM, be sure to tell them that they should not pay anyone to register their company in SAM.  SAM registration is free!  For details, please visit: http://gtpac.org/sam-gov-registration-is-free-and-help-with-sam-is-free-too 

DHS wants to recycle its own computers

The Homeland Security Department is considering creating its own DHS-wide computer hardware recycling program, according to department officials. That way, Homeland Security can pocket more proceeds than using the current General Services Administration-run salvaging service, IT consultants say.

The office of the DHS chief information officer “would like to establish an Asset Buy Back Program to recycle scrap/salvage IT equipment, i.e. desktops, laptops, printers, etc. at DHS headquarters,” a federal contracting notice states. GSA’s service, which is offered to all agencies, is called GSAXcess.

Under the plan, Homeland Security’s IT shop would receive “credits” that then would go toward replacing hardware through a separate GSA Exchange/Sale program.

Keep reading this article at: http://www.nextgov.com/cio-briefing/2014/04/dhs-wants-recycle-its-own-computers/82654/?oref=nextgov_defense_it 

DoD plots third chapter in Better Buying Power initiative

Nothing is on paper yet, but the Defense Department says it is in the very early stages of creating a “3.0” version of its ongoing Better Buying Power initiative.

The newest edition will focus on making sure the military doesn’t fall behind in technological superiority.

Frank Kendall, the undersecretary of Defense for acquisition, technology and logistics, said the next edition of the Pentagon’s effort to improve its acquisition system will zero in on an issue that he has become increasingly worried about as sequestration-level budgets take a toll on DoD’s investments in research and development.

While he emphasized that Better Buying Power 3.0 still is in the idea stage, he said it will revolve around the notion that DoD can’t afford to put technology advances on hold just because research dollars are shrinking.

“The first iteration was about the rules. The second one was about creating tools to help people think and do a better job of setting up business deals and executing them. The third is probably going to be about innovation and how we move things more rapidly and more effectively into the hands of warfighters,” he said Tuesday (Apr. 8, 2014) at the 15th annual Science and Engineering Technology Conference sponsored by the National Defense Industrial Association in College Park, Md.

Keep reading this article at: http://www.federalnewsradio.com/65/3599360/DoD-plots-third-chapter-in-Better-Buying-Power-initiative-