NASA awards flurry of contracts under SEWP

NASA has a host of new vendors to buy IT services from, after awarding 56 contracts to more than 40 companies under the latest version of its Solutions for Enterprise-Wide Procurement, known as SEWP.

Announced Oct. 1, SEWP V is the fifth generation of the multiaward governmentwide acquisition contract. This particular iteration has a total value of up to $10 billion over the next decade.

NASA staggered its SEWP V vendor and contract announcements. The Oct. 1 announcement covered two subcategories: Group A, for computer-based systems, and Group B, for networking, security, video and conference tools.

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SEC audit reveals lapses in laptop inventory, possibly affecting more than 1,000 computers

An internal investigation found that the Securities and Exchange Commission must take more action to better track agency-issued laptop computers.

In the audit dated Sept. 22, the SEC inspector general said that the Office of Information Technology’s inventory failed to include current locations of machines from an operations center that closed last year.

The inventory also had incorrect locations for about 17 percent of the 488 laptops reviewed, incorrect user information for 22 percent of them, and could not account for 24 machines, the audit found. Additionally, the IG said that at least 88 asset management branch workers could delete asset records from the IT Service Management inventory database.

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DoD selects Tech as one of 12 contract award winners

he Georgia Tech Research Institute (GTRI) is one of 12 companies awarded access to the new Defense Systems Technical Area Tasks (DS TATs) contract vehicle.

Having established its reputation as a world leader in sensors, radar and electronic systems, information management and security, and robotics, GTRI leveraged its position within the Georgia Institute of Technology and its collaboration with other academic institutions to win the contract. The contract was awarded by the Defense Technical Information Center (DTIC), a part of the Department of Defense (DoD).

“Contract vehicles are very important for military contractors in general and GTRI in particular,” said Rod Beard, GTRI researcher and director of the DS TATs. “We could have the greatest ideas in the world for a government office, but if we don’t have a way for them to reach us through a contract vehicle, it could be too time-consuming for the complete procurement process.”

GTRI leadership made the decision to pursue DS TATs in 2011, realizing that the Sensing Information Analysis Center (SENSIAC) vehicle would expire in 2014. DTIC’s prior responsibility for SENSIAC under its mandate was to provide science and technical information to U.S. government customers. Because of GTRI’s and Georgia Tech’s specialty in sensors and radar, SENSIAC was located in and managed by GTRI. Researchers and scientists managed these basic core operations of SENSIAC.

DTIC divided the 10 existing information analysis centers — grouping subject matter based on research similarities — into three. The technical area tasks (TATs) or contract vehicles were separated among the new branches. Now, the DS-TATs scope is the same as that of the Defense Systems Information Analysis Center. The other two are the Cyber Security and Information Analysis Center (CSIAC) and the Homeland Defense & Security Information Analysis Center (HDIAC).

DTIC, which reports to the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering (ASDRE), established DS TATs in June 2014. The vehicle has a $3 billion ceiling and is established as a 5-year, indefinite delivery/indefinite quantity (IDIQ), multiple-award contract for research and analysis services.

According to Beard, it should take about six or seven months to begin procuring contract awards through the vehicle. He currently is in the process of informing GTRI’s researchers of the new vehicle, and then will meet with customers who funded GTRI through SENSIAC, informing them of the new process with DS TATs.

Contractors awarded use of this vehicle will compete to perform various customer-funded task orders (TATs) for studies and complex analyses, as well as engineering and technical services that generate scientific and technical information within the Defense Systems scope areas.

Focus areas for this contract vehicle include the following:

  • survivability/vulnerability
  • reliability, maintainability, quality, supportability and interoperability
  • military sensing
  • advanced materials
  • weapon systems
  • energetics
  • autonomous systems
  • directed energy
  • non-lethal weapons and information operations

Through its relationship to Georgia Tech and collaboration with academic partners from across the nation, GTRI will be able to not only utilize its specialties—sensors, autonomous systems, sustainability of legacy aircraft and research on protecting our warfighters — but also allow the consortium of academic partners to demonstrate their strengths.

Collaborators include the University of Southern California, California Technical Institute, New Mexico Tech, Utah State University, Purdue University, University of Illinois, University of Michigan, Notre Dame, Pennsylvania State University, Vanderbilt University, University of North Carolina Charlotte and Florida International University. In addition, GTRI recruited several industry and small business partners, as 9 percent of the work done in the first year must be designated to small businesses.

“In addition to providing access to a contract vehicle, the partnerships will give us an opportunity to diversify,” Beard said. “To assist with this, we have secured several academic partners, which will open the door to projects that neither GTRI nor some of our partners would have contemplated before.”

For example, GTRI conducts legacy aircraft sustainment. “We take legacy technology in military aircraft, and update the avionic systems with current generation processors and memory to enable replacement of this out-of-date equipment,” Beard said. “Purdue is prominent in the automotive industry, which is something we don’t do. We could possibly move into tank and truck sustainment through our partnerships.”

A few of these institutions already were partners through SENSIAC, Beard said. Utah State’s Space Dynamic Lab, for example, can simulate the environment of space, which aids in the testing of sensors and other items bound for the skies.

“I’m pleased that we have been awarded this opportunity,” said Robert T. McGrath, senior vice president of the Georgia Institute of Technology and director of GTRI. “I am confident that the comprehensive capabilities represented across the impressive team assembled will very ably serve the future needs of our Department of Defense sponsors.”

The multiple-award contracts were competitively procured by full and open competition along with a partial small business set-aside via the Federal Business Opportunities website. The Air Force Installation Contracting Agency, Offutt Air Force Base in Nebraska, is the contracting agency.

DoD will empower military branches to directly procure cloud services

The Defense Department is changing its approach to procuring cloud services, moving away from a two-year-old policy designating the Defense Information Systems Agency as the department’s de facto cloud broker.

In a new memo expected to be released by the end of October, the department’s new policies will grant cloud-buying power to the military services, according to officials. The new guidelines direct military officials to provide the DoD CIO office with detailed business case analyses for cloud decisions, while also complying with acquisition requirements and evolving cybersecurity mandates.

The forthcoming memo will replace the 2012 cloud strategy released by then-DoD CIO Teri Takai.

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Hagel’s right-hand man on acquisition reform

Hagel needed to accompany President Barack Obama to Tampa, Florida, for a briefing at U.S. Central Command about the now-underway airstrikes against Islamic State militants in Syria. Hagel needed a trusted confidant to fill in for him at the Air Force Association conference in Maryland, so he turned to Frank Kendall, the Defense Department’s undersecretary for acquisition.

Hagel’s choice in Kendall to deliver the remarks he had already penned is the latest in a series of actions that demonstrates the close relationship two have developed over the past year, defense officials close to both men say.

Moreover, the relationship has helped elevate Kendall’s acquisition reform – or as he prefers to say, “acquisition improvement” – initiatives, the latest of which was unveiled last week.

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Agencies and industry prepare for new contract

While waiting for the Homeland Security Department’s next IT acquisition vehicle to become fully operational, agencies and businesses are preparing for takeoff.

Vendors awarded contracts on the Enterprise Acquisition Gateway for Leading Edge Solutions II are participating in industry groups to learn more about requirements, promoting the vehicle to customers, strengthening their own capabilities to distinguish themselves from competitors, and maintaining partner relationships.

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Contracting officers: Take a look, it’s in a book

A bill to reform how the government buys and manages technology came up this week at a hearing about the security of — but contracting officers willing to plunge into some heavy reading may discover they already have a lot of the capability they need.

While Republicans grilled Obamacare officials about a recent hack — and other vulnerabilities — of their signature website, one Democrat used the occasion to plug what may be his favorite piece of pending legislation: The Federal Information Technology Acquisition Reform Act, or FITARA.

“Isn’t information security related to how well we’re managing our IT assets?” Rep. Gerry Connolly, D-Va., asked officials. He gave a brief description of what FITARA would do for IT managers; the bill actually has plenty of support and seems only to await action.

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The GSA Digital Service’s TechFAR Handbook can be found at:

DoD to gather feedback on new military tech acquisition guidance

The Pentagon’s top weapons buyer formally released a draft of his proposed new guidance for acquisition reform last week, calling for a renewed focus on research and innovation to maintain the increasingly tenuous lead that the US holds in military technology over its adversaries.

Administration officials — including Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel — have been telegraphing elements of the strategy for weeks, even though the final plan won’t be finished for months.

Speaking with a handful of reporters at the Pentagon on Sept. 16, the man leading the charge — Frank Kendall, undersecretary of defense for acquisition, technology and logistics —said that the white paper he released on Friday is only the first full public airing of the proposed strategy.

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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.

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‘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.”

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