Reporter’s Notebook

jason-miller-original“Reporter’s Notebook” is a weekly dispatch of news tidbits, strongly-sourced buzz, and other items of interest happening in the federal IT and acquisition communities.

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HUD’s lack of progress with major IT contract vexes industry, lawmakers alike

It’s been more than a year since the Department of Housing and Urban Development released the last, and what may be the most significant, contract for its IT modernization effort called the HUD Enterprise Architecture Transformation (HEAT).

The systems integration contract, which some estimate could be worth $40 million to $50 million — a major contract for a small agency like HUD — came out in February under the National Institute of Health’s CIO-SP3 governmentwide acquisition contract. Hewlett-Packard Services submitted a pre-award protest in September after initial discussions. HUD took corrective action and then the agency went radio silent. The program started almost 18 months ago when HUD issued the draft RFP in December 2015.

Under the solicitation, HUD is looking for services such as end-user support, disaster recovery integration and understanding how systems are integrated more broadly.

Vendors involved in the bidding for the contract have heard very little from the agency except for three requests for price extensions.

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For the IG community, the case for shared services is clearer than ever

There is little question across the federal community about the value of agency inspectors general. The amount of money they cost is minimal compared to the amount of money they help agencies save year after year.

Then why is there a growing concern that auditors and investigators are being overwhelmed by hotline calls, data and the sheer number of potential cases of waste, fraud and abuse?

Part of the reason for this challenge are administrations that fail to put actions behind their words. The administrations of Presidents George W. BushBarack Obama and many others have talked about the importance of supporting the federal IG community, but they have not adequately made sure each agency’s IG office was well-resourced. Then, in turn, Congress chose not to send more resources to IGs because the president didn’t request it.

“There is no connection between the size of a department and the size of an IG’s office,” said Anthony Adkinson, the Energy Department’s assistant special agent in charge, during a panel discussion at the Nuix Government Thought Leadership conference in Washington on March 7. “At Energy, we have 100,000 employees and only 62 investigators. It doesn’t scale. We don’t have an investigator at every site at Energy. There is an organizational disconnect between what’s expected and what IGs can do. We more than pay for ourselves, but the scope of what we are faced with is not workable and almost nonsensical.”

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GSA, DHS begin to tip their hand about future of CDM program

The $6 billion blanket purchase agreement for the continuous diagnostics and mitigation (CDM) program is heading into the home stretch with less than 18 months left on the initial deal.

The General Services Administration and the Homeland Security Department continue to send signals of how they will move forward after that initial BPA expires in August 2018.

The latest indication came in the form of a request for information (RFI) to GSA Alliant Small Business contract holders on March 6.

GSA is asking small firms to provide details across seven broad CDM capabilities, including:

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Hartley is latest ‘original’ 18Fer whose term is coming to an end

The original group of disruptors at the General Services Administration’s 18F is getting smaller by the month. Hillary Hartley, the deputy executive director and creative director, is leaving a few months before her term was to expire.

In an email to staff obtained by Federal News Radio, Hartley said her last official day is April 7.

“This has been the best job I’ve ever had, with the best group of people I’ve ever known,” Hartley said in the email to staff. “Four years ago, we had dreams that felt noble, but kind of impossible, and it is only because of you (and our amazing #alumni) that is now a reality.”

GSA’s 18F organization provides digital and consulting services to federal, state and local governments to help those entities focus on user needs and take advantage of iterative or agile development.

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Army seeks help to guard against fake social media accounts

Online scams are as old as the internet. The Nigerian businessman seeking money from their victims so they can transfer money back to them from a non-existent bank, or the fake emails from a scammer pretending to represent a government agency telling you about a problem are among the most famous ones.

With the rise of social media — whether LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook or Instagram — a new way to find out information about a federal employee or military service member is easier than ever.

This is why the Army released one of the most fascinating requests for information in recent times.
The Army is looking for help from a vendor to find, monitor and get rid of imposter social media accounts.

Among the capabilities the Army is looking for a vendor to provide are “an existing commercially available, user-friendly, web-based solution to monitor and mitigate imposter profiles on social media platforms. A solution that is automated and secure (not susceptible to hacking). The ability to query at a minimum, but not limited to the following social media platforms: Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, Skype, Instagram and YouTube as well as the ability to include new/additional social media networks as they arise.”

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Lead agencies must turn category management small business strategies into action

The future of the Obama administration’s category management initiative remains unknown. Several federal officials involved in category management have told me they have received good feedback from Trump administration transition team and special advisers so far in the first few months of the transition and presidency. But others, particularly in industry, say they are hearing major changes are on the way for this and several procurement initiatives of the prior administration.

Keep in mind it has been four months since comments were due on the proposed category management circular. One source told me recently the circular is basically on hold until more political appointees are in place.

One thing is certain no matter what happens to category management, small businesses have a lot of anxiety about the future of federal procurement.

Bob Derby, vice president of strategic communications for LeapFrog Solutions, a small women-owned firm, said category management is “big and scary.”

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Agencies could learn a thing or two from DoD’s approach to buying services

The Defense Department may have hit upon an acquisition innovation that is slowly drifting to the civilian world.

Since 2012, the Pentagon has been taking a SAW — services acquisition workshop — to procurements worth more than $1 billion.

Ken Brennan, the deputy director for services acquisition in DoD’s Defense Procurement and Acquisition Policy office, said the success of this effort that brings together all the stakeholders of an acquisition, from technology, to financial, to mission, to lawyers, is leading DoD to consider lowering the threshold for requiring the use of SAWs.

The 2012 memo mandates the SAW for $1 billion and encourages the military to use the process for any services acquisition worth more than $100 million. (more…)


Howard Schmidt, a pioneer in federal cyber, passes away

The federal IT and cyber community lost one of its own last week. Howard Schmidt, the first cyber czar for President Barack Obama and a special advisor for cybersecurity under the President George W. Bush administration, passed away March 2 at his home in Muskego, Wisconsin.

Schmidt, 67, lost his battle with cancer. Memorial services will be held March 10 at Becker-Ritter Funeral Home: 14074 West North Avenue, Brookfield, Wisconsin 53005.
All those who are planning to attend please RSVP via email to SCHMIDTMEMORIAL@gmail.com.
Any personal pictures and stories are greatly welcomed at SCHMIDTMEMORIAL@gmail.com.

Schmidt’s impact on federal cybersecurity and on the people who are a part of it today remains strong and clear.

“Howard was a pioneer in cybersecurity, and one of the first to recognize that this was not a government or an industry challenge, but rather a shared challenge — one that required active collaboration and cooperation between the public and private sectors,” said Jeremy Grant, a managing director at the Chertoff Group and a former head of the National Strategy for Trusted Identities in Cyberspace (NSTIC) at the National Institute of Standards and Technology. “His years of service in government and industry — and more importantly, his dedication to making cyberspace more trustworthy for everybody — is something that we all benefit from today.”

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OMB, VA turn to experienced executives to hold down the fort

Patience is hard sometimes. This is especially true with a new administration, as we all are waiting for some signals or idea of what the new management agenda will look like.

There have been a few clues, such as the hiring freeze and the draft executive order on approaches to reorganizing agencies.

President Donald Trump will send his fiscal 2018 budget request to Congress around March 13, so that will offer a few more details.

In the meantime, here is a tidbit we recently learned: Linda Springer is working at the Office of Management and Budget as the senior adviser to the director for management.

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Congress wants more, better federal cyber workers despite hiring freeze

House and Senate staff members working for committees overseeing federal cybersecurity efforts are placing a bigger focus on the makeup and training of agency workforces this year.

Both the House Homeland Security Committee and the House and Senate intelligence committees want more action from agencies in how they hire and train their workforces to deal with cybersecurity.

And the oversight is for good reason. As Bill Evanina, the national counterintelligence executive, told me recently, 90 percent of all successful hacks are because of spear phishing, and federal employees are more at risk from clicking on links than from sophisticated attacks.

This is why, over the last few years, lawmakers have required agencies to understand the makeup of their workforces and have given DHS more authorities to hire qualified cyber employees.

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