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 Fiscal 2017 budget deadline

 

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.

Submit ideas, suggestions and news tips  to Jason via email.

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Oracle to leave GSA schedule: A signal of broader change?

Oracle is leaving the General Services Administration’s schedules program. It’s not going to just stop selling directly through the IT schedule, but the software giant will no longer use third-party resellers either, according to multiple sources.

Let that sink in for a second. One of the largest software vendors in the world is telling GSA, thanks, but we can live without you.

Sources said Oracle decided the GSA schedules just weren’t worth the hassle any longer — the compliance requirements, the potential and real threats of False Claims Act lawsuits and the new Transactional Data Reporting (TDR) rule, all played into this decision.

“The federal market is a very small chunk of their business and while it seems big for us, when you look at someone like Oracle’s overall business, they have to expend an exorbitant amount of resources for little payoff,” said Jennifer Aubel, a principal with Aronson Consulting, who said she wasn’t familiar with Oracle’s decision. “With the TDR and even with not having to do price reduction clause reporting, a company like Oracle would still have to do monthly reporting and there is a lot of concerns, including how GSA will keep the data secure.”

Oracle made $38.2 billion worldwide in 2015. Its direct sales to the federal government were $60.8 million in 2015, according to USASpending.gov. Even if it made just over $2 billion in federal revenue through its resellers, the federal market accounts for about 6 percent of Oracle’s total revenue. And disengaging from GSA doesn’t mean Oracle can’t sell through other contracts, such as the Army’s CHESS or through enterprise software agreements with the Defense Department.

(more…)


DoD to take on the next challenge with cloud: application security

Since May, the Defense Department has more than doubled the number of approved commercial cloud computing providers.

The military services and agencies now have more than 50 vendors to choose from to buy commercial cloud services at low and moderate security levels.

That’s a good start for DoD.

“For low-risk stuff, we actually access those clouds over the internet. When we move into moderate risks, we’ve actually worked direct connects into the commercial providers,” said Rob Vietmeyer, DoD’s government lead and strategic advisor to the chief information officer on enterprise cloud computing, at the National Institute of Standards and Technology’s Cloud Computing Forum and Workshop on Sept. 15. “In commercial data centers, we can do our network peering. We’ve tied it into our perimeter defense for our Non-classified Internet Protocol Router Network (NIPRNet) environment so we can firewall and filter for some of that traffic so we can protect the NIPRNET from any of the threats that may originate in that cloud environment.”

Now the challenge is to figure out how to move above security level 3 to levels 4 and 5 for high-impact systems. While 88 percent of the systems across government are considered low or moderate risk, the majority of high-risk systems reside in DoD or the Department of Homeland Security. Since DoD has the most high-impact systems in government, and moving those to commercial clouds is more complicated.

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As the GWAC turns, HCaTS, Alliant 2 continue bid protest evolution

HCaTs is back on track. Alliant 2 continues to come under attack. These are the days of our GWAC lives.

The General Services Administration gave the go-ahead to 109 vendors who won spots on the Human Capital and Training Solutions (HCaTs) unrestricted and small business contracts to begin promoting and selling against the governmentwide acquisition contract.

“The stay of performance that resulted from the HCaTS protests has been lifted,” wrote GSA to in an email to vendors, which Federal News Radio obtained. “The HCaTS Kick-Off event will be scheduled soon…”

GSA made the awards under 20-year, $11.5 billion HCaTS in May, but 26 protests delayed the launch of the program.

Over the last three months or so, the Government Accountability Office denied or dismissed the protests freeing the GWAC from the stay issued while under protest.

With the notice to proceed, agencies can start buying an assortment of services for the pool of vendors:

  • Customized training and development services;
  • Customized human capital strategy services; and
  • Customized organizational performance improvement

While GSA received good news around HCaTS, it’s next generation IT services contract known as Alliant 2 continues to face obstacles.

Just over a month after GSA faced its first bid protest over Alliant 2 by Enterprise Information Services, a second vendor submitted a protest to GAO.

(more…)


Details emerge about new security clearance organization, processes

In less than two weeks, the Office of Personnel Management is expected to launch the new background investigation service to help fix the mess created by a series of incidents ranging from a lack of contractor oversight to the massive data breach affecting 21.5 million current and former federal employees.

Officials promise the National Background Investigations Bureau (NBIB) will be a much different organization than its predecessor, the Federal Investigative Services.

“It will have a politically appointed director, will be headquartered in D.C. and be a full member of the Performance Accountability Council, so it aligns with customers for increased accountability and formulation of policy. That is key,” said Jim Onusko, transition leader of the NBIB, during the INSA-AFCEA National Security Summit. “With the NBIB transition team, nothing is done in a vacuum. We work closely with the transition advisory group, including the Defense Department, the Director of National Intelligence, the Office of Management and Budget and other federal agencies. In addition, we’ve created eight new key functions for the NBIB to transform how the government performs background investigations. In addition to those eight new key functions, we also enhanced seven legacy functions to more effectively and efficiently perform those investigations.”

Onusko said one key new function is the creation of a Senior Executive Service (SES) position to lead the Federal Investigative Records Enterprise (FIRE). This person’s charge will be to automate and digitize the NBIB’s processes.

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Senate concerns slow down IT modernization compromise bill

The White House and leading House members found a happy medium when it comes to promoting and funding agency IT modernization efforts, but whether or not this compromise comes to fruition may just come down to the will of a few senators.

The full House is expected to pass Rep. Will Hurd’s (R-Texas) Modernization Government Technology Act, which the Oversight and Government Reform Committee approved Sept. 15, as early as Tuesday.

Senators on the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs and the Appropriations committees are far from agreeable on the bill’s approach of creating working capital funds in each agency specifically for IT modernization, and creating a centralized pot of money owned by the Office of Management and Budget and managed by the General Services Administration.

Multiple industry and Hill sources said there are some who are wary of creating another working capital fund, given so many already exist across the government.

According to the White House budget request for fiscal 2017, 17 agencies currently have this type of funding mechanism. For instance, the Commerce Department has working capital funds at the headquarters level, the Census Bureau and the National Institute of Standards and Technology. Additionally, the Environmental Protection Agency, GSA and the departments of Justice, Treasury, State, Labor, Transportation and Interior are among the agencies with working capital funds.

(more…)


OMB turns up the juice for federal privacy officials

Like your toothbrush or air filter in your furnace or even the oil in your car, federal policy needs to be replaced once in a while too.

The Office of Management and Budget is taking on this sometimes herculean effort. The administration already updated the 16-year-old Circular A-130 in July. There’s discussion about some of the identity management and access control guidance from the mid-2000s needing to be refreshed. Cybersecurity guidance is constantly changed and modified to meet the ever-evolving threats.

And then there is privacy. It’s been 11 years since OMB last addressed the role of the chief privacy officer. Back in 2005, OMB released M-05-08, Designation of Senior Agency Officials for Privacy, in February.

Back then, the idea of having chief privacy officers (CPO) in every agency was been a point of contention. OMB under the President George W. Bush administration didn’t want a CPO in every agency. Some lawmakers did, pushing a provision in the 2005 appropriations bill, requiring agencies to name chief privacy officers and perform a number of privacy oversight functions, according to a story I wrote back in 2005. Other lawmakers and the administration pushed to repeal the provision.

(more…)


IRS isn’t alone with its struggle with EINSTEIN cyber program

Agencies are looking at a deadline of less than four months to implement the cybersecurity program known as EINSTEIN 3-Accelerated (E3A).

The Homeland Security Department says the government is making progress toward that Dec. 18 target, with about 66 percent of all large agencies using the software to detect and block cyber attacks.

But a recent letter to the IRS from Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), chairman of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, calls into question whether every agency really can or will meet the spirit and intent of the effort.

Johnson wrote to IRS Commissioner John Koskinen on Aug. 8 asking for answers after a recent briefing from DHS about the status of the EINSTEIN implementation effort across all of government.

What Johnson said DHS told the committee is alarming, to say the least.

(more…)


Major GSA schedule update is a parity play

The concept of parity is often about talked in professional and collegiate sports as if it’s good for the league and for competition. But parity is rarely talked about the ultra-competitive world of federal procurement outside of maybe socioeconomic programs for small and disadvantaged businesses.

That’s why the General Services Administration’s proposed rule on Aug. 8 is both so interesting and important.

GSA proposed to change its internal acquisition regulations to let agencies develop task orders under the schedules program to include other direct costs (ODCs) or order level materials (OLMs).

“Currently, most commercial indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity contracts provide the flexibility to easily acquire order-level materials; however the FSS program does not. This proposed rule aims to create parity between the FSS program and other commercial IDIQs while also ensuring an appropriate set of controls or safeguards are put in place,” GSA wrote in the proposed rule. “Providing the same flexibilities in the FSS program that are currently authorized for commercial IDIQ vehicles will help to reduce contract duplication and the associated administrative costs and inefficiencies for agencies. Simultaneously, it will reduce transaction costs for contractors, including small businesses, by eliminating the need for FSS contract holders to compete for and enter into additional contracts for this ancillary work.”

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CMS says winner of $67M cyber contract was most qualified

It seems my story on the recent cybersecurity award from the Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services ruffled a few feathers.

CMS officials were unhappy with the way my source portrayed the $67.6 million contract award, especially around the source’s belief that the award appeared to go to the lowest bidder.

CMS responded to my questions, so in the interest of balanced reporting, here is what they said.

CMS said it rated the winning vendor Iron Vine’s “experience and technical merit — and overall quote“ at the highest levels.

“The request for quotes (RFQ) stated that CMS would select a company that would provide CMS the greatest confidence that it will best meet or exceed the requirements at a fair and reasonable price,” the CMS spokesman said.

CMS said the $67.6 million price tag also was consistent with the other two current contracts that this new contract is replacing.

(more…)


Labor, GSA losing IT, customer service executives

The Labor Department and the General Services Administration are losing key executives.

Dawn Leaf, the Labor Department’s chief information officer, is hanging up her IT shingle after more than 17 years in government, including the last four leading the agency’s IT efforts.

MaryAnn Monroe, the director of customer experience and chief of staff for public experience/USAGov in the General Services Administration’s Technology Transformation Service (TTS) is leaving the government to join the private sector.

Monroe announced on Sept. 2 that she would join e-Gain, a cloud provider of omni-channel customer engagement solutions, as director of customer success for federal.

Leaf’s decision to retire is a little surprising given how much success she’s had in transforming Labor IT infrastructure.

(more…)


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