Inside the Reporter’s Notebook: GSA FAS, shared services and DHS contract awards

Welcome to my new feature, “Inside the Reporter’s Notebook,” where every two weeks I’ll dispatch news and information you may have missed or that slipped through the cracks at conferences, hearings and the like.

This is not a column nor commentary — it’s news tidbits, strongly sourced buzz and other items of interest that have happened or are happening in the federal IT and acquisition communities.

As always, I encourage you to submit ideas, suggestions, and, of course, news to me at


There’s a lot of talk in the acquisition community about who will be the next Federal Acquisition Service Commissioner at the General Services Administration. The buzz is around three names, Mary Davie, the acting FAS Commissioner and long-time GSA acquisition person, Tom Sharpe, the Treasury Department’s chief acquisition officer, and, what some are calling an industry dark horse, Raj Sharma, CEO of Censeo Consulting Group, which has been working with GSA to implement strategic sourcing. Several sources tell me Davie is the best candidate, but from what I gather a decision isn’t final.

A couple of data points for an industry friend to keep in mind:

  • Government and industry say the past three FAS commissioners — Marty Wagner, Jim Williams, Steve Kempf — managed effectively. All of them had extensive prior federal acquisition operations and IT policy experience.
  • When GSA has hired someone with mostly or all private-sector experience, they were selecting second tier candidates and things didn’t work as well as they hoped, think Martha Johnson, Lurita Doan and Emily Murphy. “For the most part, they are good people, but they were over their heads and couldn’t manage effectively in a government environment.”

The Office of Management and Budget once again is trying to push agencies toward financial management shared services. At the Association of Government Accountants event Thursday, which was closed to the press for some odd reason, industry and government sources tell me OMB Controller Danny Werfel announced Treasury would be the agency lead for “shared services 2.0” (my name, not Werfel’s). According to tweets from AGA, Werfel said the administration needs to aggressively challenge the agencies to find common, basic structures to take advantage of the cost benefits of migrating to shared services. Werfel also said, according to AGA tweets, medium and large agencies need to aggressively move toward shared services.

I’ve asked OMB for more details on the financial management shared services strategy, including an interview with Werfel. A recent Federal News Radio survey of CFOs found they are skeptical of shared services.

Under the Bush administration, OMB pushed agencies toward using shared services providers for financial management, but decided not to make it mandatory and therefore few large agencies actually made the move.

One industry source familiar with the plan tells me OMB may not be including the private sector in this round, instead wanting agencies to use government providers, such as Interior’s National Business Center or Treasury’s Administrative Resource Center. The source expressed some concern if that’s the plan, government providers would struggle to meet the needs of truly large agencies such as Homeland Security or Veterans Affairs.

Here’s another after-effect of the Defense Department’s $1 billion failed personnel management systems, called, the Defense Integrated Military Human Resources System (DIMHRS), the Air Force finally is updating its internal HR system five years later.

And the service is using the cloud. The Air Force said this week that it’s putting its Military Personnel Data System (MilPDS) in the cloud managed by the Defense Information Systems Agency.

For the next 23 days, MilPDS will go down while the Air Force moves it to DISA’s Defense Enterprise Computing Center, known as the DISA DECs.

Moving to DISA’s cloud isn’t all that surprising as the Army, the Joint Chiefs and others are putting their email in the DECs, but this may be one of the first major HR systems going there.

It would be interesting to see if the Air Force’s move to the cloud was more about a faster path to upgrades than actual savings.

The Air Force said it now will “bring MilPDS up-to-date in order to reduce risks.”

“We are confident that we will be able to upgrade MilPDS in March so we can address security, reliability and sustainability risks with the current system,” said Robert Corsi, Air Force assistant deputy chief of staff for manpower, personnel and services, in a release. “We will have processes in place to ensure personnel and pay service providers are able to work critical transactions for their customers during the upgrade.”

The Homeland Security Department was so happy with its first iteration of its small business only contract for technology products called First Source, it decided to do it again.

DHS gave 29 companies a hunting license to compete for billions under the First Source II vehicle.

DHS went big with its awards. It gave spots Thursday to between five and nine firms in each of the categories: small, women-owned, 8(a), service disabled veteran-owned and Historically Underutilized Business Zone (HUBZone) companies.

First Source II could be worth $3 billion over seven years.

First Source, along with its companion services contract Eagle, has been a popular contract across DHS. The agency, and its components, spent more than $2 billion on more than 17,000 contracts under the first iteration of the contract between 2007 and 2011.

Customs and Border Protection was, by far, the largest user of the contract with more than 5,000 task orders, worth more than $540 million.

The conference circuit ramps up next week with the National Institute of Standards and Technology’s two-day Cloud Computing and Big Data Workshop, the draft agenda includes Federal CIO Steven VanRoekel on Tuesday.

AFFIRM has their monthly luncheon looking at program management and AFCEA Northern Virginia has a lunch with Henry Sienkiewicz, the vice chief information assurance executive at the Defense Information Systems Agency.