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.

 Sign up for our Reporter’s Notebook email alert.

Is the IG’s report on whistleblower retaliation at GSA anything more than a history lesson?

The details behind the power struggle at the General Services Administration to create the Technology Transformation Service by using the multi-billion dollar Acquisition Services Fund (ASF) is salacious and stunning in many ways.

The accusations of veiled threats, the strong consideration by former GSA Administrator Denise Turner Roth to remove the top two executives of the Federal Acquisition Service (FAS) and almost the blind support of the 18F digital services organization by a host of Obama administration appointees despite repeated warnings about their consistent breaking of financial and acquisition regulations and laws makes for a great read.

But in the end, the inspector general’s newly released report detailing this three-year dispute will end up being more of a history lesson than a situation where there are real consequences for Turner Roth and other senior GSA officials.

Nearly every one of the main characters have left GSA. Turner Roth left in January at the end of the Obama administration and is now a senior advisor at WSP USA, a global engineering and professional services organization.

An email to Turner Roth was not immediately returned. She told Federal News Radio last week that the IG’s findings were “wrong and disappointing.”


How USAID earned an ‘A’ on the FITARA scorecard

In a rocky FITARA sea of red and yellow “Fs” and “Ds,” the U.S. Agency for International Development stood out like a lighthouse.

USAID became the first agency earlier this month to receive an “A” on the Federal IT Acquisition Reform Act (FITARA) scorecard from the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.

While most agencies stagnated, USAID lifted its grades from a “D” to an “A+” over the last six months.
The fourth scorecard, released by the committee on June 13, showed agency progress in reforming technology management and oversight hit a wall while the overall scores of 20 of 24 agencies stayed the same or dropped since December.

“Here’s an agency that began at a fairly low score and decided, do you know what, we can’t settle for that. What did they do? They reached out to GAO and said ‘what can we do to improve our performance?’ They listened to advice and they implemented it. And they now have the highest score and the greatest progress of a federal agency, AID,” said Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-Va.), ranking member of the subcommittee on government operations and a co-author of FITARA, at the June 13 hearing. “When some agencies say it’s too complicated, etc. AID has proved that is not true. If there is the political will. If there is the managerial desire to self-improve and to come into the 21st century, you will have congressional support, you will have GAO support and you will have a nice grade.”


Incumbents ruling less of the day in federal contracting

The Obama administration’s push over the last eight years to inject more competition into the federal procurement process seems to have resulted in two major changes across the vendor community that are only now becoming clear.

First, the incumbent win rate dramatically dropped over the last year.

Second, contractors diversified into other markets, including state and local and commercial sectors, at a more aggressive rate than in the recent past to deal with the shrinking federal procurement pie.

“This gives a strong indication that competition is increasing and possibly driving down pricing and profit percentages on federal contracts,” stated the 2016 federal contractor survey sponsored by Grant Thornton released on May 30. “Companies should be looking at their current pricing techniques to determine if adjustments are necessary to win greater percentages of proposals.”

Rich LaFleur, a partner Grant Thornton and co-leader of the government contracts industry practice, said in an interview with Federal News Radio, the win rate for incumbents dropped to 54 percent in 2016 from 75 percent in 2015.


HUD, USDA bureau get new CIOs; OMB’s Springer to retire

The Department of Housing and Urban Development and an Agriculture Department bureau have new chief information officers. The Energy Department is getting closer to filling their top IT executive spot with someone from the Longhorn state.

Three prominent former federal CIOs also have new roles.

The end of June is a busy time for people news in the federal community.

Let’s start off with the newcomers:

Johnson Joy joins HUD as its new CIO, bringing more than two decades of experience in the IT field.
He comes to HUD after running J3 Global Inc., a IT and management consulting firm in Houston, Texas, the agency confirmed to Federal News Radio.

Joy earned a Master’s in Information Systems from Steven’s Institute of Technology, and a bachelors and master’s degrees in physics from Mahatma Gandhi University in Kerala, South India.

Joy replaces Rafael Diaz, who left in January after serving just over two years.


4 agencies try to reverse years of industry-government communication tartar

Three memos trying to bust contracting myths weren’t enough. Neither was a proposed rule in the Federal Acquisition Regulations.

But maybe, just maybe, the Homeland Security Department has found a break in the wire that has stopped the government and industry from effectively talking about, sharing and solving problems.

DHS is about to hold its fourth Reverse Industry Day on June 28 in Washington, D.C. as part of its Acquisition Innovation in Motion (AIiM) initiative.

“I wanted to get the government in the audience and industry up [on stage] sharing their perspective. What drives them? What motivates them? How do they view our solicitations? Not for the purposes of critiquing, but for our learning, so we could understand their perspective, we could put ourselves in industry’s shoes and have a better conversation. We are making that progress,” said Soraya Correa, the chief procurement officer at DHS, during the recent ACT-IAC Management of Change conference. “I now have program managers who pick up the phone and say, ‘I’m not real sure. I think we should talk to industry, but I don’t have a solicitation. Can we do that?’ That’s a great question. I’m like, ‘Yes, let’s go. Let’s have a conversation.’ You don’t need a piece of paper, and in fact, you are better off, because there is nothing to protest.”


3 takeaways from the FITARA 4.0 hearing

The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee’s fourth hearing focusing on the implementation of the Federal IT Acquisition Reform Act (FITARA) revealed few details on why most agency grades stagnated or sagged.

Even the guests of the committee, Beth Killoran, the chief information officer of the Department of Health and Human Services, and Sheila Conley, the deputy CFO of HHS, didn’t face stiff questioning about why their grade has remained a D-minus the last two quarters.

But like the last few FITARA oversight hearings, there is plenty for CIOs, CFOs and other agency leaders to read between the lines.

Here are my three takeaways from the FITARA 4.0 hearing:


Number of multiple award contracts drop, can OMB’s new requirements continue the trend?

Efforts to stop the proliferation of multiple award contracts have found limited success. Data from Bloomberg Government shows that while the number of MACs governmentwide — Defense Department and civilian agencies — have dropped since 2012, there still are more than 2,600.

The total number of MACs have dropped by 239 in the five years since the Office of Management and Budget implemented the requirement to submit a business case for any new multiple award contract that will be worth more than $50 million over the life of the vehicle.

The 8 percent reduction comes as spending on MACs increased by $5 billion in 2016, as compared to 2015. Bloomberg Government reported in April that spending on these contract vehicles increased to $111 billion last fiscal year from $106 billion the year before.

Bloomberg Government compiled a list of all multiple award contracts across the government over the last five years.


Top 2 executives at GSA’s acquisition service resign

The top two leaders of the Federal Acquisition Service at the General Services Administration have resigned.

Tom Sharpe, the FAS Commissioner, and Kevin Youel Page, the deputy FAS Commissioner, told staff June 12 that they are leaving their respective positions.

Sharpe said in an email to staff, which Federal News Radio obtained, that he will retire from federal service on June 24 and pursue other opportunities.

Youel Page said in an email to staff, which Federal News Radio also obtained, that his last day will be June 24.

Both resignations come in the wake of GSA’s decision to merge the Technology Transformation Service (TTS) into FAS and make the commissioner’s job a political one instead of career. (more…)

‘A punch to the gut’ is how some described the news of GSA’s most recent merger

The decision by the General Services Administration to merge the Technology Transformation Service into the Federal Acquisition Service shocked much of the federal community.

From those observers who have been following GSA for decades, to the employees, to even some in the White House, the news on June 7 was truly unexpected.

In case you weren’t paying attention last week, GSA announced its experiment with a third service was ending, TTS would now be a part of FAS and the commissioner would be a political position instead of a career one. GSA launched TTS in May 2016, meaning the third service lasted a little over a year.

Several GSA sources described the feeling of the TTS staff and others as a “punch to the gut,” or “no one had any idea this was happening,” and “this dropped like a big bomb.”


New platform tries to bring some normalcy to the agile craze

Nine months after we asked in this space if the agile craze is taking the government by storm, the data and actions continue to show a lack of coordinated contracting approach leading to a bunch of one-off contracts.

Over at the Homeland Security Department is the most obvious example of this growing challenge.

In late April, the Transportation Security Administration awarded Accenture a $64 million contract for the EAGLE II multiple award contract vehicle  to transform more than 70 applications into a modern architecture.

About a month later, DHS’s procurement office bailed on setting up its $1.5 billion small-business contract vehicle for agile services after two rounds of awards and two rounds of protests. DHS told the Government Accountability Office it didn’t have the expertise to fix the procurement and would develop a new acquisition approach in 2018.


« Older Entries