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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CDM program to get facelift to fix problems with initial $6B contract

Homeland Security Department officials hailed the Continuous Diagnostics and Mitigation (CDM) program in August 2013 when it and the General Services Administration awarded the $6 billion contract as a network security program that would provide a “standard measure of protection across government within three years.”

Here we are nearly four years later and CDM is a lot harder than initially thought and most agencies remain in Phase 1 of the program. The challenges can be traced to a host of reasons, from poor agency planning because they didn’t know all the devices and end-points on their networks, to a contract vehicle that wasn’t flexible enough, to bid protests that have delayed nearly every award.

But before anyone calls CDM a failure or even a lost opportunity, GSA and DHS deserve a ton of credit for doing something few agencies publicly do — recognize the deficiencies of their program and developing a plan to fix them going forward.

Jim Piche, the homeland sector director at GSA’s FEDSIM, said March 23 GSA and DHS are developing a new contracting approach to CDM that will try to address many of the shortfalls of the original blanket purchase agreement (BPA).


CIO Council wants agencies to consider: ‘The best code ever written is the code that is never written’

Federal agency spending on cloud computing is expected to take a dip in fiscal 2017, but rebound heading into 2018 and increase through 2021.

Shawn McCarthy, research director for IDC Government Insights, said public cloud services will account for about half of the $2.15 billion spending in 2017. By 2021, agency spending on public cloud is projected to increase to $1.9 billion out of the $3.3 billion.

These figures are great for companies such as Amazon, Microsoft, Google, IBM and a host of other cloud infrastructure and platform-as-a-service providers. But the real opportunities lie in how federal agencies can turn their investments in cloud into a digital transformation.

“You could make the argument that everything is going toward hybrid as more and more solutions are moved to the cloud, the systems become more interconnected,” McCarthy said in an interview with Federal News Radio. “As this happens, the application programming interfaces (APIs), shared data bases and other similar technologies become more important in how you build a system and they are becoming increasingly interconnected.”


Should a DISA-like agency take over cyber, IT for all civilian agencies?

Momentum is building for a new cybersecurity agency in the Homeland Security Department. The idea initially proposed by Rep. Mike McCaul (R-Texas), chairman of the Homeland Security Committee, received some crucial support on March 22 when two former federal cyber executives threw their weight behind the idea.

“I think that taking National Protections and Programs Directorate (NPPD) out of being a headquarters function, which it is clearly not, and making it into a line agency within DHS along with the other functions DHS has and prioritizing that makes a great deal of sense,” said Michael Daniel, former cybersecurity coordinator for President Barack Obama and now president of the Cyber Threat Alliance. “I think continuing the holistic focus on our critical infrastructure and federal civilian agencies also makes a great deal of sense, and that would put DHS on a more solid foundation to partner with the Defense Department and the Justice department in doing their mission.”

But maybe the roots of the change that’s needed to improve federal cybersecurity already have started to sprout.

Retired Gen. Keith Alexander, the former head of the National Security Agency and U.S. Cyber Command, said while he agreed with the idea to create a new cyber agency at DHS, lawmakers should go further.


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.


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.”


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:


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.


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.”


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.”


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…)

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