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The Defense Department has spent more of its contracting budget on small businesses in recent years, but those dollars are going to a shrinking pool of companies. The Government Accountability Office said DoD spent more than $80 billion on small business contracts last year. That’s more than any year in the past decade. But those awards were spread across just 24,000 companies – about half the number of small businesses that got DoD contracts a decade ago. GAO also found the number of small firms entering the Defense market for the first time has been on a consistent decline since 2016.
Cybersecurity now tops the list of the Commerce Department’s most serious management and performance challenges. That’s according to the department’s inspector general. The IG said Commerce needs to improve its incident response capabilities, use more consistent security controls and update aging IT systems. Meanwhile, meeting the deadlines under the new cybersecurity executive order is expected to tax the department’s overburdened IT security program even further, according to the IG.
Lawmakers want one agency to make more data-driven decisions. The Senate Appropriations Committee’s 2022 homeland security spending bill would levy new requirements on the Department of Homeland Security to improve its budget justifications starting next year. The $71.7 billion bill calls on DHS to conduct independent evaluations of major acquisitions. It also directs DHS to use analytic and modeling tools to make investment decisions across component agencies. The committee said the bill will improve how the department makes decisions on spending billions in taxpayer dollars.
From the “this is surprising” file, the Social Security Administration’s data on the Federal IT Dashboard is accurate and reliable. A major complaint of the 12-year-old portal has been whether the data really does portray the current state of agency IT projects. The inspector general said in SSA’s case, it actually does. Auditors reviewed four of seven major IT projects and four of the 48 non-major IT projects, and found the data on the Federal IT Dashboard matched the agency’s records provided to the IG. The IG dinged SSA for the accuracy of its data center optimization information, but the agency updated the dashboard ahead of the final audit.
DHS’ mega contract for cloud services hit a major snag. Just about a week and half after the Department of Homeland Security awarded a $2.7 billion contract to Perspecta, the contract is facing a protest. General Dynamics IT filed a complaint with the Government Accountability Office over how DHS evaluated bids for the cloud and data center optimization contract. Under the deal, DHS wants a vendor to manage and operate its hybrid computing environment, including commercial and private cloud services, and on-premise storage and compute capabilities. GAO has until Jan. 20 to make a decision.
Gas stations in space? The military is already thinking about it. The Air Force Research Laboratory has entered into an agreement that could help with the refueling of spacecraft already in orbit. The service announced a partnership with Orbit Fab, a company specifically focused on creating gas stations in space. Orbit Fab will share technical details and hardware products for refueling. In return, the Air Force will help Orbit Fab review its work and provide state-of-the-art facilities for advancing the technology. Orbit Fab previously worked with the Air Force on a $3 million project testing in-space refueling.
First lady Jill Biden is putting her support behind an initiative to help military families that are unable to pay for food. Food insecurity has been a growing problem in the military as housing prices and rents rise. The 2022 National Defense Authorization Act will have a provision that would give service members making a certain amount under the poverty line a stipend for food. Biden said she supports the provision and helping military spouses find jobs easier.
Senate Democrats want to boost civilian spending next year, and defense spending too. They released their drafts for nine more appropriations bills for 2022. They would boost spending at civilian agencies by 13% next year, and defense spending by 5%. That’s above the Biden administration’s initial proposal. The bills would keep the president’s proposed 2.7% pay raise for federal employees. House and Senate Democrats and Republicans have until Dec. 3 to work out their differences and pass some sort of permanent budget solution when temporary funding expires.
The Department of Veterans Affairs is again standing up a commission to recommend candidates for the leader of its health administration. The Veterans Health Administration is still looking for an undersecretary for health. The commission is supposed to identify candidates regardless of their political affiliation. The president is supposed to consider the candidates and choose one person to formally nominate to the position. The nominee must then go through the Senate confirmation process. VHA hasn’t had a permanent leader for almost five years.
The Office of Personnel Management wants to expand eligibility for the Federal Employees Dental and Vision Program to more employees. It proposed a new draft policy that would allow temporary, seasonal and intermittent employees who work a certain number of hours a month to enroll in the program. The new policy would also apply to temporary Postal Service workers and wildland firefighters. Members of the public have until mid-December to comment on the new policy and its potential impacts on FEDVIP. (Federal News Network)