Losing bidder again protests 10-year, $65B DoD health care contract

In today's Federal Newscast: California lawmakers want more passport offices in their state. A losing bidder again protests a 10-year $65 billion DoD health car...

  • The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency continues to be one of the fastest growing agencies in government. CISA hired more than 1,300 people over the past two years. In a new blog post, CISA Director Jen Easterly reported that the agency’s workforce has grown to just over 3,160 employees. CISA was established as a standalone agency in 2018. Its budget has grown rapidly, as Congress has turned to the agency to respond to the rising number of cyber attacks. Easterly said CISA is not slowing down on its recruiting drive. The agency still has dozens of open positions, ranging from entry-level to senior technical experts.
  • The Postal Service’s rural carriers are looking to leave their union, after a majority of them saw major pay cuts this spring. A grassroots network of rural carriers across the country is collecting signatures from their coworkers in the hopes of joining a new union. Carriers say their union, the National Rural Letter Carriers Association, did not do enough to keep USPS from implementing a new pay system this spring. That system led to two-thirds of rural carriers seeing a significant pay cut. Rural carriers behind the movement say they have collected more than 7,400 signatures from their coworkers so far. They will need more than 33,000 signatures by the end of the year for the National Labor Relations Board to hold an election and let rural carriers vote on whether to stay in or leave the union.
  • The Defense Department's latest round of managed health care contracts is going to be on hold for a while longer. Earlier this month, the Government Accountability Office denied a bid protest by Health Net Federal Services, the losing bidder for the western region of DoD’s TRICARE system. The company told Military.com it plans to file another protest at the Court of Federal Claims. Health Net claims DoD made numerous errors when it awarded the contract to TriWest, and that the company made false representations in its winning bid. GAO disagreed with all of those claims in a decision published last week. TRICARE contracts are routinely protested, mostly because of their massive size. TriWest’s winning bid is worth up to $65 billion over the next decade.
    (Bid protest decision: Health Net Federal Services, LLC - Government Accountability Office)
  • The Office of Management and Budget is encouraging agencies to apply for new funding to help implement upcoming guidance. With OMB expected to issue new guidance to reinvigorate the implementation of the 21st Century IDEA Act in the coming weeks, the Technology Modernization Fund is encouraging agencies to apply for funding help. Federal Chief Information Officer Clare Martorana called the new guidance a 10-year roadmap for digital modernization. So the TMF is calling for proposals to improve website accessibility and/or digitizing public facing forms. Agencies interested can find initial project proposal templates on the TMF website. The TMF Board said it's accepting rolling proposals through September 22, but also said it will continue to take applications dependent on available funding.
  • With the federal workplace about to change, the Office of Personnel Management has a few reminders for agencies. OPM is trying to make it a little clearer to employees how they should count their travel hours. Depending on the situation, OPM said time spent going to and from the office can either be counted as hours worked, or just commuting time. For example, if an agency requires a teleworking fed to come to the office on an unplanned in-office day, that travel time can count as time worked. But if the employee chooses to come to the office without a requirement, then that counts as commute time. The new guidance from OPM comes just ahead of many agencies' planned increases to in-office work, some of which will take effect as early as September.
  • The largest federal employee union is endorsing President Joe Biden's nominee to head the Social Security Administration. The American Federation of Government Employees said it hopes Biden's pick for SSA commissioner, former Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley, will restore a more positive vision for SSA employees. AFGE has called for fixes to some major and ongoing workforce challenges at SSA, including staff attrition, poor work-life balance and low pay. The union is urging the Senate to confirm O’Malley and ultimately help mitigate the challenges for SSA employees.
  • The Army needs new policies to standardize and regulate data, cybersecurity and software, according to the new chief information officer. Army CIO Leo Garciga said the service cannot create policy fast enough to keep up with commercial innovation, so he plans to release interim policies for data platforms and software containers in the near future. Garciga said the Army made leaps forward in adopting new technology, but now it needs to step back and codify a set of regulations. His office will release requests for proposals next year for new data platforms.
  • Gender bias remains the biggest challenge for women serving in the Army's special operations command. In a new study, more than 5,000 men and women were interviewed to identify the barriers female soldiers encounter in special operations. The information will be used to develop best practices for recruiting and retention along with policy changes. Other top challenges included equipment not specifically designed for women, childcare access and harassment.
    (Breaking Barriers: Women in Army Special Operations - Army Special Operations Command)
  • With the State Department facing a historic backlog of passport applications, California lawmakers are calling on the Biden administration to set up more state offices for in-person appointments for citizens to obtain or renew a passport. Reps. Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.) and Ami Bera (D-Calif.) are leading 37 California lawmakers in calling on the department to set up temporary passport offices in their state. Lawmakers said the department has only three passport agencies in California to assist 40 million residents. That’s compared to six passport agencies in the Northeast United States.
    (Letter to President Joe Biden - Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.))
  • Military services, defense agencies and civilian agencies are getting an extra 21 months to place orders against the IT Enterprise Services 3-Hardware (ITES-3H) contract vehicle. The Army extended the popular technology hardware and software services contract to 16 companies and added $2.5 billion to the contract's ceiling. ITES-3H now has a ceiling of $9.1 billion. This is now the third extension of the contract initially awarded in 2016 with a $5 billion ceiling. The Army extended the contract's life twice in 2021.
  • Agencies are urging critical infrastructure groups and other organizations to brace themselves now for a post-quantum future. The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, alongside the National Security Agency and the National Institute for Standards and Technology, published a quantum readiness roadmap on Monday. It urges organizations to prepare for quantum technologies that could break encryption in the future. Suggestions include preparing a cryptographic inventory of high-priority systems, and holding discussions with technology vendors to prioritize the migration to post-quantum cryptography.

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