Inside the Reporter’s Notebook – Veterans, Labor already have the answer to Veterans.gov question

Jason Miller
Jason Miller

Inside the Reporter’s Notebook is a biweekly dispatch of news and information you may have missed or that slipped through the cracks at conferences, hearings and other events. This is not a column or 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, we encourage you to submit ideas, suggestions and, of course, news to Jason via email. Be the first to know when a new Inside the Reporter’s Notebook is posted. Sign up today for our new Reporter’s Notebook email alert.


Veterans, Labor already have the answer to Veterans.gov question

Behind closed doors, there is a growing disagreement — I wouldn’t call it a dispute quite yet — about how make services to veterans easier.

Sources say the departments of Labor and Veterans Affairs don’t quite see eye-to-eye about how best to use the domain veterans.gov.

VA Secretary Bob McDonald brought the discussion semi-public recently in comments made during an event hosted by Politico where he said, “Our websites have unusual names. E-Benefits, MyHealtheVet, etc. What’s wrong with Veterans.gov or Vets.gov? Rather than looking at everything through the lens of the bureaucracy toward the customer, let’s look at everything from the lens of the customer.”

Sources say there have been some discussions between Labor and VA about whether VA should own the veterans.gov website or whether Labor should continue to run it — as they have since 2001. By the way, veterans.gov redirects to the Veterans Employment and Training Service.

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Sequestration rears its ugly head in year-end spending trends

The final push to spend fiscal 2015 money begins Sept. 1. And with sequestration rearing its ugly head once again and Congress speaking out of both sides of its mouth about a shutdown or no shutdown starting Oct. 1, agencies seem to be going on a spending spree before the 2016 horror story returns.

“We are looking at agencies motivated right now to spend against any authority they have, even multi-year money because theoretically that multi-year money could be reduced by a certain authority come Oct. 1,” said Steve Charles, co-founder of the ImmixGroup. “It’s a little like the year before sequestration kicked in, I guess two years ago. We saw a real cleaning of the pipes so to speak, a real spurt at year-end. This is similar, maybe not quite as dramatic, and so it’s going to be big year end.”

Take the Alliant IT services multiple award contract (MAC) run by the General Services Administration.

Casey Kelley, the Alliant program manager, said as of Aug. 21, agencies have obligated more than $211.3 million against the contract. That is way up from August 2014 when agencies only spent $13.2 million, and even higher than 2012 and about equal to 2011. In 2013, Alliant saw a huge spike of $954 million in revenue in August.

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GSA gives agile development a shot in the arm with awards to 16 vendors

The much-anticipated blanket purchase agreement for agile development services went to 16 vendors late on Friday, setting up a the latest gold rush in federal procurement.

The General Services Administration’s 18F chose those six large and 10 small contractors after they demonstrated a working prototype based on a public dataset — and then showed their work in a publicly available git repository.

“By finding design firms that can turn around a prototype in just a few weeks, user researchers that can survey users to provide information before an opening sprint, and developers that use open source code rather than reinventing the wheel, 18F will be able to turn projects around faster for our federal partners, saving time and taxpayer dollars, as well as creating products better focused on the end user,” GSA said in the release.

The BPA has a ceiling of $25 million over five years. 18F issued the request for proposals in June, planning to award places on the BPA to contractors, who will work only 18F projects. Later 18F hopes to establish a second BPA for governmentwide agile services.

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DoD’s new cyber rule misses critical consideration

The Defense Department’s interim rule detailing new cybersecurity requirements for contractors and for cloud services caused a lot of excitement in the federal community last week.

But what was lost in the discussion is whether the new cyber standards the Pentagon is laying out actually can be enforced and if so, what’s it going to cost DoD in the long run.

Rob Carey, a former DoD deputy chief information and now vice president of Navy Marine Corps programs at Vencore, said without a doubt make sense and will help.

“This has been bubbling for years,” Carey said. “It’s good that the government and DoD are pushing expectations to industry in order to do business with the government by saying you will do the following things to protect information. I get it. The downside, however, is industry is ill prepared for this level of granularity and structure in the defensive infrastructure of their networks. In this case, the government is better at this, especially DoD, and yet they still have their hands full.”

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