Top 10 Reporter’s Notebooks of 2019

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Now in its eighth year, my Reporter’s Notebook continues to evolve into my weekly download of important analysis and people news across the IT and acquisition communities.

As I’ve said from the beginning, this is neither a column nor 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, I encourage you to submit ideas, suggestions, and, of course, news to me at jpmiller@federalnewsnetwork.com. In 2018, the top 10 featured stories about change and turbulence in the federal IT and acquisition communities. In 2019, the top stories were more diverse and a mix of IT past, present and future.

Here are the 10 most viewed Reporter’s Notebook stories of 2019 in order:

  1. DISA eyes $170M in savings from Fourth Estate consolidation program

This story had all the makings of a number one rated story for 2019. The Defense Department, reorganization and change management, and major technology consolidations. The Defense Information Systems Agency’s Fourth Estate initiative faces a major set of milestones in 2020 so this story will continue to be hot.

  1. The end is near for the worst website in government?

I actually wrote two similar stories in 2019 about the end of FedBizOpps.gov, which many would agree was well overdue for a face-lift. GSA met its goal of retiring FBO.gov in November with the official launch of beta.sam.gov. While the new portal is far from perfect, and many in industry highlight ongoing challenges, the fact GSA accomplished this much-needed and four-time delayed goal is important to recognize.

  1. Industry group asks Senate Appropriations Committee to rein-in FFRDCs

This is one of those stories that highlighted an ongoing controversy in industry, but it was surprising how popular the story was with our readers. I’m not sure if it hit a specific chord with industry and/or federal agencies, or just because it focused on a contentious topic — federal funded research and development centers (FFRDCs) — but it showed us that these concerns with the influence of federal research organizations are growing.

  1. New details from Oracle point to former Navy official as third executive caught up in JEDI controversy

While the FFRDC story was surprising, I would’ve expected this one to have done better. The Defense Department’s JEDI acquisition was a story that kept on giving all year long. In this chapter, we were the first news organization to name Victor Gavin as the so far unnamed person caught up in this controversial procurement. The JEDI saga will continue with new chapters as we enter 2020.

  1. HHS puts more than $1B in contracts at risk by shutting down assisted acquisition services

This was one of several exclusive reports in the notebook this year. It shined the light on a decision by the Department of Health and Human Services that remains questionable today—to immediately stop offering assisted acquisition services. Agencies and vendors alike have been dealing with the fallout of HHS’s decision for the last several months.

  1. Why a ‘satisfactory’ rating is bad thing for contractors

Vendor ratings is one of those stories that will have long legs in 2020 and beyond. This story caught the eye of our readers because it’s been one of those issues that many have known about, but maybe were afraid to discuss publicly. But with efforts by the Department of Homeland Security and the Office of Federal Procurement Policy, it’s clear change is coming.

  1. How a simple tweet opened frustration floodgates over security clearances

Stories on security clearances just keep giving and giving. This one, however, came unexpectedly because Rep. Will Hurd (R-Texas) offered up an opinion that many would agree with, but caused an outburst of comments, both positive and negative, that was surprising. The good news is the new National Background Investigations Services is making progress in reducing the backlog, but not enough to tamp down the frustration.

  1. RPA more than a passing fad, just look at the data

There may be no new technology over the past two decades that caught on like robotics process automation. This story was an early-year look at the trends from fiscal 2018 and the prospects for 2019 through now well-known use cases. NASA, the General Services Administration and the Bureau of Fiscal Service at the Treasury Department were among the agencies out in front showing the real savings of RPA.

  1. GSA, DoD kick off first test with new streamlined acquisition approach

With all the talk about the use of Other Transaction Authority (OTAs), the Commercial Solutions Opening authority that GSA received in the 2017 defense authorization bill came to the forefront last summer. GSA issued the first CSO solicitation for the Defense Department’s Joint Artificial Intelligence Center (JAIC). It’s unclear if GSA ever made the award, but there is a lot of excitement over what many see as an easier approach to federal acquisition.

  1. Why DoD’s decision to make cybersecurity an ‘allowable cost’ matters

There was no surprise that this story made the top 10 list. Vendors are concerned about the implementation of the Cybersecurity Maturity Model Certification (CMMC) in fiscal 2020 and beyond, and the announcement that the Pentagon will allow this effort as an allowable cost was significant. Now how that process will work and how much DoD will allow still is unknown, but the fact is the CMMC is coming and any news about it attracts readers.