In this week's edition of Inside the Reporter's Notebook: USPS' cloud exchange is almost ready to fly; GSA faces a flood of contract protests; and technology ch...
“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 the like.
This is not 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Cloud credential exchange almost ready for take off
The Postal Service is about a month away from changing the online world of usernames and passwords. Yes, those dreaded letters, numbers and special characters that no one can remember and we all write down, could begin to go the way of the dial-up modem and dumb phones.
Douglas Glair, USPS manager of digital identity services, said at the Symantec Government Symposium March 12 the Postal Service will launch the technology broker initial capability in April. The early version of the Federal Cloud Credential Identity Exchange (FCCX) will connect the departments of Agriculture and Veterans Affairs, the National Institute of Standards and Technology and GSA with third-party credential providers, that meet the Federal Identity, Credential and Access Management (FICAM) standards.
“We are first integrating some of the FICAM approved level-1 providers and level-4 personally identifiable verification (PIV) and common access cards (CAC) and cross certifying with the federal bridge,” Glair said. “As we wrap up working with GSA on the contracts for Level-2 and Level-3 and we’ll be integrating those credential providers later this year.”
Glair said FCCX initial operating capability is the first “breaking point” of getting technology in the middle to make it easy for an agency to connect one time and have access to multiple credential providers and vice versa.
USPS awarded SecureKey a three-year, $15.1 million contract in August to develop the technology broker capability. FCCX is a centerpiece to the administration’s agenda to improve cybersecurity and citizen interaction with the government.
A flood of protests on GSA contracts
Office Supplies 3; OASIS small business; Maintenance, repair and operations — A combined 24 protests among them. And this is just the beginning of what many industry experts believe is likely to be the year of bid protests at GSA.
Vendors are upset about three of the latest, high-profile strategic sourcing contracts.
And with GSA expecting to award the unrestricted version of the complex professional services contract under the OASIS moniker later this year, more bid protests likely are on the way.
The Government Accountability Office confirmed there are 14 pre-award protests of the OS3.
GSA released the solicitation for OS3 in January, saying the government could save $65 million annually on administrative costs and $90 million each year through lower prices.
GAO said all the protests will be decided sometime between June 2 and June 23 and each of them challenges the solicitation requirements, alleging it violates the Small Business Act that prohibits contract bundling.
“OS3 RFP is one of most difficult RFPs for a company to propose against that I’ve seen in a long time for something as straight forward as office supplies,” said Roger Waldron, the president of the Coalition for Government Procurement. “There are a lot of ambiguities and it creates uncertainty for GSA schedule holders. If you’re a schedule contractor, your pricing has to be consistent across two contracts, which begs the question why is GSA creating two contracts? OS3 creates compliance concerns and puts schedule holders at a disadvantage because those without schedule don’t need to worry about the price reduction clause.”
The protests under MRO and OASIS small business are in the post-award stage. GAO confirmed there is one protest for MRO and nine for OASIS-SB.
GSA awarded 11 contractors a spot earlier this month on the MRO blanket purchase agreement strategic sourcing vehicle for more than 100,000 products, ranging from items such as hand and power tools, hoses and valves, paints, safety equipment and portable generators. GSA expects prices to be on average 12 percent lower under the BPA.
“GSA has made it a top priority to work closely with both our industry and federal partners throughout the OS3 and MRO Purchasing Channel solicitations. GSA is confident that the OS3 and MRO protests filed with GAO will be resolved or denied in a timely fashion, and that the agency will be able to proceed with these solicitations in accordance with the agency’s projected deadline,” a GSA spokeswoman said by email.
Finally, Oasis small business went to 123 companies in February.
“GSA has made it a top priority to work closely with both our industry and federal partners throughout the OASIS Small Business (OASIS SB) solicitation and award process,” a GSA spokeswoman said by email. “GSA is confident that the OASIS SB award protests filed with GAO and GSA will be dismissed or resolved in a timely fashion; and that the agency will be able to issue notices to proceed for the pools affected by protests as soon as is possible.”
The protests aren’t unexpected or surprising, especially in light of the handwriting vendors are starting to see from GSA and the administration around contract consolidation.
“The more GSA seeks through strategic sourcing to implement supplier suppression, the risk of protests will increase,” Waldron said. “Industry believes GSA is restricting the number of contracts, and that likely lead to higher number of protests
GSA’s appetite to learn from its mistakes under Networx is small, so far
The General Services Administration listed five “lessons learned” from the transition to the Networx telecommunications contract.
But now seven years later and in the middle of planning for the follow-on strategy, called Networks 2020, industry is hopeful GSA learns something much more important.
“The number one lesson that I have and I think they have to understand is not to dismiss the lethargy that agencies have around transition and the complexity around it,” said Diana Gowen, senior vice president and general manager at CenturyLink public sector. “If GSA wants to succeed going forward, I think they have to almost figure out a way — and I’ve said this to them — to make assignments to agencies to whichever companies win NS2020.”
Networx ended up being a lot more arduous and complicated than anyone thought it would be when GSA awarded it in 2007.
Gowen said the goal should be to make the transition piece painless and easy so by assigning agencies to contractors, it would potentially remove the statement of work process that caused so many delays in the transition to Networx from FTS2001.
“I would also expect by the time NS2020 comes around, we will have new network methodologies,” Gowen said. “They will be an opportunity for agencies to really transition and not make the same mistakes they made this last time. Because they waited so long to transition, they ended up doing like for like, meaning they stuck with the old technology under the new contract. Did agencies save money? Sure they did. Did they save as much money as they could’ve? Absolutely not.”
GSA’s Mary Davie, the assistant commissioner in the Office of Integrated Technology Services, wrote in her blog post that Networx saved more than $678 million through reduced pricing of between 10 percent and 40 percent as compared to FTS2001.
Gowen’s point is — and GSA has said this before as well — agencies left money on the table because transition took so long to work through the statement of work (SOW) process, which included the requirement to create an inventory of services that many had to start from scratch, deal with bid protests and go through a traditional proposal process that can take anywhere from 6-to-12 months.
Davie wrote that GSA will lead an effort to establish an interagency transition working group, create clear and realistic end-to-end transition schedules and milestones, and recommend the establishment of a senior-level “Transition Transparency Group” to provide needed visibility, transparency and focus.
Gowen said she expects GSA to come out with the NS2020 strategy in the coming months and potentially issue a request for information by the fall.
OMB’s $11 million spending spree on E-Gov projects
The annual budget request to Congress is like Christmas and the Fourth of July all rolled up into one for some of us who like to geek out on numbers and policy. But another time of the year that’s almost as enjoyable occurred when OMB releases the annual E-Government Act Implementation report to Congress. This year, OMB released the 11th annual report on March 1 a few days before the budget request.
The four sections offer details on everything from how the agencies spent the E- Government Fund to IT workforce and training policies to more than a dozen ways agencies are complying with other goals and provisions in the 2003 law.
Without a doubt, it’s a must read for vendors and agencies alike wanting to really understand progress around the areas from the E-Government Act as well as future plans.
While there is plenty to focus on in the report, among the most valuable details is how OMB decided to spend the $11.75 million Congress allotted for the E- Government Fund. (See chart).
FY 2013 Allocation*
|Promote Transparency and Accountability – Accessible and Transparent Government
|Accelerate Cross-Government Innovation – Cloud Computing and Security
|Accelerate Cross-Government Innovation – Innovations in Technology
|Promote Transparency and Accountability – Federal Funding Accountability and Transparency Act (FFATA) Implementation
|Promote Transparency and Accountability – Performance Dashboards
|*Amounts reflect the FY 2013 enacted appropriations for the E-Gov Fund per Consolidated and Further Continuing Appropriations Act, 2013 (P.L. 113-06), including sequestration.
Only through this report do we learn about the progress of certain initiatives and future plans.
For example, there’s a ton of focus throughout government around mobile computing, but it’s news to most people that OMB and GSA launched the Mobile Application Development, which includes publishing testing guidance, federal crowdsourced testing on multiple devices, the creation of the Mobile Code Sharing Catalog, publishing mobile user experience guidelines and publishing common Request for Proposal and Statement of Work language for mobile procurements.
Another example is the Digital Analytics Program. We’ve heard GSA and OMB talk about it, but details have been sparse most recently. Well, here in the report we now find out that all 24 CFO Act agencies are taking advantage of these advanced Web analytics capabilities across 3,000 websites. The analytical capabilities are helping agencies better understand how well their Web services are doing and how well their mobile services are doing in terms of customer effectiveness for the American citizen.
OMB also launched the Performance Management Line of Business last year, which was the first mention of this idea since the fiscal 2013 IT passback released in December 2011.
The report is chock full of great information about agency progress in meeting goals under Homeland Security Presidential Directive-12, on IT performance metrics and links to every agency’s IT strategic plan.
As the technology chairs shuffle: DHS gains, GSA loses
The long-rumored move by Andy Ozment back to the Homeland Security Department from the White House finally happened. Suzanne Spaulding, DHS’ deputy undersecretary for the National Protection and Programs directorate and Phyllis Schneck, DHS deputy undersecretary for cybersecurity and communications in NPPD, announced Wednesday Ozment would join NPPD as part of a major reshuffling.
Ozment becomes the assistant secretary for cybersecurity and communications replacing Mike Locatis, who resigned after nine months on the job in January 2013.
Bobbie Stempfley has been acting in Locatis’ place. She now will take on a new role within NPPD as the deputy assistant secretary for cybersecurity strategy and emergency communications. She will oversee emergency communications, develop and implement strategy and policy efforts, as well as focus on building on our partnerships with the public and private sectors, and the general public, Spaulding and Schneck wrote in a blog post.
Ozment’s move back to DHS isn’t surprising. The rumor mill has been pretty strong that he was looking to a bigger and better position, and deservedly so. His contributions over the last 21 months as the White House’s senior director for cybersecurity were clear, especially around the development of the critical infrastructure executive order.
Additionally, few people stay at the White House for more than a few years. The hours, the pressure and the expectations typically push people to look for new positions. Of course, heading to DHS, will be no picnic either as the turnover NPPD has been regular. But Ozment’s role comes with more operational responsibilities, which based on his resume, makes sense for him.
Ozment previously worked at DHS as the director for compliance and technology in the chief information security officer’s office.
Along with Ozment, retired Air Force Brig. Gen. Gregory Touhill becomes the second new face at DHS where he will serve as the deputy assistant secretary for cybersecurity operations and programs. Touhill retired from the Air Force in 2013 after 30 years. His final assignment was as the chief information officer and director of command, control, communications and cyber systems at the Transportation Command.
The General Services Administration is losing another good solider. Katie Lewin’s last day as the program manager for cloud computing in GSA’s Office of Citizen Services and Innovative Technologies is Friday. She’s retiring after a long career that included stints in both industry and government.
Lewin, in many ways, became the lead evangelist for governmentwide cloud services when she took over as program manager. In that role, she oversaw four major initiatives: Apps.gov, e-mail in the cloud, security-as-a-service and data center consolidation.
Sources say Zach Baldwin will take over some of Lewin’s responsibilities in the interim while GSA hires a new program manager for cloud.
During her career, Lewin also served as the chief of staff for GSA’s CIO, and spent time with the Library of Congress, OMB and the IRS. Additionally, she was an IT consultant for SRA International.
Lewin becomes the third OSCIT executive to leave in the last few months. Kelly Olson and Sheila Campbell, both well- respected executives, moved on to new jobs.
And speaking of people leaving, GSA Deputy Administrator Susan Brita, the executive that exposed the spending problems at the Western Regions Conference, announced she’s leaving the agency March 31.
IT Job of the Week:
Two deputy CIOs positions are open. One is at Census Bureau, and the other is at the Small Business Administration.
The Census job is for an assistant director for IT and deputy CIO and is a Senior Executive Service position. Applications are due April 14.
The SBA job is for a deputy CIO and also SES position. SBA wants applicants to apply by April 4.
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