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    On the Horizon: Small Business IT Opportunities in the Trump Administration

    SGC IT InnovationAlthough the Trump Administration is only into its first week, it certainly has been a busy one so far. Granted many of the initiatives and priorities that the new Administration will fund are still coming into focus, however recent developments signal where small businesses may want to focus, or continue to focus, in fiscal year 2017.

    Cybersecurity

    Cybersecurity will continue to be an important mission, and one that will continue to see more growth. Given the steady stream of data protection contracts that have been awarded recently, small businesses offering these services would be wise to research some of the contracts, the awardees, and the vehicles used to award these contracts to build relationships and develop opportunities.

    Examples include:

    Department of Homeland Security (DHS) – DHS awarded a contract to Lockheed Martin, with a potential value of $395 million, for various cybersecurity protection services designed to prevent, detect, contain and eradicate cyberthreats.

    General Services Administration (GSA) – GSA continues to expand and modify their existing cadre of procurement vehicles for cyber. According to GSA, in commenting on their recent contract with Adobe:

    …The agreement will help agencies "comply with current information security and electronic government policy recommendations and requirements," including the Cybersecurity National Action Plan, the Cybersecurity Strategy and Implementation Plan, the Cybersecurity Act of 2015, the Government Paperwork Elimination Act, and the E-Sign Act of 2000, according to GSA…

    GSA chose Adobe as a provider of data protection capabilities for federal agencies, via Carahsoft, as an existing GSA Schedule 70 provider, and designated reseller of Adobe offerings.

    Other awards of note:

    • GSA awarded two contracts with a potential total value of $110 million to ManTech, on behalf of DHS, under the GSA Alliant Government-Wide Acquisition Contract vehicle.
    • The Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services awarded a contract to Iron Vale, for providing a comprehensive cybersecurity support, using GSA’s IT 70 schedule.
    • DHS awarded Advanced Concepts and Technologies International a $21 million contract through the GSA’s OASIS Small Business Pool.
    • The U.S. Air Force awarded Engility Holdings a $31 million contract to provide cyber-research, security assessments, and analysis. The Defense Technical Information Center, a centralized agency within the Defense Department, facilitated the contract award.
    • The U.S. Army awarded Booz Allen Hamilton a $13.2 million contract for cyber security enterprise support via the Army Contracting Command.

    Federal agencies will continue to look for opportunities to enhance cybersecurity capabilities, so small businesses should see more prospects to build relationships with these agencies, and other firms in the space.

    Big Data Analytics

    After two Senate confirmation hearings, President Trump’s nominee to head the Office of Management and Budget, Rep. Mick Mulvaney, clearly sees big data analytics as a path to improving efficiency of government operations.

    Rep. Mulvaney stated that the Digital Accountability and Transparency Act (DATA Act), a 2014 law that requires standardized reporting on spending data across the federal government, as a critical tool to eliminating waste.

    He also stated in one of the hearings:

    …“We’re living in an age of big data, and then here we are as the federal government and we probably have some of the best big data available anywhere, but we can’t use it because no one can share it or read it.”…

    Small businesses with data analytic services, which also help support DATA ACT, can perhaps find some interesting opportunities in this sector. Further, helping the government with decision-making analytics about improper payments, and other means of rooting out waste, fraud, and abuse, should also continue proving to be an interesting market for further exploration. These capabilities should create new and expanded opportunities at agencies across the government, and the Pentagon.

    As always, being successful in these areas requires good intelligence about how best to add value, and how to solve your customer’s problem. Although modernization should also see significant investment in the Trump Administration, cyber and analytics tools should continue to prove fruitful for new and continuing contracting opportunities.


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    Will Category Management Take a Pause, or Full Speed Ahead?

    One of the initiatives that the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) continues to diligently institutionalize is Category Management. This initiative, a governmentwide effort to consolidate contracts to save money through reduced duplication, is widely used in the private sector.

    However, many in industry and government are concerned, and with good reason. Improving federal acquisition is a very difficult task, and OMB and the General Services Administration's (GSA) efforts are laudable and should be commended, especially those that look to reduce contract duplication, and save taxpayer money. However, the OMB Circular No. A-XXX, “Implementing Category Management for Common Goods and Services” raises many issues.

    My principal concern is the way that contracts are to be consolidated, and the way execution of this goal under Category Management will affect the small business community. My firm's comments to the circular can be found here.

    Roger Waldron, president of the The Coalition for Government Procurement, has raised a number of significant issues when it comes to Category Management, and the concerns with the “best-in-class” (BIC) contract solutions for mandatory use, I believe, are worth noting.

    ...Mandatory contract vehicles could lead to significant risk for government and industry. Without vigilance, a well-intended cross-functional team could designate “winners and losers” through mandatory contract solutions for customer agencies and contractors in an attempt to manage the market. Such an approach can limit access to ongoing commercial competition and innovation, as well as negatively impact the small business community... 

    One size does not necessarily fit all, and this is one of the major concerns for both government and industry that needs further review. Also of note is the fact that BIC contract solutions are seemingly not getting enough industry input. For these initiatives to be successful, more input, not less, is necessary from both industry and government stakeholders.

    Certainly input from industry partners should be sought to help government make more informed decisions about commercial solutions.

    It will be interesting to see how this initiative moves forward under a Trump Administration. I believe the goals to be important, but I know many in industry do not have the information they need to help government reduce regulations, streamline processes, and improve competition and innovation.

    Perhaps a pause is in order, and a fully vetted review and cost benefit analysis can be conducted or shared. If after all the facts are in, and the initiatives need to move forward as-is, then I believe we can call agree to get on board and do what is necessary for successful implementation.

    I am just not sure we are there yet...


  •  

    Will Category Management Take a Pause, or Full Speed Ahead?

    One of the initiatives that the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) continues to diligently institutionalize is Category Management. This initiative, a governmentwide effort to consolidate contracts to save money through reduced duplication, is widely used in the private sector.

    However, many in industry and government are concerned, and with good reason. Improving federal acquisition is a very difficult task, and OMB and the General Services Administration's (GSA) efforts are laudable and should be commended, especially those that look to reduce contract duplication, and save taxpayer money. However, the OMB Circular No. A-XXX, “Implementing Category Management for Common Goods and Services” raises many issues.

    My principal concern is the way that contracts are to be consolidated, and the way execution of this goal under Category Management will affect the small business community. My firm's comments to the circular can be found here.

    Roger Waldron, president of the The Coalition for Government Procurement, has raised a number of significant issues when it comes to Category Management, and the concerns with the “best-in-class” (BIC) contract solutions for mandatory use, I believe, are worth noting.

    ...Mandatory contract vehicles could lead to significant risk for government and industry. Without vigilance, a well-intended cross-functional team could designate “winners and losers” through mandatory contract solutions for customer agencies and contractors in an attempt to manage the market. Such an approach can limit access to ongoing commercial competition and innovation, as well as negatively impact the small business community... 

    One size does not necessarily fit all, and this is one of the major concerns for both government and industry that needs further review. Also of note is the fact that BIC contract solutions are seemingly not getting enough industry input. For these initiatives to be successful, more input, not less, is necessary from both industry and government stakeholders.

    Certainly input from industry partners should be sought to help government make more informed decisions about commercial solutions.

    It will be interesting to see how this initiative moves forward under a Trump Administration. I believe the goals to be important, but I know many in industry do not have the information they need to help government reduce regulations, streamline processes, and improve competition and innovation.

    Perhaps a pause is in order, and a fully vetted review and cost benefit analysis can be conducted or shared. If after all the facts are in, and the initiatives need to move forward as-is, then I believe we can call agree to get on board and do what is necessary for successful implementation.

    I am just not sure we are there yet...


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    What will federal IT and innovation look like in a Trump Administration?

    There has been much discussion since the election of Donald J. Trump as our 45th President, in regards to where we go from here in federal IT. The short answer is that we really don’t know, given how little attention was given to the issue during the election. However, much work remains to be done, and some of the ways that the future of IT innovation, and the direction of federal technology programs, is dependent on what becomes the priorities of the Trump Administration.

    Given what little we know, or certainly expect, is a modest increase in the federal IT budget, given the desire to freeze the federal workforce and an expected increase in contracting for IT services. Certainly at the Defense department, the expectation is a two-fold boon to large defense contractors with the elimination or easing of sequestration, followed by a healthy increase in overall defense spending.

    However, there is also discussion of possibly eliminating programs that are seen as either not cost effective, or underperforming. One of those programs that could be on the chopping block is 18F, the digital services team located within the General Services Administration (GSA). This program was recently criticized for its spending and management practices, and if eliminated in short order, could be sign of the way the Trump Administration will manage federal IT.  

    GSA itself is the cross-hairs, especially with $3.1 billion IT modernization fund, which apparently is being threatened since Trump officials have commented they don’t trust the GSA to administer the money to the agencies.

    …“That’s why it’s not going to happen,” the official said. “I see no chance now.”

    …IT management will be handled more like a business under the Trump administration, according to the official…

    Further complicating GSA’s initiatives is the future of Category Management, especially given the bipartisan support of questioning the program, and the letter sent to Office of Management and Budget criticizing the implementation of the initiative. According to GSA, Category Management “is an approach the Federal Government is applying to buy smarter and more like a single enterprise.” 

    Steve Chabot (R-OH), Chairman of the House Small Business Committee, along with Ranking Member Nydia M. Velázquez (D-NY), wrote to OMB:

    “By moving ahead with its Category Management scam, OMB has decided to deny small businesses the ability to fully and fairly compete for federal contracts,” Chairman Chabot said. “I will continue to work with Ranking Member Velázquez and members of our Committee in a bipartisan manner to fight back against this destructive policy on behalf of American taxpayers and small businesses.”

    Another initiative in question is the continued outreach to Silicon Valley for technical innovation. This has been especially important at the Pentagon, with their Defense Innovation Unit Experimental (DIUx) program. These programs have greater uncertainty for their futures until the budget is formally established, and policy initiatives are outlined for defense spending next year, given Trumps’ advocacy for significantly increasing defense spending in shipbuilding and expanding the size of the armed forces.

    Nonetheless, Ben FitzGerald, a senior fellow and director of the Technology and National Security Program at CNAS, said it best:

    "…It's not just about buying more things.... We need to invest in our technological advantage."…

    One program that I hope continues to move forward for innovation, and should be seen as a good source of investment, is the Ideas Lab at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), and similar other initiatives. Included in the Idea Lab is the HHS Buyers Club, which has been a great success in testing new methods to modernize IT acquisitions. This program was built with the premise to not implement new regulations, but rather emphasizing new strategies allowed under the Federal Acquisition Regulation, or other approved legislation. These are the types of programs that hopefully will have a future in the Trump Administration.

    What does the crystal ball hold for the future of federal IT? I believe it will be hopeful, and continued opportunities for initiatives such as digital services, cyber, cloud, big data, and innovation through modernization will continue to help improve the government’s technology transformation.

    First thing is first, of course. Let’s get the Administration up and running, let’s get the budget in place, and let’s keep moving forward.