“Aquisition Incident Review Team” for ECSS Failue Issues Executive Summary

The team assembled to review the cancellation of ECSS has finally made public its executive summary. When reviewed by the SASC the program was described as “one of the most egregious examples of mismanagement in recent history”. But the answers to the SASC Chair and Senior Minority member have yet to be made public. Little light is shed on what the plan is in the AF going forward. But the report – in a blinding flash of insight – states in its final paragraph:

“The Acquisition Incident Review Team doesn’t want to leave the reader with a completely bleak outlook. Much of the work that was done on the Expeditionary Combat Support System effort can be reused. The progress made on legacy deconstruction and the spin ups to blueprinting can be the basis for the data work ahead. While reluctant to put a percentage on potential reuse, the Acquisition Incident Review Team suspects reusable data will be more than people think. Expeditionary Combat Support System wasn’t the failure people think it was; it was the first step to truly understanding the enormous task the Air Force has ahead of itself.”

Truly amazing work team!! To read the entire executive summary click ecss_publicly_releasable

Defense Systems Says Innovation Key to Defense Cuts

In an article Dec. 5th, titled “How defense cost-cutting can spur innovation” authors (Randy Garber, Sohin Chinoy, and Andrea Cruden) lay out an interesting scenario! What if Defense reductions formed the motive for an innovation based response?
The model focuses on provider based innovation to stimulate cost reductions rather that cost cutting contracting policies like Low Price Technically Acceptable (LPTA). They contend that businesses asked to meet requirements should be allowed to include innovative approaches and that such a policy would benefit Defense as it does in the private sector where this approach is routine.
Their take on the “How and Why” start with a cultural observation:

“Management commitment to invest in innovation management enabled forward-thinking companies in deregulated industries to translate customer and regulatory body openness into stronger returns. At the same time, inertia caused by old cultures rendered others unable to address competitive pressures and to maintain market share. We believe a similar situation will follow for defense contractors.”

With an innovative management approach allowing independent supplier driven investment they say the benefits would be similar –

“Potential benefits from a new innovation model include:
• Shortened product development times.
• Reduced reporting requirements.
• The potential to capitalize on innovation in commercial and international markets.
• The ability to use existing intellectual property in ways that leverage corporate expertise to better aligned to a company’s long-term strategy.
• The creation of a more dynamic workforce by reducing reliance on legacy technologies.
And the combination of these benefits offers the overall potential benefit of delivering innovation-enabled capabilities at affordable prices.”

Now that sounds like something we should all get behind. Low Price and Technically Innovative (LPTI). Just saying….

NETCENTS II Contracts – After Protests

So the protests have been resolved for most of the contracts awarded. It is time to take stock in which companies wound up as winners. BOLD indicates those added because of protesting, black indicates those who won under the initial source selection process.

Enterprise Integration and Service Management (EISM)

EISM provides non-personal advisory and assistance services (A&AS) and a broad range of enterprise-level support services for EISM activities to the Air Force. The contract is a 5-year (three-year base period and two one-year option periods), Indefinite-Delivery/Indefinite-Quantity (ID/IQ) for Time-and-Materials (T&M) Cost Plus Fixed Fee (CPFF), and Firm Fixed Price (FFP) type task or delivery orders.
The NETCENTSII Contracting Office released an Award Notice on November 30, 2010 to six firms for a total ceiling value of $460M. No additional awards were made after basic awards.
• Booz Allen Hamilton
• CACI Enterprise Solutions
• Deloitte Consulting
• Dynamics Research Corporation
• Science Applications International Corporation
• TechTeam Government Solutions, Inc. (now known as JACOBS ENGINEERING GROUP)

Netcentric Products Contract

Initial Awards (8)Apr. 19,2013; Protest Awards (8) as of Aug. 26, 2013, 14 additional protestors.
According to a Washington Technology article released on October 1, 2013, all of the protests filed against the third round of awards have been dismissed and the USAF intends to take corrective actions that will include awards to all bidders on the contract. Previously, 16 contracts were issued as a result of this effort as noted above (8+8).
The fourteen protestors listed on the GAO Bid Protest Docket site are:
(italic – not yet awarded plain text – awarded in Aug 26 group)
Force 3, Inc., Sterling Computers Corporation, Integration Technologies Group, Inc., Global Technology Resources, Inc., Blue Tech, Inc., Insight Public Sector, Inc., UNICOM Government, Inc., Presidio Networked Solutions, Inc., FCN Inc., Red River Computer Company, Inc., immixTechnology, Inc., M2 Technology, Inc., Dell Federal Systems L.P., and MicroTech, LLC.
There has not been an official announcement from the Air Force.

This contract vehicle provides for commercially available off-the-shelf (COTS) products to support the Internet Protocol (IP) Network and will include the following categories of netcentric products and associated support worldwide: (1) networking equipment, (2) servers/storage, (3) peripherals, (4) multimedia, (5) software (not included on other enterprise licenses), and (6) identity management/biometric hardware and associated software.
This is a Mandatory Use contract for the purchase of netcentric products for Air Force customers including those products purchased for other NETCENTSII contract categories.
• FedStore Corporation Contract Number: FA8732-13-D-0010
• Intelligent Decisions Contract Number: FA8732-13-D-0011
• World Wide Technology, Inc. Contract Number: FA8732-13-D-0012
• CDW Government LLC Contract Number: FA8732-13-D-0013
• Ace Technology Partners, LLC Contract Number: FA8732-13-D-0014
• CounterTrade Products, Inc. Contract Number: FA8732-13-D-0015
• General Dynamics IT Contract Number: FA8732-13-D-0016
• Iron Bow Technologies, LLC Contract Number: FA8732-13-D-0017
immix Technology, Inc., (FA8732-13-D-0018)
• M2 Technology, (FA8732-13-D-0028)
• Blue Tech, Inc., (FA8732-13-D-0029)
• Unicom Government, Inc., (FA8732-13-D-0030)
• Global Technology Resources, Inc., (FA8732-13-D-0031
• Micro Tech, (FA8732-13-D-0032)
• Red River Computer Co., (FA8732-13-D-0033)
• Integration Technologies Group, (FA8732-13-D-0034)

Applications Services (Small Business)

The NETCENTSII Contracting Office issued Application Services Small Business Award Notices in June 2012 to twelve vendors. The Application Services Small Business contract has a combined ceiling of $960M. Protests (4) resulted in no new awards.

• ActioNet
• Array Information Technology
• Datum Software
• Digital Management
• Diligent Consulting
• Diversified Technical Services
• DSD Laboratories
• Excellus Solutions
• Exeter Government Services
• IndraSoft
• Segue Technologies
• SI Systems Technologies

Applications Services (Full & Open) Contract

The NETCENTSII Contracting Office awarded Application Services Small Business Awards to six vendors on 29 July 2013. There were twenty-one (21) respondents to the RFP according to Defense.gov. The Application Services Full & Open contract has a combined ceiling of $960M.
• Lockheed Martin Information Systems and Global Solutions, Owego, N.Y., (FA8732-13-D-0001)
• TYBRIN Corp., Fort Walton Beach, Fla., (FA8732-13-D-0002)
• Harris IT Services Corp., Dulles, Va., (FA8732-13-D-0005)
• SRA International, Fairfax, Va., (FA8732-13-D-0003)
• Raytheon, Garland, Texas, (FA8732-13-D-0006)
• L-3 National Security Solutions, Reston, Va., (FA8732-13-D-0004)

Some of the unsuccessful bidders include: SAIC, General Dynamics (incumbent), Northrop Grumman, NCI (incumbent), CSC, and CACI.

Network Operations & Infrastructure Solutions (F&O and SB)

These two contracts have been on hold for “lack of resources” and have restarted as of Aug 2013.
IT Professional Support & Engineering Services (ITPS) (SDVOSB Set-Aside) Contract
This contract is on indefinite hold without further explination.

DHS Acquisition of IT More Than Agile

Borras_RafaelIn an FCW interview on May 28, Rafael Borras, DHS under secretary for management, tied the environment for IT acquisition at his department to a watershed moment ‘several years ago when one of DHS’ component agencies was procuring a massive border security project.

The interview relates a DHS contract with Boeing that reminds me of ECSS! But Mr. Borras relates several elements in the DHS acquisition strategy development for IT projects that I wish our DOD acquisition professionals could embrace. Check out the full interview on FCW at Borras Interview

Also check out the related FCW post “Why not Functionally Better vs. LPTA” where Dale Luddeke questions the impact of Low Price acquisitions, large or small, on the ability of agencies to add leading-edge capabilities.

Cyber Goes On Offense – Are Network Drone Strikes Coming?

After months of anticipation by the cyber protection community and three years of grueling internal debate at the highest levels of the DOD, it appears that the Joint Chiefs is poised to approve new rules empowering commanders to counter direct cyber attacks with offensive efforts of their own — without White House approval. Does this sound familiar? Think Drone Strikes, but without the White House in the loop! It appears that the Chinese hacker breach of top weapon designs is the straw that snapped the camel’s back – or perhaps the crack that finally broke the dam holding back offensive cyber tools for the information warriors.

Once signed, the new cyber rules contained in the US military’s new standing rules of engagement (SROE) — the classified legal document that outlines when, how and with what tools America will respond to an attack — will mark a far more aggressive tack than envisioned when the process started in 2010, or even much more recently. To date, any cyber action requires the approval of the National Security Council (NSC).

A defense insider tells me that much of the focus on cyber has revolved around defensive action, and that preemptive offensive action would still require presidential approval. But that same source said the new rules are vital to address a rapidly developing domain that should be integrated into normal military rules, but still remains largely closed to outside observers by heavy layers of classification. Because the SROE is classified, conversations about technical composition and details of deliberations are all considered very sensitive, and the sources with direct knowledge of the declined to be named. The new rules were supposed to have been implemented in late 2010, but were delayed as top government lawyers debated how aggressively the US should respond to cyber attacks, and what tools commanders could use to protect assets and information.

According to reporting in Defense News, lawyers from the Joint Staff and US Cyber Command (CYBERCOM) gathered in Washington to try to update the Defense Department’s standing rules of engagement in late 2010, with two major policy areas remaining as subjects of debate: rules regarding deployed ships and rules about cyber warfare.

As a long time advocate of counter cyber activity, I believe we still have a chink in the armor of our networks. Any offensive campaigner depends on high quality situational awareness to conduct both defensive and offensive operations. Cyber ISR is still in its infant stages, with little ability to picture the battle space. Battle field situational awareness is easy when the topographic maps of the battle space shift in geologic time frames. But Cyber battle fields shift at the speed of light. How does one take a picture of the battle space when it moves as fast as photons?

So although I welcome the move by DOD to go on the offensive, I wonder if we are perhaps doing so with a great risk of “friendly fire” casualties without better ISR, situational awareness, and identify friend or foe tools for the cyber domain. While we add new focus to anti access and strategic cyber counter strike, we should not forget the lessons from the physical battle fields – lets not take unwarranted risk of casualties on our side of the battle lines through friendly fire due to lack of situational awareness of high quality. Lets also invest in battle space awareness for the cyber domain. Watch out folks, your server could be collateral damage in some future attempt to strike back at hackers in an imperfect view of the net. When DOD strikes that bot contaminating your server and exploiting your company resources to do harm, you may be the collateral damage of the cyber drone strike…. Just saying….

Protests Keep Rolling In – Will NETCENTS 2 Product Contract Survive?

AFG-120313-036 Well, as I predicted, the total now stands at 10. That is the number of protests received by the Metcents 2 program office for their just-awarded products contract. Five days have lapsed since award and the protest period went into full swing earlier this week as they received the first protests. As of today it stands at 10. But surely more are on the way as my feel says at least 12 companies feel “left out” of the second attempt to award this giant procurement vehicle. With the spectrum of products and the relatively confined field (only one truly national reseller made the list this time) all the big guys are on the war path. The congressional direction was clear – make more awards – and was clearly intended to point out that without the big 5 product resellers, there would be protests! So I ask you, why is this aspect of NETCENTS 2 not following the Large Business/Small Business bifurcation used on other aspects of the contract set. The answer to avoiding protests seems simple and viable. Award all the small resellers a contract and another award set for the large resellers. Then stage the buys as is done on Application Services or Network Services according to the tried and true model of set-aside thinking that is working for DESP III, and the current awards for services? Just saying….

NETCENTS 2 Product Winners Announced – Will This Be IT?

AFG-111101-005 Believe the second time is the charm? The NetCents 2 program is thinking that way. Hoping that the second time around will be the charm, the Air Force late Friday announced the winners of the $6.9 billion Network Centric Solutions (NETCENTS-2) Netcentric Products contract vehicle.

The winners of round two are:
• Ace Technology Partners LLC., Arlington Heights, Ill.
• CDW Government LLC., Vernon Hills, Ill.
• CounterTrade Products Inc., Arvada, Colo.
• FedStore Corp., Rockville, Md.
• General Dynamics IT, Needham, Mass.
• Intelligent Decisions Inc., Ashburn, Va.
• Iron Bow Technologies LLC., Chantilly, Va.
• World Wide Technology Inc., Maryland Heights, Mo.

Once again I am struck by the absence of any direct vendors. I am encouraged to see CDW made the list as I purchased millions in hardware from them as CIO at Hq AFMC thru AFWAY when they were consistently a quality “low bidder”. So, I suspect that some large vendors can actually offer more than the OEM’s.

After the debacle of last year’s awards, protests and withdrawal, you would hope the Air Force has made a pretty bullet proof decision this time around. But one executive from a losing team predicted more protests will be filed, even though he said it was too soon for his company to decide.

Undoubtedly there are some very unhappy companies out there. Consider that of the original nine winners, only four won in the second round: Ace, Fedstore, GDIT, and Iron Bow. Losing out this time around are Blue Tech Inc., Global Technology Resources Inc., GTSI, M2 Technology and Red River Computer Co.

With the deadline for filing protests coming up in just days, we will see if in fact the second time is the charm. (I always knew it as “the third time is the charm”) Good luck to the hard working NetCents 2 team, hope you bend the old saw and get through this award without any “wall paper” from those not on the list… Just saying…

“35 Agencies Not Following New Rules” Says Rep. Sam Graves

medium Rep. Sam Graves, R-Mo., House Small Business Committee Chairman, stepped up pressure on agencies Tuesday. He attacked delays in efforts to comply with new rules requiring them to elevate their Small and Disadvantaged Business Utilization offices as a means for giving more businesses a leg up in competing for contracts.

In letters to the Defense Department and 34 other agencies, Graves said a recent hearing revealed that too many are ignoring new amendments to the Small Business Act enacted in January with passage of the 2013 National Defense Authorization Act. Seems to me DOD would be the last to miss language tied to their primary guidance legislation! Graves, always the gentleman, tries in his statement on the issue, to give the folks who are in slow-mo a bit of plausible deny-ability for their inaction:

“It has come to my attention that some agencies were either unaware of recent changes . . . or had not yet implemented the changes,” Graves wrote.

The requirements include new priorities in the small and disadvantaged business offices’ work, prohibitions on the offices’ leaders from holding other positions, and improvements to the reporting relationship between small business specialists and the offices. With the DOD “reorg” centric model for improvement, this would seem the perfect excuse to again shuffle the cards and deal everyone a new organizational hand…

All the fuss was actually the fault of the Veterans Affairs Department folks – the agency that triggered Graves’ interest in a very public way. It all got rolling when the VA Office of Small and Disadvantaged Business Utilization director, Thomas Leney, was testifying March 19 on the VA’s efforts to verify eligibility of disabled veterans for preferred small business loans, acknowledged that he also directs the VA’s Center for Veterans Enterprise. Leney, the committee noted, saw no conflict of interest. It sure seems to explain why my SDVOB clients get rubber stamp service on their requests for certification and absolutely no help with business development efforts!

But later, A Veterans Affairs spokeswoman told a Government Executive correspondent that Leney does not have two titles. He is executive director of the department’s OSDBU, which includes the Center for Veterans Enterprise, whose director is Michelle Gardner-Ince. Oh, that fixes everything (wink wink).

So lets hope they don’t start looking too deeply into DOD conflicts of interest in Small Business offices. I suspect that we have more to explain than just the top level conflict VA uncovered… And I suspect that SBA could use a good look from the Congressman as well. Just saying…

8(a) Firms In Decline Per SBA Data

SBA LogoCurrently the number of 8a certification program participants is in decline while the federal procurement dollars spent with 8a certified firm’s remains in the $30-35 billion dollar annually range. Here are some basic stats:
Year / Number of 8a firms (approximately)
2007 / 9,500
2009 / 8,800
2013 (4-15-2013) / 8,000

This data represents a 17% decline in 8a firms.

With GSA issuing contracts for their Government Wide Acquisition Contracts (GWACS) in the 8(a) categories to record numbers (STARS for example), getting access to a task vehicle is nearly a shoe-in for the majority of applicants. So why then is the number of new 8(a) certifications by SBA decreasing?

The answer seems to be the inability of many applicants to meet the criteria for SBA certifications. I have been able to find the raw application numbers to confirm that increasing applications for 8(a) are in fact happening, but the hunt is on for the root cause of fewer certifications. Minority populations are on the rise and small business creation is similarly increasing. It seem unlikely that the environment supports lower 8(a) populations. So that leaves the SBA certification process and criteria as the most likely cause of decreased approvals…

According to the SBA approximately 2,500-2,600 firms apply for the 8a certification annually. With approximately 1,000+ new 8a certifications needed in order for the number in the program to hold constant. However in recent years the number of new firms being admitted into the program has fallen to between 800-900 firms per year. In general terms as the SBA has increased application scrutiny over the last couple of years, the at large approval rate for firms has fallen to around 35%. However the approval rate for people using a consulting firm is in the high 95% approval rating. Which means the likelihood of successfully completing the 8a application without the aid of a consultant is most likely substantially less than 35%. Here I thought SBA was created to aid small businesses, not foster consultants!

Just saying …

CIA – Amazon Cloud Deal Prompts Questions Not Answers


So the CIA is back in the news, at least Federal Computer Week. But it is interesting to me because the portion of the CIA that has cut this deal is one I am familiar with from my days as AFMC CTO and CIO.

Back in 1999, the CIA created its own venture capital group, In-Q-Tel, to invest in emerging technologies that can support intelligence operations. Then AFMC/CC Gen. Lester Lyles was intrigued by the concept and asked that I research the model for our CTO approach to internal improvements in AFMC. It was then and remains a fascinating federal government concept.

Look at some recent investments, and a move to the cloud shouldn’t be too surprising:

•Delphix, data management and virtualization solutions
•Tyfone, mobile security in the cloud
•Cloudant, big data analytics in the cloud.
•Huddle, secure cloud-based collaboration
•Adaptive Computing, developer of a cloud computing operating system

And that goes back just to August. Obviously, the CIA sees great value in cloud computing for the entire intelligence community in areas such as collaboration, analytic and mobile. Makes me wonder why they have been slow to adopt Appian BPM as the process solution…. Appian provisions the AMAZON Cloud!! and Appian runs in the Amazon Cloud with FISMA moderate security already. Just think what the collaboration would be like for CIA with a higher security CIA cloud using Appian and a secure TEMPO feed.

For CIA this is a step in the evolution of their VC investments. The tough part for Amazon is that this contract will never be a referable account in the traditional sense. We’ll likely never see a case study about how the CIA is using the cloud on the Amazon Web Service site.

If you think about the vast amounts of data the CIA and the rest of the intell community has, a cloud approach is probably the only solution that brings any hope of discovering and using the intelligence and knowledge locked away in that data.

For Amazon, this is simply a great deal to make because it is high dollar and long term.

But people have plenty of questions, one of which is, what exactly does it mean that they are going to “build” a private cloud? Most of you who read my blog will already have an idea of that model given the DOD declared intent to set up a “private cloud” using DISA for DOD data and applications.

Are they going to literally and figuratively wall off part of GovCloud? DISA Cloud? Or, are they going to break ground some other place?

Is this government-owned/government-operated cloud or contractor-owned/contractor operated? Or some kind of hybrid?

Who are Amazon’s partners? The long list of partners on the government section of the AWS site doesn’t reveal a lot of household names.

One person speculated to me that this might be the start of Amazon’s play to become more like IBM by providing upfront consulting through build out, and then maintenance and operations. It’s a 10-year deal, though I’m sure at least half is in options, but obviously the CIA and Amazon see this as a relationship.

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