When Clint Boulton wrote about the competition for the cloud services proposals that have gone to the General Services Administration, he correctly pointed out that Google, IBM and Microsoft all have products that are essentially similar.
The three companies are proposing to provide Web mail and other office applications in a cloud-based environment. All of them will cost about the same, and all will provide federal workers pretty much the same thing. But that doesn’t mean that these companies have an equal chance of winning. It doesn’t even mean that any of them will win.
The GSA has great latitude in awarding contracts, and the companies have great latitude in what they propose to deliver. In addition, it’s a certainty that whoever eventually does win the contract award will find the decision being appealed. So any move to cloud services will happen only when something final comes out of the process. But there’s no guarantee that the end result will resemble the initial proposals.
First, it’s important to remember that federal government contracting is rife with rules that attempt to make sure that the government gets the best overall deal, that no unfair practices are taking place and that a number of Congressionally mandated requirements are met. Second, it’s not unusual for the GSA to ask for modifications to a proposal to reflect changes in technology, the products in question or to meet emerging requirements that weren’t in the original RFP.
It’s also not unusual for one-time competitors to decide to team up to win a contract so they can provide a capability at a price that no one else can offer. And, of course, it’s possible that the GSA will decide that all of the proposals are deficient, and not award the contract to anyone. All of these things happen routinely in government contracting.
In the case of IT contracts, there’s a big advantage in being the incumbent contractor providing a service. You already know exactly what’s going on; you already know the people awarding the contract; and you know exactly how you’ll do the migration. Because of this, you might be able to propose a solution that has the best credibility. It also helps a lot if you have long experience in crafting winning proposals. You know exactly how to present your products and solutions so that they meet the requirements, stated and implied, of the procurement.
If there’s one company that leads in this group, it’s IBM. Despite the fact that IBM is primarily a computer hardware, software and services vendor, this company is good enough at federal contracting that it’s won systems integration contracts for everything from helicopters to spacecraft. The fact that IBM is also the incumbent, that federal employees are already used to IBM’s Lotus product line, and that IBM should have the easiest time in migrating existing Lotus users to Lotus-in-the-cloud won’t be lost on the people evaluating the proposal.
But that doesn’t mean that IBM will have an automatic win. The GSA does pay attention to the proposed cost, and if a company proposes a credible solution that’s significantly more cost effective than the company with what might be seen as the best technical solution, they might win anyway. As unlikely as it may seem, the GSA really does try to keep a tight hand on the purse strings, and has been known to be flexible about technical requirements if it will substantially lower the price.
But to win, the proposed solution will have to be credible. IBM probably can demonstrate that it can meet the government’s needs in terms of responsiveness, security (even if this product isn’t yet FISMA certified) and the ability to meet the needs of very large organizations. Microsoft, which has a long history in government contracting, although not as long as IBM which won its first government contract in the 19th century, can point to vast installations of desktop, server and Web software throughout the government. But Google might have problems in this area. In addition, all of those Gmail outages, the occasional security breach and the Google cloud’s growing pains could give the government evaluators pause.
Or they might not. Google might be able to convince the GSA that it can deliver everything the federal government wants, and the GSA might be in a mood to take a break from IBM and Microsoft. But whatever solution gets chosen will have to be justified, and that’s where we’ll see exactly what made the difference. And then if anyone is still paying attention, we’ll learn more during the appeals. Or we might not.
The only thing you can really count on with the GSA cloud services contract is that it won’t really be over at the end of September. There’s no assurance that whatever company gets the win will really be the winner. There may not even be one winner or even a winner at all. The arbiter of what’s best for the government is the GSA, and ultimately they’ll decide using their own criteria what’s best for the federal government. Unless, of course, Congress gets involved.
– by Wayne Rash – eWeek – Sept. 23, 2010
In the span of just two days last week, three government offices issued advice about improving the $550 billion per year federal procurement system long plagued by waste and inefficiency.
On Sept. 14, the Office of Management and Budget outlined in a memo ideas about how to “save money, reduce risk and get better results” from government contracts. On the same day, the Defense Department released guidance for “obtaining greater efficiency and productivity in defense spending.” On Sept. 15, a presidential task force published its recommendations for improving federal contracting opportunities for small businesses.
The flurry of top-level attention is a welcome sign that the Obama administration is serious about reforming procurement at a time of fiscal constraint and budget deficits.
But the recent directives also unintentionally underscore the immediate need for better coordination among agencies and a more coherent reform agenda. Examined side by side, they reveal conflicting guidance that could sow even more confusion in a world so complex it vexes the most sophisticated lawyers and accountants. “The rule set becomes further confusing through these many efforts, and makes me worry what exactly will be the ‘real’ rules as those leading these initiatives depart and new ones arrive,” former Air Force Secretary Michael Wynne said in an interview.
Consider, for example, last week’s guidance about how the government should go about finding the best vendors and suppliers. The OMB memo recommended “pooling the federal government’s buying power” in pursuit of strategic sourcing. The president’s small business task force, on the other hand, urged “strategies to prevent unjustified contract bundling,” or aggregating in one contract supplies or services “previously provided or performed under separate smaller contracts.”
So what should a procurement official do? Create efficiencies and drive cost savings through pooling, or create more opportunities for small business by eschewing bundling?
To be sure, there could be scenarios in which these two policies actually can complement each other, but that’s not necessarily self-evident to procurement officers and others involved in government contracts on a day-to-day basis.
There are other potential conflicts in the directives. All three documents urge data standardization, for example. But the small business task force focuses on a coding system called the North American Industry Classification System while the Defense memo prefers the Product Service Code. And there are other standards out there, such as the United Nations Standard Products and Services Code used in two governmentwide systems. The documents’ diverging guidance on competition and contract types also could confound government contracting officers.
To avoid such confusion there must be better coordination among the offices entrusted with the important work of reducing costs and eliminating waste in federal acquisitions. Here are some suggestions:
- Governmentwide procurement reform should be centrally coordinated, preferably at OMB. That doesn’t mean every initiative must be run from the White House, but there should be enough central oversight to identify and address potential conflicts.
- The implementation of reform initiatives should be formally designed with other efforts in mind. “With the plethora of rules that govern the procurement system, it is important that we provide adequate implementation guidance to avoid creating more confusion on the part of the workforce,” says Steven Kelman, a public policy professor at Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government and a former administrator of the Office of Federal Procurement Policy.
- The reform must speak in a unified voice. Ultimately, the success of these initiatives rests in the hands of thousands of government professionals, as well as the vendor community. Leadership across all agencies must commit to and deliver the same message with as little ambiguity as possible.
These communication problems are not insoluble, but left unaddressed they could hamper the administration’s admirable and intense focus on improving procurement. The stars do seem to be aligned, for the first time in years, in support of meaningful reform. We must not miss this opportunity.
By Raj Sharma – GovernmentExecutive.com – September 24, 2010 – Raj Sharma is a visiting fellow at the Center for American Progress who focuses on improving government procurement and supply chain management practices.
The Pentagon’s top acquisition executive told an Air Force audience Wednesday that implementing the set of sweeping acquisition reforms was essential because without them, the nation could not give the troops the capabilities they need as defense budgets get tighter.
And to the Air Force officers and industry representatives in the audience, Ashton Carter said those who hope the department will be unable to achieve the proposed reforms, “you have to consider the alternatives.”
Carter listed as potential consequences: broken or canceled programs, “uncertainty and turbulence in the budget, market uncertainty, difficulty for industry, erosion in the confidence of the taxpayer that they are getting value for their dollars … and foregone military capabilities.”
But on the positive side, Carter said part of the acquisition improvement effort was to “incentivize productivity and innovation in industry” and that “profit is a perfectly appropriate topic” for the defense acquisition executives.
The day after he and Defense Secretary Robert Gates outlined the 23 changes to the contracting process at a Pentagon news briefing, Carter, the undersecretary for acquisition, technology and logistics, told the Air Force Association conference at the National Harbor convention center that the challenge would be implementation.
The acquisition reforms had received a generally favorable review earlier in the day from Aerospace Industry Association President Marion Blakey, who told the AFA audience that many of the initiatives matched the industry’s recommendations.
And as Carter was speaking, the two leaders of the House Armed Services Committee’s acquisition reform panel issued a statement endorsing the new effort.
“We applaud Secretary Gates and Dr. Carter for tackling acquisition reform and for embracing many of the reforms identified in our panel’s report and in the House-passed IMPROVE Acquisition Act to meet this end,” said Reps. Robert Andrews, D-N.J., and Mike Conaway, R-Texas. They said the Pentagon initiatives made it even more important that the Senate pass the House-approved bill.
Carter told the AFA audience that an improved acquisition was necessary because the defense budget was expected to rise only slightly in real terms in future years.
With an end to the double-digit annual increases of the last nine years, he said, the Pentagon leaders concluded “we can’t support the troops with the capabilities they need unless we learn to deliver better value for the defense dollars and thereby achieve the programs we need with the dollars that the taxpayers can afford to give us.”
Carter expressed confidence they could achieve their objectives to save $100 billion over five years from “low value-added activities” so the funds could be shifted to the needs of the warfighters.
He said he was confident of success because they are “reasonable objectives, come at end of a decade of very rapid growth” and have the support of the president, the secretary and Congress.
Carter praised the Air Force secretary, chief of staff and acquisition executive for leading the way on procurement reform, citing their improvements in maintaining the nation’s nuclear weapons system and the effort to build a long-range strike capability at an affordable price.
Addressing a program of high interest for the Air Force, Carter said he could not tell them when officials would announce a winner of the competition to build a new refueling tanker.
“It’s not a secret; it’s unknown. It will be done when it’s done. We’re working very hard to get it right,” he said, reflecting a decade of mistakes and scandal surrounding the program.
– by Otto Kreisher – Congress Daily – September 16, 2010
Ignoring calls to scrutinize troubled contractors, the U.S. military has awarded a portion of a $490 million contract to an American corporation that’s under investigation for possible fraud.
The Army Corps of Engineers awarded the contract to Louis Berger Group, a New Jersey-based company that federal prosecutors have acknowledged is being investigated for allegedly overbilling the U.S. government.
The contract will be shared with Cummins Power Generation and is for providing generators, building power plants and installing high-voltage transmission systems in “conflict and disaster response locations worldwide,” according to a news release posted last week on Louis Berger’s website.
The decision to continue doing business with Louis Berger has fueled criticism that the Obama administration is willing to overlook criminal allegations in its zeal to rebuild Afghanistan and Iraq. Louis Berger is handling some of the most important U.S. projects in Afghanistan, and it and Cummins also have a seven-year contract with the Army to provide emergency power operations and maintenance in Iraq.
Cummins isn’t under scrutiny in the investigation of Louis Berger.
The overbilling allegations arise from a 2006 whistleblower lawsuit that accused Louis Berger of manipulating overhead cost data and overhead rate proposals submitted to the U.S. government and several states, including Massachusetts, Nevada and Virginia, McClatchy reported Sunday.
Two months after the government learned of the employee’s allegations, the U.S. Agency for International Development tapped Louis Berger to oversee another $1.4 billion in reconstruction contracts in Afghanistan.
Court documents reveal that the Justice Department is negotiating a deal that could “aid in preserving the company’s continuing eligibility to participate” in federal contracting in Afghanistan and elsewhere.
Louis Berger officials have declined to respond to questions about the investigation, but they say it shouldn’t taint their work for the government.
A power plant project in Kabul overseen by Louis Berger and another U.S. firm, Black & Veatch, is $40 million over budget and a year behind schedule because of missteps by the American contractors and the U.S. government, according to an audit by the Office of the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction.
The special inspector general’s office questioned the wisdom of building a diesel and heavy fuel plant that the Afghan government may not have the capacity to sustain.
Officials with the Army confirmed the award of the latest contract but didn’t immediately respond to questions about the investigation or the rationale for granting the contract to Louis Berger.
– McClatchy Newspapers – Sept. 20, 2010
A presidential panel is calling for major reforms of the government’s small business contracting guidelines, procedures and regulations.
The Task Force on Federal Contracting Opportunities for Small Businesses on Wednesday released its suggestions for helping undersized firms break into the government marketplace and win federal contracts, strengthening procurement policies, enhancing training for acquisition officials and improving contracting data on federal websites.
Among its most significant proposals, the task force recommended the White House require agencies to reserve work on task-and-delivery order contracts or Multiple Award Schedule contracts for small businesses. Under existing policies, considerations for small business set-asides are made prior to the award of a contract. But acquisition policy officials have been reluctant to apply set-asides for individual orders, despite a 2008 legal opinion by the Government Accountability Office, which supported the policy change.
“Existing tools that might help direct additional work toward small businesses, such as the consideration of socioeconomic status for schedule orders and partial set-asides for contracts, appear to be underutilized and misunderstood,” the report said. “Many public comments offered to the task force voiced frustration over the continued failure of policy officials to tackle these issues.”
The panel also suggested the Small Business Administration and the Office of Management and Budget’s Office of Federal Procurement Policy issue guidance to prevent unjustified contract bundling; clarify rules for small business teaming; strengthen the requirements for developing small business subcontracting plans; review the quality of small business contracting data; and assess the impact of insourcing on small business contractors.
“While some work performed by small business contractors may need to be insourced if it is inherently governmental or is of a critical nature and the agency is at risk of losing control of its operations, the task force believes much of the work will continue to be performed by contractors, including small businesses,” the report said.
President Obama created the task force in April. Several agencies, including OMB and SBA, co-chaired the group.
“When a small business gets a federal contract, it’s a win-win,” SBA Administrator Karen Mills wrote Wednesday on the White House blog. “The business gets the revenue it needs to grow and create jobs, and at the same time, the government benefits from working with some of the most diligent, innovative and responsive people in the world.”
The task force also addressed concerns about the skills and capabilities of the acquisition workforce to implement small business guidelines. The report recommends revising core certification for procurement officials and requiring for the first time mandatory training on small business policies and regulations.
Industry has complained that the government’s small business contracting goals have no teeth. For the past several years, the government has missed its goal of awarding 23 percent of all prime contracting dollars to small businesses, but little to no enforcement was taken against underperforming agencies.
The task force encouraged the Obama administration to adopt a system of carrots and sticks, rewarding agencies and employees who successfully promote small business contracting with awards and recognition, and holding officials accountable when they fall short of their goals. The report does not, however, suggest repercussions for poor-performing agencies.
Industry officials credited the task force for addressing many top concerns, but some remain skeptical. “As long as the barriers to contracting with small businesses are allowed to exist and the laws that protect their rights are not enforced, agencies will continue to fail in their efforts at contracting with them,” said Henry Thomas, co-founder of a think tank operated by the Fairness in Procurement Alliance, an association that advocates for small business contractors.
Among its most ambitious recommendations, the task force called for a systematic reorganizing and refunctioning of two leading government procurement websites. The panel suggested making FedBizOpps, which provides industry with notice of upcoming contracts, a one-stop source for annual requirements forecasting, the posting of subcontracting opportunities, the outreach calendar of all federal agency matchmaking and training events and a directory of online agency small business resources.
The much-maligned Federal Procurement Data System, which tracks all contracts, would receive an upgrade to enhance the use of its small business information. SBA unveiled on Wednesday its new Small Business Contracting Dashboard, which breaks down spending by small business category from fiscal 2000 through fiscal 2009.
“Implementing these new tools and recommendations won’t be easy,” Mills said in the blog post. “But our message today is clear: We’re going to build on what works in small business contracting. We’re going to implement new tools to help more small businesses compete and win.”
The task force will report to White House by the end of the year on progress with implementing the recommendations.
– by Robert Brodsky – GovExec.com – September 15, 2010
Defense Department plans to increase competition and cut overhead costs and red tape associated with procuring goods and services have mainly met with praise from industry leaders and lawmakers — the two constituencies most able to derail reform. But full support will depend on implementation details that Pentagon officials are still working out.
Reps. Rob Andrews, D-N.J., and Mike Conaway, R-Texas, longtime proponents of acquisition reform at the Pentagon, praised Defense Secretary Robert Gates and his top acquisition official Ashton B. Carter for issuing guidance earlier this week aimed at increasing productivity and efficiency in spending.
“We applaud Secretary Gates and Dr. Carter for tackling acquisition reform and for embracing many of the reforms identified in our panel’s report and in the House-passed IMPROVE Acquisition Act to meet this end,” they said in a joint statement, adding, “We must learn more about the department’s plans in the weeks ahead, but we look forward to working with DoD on these efforts.”
Likewise, Aerospace Industries President Marion Blakey welcomed the initiative and the department’s outreach to industry in developing the new objectives. “While we have questions regarding some of the proposals, we are confident that the cooperation between government and industry as these initiatives are developed and implemented will produce results that will benefit all stakeholders — most importantly, the warfighter and taxpayer.”
“I don’t think there’s much objection to the objective,” said Stan Soloway, president and chief executive of the Professional Services Council, an industry trade group. “The message has been they want to be collaborative. The message has been this is not about arbitrarily cutting; it’s about finding better ways to do business.”
Nonetheless, industry officials are concerned about some aspects of the reforms. “One area where I do have concern, not covered in [Carter's] memo, is you have the secretary’s directive to lop off 10 percent of at least some category of service contracting. That seems to run contrary to the strategic approach of the Carter guidance,” Soloway said.
Another issue of concern to service contractors is the question of competition. Carter noted that 28 percent of competitive awards for service contracts had only a single bidder and department officials believe they need to inject more competition into those procurements.
“I don’t disagree that they ought to be doing whatever they can to maximize the competition. That is clearly the right objective,” Soloway said. But it’s not unexpected that some percentage of contracts, especially for work that is being rebid, would not attract more than one bidder if the incumbent contractor is understood to be performing well.
“You’re not going to spend your bid and proposal dollars to compete for something where the chances of winning and unseating the incumbent are really extreme. But that pressure is nonetheless always on the incumbent because they know if they stumble there’s any number of predators ready to pounce,” Soloway said.
Contracting officials should make sure their requirements and performance work statements invite innovation, and thereby attract increased competition, he said. “The government talks about innovation, but it’s not at all clear at the end of the day if that’s what’s they’re rewarding,” he said.
Soloway worries budget pressure is driving many contract awards away from best value bidders to lowest-cost bidders.
“In a tight budget environment, the tendency is to squeeze every nickel you can out of something, but that doesn’t necessarily go along with looking for more innovation and better value,” he said.
– By Katherine McIntire Peters – GovExec.com – September 16, 2010 – (C) 2010 BY NATIONAL JOURNAL GROUP, INC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.
The Naval Sea Systems Command decided it didn’t make sense to create one set of contract specifications for lawn mowing services at a base on the East Coast and another set to cut the grass on the West coast, when in fact one contract would work for both places.
Now the leadership at the Defense Department wants to extend this simple concept departmentwide.
Defense spends $200 billion a year, half its annual budget, on services ranging from lawn mowing to software maintenance. Ashton B. Carter, undersecretary of Defense for acquisition, technology and logistics, wants to rein in that spending as part of an overall plan Defense Secretary Robert Gates announced on Tuesday to cut $100 billion from the Pentagon budget during the next five years.
In a memo to Defense acquisition managers issued on Tuesday, Carter said an ever-expanding set of requirements and missions — “missions-requirements creep,” he called it — for services has contributed to an increase in spending during the past decade. “These requirements often require the same function or service to be provided, but are written uniquely so that competition is limited,” he said in his memo.
Carter directed acquisition managers to develop templates for performance work statements, or definitions for what a unit wants to buy that are included in every solicitation. He cited as an example NAVSEA’s SeaPort-e electronic marketplace, which was created to purchase a variety of services from 2,217 vendors — including lawn mowing services. The platform provides a standard way for a diverse group of large and small businesses to bid on solicitations.
Cindy Shaver, SeaPort-e program manager, said NAVSEA’s experience since the buying platform began in 2001 shows standard work statements enhance competition and save the Navy and vendors time and money.
Officials originally developed SeaPort-e to serve only NAVSEA, but it now manages acquisitions for all the systems’ commands, including the Marine Corps and the Defense Threat Reduction Agency.
SeaPort-e first issued the work statements for the acquisition of basic services needed to maintain bases — such as lawn mowing or maintenance — because these could be easily standardized. Potential bidders then could develop standard responses, which would cut bid and proposal costs. The contractors passed those savings on to the Navy, Shaver said.
In addition, the templates for similar services eliminated potential bidders’ concerns that a work statement was developed with a specific vendor in mind, she added.
NAVSEA plans to develop templates for program management support services. Although support for a ship-building program might seem quite different than the support required for a missile program, the services are the same, Shaver said. Preparation of a budget for a ship project is similar to the budget for a weapons program, and by looking for commonality rather than differences, the Navy can enhance competition and save money, she said.
Carter also directed acquisition managers to award more services contracts to small businesses because they provide Defense with “an important degree of agility and innovation,” with lower overhead costs. SeaPort-e has a high percentage of awards going to small businesses. So far in fiscal 2010, it has issued 4,692 task orders with a total potential value of $6.8 billion, with small businesses taking home 85 percent of the awards.
Shaver said increased competition has been the primary reason it has saved money. The Navy’s goal is to have 100 percent competition on every SeaPort-e task order, a goal that will be met more easily with standard work statements, she said.
– By Bob Brewin - 09/16/10 – NextGov.com – © 2010 BY NATIONAL JOURNAL GROUP, INC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
The Obama Administration has released its fiscal year (FY) 2009 Small Business Procurement Scorecard, reporting that the government missed its 23 percent small business contracting goal. In its scorecard, the government claimed to have awarded a mere 21.89 percent to small businesses, while also failing to meet congressionally mandated contracting goals for women, Service Disabled Veteran Owned Small Businesses and HUBZone firms. The Obama Administration missed 4 of its 5 contracting goals (http://www.businesswire.com/news/home/20100827005701/en).
The American Small Business League (ASBL) maintains that based on a recent evaluation of FY 2009 small business contracting data, the actual percentage of contracts awarded to small businesses is closer to 5 percent. In June, the ASBL conducted a review of the top 100 recipients of federal small business contracts for FY 2009. Within its sample, the ASBL identified 60 large firms, which received 64.5 percent of the total dollars the government claimed to have awarded to small businesses. (http://www.asbl.com/documents/ASBL_2009_dataanalysis.pdf)
The ASBL also identified a series of Fortune 500 corporations and other large firms in the government’s 2009 contracting data. Recipients of small business contracts included: Lockheed Martin, Boeing, Raytheon, L-3 Communications, British Aerospace (BAE), Northrop Grumman, General Electric, Booz Allen Hamilton, Thales Communications, General Dynamics, and Dell Computer.
Since 2003, more than a dozen federal investigations have found billions of dollars a month in federal small business contracts flowing into the hands of corporate giants. (http://www.asbl.com/documentlibrary.html)
The ASBL believes the Obama Administration has dramatically inflated the percentage of contracts awarded to small businesses by under-reporting the actual federal acquisition budget and by including billions of dollars in contracts awarded to large businesses. The actual federal acquisition budget for foreign, domestic, classified and unclassified projects is roughly $1 trillion. The Obama Administration’s goaling achievement is based on a number that is less than half of the actual federal acquisition budget.
As the American Small Business League predicted, the Obama Administration released its FY 2009 small business contracting numbers near the close of business on Friday afternoon. The late release of data is a clear indication the Obama Administration was trying to avoid scrutiny from the mainstream media. (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/lloyd-chapman/obama-administration-fabr_b_693359.html, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/lloyd-chapman/obama-administration-will_b_674073.html)
“President Obama is not fooling anyone. These 5 o’clock Friday afternoon press releases are like sending up a signal flare that the data is fabricated,” ASBL President Lloyd Chapman said. “Every year billions of dollars in federal contracts are diverted to Fortune 500 corporations and other large businesses, and every year the government fabricates its numbers. It is time for Congress and the Obama Administration to pass H.R. 2568, the Fairness and Transparency in Contracting Act, and end this abuse once and for all.”
– published by the American Small Business League, August 30, 2010 – Christopher Gunn, 707-789-9575
Some agency officials say they are following a well thought-out approach to spending what’s left in their fiscal-year information technology budgets — a game plan that defies the myth that departments rush to spend funds before they become unavailable after Sept. 30.
The phenomenon of the year-end spending sprees first came to light in 1980, when the Senate Governmental Affairs Subcommittee on Oversight of Government Management issued a report that found the hurry to obligate expiring funds before the end of the fiscal year often led to a lack of competition, inadequately negotiated contracts and the purchase of low-priority items.
In a 1998 follow-up to that study, the Government Accountability Office concluded agencies’ spending patterns were hard to assess because quarterly budget data, which could show a spike in fourth-quarter spending, was unreliable. Since then, federal auditors haven’t evaluated the issue much, and information on last-minute expenditures can be hard to obtain, according to some academic researchers.
Ramji Balakrishnan, an accounting professor at the University of Iowa who co-wrote a 2007 report on the subject, recently told Federal News Radio that he was able to access figures on year-end spending at U.S. Army hospitals largely because his co-author, a veteran, had contacts inside the military. According to the paper, which was published in the Journal of Management Accounting Research, administrators stockpiled supplies toward the end of a fiscal year, but then saved more money than they spent during the year-end splurge at the start of the next fiscal year.
A trend of precalculated buying seems to be occurring at several agencies with large IT budgets, including the General Services Administration and Veterans Affairs Administration, according to government officials.
In April, Administrator Martha Johnson directed GSA’s chief information officer, Casey Coleman, to complete five high-priority IT projects within 18 months — a feat that Coleman said the agency finished in 10 weeks. The agency’s IT budget for fiscal 2010 is $605.9 million. By quickly wrapping up the projects, which included boosting the capacity of GSA’s networks and adding remote private networks for teleworkers, Coleman was able to focus late-year spending on supplemental purchases for the agency’s increasingly mobile workforce, she said.
“By doing that we really set the foundation for IT modernization for the agency,” Coleman said in an interview with Nextgov. “Now we are in Phase 2 of our modernization program.”
Phase 2 involves purchasing green products. Johnson this summer challenged GSA to eliminate the federal government’s adverse effects on the environment, what’s known as creating “a zero environmental footprint.”
The agency plans to spend its IT money in September on products and services that support the zero e-emissions goal, Coleman said. GSA will invest in videoconferencing equipment; shared printing workstations to replace individual desktop printers, which are rarely used; and a cloud computing tool for e-mail, scheduling and other interoffice communications. Cloud computing is an arrangement that provides online access to hardware and software, eliminating the need to rely on energy-hungry, in-house data centers for IT services.
A contract for cloud services is expected to be awarded in October using fiscal 2010 money earmarked for spending in September.
GSA was unable to provide information on remaining money the agency returned to the treasury at the end of the last fiscal year.
The thinking is that GSA, as the nation’s biggest storefront, can expand the green IT market governmentwide — and perhaps nationwide — by purchasing environmentally responsible goods. Experimenting at the departmental level also might enable GSA to eventually offer governmentwide, eco-friendly IT contracting vehicles, agency officials said.
Veterans Affairs, which has a $3.3 billion IT budget, will spend its remaining fiscal 2011 funds on rolling out systems that can quickly exchange patient records via the Web, VA officials said. Such expenditures should increase access to health care, including mental health services, they added. September money also will support upgrades to benefits delivery systems and the department’s IT infrastructure.
At the end of fiscal 2009, Veterans Affairs let $462,000 in IT-related funding lapse, or become unavailable for new purchases.
In the past, officials at the Environmental Protection Agency spent all of their IT money by the end of the year, but only after careful planning, they said. Last year, EPA did not return any IT-related funding to the treasury. The agency’s enacted IT budget for fiscal 2010 is $465 million.
A significant portion of EPA’s technology infrastructure spending is managed under a business model that quantifies IT needs at the beginning of each fiscal year, officials said. “This process promotes spending that is thought-out and forecasted, and minimizes a potential end-of year spending surge,” EPA spokeswoman Latisha Petteway said.
– By Aliya Sternstein – NextGov.com - 08/26/2010
The Federal Business Council is announcing an opportunity for vendors to exhibit at the Annual U.S. Army Infantry Warfighting Conference, Sept. 14 and 15, 2010. This year’s event will be held at the Iron Works Convention and Trade Center. The conference itself runs Sept. 13 through 16.
The conference represents an opportunity to showcase products to an expected 4,000 key officials, including senior level officers, end-users, and procurement officials throughout U.S. Army Warfighting branches. The complete agenda and registration details may be found at https://www.benning.army.mil/iwc/2010/index.html.
The conference’s major goal is to provide specialized and refresher training to key U.S. Army personnel and bring together the Warfighter community to receive top-notch training and exposure. In previous years, there have been globally recognized vendors taking up more than 400 conference spaces (80,000 sq ft) representing the spectrum of Warfighting technologies. Many companies exhibit year after year.
The Infantry Warfighting Conference is hosted by the U.S. Infantry Center with input from the U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command, which has played a large part in our nation’s Warfighting efforts.
You can call (800) 878-2940 for available marketing opportunities.
Here are a few tips from GTPAC. If you decide to attend this event, you’ll want to prepare. To assist you in this process, be sure to read our articles on attending a government trade show, how to prepare an “elevator speech,” and the need for a Capabilities Statement.