GSA RFI Requires O&M, Middleware & Hosting Support

Mohamad Elbarasse_headshot_7-23-2013_For WordPressby Mohamad ElbarasseAnalyst

GSA recently extended the response date for the Pegasys Hosting and Operations and Maintenance contract to August 5, 2014. GSA’s primary goal is to find application and support models that will lower the overall hosting and O&M costs of Pegasys, GSA’s version of Momentum Financials and core financial system. Pegasys supports funds management (budget execution and purchasing), credit cards, accounts payable, disbursements, standard general ledger, and reporting at the GSA.

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Data Services Opportunity at the FAA

Mohamad Elbarasse_headshot_7-23-2013_For WordPressby Mohamad ElbarasseAnalyst

The FAA released an RFI for data services under the Aeronautical Communication Services (ACS) contract on June 10. The solicitation calls out services supporting the exchange of data between various FAA systems and facilities. Responses are due on July 10, 2014.

The contract would support the transfer of data products to and from the following networks and systems:

  • National Airspace Data Interchange Network (NADIN)
  • Tower Data Link Services (TDLS)
  • Traffic Flow Management System (TFMS)
  • Advanced Technologies and Oceanic Procedures (ATOP)
  •  Dynamic Oceanic Tracking System (DOTS)
  • Meteorological Data Collection and Reporting System (MDCRS)

The prospective vendor would be required to comply with the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) Standards and Recommended Practices, International Air Transport Association (IATA) Addressing Standards, FAA Procedures, and the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) requirements as needed.

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Verizon Investigative Report Uncovers Most Common Cyber Incident Patterns

Mohamad Elbarasse_headshot_7-23-2013_For WordPressby Mohamad ElbarasseAnalyst

Verizon recently released its annual Data Breach Investigations Report with security incident information from 49 organizations across 95 countries. Though the report is not a comprehensive account of security incidents that occurred in 2013, it is a representative sample of security incidents to date. This is the tenth year that Verizon has conducted such analyses; it showcases the results of historical security data with the most common overall threat patterns, actors, victims and affected industries.

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RFI Released for Networx Contracts Replacement

Mohamad Elbarasse_headshot_7-23-2013_For WordPressby Mohamad ElbarasseAnalyst

The General Services Administration is looking to replace and improve upon its’ Networx contract vehicle. GSA released an RFI for the Network Services 2020 Enterprise Infrastructure Solutions (NS2020 EIS) initiative asking for input on its’ acquisition strategy and comments on the proposed strategy, responses are due by May 8, 2014.

Networx is a set of contracts for civilian telecommunications and is split up into two vehicles: Networx Universal and Networx Enterprise. The primary difference between the two is the program ceiling, which is $48.1 billion for Networx Universal and just $20.1 billion for Networx Enterprise. Networx saved American taxpayers $678 million in 2013 alone, with agencies saving between 30% and 60% on services when compared to commercial rates.

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Big Data Opportunity at NOAA

Mohamad Elbarasse_headshot_7-23-2013_For WordPressby Mohamad ElbarasseAnalyst

The Office of the Chief Information Officer (OCIO) at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is requesting information from industry to decide whether it can and should move its voluminous data holdings to the cloud with easy access to computing, storage, and advanced analytical capabilities.

The agency posted the RFI on February 21 and responses are due by 5 p.m. (EST) on March 31. The RFI goes on to elaborate that much of NOAA’s data is hosted on public servers or websites and they have had great difficulty integrating the data. This has impeded their ability to improve their analyses and beef up their decision making by limiting the number of sources or type of data that can be used to make inferences.

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Public Sector CIO Interviews Unveil Tips for Big Data Vendors

Mohamad Elbarasse_headshot_7-23-2013_For WordPressby Mohamad ElbarasseAnalyst

As big data tumbles closer to the “Trough of Disillusionment,” CIOs are fighting an uphill battle when it comes to the perception that big data is a passing fad, according to the IBM Center for The Business of Government. For their latest release of the Using Technology Series, Realizing the Promise of Big Data: Implementing Big Data Projects, IBM interviewed 28 CIOs at the federal, state, and local levels and compiled a list of findings that will help you to sell your analytic solutions to the government.

The most telling findings are that:

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Malware Threats Growing and Becoming More Complex

Mohamad Elbarasse_headshot_7-23-2013_For WordPressby Mohamad ElbarasseAnalyst

The United States Computer Emergency Readiness Team, or US-CERT, within the National Protection and Programs Directorate at DHS, recently released its inaugural edition of a series of annual reports on cybersecurity trends. The US-CERT Security Trends Report: 2012 in Retrospect identifies the most prevalent malware, the means by which it entered a network or device and what the infected device was used for in 2012. Cybersecurity vendors should take heed to what the report calls out as the “single biggest conclusion” that can be drawn from the data and analysis presented in the report, which is that the prevalence of malware is growing and it is becoming more complex.  Cybersecurity is one of the few growth areas in Federal IT and the better informed you are of the current threats to government networks and devices, the better you’ll be able to sell your solution.

Data was collected from both public and private sources, including DHS’ EINSTEIN system, and showed that about 8% of consumer grade users experienced a malware infection in 2012, with one in five of those infections caused by the user clicking and installing the malicious software. The most common way malware was introduced to a device was through vulnerabilities in programs such as Microsoft Office, Adobe Reader, and Java. The majority of these infections could have easily been avoided by practicing proper patch management. Updates for vulnerable programs are released regularly and if your software is not up-to-date, your device is still at risk.

Topping the malware prevalence charts is Sality, at 56% prevalence, with Zeus (and its 26 identified variants) following closely at 54%. Sality has been used to relay spam, proxy communications, exfiltrate data, and carry out Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks to name a few of its uses, while Zeus has been utilized to compromise financial and banking transactions all over the world.

To get an idea of how much the federal government intends to spend on beefing up their cybersecurity posture, let’s take a look at where they want to spend their cybersecurity dollars. Below is a table of the FY14 and FY13 budget numbers that are tied to specific Business Reference Model (BRM) categories across federal government agencies. As you can see, the majority of cybersecurity related BRM categories are seeing an increase in requested dollars in FY14, though, since we are currently operating under a Continuing Resolution (CR), agencies will likely receive amounts closer to that of FY13 numbers. The FY14 numbers are still informative in that they reveal the federal government’s priorities in terms of where they want to spend the most money, even if they don’t get all that they asked for. Though we probably won’t see a full budget, we will likely have an omnibus spending bill that will break some agencies out of the CR cycle that we have been experiencing.

Budgeted Cyber Spending by Business Reference Model (BRM) Category

BRM Category Sum of Total IT Spending
FY14 ($ M)
Sum of Total IT Spending
FY13 ($ M)
Threat and Vulnerability Management

824.31

735.10

Continuity of Operations

671.67

633.92

Data Integrity and Privacy Management

196.85

181.21

Continuous Monitoring

182.23

200.51

Access Control

81.35

76.77

Identification and Authentication

70.43

70.80

Incident Response

17.50

20.24

System and Network Monitoring

13.33

11.88

Data Recovery

2.27

2.39

Grand Total

2059.95

1932.84

Three Questions Federal IT Leaders Want You to Answer

Mohamad Elbarasse_headshot_7-23-2013_For WordPressby Mohamad ElbarasseAnalyst

CIOs and IT directors do not want to hear you asking what their problems are. Although your hearts are likely in the right place, they want to hear about solutions. Better yet, if you can lay out a simple, cogent business case by answering three basic questions, you should be golden.

It is important to do your research before approaching an agency with a potential technology solution. Even though your technology may be a perfect fit and make the agency more efficient and effective, the manner in which you approach the CIO is critical. Know their pain points before engaging with them, so you don’t have to ask, and don’t focus too much on the technology itself. We have heard IT leaders stress this point over and over in recent months; they want you to come with a solution in hand.

Speaking at the IT Government Forum, Mark Day, Director of the Office of Strategic Programs at the Federal Acquisition Service at GSA laid out a simple framework for a succinct and effective business case. By answering these three questions, vendors can cut to the heart of what IT leaders at federal agencies are concerned with:

  1. What is the business problem you are trying to solve?
  2. How are you going to solve it?
  3. How are you going to measure success?

Day also advised the audience that CIOs won’t be fooled by flashy technology. He went on to say that “we need to stop thinking about IT as a separate mission, IT is a mission enabler and is built-in throughout the entire organization.”

Also speaking at the Forum, Paul Brubaker, Director of Planning & Performance Management at DOD, said CIOs are intended to be well-versed in business processes and not necessarily technology in general. Therefore, focusing on how your technology can help improve processes at an agency may be a better angle to take than trying to dazzle them with the latest features. Although, this does not mean that CIOs are totally uninterested in the technical aspects of the solution. Some IT leaders have actually expressed that they would like to see more sales engineers at their meetings with sales teams, so that they can answer the more technical questions and the three questions mentioned above more directly.

Answering those three questions, identifying pain points before starting the conversation, and focusing on process improvement during the conversation should better your chances at closing a deal.

Which Agencies are Spending Big on Big Data?

Mohamad Elbarasse_headshot_7-23-2013_For WordPressby Mohamad ElbarasseAnalyst

As agencies take on a more data-centric focus to achieving their missions, it would appear as though FY 2014 is the year of big data and a slew of agencies have funded initiatives in play that will set the bar for what analytics can bring to the table. Agencies like DHS with tons of data are investing big to get it all under control. These investments coupled with the White House’s Open Data Policy, which dictates that agencies should be collecting or creating information in a manner that “supports the downstream information processing and dissemination activities,” signal a paradigm shift from hypothesis-driven to data-driven decision making and discovery at a federal level.

The National Science Foundation, Department of Defense, National Institutes of Health, Department of Energy, and the US Geological Survey at the Department of Interior received $200 million for research and development in the field of big data. These initiatives run the gamut from NIH’s 1000 Genomes Project that brings together the power of big data with Amazon Web Services cloud to make 200 terabytes of data on human genetic variation available to the public to the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency’s (DARPA) XDATA program. The XDATA program will address challenges, such as developing scalable algorithms for processing imperfect data in distributed data stores. DARPA plans to invest $25 million a year through 2016 in XDATA.

According to Simon Szykman, dataCIO at the Department of Commerce, information sharing should be agencies’ first priority. Speaking at an AFFIRM & GITEC event in September, Szykman stated that one of the easiest ways to make big data investments more cost effective in the long run is by thinking about information sharing early on. That means that agencies are going to need help managing, standardizing, and ensuring the interoperability of their data. Vendors with products positioned to help with those tasks should gear their messaging towards addressing those needs and emphasizing long run efficiencies. Szykman went on to say that the purpose of opening up government data is not just to increase transparency, but to allow others to find value in the data. “We haven’t cornered the market on good ideas,” said Szykman, as he further elaborated that the biggest benefits of an open data policy are the things we can’t imagine today, but that can come about by making more data available to more people.  Szykman oversees Commerce’s $2.5 billion IT budget and the agency is slated to spend over $300 million on General Purpose Data and Statistics in FY2014.

Ken Rogers, Chief Technology Strategist at the Department of State, also spoke at the event and said that “Data is the primary sustainable asset in an organization.” Therefore, the proper maintenance, security, and analysis of that data are paramount to the success of the organization. Along with data management, data integration, and information sharing requirements, agencies will be in dire need of data security solutions to protect the integrity of their data. Expect to see more agencies taking on a data-centric outlook and be sure to emphasize that getting big data right the first time around can lead to some big savings down the road.

Digital Government Spotlight Data May Shed New Light on Opportunities

photo_Mohamad_65x85Mohamad Elbarasse, Analyst

As part of Federal CIO Steve Van Roekel’s Digital Government Strategy (DGS), ITDashboard.gov has launched a new page on its website that provides a snapshot of major agencies’ progress against the milestones set out in his plan. The tool is designed to assist the public in measuring the progress that government agencies are making in the adoption of technology focused initiatives. Understanding the progress (or lack thereof) agencies are making against the DGS may help industry to uncover new opportunities to sell commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) products.

The Digital Government Strategy aims to push agencies to utilize efficiency-creating technologies and empower their workforce and citizenry by providing access to high-quality government information from anywhere, anytime, and on any device. DGS outlines ten milestones that roll up to one of the broader DGS goals. The table of milestones includes a list of selected deliverables from the DGS and their due dates, links to agency-specific progress reports, and an indication of that milestone’s status (not started, in progress, or completed).

Of the ten selected deliverables that are listed on the Digital Government Spotlight Data page, five of them have due dates that have already passed, with the remaining five due on May 23, 2013. Although, at least one deliverable, 1.2, has had its’ deadline extended until August 9, 2013 by an executive order establishing a government-wide open data policy.

At a glance, it would appear as though the overwhelming majority of agencies met at least two of the milestones with ease, specifically:

  • 7.1: “Engage with customers to identify at least two existing priority customer-facing services to optimize for mobile use”
  •  5.2: “Develop an enterprise-wise inventory of mobile devices and wireless service contracts.”

Although, some agencies are still struggling with deliverables that are past due, at least 13 agencies have not yet fully implemented performance and customer satisfaction measuring tools on all .gov websites (8.2) and the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has not even started working toward this milestone even though it is four months past due.

Though no one milestone has been achieved by all agencies, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) and Social Security Administration (SSA) have set a great example for other agencies by completing all the listed deliverables ahead of schedule. On the other end of the spectrum, the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) have yet to complete any of the deliverables, but the majority of them are in progress.

The Departments of Homeland Security (DHS), Labor (DOL), and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) have the highest number of milestones that have not yet been started, specifically deliverables 5.3: “Evaluate the government-wide contract vehicles in the alternatives analysis for all new mobile-related procurements” and 6.3: “Ensure all new digital services follow digital services and customer experience improvement guidelines.”

The Digital Government Spotlight will help to keep the public informed of the progress agencies are making towards achieving the milestones set out in DGS and can provide insight into trouble areas for agencies that may be ripe with opportunities. May 23 is not only the deadline for most of the deliverables; it also marks the one year anniversary of DGS. With many agencies falling behind on the implementation schedule, this is a great opportunity for vendors to craft their messaging around enabling and assisting agencies in meeting their mandates.

IT-Dashboard

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