AI, Machine Learning, Automation: Key Themes for Fed Healthcare

Chris Wiedemann

By Chris Wiedemann, Consultant

At the recent AFCEA Bethesda Health IT Summit, government and industry had a chance to catch each other up on the latest developments in a rapidly-evolving space. As usual, the event was information rich, covering everything from the Health Resources and Services Administration’s agile development-driven programs to address the opioid crisis to the Department of Veterans Affairs’ internal enterprise cloud strategy.

But the underlying theme was that the agencies engaged in big healthcare challenges (VA, Health and Human Services, Defense Health Agency, etc.) are starting to work faster and smarter by using tools like agile development and purchasing, artificial intelligence, automation and machine learning, and they need industry partners who can do that with them.

Of course, any mention of agility, automation, machine learning or artificial intelligence should excite COTS manufacturers. Although the government speakers mostly avoided calling out products by name, the role of off-the-shelf technology was a common thread throughout the event. There are a variety of drivers behind the move to COTS and away from customization, ranging from the availability of sophisticated data analytics tools to the need to hedge against institutional knowledge loss as more of the federal workforce approaches retirement.

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Government Needs to Shore Up Security Readiness – Before the Next Shutdown

Lloyd McCoy Jr.

By Lloyd McCoy, Market Intelligence Manager

Whether it’s through government shutdowns or cyber threats, the possibility of government having to unexpectedly operate at reduced capacity is greater than ever. While it appears that the recent partial shutdown had minimal impact on security readiness, we should count ourselves lucky instead of expecting such an outcome to be the norm.

With the resumption of full government operations, all agencies, not just those affected, should take stock and partner with industry to shore up their posture in two areas, risk management and AI.

Risk Management

Government agency risk management strategies have traditionally emphasized the threat landscape and vulnerability of attack surfaces. Expect agencies to take a hard look at their risk posture to determine whether they’ve adequately factored in the impact of government shutdowns. This is an area where industry can play a role – helping agencies adjust their security readiness in an environment where reduced operations may become more of a norm.

Work with your government customer or prospect to ensure that proper backup and recovery capabilities are in place, that their systems and networks have the right kind of resiliency and segmentation solutions in place, and that the security personnel are equipped with the right tools to “put out fires” when workforce and capacity levels are compromised.

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DISA’s New Directorate: Emergent Technology

By Mark Wisinger, Senior Analyst

Few organizations do as much restructuring as DISA. Not a year goes by without an organizational change or shuffle! If all goes according to plan, there is going to be a new group at DISA – the Emergent Technology directorate.

DISA System Innovation Scientist Stephen Wallace, who spoke at a recent AFCEA luncheon, is lined up to lead this new group, which will be focused on adopting emerging technologies more rapidly into the DISA enterprise.

Slated for formal establishment in November 2019, the directorate will be composed of three divisions: Innovation Support, Infrastructure and Collaboration & Defense. It’ll be a “smaller, tighter-knit group” according to Wallace. A smaller group will lend itself to closer collaboration and rapid decision making.

The directorate will not be duplicating what DARPA does because they will be looking for solutions much closer to reality — think 3-5 years away from maturity.

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NCPA Contracts Offer Access to a Wider Swath of SLED Marketplace

By Rachel Eckert, SLED Manager

The subject of contracts piques the interest of vendors – seasoned and new. Contracts are that tricky piece of the sales puzzle that can push a great opportunity just out of reach – if your products and services are not on the right contract!

immixGroup was recently awarded two additional IT-related contracts, for a total of three, with the National Cooperative Purchasing Alliance (NCPA) that will make it easier and more efficient to sell into the SLED marketplace – across all 50 states.

Contract categories are:

  • 01-75 Systems and Information Management Software
  • 01-83 Data Storage, Cloud, Converged and Data Protection
  • 01-88 Software Products and Services

NCPA, based in Texas, competitively solicits master contracts that are awarded based on quality, performance, and most importantly, pricing. The best part: NCPA contracts are written to be accessible nationally to public agencies in states whose laws allow for intergovernmental contract use – also known as “piggybacking” or “adopting.”

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The CSO: DOD’s New Way to Acquire Commercial Technology

Stephanie MeloniBy Stephanie Meloni, Market Intelligence Manager

As the use of Other Transactional Authority grows across the Department of Defense as a way to cut back on the time and cost of traditional acquisition programs, a new breed of OTA is emerging. The Commercial Solutions Opening, or CSO, has the potential to have significant value to commercial technology vendors and will give government procurement officers more flexibility in making commercial technology awards.

What are CSOs?

CSOs are a type of OTA designation aimed at buying new and innovative commercial technology. Whereas OTAs are designed for researching, developing and prototyping technology projects, CSOs are aimed specifically at commercial technology that already exists, but will be new to the Department.

Initially, the CSO was piloted only to be used by the limited number of buying activities with OTAs already in place, but a memo released last summer expanded their use across the entire DOD.

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DOT Looks to a Consolidated Contract Vehicle

By Kevin Shaker, Consultant

You probably have heard about the General Services Administration’s schedule consolidation initiative to make a single uniform offering available to vendors and the government partner community. Detailed in Adam Hyman’s recent blog, the GSA will spend the next two years consolidating the agency’s 24 multiple schedule awards into a single schedule. This will allow vendors to broaden their offerings while only having to maintain a single contract.

Other civilian agencies are also looking at ways to update their contract methods through a consolidated-contract arrangement. For example, the Department of Transportation is now beginning to re-architect the way they contract with their service partners.

While the Federal Aviation Administration will likely keep their FAA specific service vehicles, including the FAA Telecommunications (FTI) program (turning into the FAA Enterprise Services (FENS)), eFAST and eTASS, the DOT’s OCIO office will be consolidating their services contracts in a single Enterprise IT Shared Services (EITSS) contract as part of the DestinationDIGITAL modernization program. When it is awarded, every sub-agency will have access to the contract and will eventually have staff to run it within each agency. However, after the initial awards, all task orders will need to be addressed to the departmental OCIO.

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What Sales Reps Can Do During the Government Shutdown

Tom O'Keefe

By Tom O’Keefe, Consultant

So, here we are, a week and a half after my last blog about the shutdown and half the civilian government is still shut down. By now you’ve likely heard the news that the Trump administration has made the decision to call about 50,000 federal workers back to work. The good news is, that means critical safety and security workers, like food and airplane inspectors, are back on the job. The bad news is, much like I mentioned in my last blog, many of them are doing more than one job with a lot of their colleagues still furloughed. And, they’re still not getting paid.

So, it’s likely you’re wondering what you can tell your bosses if you’re trying to sell into one of the agencies where workers are furloughed. First off, you need to let your boss know that your forecasted deals aren’t going to close right now because the contracting shops at these shut-down agencies are generally all non-essential personnel.

But just because your forecasted deals aren’t going to close doesn’t mean there isn’t anything you can’t do. Reach out to your program manager customers (if they’re still working) and ask when they anticipate the deal moving forward once agencies get appropriations. Remember, things are piling up at federal agencies, so anticipate a bunch of pent-up demand once everyone gets back to work.

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