Are commercial online marketplaces in the government’s future?

By Steve Charles, immixGroup co-founder

Proposed legislation out of the House Armed Services Committee would give the Department of Defense and other federal agencies the ability to buy commercial items (COTS) via online marketplaces without contracting officers having to determine price reasonableness before ordering. To make sure prices paid are competitive at the time, the marketplaces would provide all kinds of data to the government, including posted prices for similar, competitive items on the system at the time of sale. Suppliers would be able to update pricing in real-time.

DOD has long complained about GSA Schedule contracts, as well as GSA’s online marketplace, GSA Advantage, arguing that it’s not a real marketplace.  Product catalogs are not current, pricing is not maintained in real-time and many of the contractors lack strategic relationships with the manufacturers of the products represented.  Agencies put in orders on GSA Advantage, only to learn two weeks later that those ordered items are not actually available. Even people at GSA have told me that it’s much more reliable and cheaper for them to leverage the micro-purchase rules and use commercial shopping sites.

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3 types of technology to sell to USAID right now

By Kevin Shaker, senior analyst

Many in the contracting community might be worried that the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) is lacking sales opportunities as it continues to face budget cuts. But this could also spell opportunity as the agency looks at new ways to increase efficiency and reduce costs.

This means that in addition to utilizing shared services, USAID has been increasingly buying automation technologies and higher caliber virtualized hardware. USAID also has a slightly higher level of development, modernization and enhancement dollars compared to the rest of the civilian average of around 20 percent, which helps fund its data infrastructure. If you are aware of the current trends and drivers within the organization you may find it less daunting. Here are three of the organization’s top IT priorities:

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What you need to know about changes at Air Force Space Command

Stephanie Meloni_65x85More big changes may beOrbital view on Earth from space coming to the Department of Defense outside of CYBERCOM’s anticipated elevation to its own Combatant Command.

Late last month, the House Armed Services Committee voted to move forward with their own version of the FY18 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which would create a new military branch—the “Space Corps.” This would create a sixth military branch that would be solely responsible for combat in space.

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What is a set-aside?

By Chris Wiedemann, consultant

Over the last few months, I’ve blogged on the basics of government contracting and selling to government customers – focusing on things like contract vehicles, the Federal Acquisition Regulations, the General Services Administration and federal cybersecurity requirements.

Taken together, those topics describe a basic framework for government procurement and the way industry interacts with it. They also demonstrate that public sector customers (both federal and state/local) behave differently than customers in the commercial space.

However, we haven’t yet addressed one of the most fundamental differences between public and private sector customers: The government, in addition to needing industry to help fulfill its mission, has a broad incentive to encourage economic growth across all sectors of American industry. Often, this growth means prioritizing small businesses over large corporations in contracting – and there are a set of contracting tools, known as set-asides, that enable just that.

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How government is trying to get a more complete picture

By Mark Wisinger, senior analyst

It’s no secret there’s a vast amount of legacy systems still supporting government customers. Everyone has been talking about interoperability in government for years, but it remains a significant challenge as even more systems being used by agencies age past their initial life expectancy.

But despite the roadblocks, government agencies are working on different ways to enhance information sharing and incentivize interoperability, including using open APIs and architecture.

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The latest buzz at the Department of Interior

A drone flying over a wildfire. Photo by the Bureau of Land Management.

Drones have proven to be a vital tool for organizations across the government for achieving mission success. And the one federal department leading the charge expects the technology to play an even bigger role in gathering and analyzing data.

The Department of Interior (DOI) is one of the most advanced agencies on the drone front with its UAV disaster response and natural phenomenon reconnaissance programs. And by the end of this year, the department will grow to 180 trained operators–a number that has tripled in only half a year.

This rapid growth is important for the IT sector as the department looks for innovative solutions to help it process and analyze the data it gathers from drones.

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One of the fastest growing IT trends at Air Force

By Stephanie Meloni, consultant

The Air Force has begun piloting agile methodology in some of its key programs, and we can expect to see this as a growing trend throughout the service and the rest of the Department of Defense, as agile methodology adoption picks up based on acquisition guidance.

The main theme of the AFCEA Montgomery IT Summit (MITS) was using agile development to help the Air Force make data-driven decisions. The service views its data as a strategic asset and leaders point to using data to facilitate decisions that will outsmart adversaries as part of the Third Offset Strategy.

The Program Executive Officer of the Business and Enterprise Systems (PEO BES) office, Rich Aldridge, kicked off the conference by speaking about the challenges that his organization faces when it comes to systems development, which has led the Air Force down the path of using agile development to counter cost, schedule and risk as a way forward.

Here are just a few key priorities the Air Force will be examining as it works to make its software systems more agile:

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